Phase 3: Brand Style Guide
So, at this point, we’ve done the hard work of examining your business, making intentional choices about your brand and working those decisions into a beautiful logo. We’re giddy about the visual story your new brand is telling. But how do you carry that story, look and feel throughout every area of your business?
The solution is simple, and it’s called a brand style guide. A brand style guide is a simple set of rules that you can use whenever you’re creating something visual for your business. By making these decisions in advance, it removes the constant guesswork of “is this on brand for me?”. Used effectively, these brand styling decisions will help your clients and customers identify you and your work without having to see your logo or business name. We use three primary areas to establish your brand style guide.
Starting from your moodboard, and through the logo design process we’ve started to identify a color palette that speaks to your brand. When selecting colors, we choose options that will play nicely in print and on the web, and if needed have exact Pantone matches.
At this phase, we’ll finalize the palette, assembling your primary brand colors, accent colors and on-brand neutrals into a cohesive palette. Primary colors are fairly straightforward, but the accents and neutrals also have an important role. Accent colors are colors we wouldn’t want to use in large areas, but when used in a small pop (say, edge painting on a business card or social media icons on a website) provide a level of depth and luxury. Neutral colors are the ones that replace black and white for every day business operations - perhaps a charcoal grey or deep navy can be used in place of black text on a website or document, and a soft taupe, off-white or icy blue will replace white.
Typography is far and away my favorite part of brand styling - and, let’s be honest, life. There is so much power in using typefaces effectively, and it’s one of the easiest areas to implement. When selecting fonts for our clients, we again look at every area they’ll need to put their signature brand stamp on and create a system of typefaces that will cover these effectively.
Traditionally, the standard was to select one serif (typeface with those sweet little feet) and one sans serif (no feet), but we’ve thrown that rule out the window to select the very best typefaces that will suit your brand. Typically, we like to choose one gem for the majority of your text (for Magnoliahouse, it’s Gotham), and one that’s for accents only (ours is Bodoni Italic). In addition, we’ll take your purchasing preferences into account - some clients request that we only use free or very inexpensive typefaces, some tell us that the sky’s the limit, and still others prefer that we use what’s available in a premium service like Adobe Typekit that they already have access to. All of this is covered in our newly redesigned client homework.
Patterns + Textures
In addition to color palette and typography specifications, we also like to include a couple of patterns and/or textures into your brand style guide. These are the areas we typically have the most questions about - most frequently “how the heck am I supposed to use these?”.
First, let’s break down the difference. For us, we consider a pattern to be a vectorized design that can be repeated seamlessly. For these, we typically deliver them to you in a large, square tile that can be used as is or in a graphics editor to create an infinite pattern swatch. Typically, these will play nicely with print items - think the back of a business card or envelope liner. In Natalie Scott Event’s beautiful stationery suite, below, we used the monotone marble pattern for her envelope liners.
A texture, on the other hand, is typically a high resolution photograph of a naturally occurring or staged quality or characteristic (think wood grain or gold glitter). These can be used in a variety of ways, but play especially nicely online and in digital formats. We love to use our signature texture of white marble as a backdrop for blog images and Instagram posts, or they can be used to make darling social media icons, as we did on sweet ShelbieShue’s website.
As a whole, patterns and textures are not the most important part of your brand suite and style guide, but they can be the most fun. It’s all about using them effectively in the small details that will make your clients smile.
I hope you’ll share with us in the comments - what are the biggest challenges you’re facing when it comes to adapting and applying your brand to all areas of your business?