Do you have a style guide?  Many don’t consider creating a style guide until they start to develop their tool bag full of marketing goodies – collateral, advertising, presentations, a website, etc. – and they realize they need to work with someone else to create the deliverable in mind. One of the first things a graphic designer will ask is, “Do you have a style guide?”  Well, after reading this blog entry, you can say, “Yes.”

We started with our logo, defining the colors, design, and how it would be used. From there, we developed stationary, business cards, and started work on our website. With each new deliverable, we made sure to use the same font or a complementary font depending upon medium. Our objective was – and continues to be – to keep it simple so that it’s easy to use and understand.

What is a style guide and why do you need one?

A style guide provides instruction to designers and content writers on how to create consistent branding across all customer and employee communications – whether it’s collateral, websites, presentations, direct mail and email campaigns, advertising, or other deliverables. The more consistent you are with your branding, the higher the probability is that customers will recall your company and its offerings, and trust your company enough to do business with you.

Your style guide can be prepared by yourself or someone you hire. To be an effective tool, your style guide should be brief, but cover the following aspects in sufficient detail to provide direction to those helping with your marketing initiatives and campaigns. A style guide should include the following elements:

  • Colors  (identify specifics for print – PMS and CMYK – and for web – HEX)
  • Uses (examples:  company advertising, partners’ advertising, specific product or service collateral, product demo)
  • Context (printed publications, company website, partner’s website, etc.)
  • Guidance for which version to use when placed on light or dark backgrounds
  • Typography (font type and size)
  • Context – web, collateral, banner logo, etc.
  • List all primary and secondary colors that should be used
  • Describe how the colors will be used (examples:  call-out boxes, website navigation, headers, etc.)
  • When colors can be used (examples:  advertising, website, collateral, etc.) and how to avoid mishaps
  • Style – photography, sketch, or other
  • Emotion portrayed
  • Icons – type and size
  • Tone – clear, humorous, straight-forward, honest, etc.
  • Writers’ Style Manuals and Guides – use the appropriate guide for your subject area and medium (examples:  American Psychological Association Style (APA), Chicago Manual of Style, Modern Language Associations (MLA) Style, Associated Press Stylebook, Yahoo! Style Guide, etc.)
  • Words with unusual punctuation, changing vernacular, or uncommon usage to promote consistency across medium
  • Web buttons and actions –  consistent in tone and presentation
  • Spacing between elements – headlines, buttons, images, forms, and other messages

For more subjective elements like tone or emotion portrayed, provide examples of what’s desirable versus what is unacceptable; this will help clarify intent and enable your staff and vendors to provide a consistent look and feel to customers.

With increased consistency in your brand across customer touchpoints, recall and trust in your business improves, increasing brand equity; this in turns improves your bottom line because customers tend to gravitate towards products/services with credible reputations.