A lot of designers and creatives overlook the need for a brand style guide — something that gives a clear set of rules for how the marketing materials online,
Style guides can save you time, money, and tons of frustration down the road, making your marketing materials easier to maintain and create. Consider it like an extension of well-commented markup; it gives you instructions for exactly how things should be done, and sometimes even insight into why.
Why every brand should have a style guide
A style guide might seem unnecessary for a small company, or when there’s only one designer. But really, every brand out there should have a style and branding guide to make sure that every visual element they produce is consistent.
The basic elements
Every style guide is going to be a little bit different, as it depends on how complex a brand is, and how many different kinds of marketing materials they might have. There are a few basic elements that are likely to make an appearance in virtually every style guide,
Every brand should have a consistent set of fonts being used in all of their marketing materials, online and off. Listing out these fonts, with examples and character sets, is hugely important.
Don’t forget that beyond just the font faces used, you may also want to specify sizes for things like headings or photo captions. It’s also a good idea to specify if any particular styles or weights within the font family shouldn’t be used, if ligatures or alternate characters should or shouldn’t be used.
The colors used by a brand should be spelled out with as much detail as possible. That means offering up not only hex codes for web use, but also equivalent CMYK and even Pantone color values for print. Not every color can be perfectly transferred between web and print usage, so it’s a good idea to specify your preferences so that you don’t end up with a color that clashes with your original design.
Straight conversions of a lot of hues in RGB color space can vary drastically in CMYK without manual tweaking (certain blues commonly become muted and darker, reds may appear more orange or pink, etc.). Take the time to verify and manipulate each color space so that you get the best results possible. And be sure to verify your CMYK colors in print, not just on screen.
How long should your style guide be?
Style guides can range from a single page to dozens of pages, depending on how complex your branding is and how many different types of marketing materials are regularly produced.
A minimalist website with a single logo design, well-defined typography and color usage, and no offline materials can likely get by with a single page worth of style guidelines.
However, a large multinational corporation with numerous divisions and marketing and advertising across many mediums is likely going to need something that resembles a book to clarify all of their usage guidelines.
In either case, your style guide should be no longer than necessary, but long enough to accurately convey all of the necessary information about the brand’s visual style.