This is a special guest blog, written by Ryan Macanochie, co-founder of D/CAL, a full service creative agency and frequent collaborator with Envoy B2B.
Brands are experienced in an ever-evolving array of channels, platforms, and formats. And brands are built, managed, and supported by an ever-expanding array of strategists, creators, producers, developers, and handlers of various specialties and disciplines. What holds all those disparate parts and pieces together in delivering a cohesive brand story? A good style guide.
A style guide lets a brand set a stake in the ground on how it wants to look, feel, and behave. It’s a one-stop-shop for people both inside and outside an organization to reference brand strategy and architecture, as well as details relating to visual specifications and language tone. It’s as much a technical reference document to ensure executional consistency as it is an inspirational rally point for brand expression. The best style guides don’t just define visual style rules. They also define—and provide inspiration for—brand strategies, behaviors, and vibe. It’s a mix of technical and emotional information that helps drive brand consistency. Done well, everyone from the CEO to the junior art director will reference it to stay on point with everything from brand mission to proper pantone color selection.
Effectiveness with Efficiency
Since there are often many stakeholders managing various aspects of a brand’s behavior, a single document is critical in delivering a focused reference point for everything from brand strategies to visual specifications. This allows multiple, disparate groups to quickly embrace core principles and execute in step with each other. Whether you have an intimate knowledge of the brand, or are a vendor brought in from outside the organization to work on a specific aspect of the brand, a style guide will bring you up to speed quickly and keep all projects aligned.
Guardrails, not Fences
The best style guides provide specific guidance around what must remain consistent, and what can be expanded upon. It defines certain mandatories around logos, type, and color usage, but also provides inspiration for brand vibe and execution. Think guardrails that keep you on track, but don’t fence you in. Some style guides are simplistic while others are highly complex documents which cover a multitude of needs and platforms. Even a one-sheeter can do wonders to summarize the gist of a brand and align all parties. Below are some of the key components of a good style guide.
High level summary of strategic underpinnings of a brand such as…Mission/Vision/Positioning statements
- Persona/audience descriptions
Mandatories, considerations, and hierarchies relating to a brand’s visual identity such as…
- Logos (primary, secondary, etc) as well as proper usage and placement
- Fonts (Headline, body copy, web safe alternatives, etc)
- Colors (Primary, secondary, Print/CMYK/Pantone, Web/RGB/HEX, etc)
- Supporting graphics (icons, patterns, etc)
- Photography style description
- Layout preferences
Tone of Voice
Parameters for the way a brand communicates and expresses itself through language.
- Guidelines for voice
- Key language
- Grammar rules
- Writing tips
This is where the sum of all the previously mentioned parts are shown off as sample layouts which combine color, type, imagery in the form of a few likely brand activation examples. It's important to have all your bases covered, so give example of social media posts, a website landing page, a video mnemonic, a print ad, presentation deck template, or any place your brand is going to be communicating to your retailers and consumers.
Link to Assets
Ideally, all the individual assets that are referenced in the style guide are stored in a single online repository that is well organized and strictly enforced, with only the latest and greatest key assets so everyone can work seamlessly and with confidence.
Keeping Everyone In Lockstep
In the complex world of brand marketing, a style guide is an essential singular reference tool for building brand success. It sets the standard. It provides the north star. It drives consistency which aids awareness and ultimately builds trust. Building a well maintained style guide and ensuring that everyone on your team follows it is essential for delivering an effective, cohesive picture of your brand as you go to market.
Get in touch with Envoy B2B Studios and learn more about how they can modernize go-to-market content production for your brand.