Why Brand Standards Really Matter
When you work with a good designer for the first time, they’ll probably mention “Brand Standards” and ask if you have a Brand Manual or Visual Guidelines. Now, while this might seem a little over the top for a small business it’s actually one of the most important documents that your company can possess. For larger multi-nationals this can be a thick hardcovered book with copies of it in every office around the world, and smaller businesses can be as simple as a 2 page document. Either way, they serving as their go-to resource when an official document or piece of creative work needs to be produced – ensuring the company’s visual style and message remains the same, no matter where it is used.
What are Brand Standards?
It’s exactly what it says on the tin – Standard styles, colours, fonts and layouts that all company-branded documents must adhere to. These apply to all aspects of the business, including packaging, business cards and other printed media as well as the digital output on websites and social media.
They can be as simple or as complex as the brand demands, but what they must be is clear to understand and easy to implement by anyone in the business.
By setting out the standards for the brand, your designer is safeguarding the brand against misuse, giving it integrity that low-budget brands just don’t have. Without a set of brand guidelines you run the risk of having your team use the wrong colours, putting your logo in odd places, or having documents produced that look unprofessional and inauthentic.
What should Brand Guidelines consist of?
The exact contents of a set of Brand Guidelines, or a brand manual, will vary depending on the brand itself. For some businesses, the amount of marketing collateral and media being produced is quite small and very simple, so just a few pages outlining the basics is enough. In larger companies, the likelihood of there being multiple campaigns running at the same time, with a high number of product launches and general customer relations documents being created, plus many staff needing branded materials for day-to-day operations, the brand manual is likely to be considerably larger.
As a minimum, I would recommend at least the following be included:
- Logo Rules – including formats, safe zones and usage guides
- Colour Palette – including colour codes for Digital and Print (Hex, CMYK, Pantone etc.)
- Typography Rules – including the exact fonts to be used in titles, headings, and body copy
Further to this, your designer should also make considerations for the intended uses of the branding such as letterheads, business cards, social media graphics and more. This will give a clear direction for how the logo, images, text and other graphics should be applied when creating these pieces of design work. Ultimately, the purpose of the brand guidelines is to allow anyone to produce a piece of work on behalf of the company, not just the designer who created it.
What happens without Brand Guidelines?
Essentially, anything could happen – and that should be worrying!
Picture this – a new member of staff is asked to put together a PowerPoint presentation for the managing director of a law firm to deliver to a group of potential clients. All of the text and images have been emailed to the new staff member, and they go crazy with enthusiasm. Eager to impress, they flood every slide with whizzing transitions, a rainbow of colours, and every font they can get their hands on. In a rush, the boss heads into the meeting without checking it over, and opens up the presentation. Do we think the clients would be impressed by this? Would they be keen to use a company with this level of professionalism? Probably not.
Now of course, this is a worst case scenario, but the key point here is that it is all part of the brand’s reputation to be consistent. If you’ve spent good money on your logo and supporting branding, you don’t want to devalue it all by creating graphics for social media that don’t represent your brand. The message might be right, but the wrong font or colour scheme can change the tone completely.
So it’s all about control?
Basically, yes. Just like a factory would quality control their products, a brand must quality control it’s branded output. But more than that, it’s also about empowering the people that make up your company so that they can generate their work in a way that is in line with the company’s visual styling. It will make every aspect of your business look and feel more professional, consistent, and high quality.