branding, graphic design

Visual Brand Guidelines:
Why you need them and what they include


2 May 2019

Inconsistent branding is one of the more common errors new companies make when they start creating online and offline materials. And yet, consistency is one of the more important features of any branding project.

Ensuring everything from your email newsletters to your business cards look and feel like they come from your company is vital to help customers (and potential new customers) recognise – and remember – your brand.

To do this, you will need a Visual Brand Guideline document. This document will become your guidebook for creating any new image for your website, physical documents, or other communication for your clients, suppliers, and employees.

Need a quick refresher on branding? Take a moment to read our post on the difference between Branding, Identity and Logo.

Before you create any visual guidelines, you first need to work on your brand purpose and vision and to clearly define your target audience.

What is a Visual Brand Guideline document?

A Visual Brand Guideline is a brief document that outlines the standards of your brand. It defines the basic rules that needs to be applied when using your brand in any media: print or digital.

In the most simple form, a visual brand guideline will describe:

  1. Logo design and variations and usage
  2. Brand colour palette
  3. Typography
  4. Imagery style

1. Logo Design (variations and usage)

A logo is a simple graphic representation of an organisation.

The logo is the first visible emblem of the company or service, identifying a company in its simple form, via a symbol, mark or icon.

Creating a logo might be the first step in creating your Brand Guidelines, however a single logo does not build a brand. A logo needs support from strategic visual guidelines to get into people?s minds and stay there for a long time.

That?s where a Brand Guidelines come into play.

The Guidelines will show exactly what is your logo design is, how it?s built, and if it has any variations you can use.

For example, see our client?s Neko Ngeru Cat Adoption Cafe logo design below. They have two logo design variations: one horizontal (below to the left), and a stacked up version (below to the right)

The stacked logo is the primary logo, and it must be used in most instances. The horizontal version gives them an alternative to the logo usage depending on the material, for instance, this version is used on their website menu to optimise space.

Your brand guidelines will also define the basic rules on how to use your logo, like how to add dclear space around and the use of backgrounds, minimum sizes, orientations, etc. In order to keep it consistent and professional there should be some established restrictions. Without them, there may be a risk of distortions or changes.

2. Brand colour palette

The colours of your brand are the backbone of your brand visuals, and are usually the most quickly recognisable element of your brand.

We recommend using three to five colours maximum, with a chosen accent or main colour which predominate in your palette. Depending on your brand there will be a number of combinations and uses of the palettes.

A key element of your guidelines will be showing the exact codes of your colours for different uses, specifically:

HEX code: Used for the web and digital materials.
Pantone and CMYK: Values used for print materials.

A visual brand guideline ensures that your brand message stays consistent to your audience and enhance your brand positioning.

3. Brand Typography

Just like the colour palette, the typography you use also helps to represent the values of your brand.

Fonts have personalities and styles that you can use for your benefit. For example, you can use serif fonts to represent elegance and sophistication in a brand, like our client at Boutique Eyelashes (see image below).

Or, you can opt for a san-serif font for a more corporate and professional style, such as SEQURE Health brand (see image below).

We usually recommend picking two fonts for a brand, sometimes a third only when necessary. This keeps things simple, elegant and professional. Your brand guidelines must specify the name of the family fonts, as well as its variations and usage.

We also provide some information about the font licence and how to get it (download or licence purchasing).

4. Imagery style

Depending on your brand needs, the images you use might be more dynamic than your colours and fonts, which are strictly defined.

Especially when working on social media posts, you might use different photos for different occasions, however this doesn?t mean that you can use just any photo. It is possible and recommended to establish some basic styles for the imagery you use, for example:

Wrapping up

Even if you don?t have a big marketing or design team in your business, having Visual Brand Guidelines will help you keep visual consistency throughout your brand and display true professionalism to your audience.

It will also make it easier when creating new materials for your brand, whether that?s someone in-house, or a third party.

This consistency is key to avoid delivering different representation of your brand which can confuse your audience.

At CREATIVA, we have worked with many different kinds of businesses, putting together effective guidelines documents that help our clients build a strong brand position and presence. If you need help with your brand make sure to get in touch?with us.