Every company out there should have brand guidelines (also known as a style guide).
First things first…
What are brand guidelines?
Your brand guidelines specify everything that plays a role in the look and feel of your brand. While the most basic of brand guides can include company colors, fonts, and logos, there’s a lot more you can include ensuring brand consistency. From personal statements, to branded photos, to spelling, to your mission statement and more.
In this article, I’m going to give you 65+ tips on how to plan, draft and present your own brand guidelines. I’ll also give you a TON of examples of how other brands have approached their brand guidelines.
Want to learn how to build your own Brand Style Guide? Download your copy of this FREE ebook we created with our friends at HubSpot.
1. Highlight important brand values or keywords with a contrasting font
Your brand guidelines should outline exactly what your brand stands for. Not just list visuals, logos, and colors that your brand uses.
It should include company values, your motto or words you want people to associate with your brand.
One of the easiest ways to bring attention to these values or keywords is to highlight them like in the brand guideline template above. As you can see, the designers used a white font to make a few key phrases jump off the page.
This was strategically included so that a reader will associate this brand with “an escape”, “a community” and “a haven.” And if that’s the only thing that they remember after seeing this page, then the designer should call it a win!
2. Present your brand colors in an innovative way
Most color palettes are presented in a similar fashion. They are either shown within circles, squares, or other simple shapes. And there’s nothing wrong with that!
But this innovative brand style guide decided to shake up those conventions with their bold color palette.
First, they dedicate an entire page to their brand color schemes, which shows how much those colors mean to them. And then by breaking down the page into proportions, they illustrate which color should be used the most.
Overall, it’s one of my favorite examples of a truly ingenious brand style guide!
3. Create a compelling title page for your brand guidelines
Setting the tone of your visuals from the beginning is important, and you can do that with a great title page. Ensure that your audience understands exactly what your company is about from the first page to the last.
In this brand guideline template, examples of images that fit the brand are included. This helps give designers and writers a clear idea of what to strive for.
4. Pair specific colors with specific fonts
There is no reason to not get extra specific with your guidelines. Especially when your company has spent so much time building a strong visual brand.
Don’t leave any extra room for interpretation if you can, because then mistakes will be made.
5. Clear up any confusion with an FAQ section
Your brand guidelines should leave no room for ambiguity. Mozilla address questions readers may have by including an FAQ in their brand guidelines.
Not only are they setting the record straight, they are saving their press team a ton of time in the long run.
6. Start with a simple brand guideline template or cheat sheet
While you should have a more comprehensive brand guideline, it’s a lot for people to sift through every time they have a question.
That’s where a simple cheat sheet will do the trick. The brand guidelines template above outlines some of the most important facets of your visual brand. This condensed version of the brand guidelines is easy to pin up in your workspace.
7. Give your brand colors a real name
Creating an efficient design language across your company should be the main goal of your brand guideline.
Many brand guidelines that I came across when compiling examples for this article used only hex codes to name their brand colors. But I don’t think that’s very practical, especially for people outside of the design team.
It’s much easier to call a color “Pave” or “Forest”, like in this example from Jungle House, than remember a bunch of hex codes. I recommend using both to make communication easier between all teams.
8. Incorporate your logo or brand mark into each page of the brand guide
Your logo is one of the first things people will associate with your brand. When people see that graphic out in the world they should immediately think about your company.
Now, most companies only have a small section for their logo in their brand guides. Sometimes they even dedicate a page to showing how you shouldn’t use their logo.
But as you can see in the example above, they plaster their logo all over each page.
Dedicating a section to logos will let you show how they can be used in a handful of different situations, and with alternating brand colors.
9. Add an extended color palette to your brand guidelines
When you are working for a company as large as LinkedIn, you are probably going to have a handful of brand colors to choose from. But I really didn’t expect them to sign off on something as comprehensive as the Extended Color Palette.
However, with the thousands of projects and smaller companies under their control, it makes a lot of sense to have this many colors to choose from. You may not need 81 separate colors but having a few extra sanctioned ones can’t hurt.
10. Don’t be afraid to use a black background
I may be a little biased here because black is my favorite color, but I think it makes a great background for many brand guidelines templates. That’s because the colors and text can really pop on a dark background.
For example, look at how striking the colors and text are in this example from Egotype.
11. Break your brand guidelines down by use cases
If your brand is going to be featured in different mediums, like online, in print or on TV, make sure each of those cases have adequate guides. Facebook has one of the strongest brands in the world, across both print and digital mediums.
In an attempt to keep their branding consistent, they broke the style guide down by each use case. Because logos, font, and colors are definitely going to look a lot different in print or on a TV screen. That’s a fact.
Not every designer uses the exact same programs or ideas when creating something. There are hundreds of apps that can be used to design. And even more ways of creating the same type of design work.
You should keep that in mind while building your brand guidelines. Especially when laying out your color palettes. It’s a good idea to include the Hex, RGB, CYMK and Pantone codes of all your colors, like in the brand guidelines template above.
This ensures your true colors can be reproduced and used anywhere.
13. Hang your brand guidelines up in your workspace
Help ensure that your team never forgets what font or color to use by making a brand guidelines poster.
As you can see above, this brand guide was designed to be printed out and hung up. Even if your employees forget, there is a handy poster they can consult instead of sending your marketing team another email.
Need some more help creating your very own Brand Style Guide? Check out this FREE ebook we created with our friends at HubSpot:
14. Include examples of product screenshots
If you really want to show off your product or app in the best light, include some high-quality product screenshots.
Not only will this make your product look amazing, it will help your brand control the visual narrative around it. For example, if Instagram didn’t include these screenshots, journalists would have to make their own. Then they could create a screenshot of really anything, instead of using the perfect one your brand should have already made.
15. Highlight your brand’s design signature
I’ve talked a lot about how brand guidelines should help explain the feel of your brand. All of the choices you make while creating your branding will go back to that idea.
An easy way to illustrate that to readers is by including a signature section, like in the brand guidelines template above. From the beginning, this company outlines how to achieve that feeling in all design work.
16. Recommend patterns, textures or swatches
If there are certain patterns or swatches you want designers to use, include them in your brand guidelines.
This brand guideline from Design Lotus specifies exactly what patterns they want to be associated with their brands. Making those small choices will help you present a consistent brand to the world.
17. Add a simple table of contents to your brand guidelines
Not only will this help the reader navigate through your content. It also gives them a preview of what they are going to find in your brand guidelines!
18. Open your brand guidelines with a helpful introduction
Like with any piece of content, you don’t just want to jump right into the middle of your brand guidelines. Summarize some of your brand values and ideals in a useful introduction instead.
That is why I really like how Pinterest not only used a brief intro in their brand guidelines but also a “Basics” section. The intro section outlines all the simple rules and guidelines for using their brand.
Then the second section answers all of the major questions that most people would need to know. Honestly, I’m guessing that most employees, writers or creators can get all of their answers about using Pinterest’s brand in both of those simple sections.
19. Designate location-based logos and colors
When you are a multinational organization like ILGA+, it makes sense to use multiple logos and colors.
Different countries may have different design trends and preferences. While their logo designs are varied, they’re still similar enough that they build a singular brand.
20. Point out header, sub-headers and body fonts
Be sure to label where each of your branded fonts should be used. No one should have to guess which is a header or a body font.
This is very important for brands that have more than one main font, like in the brand guidelines template.
21. Turn your brand guidelines into a real booklet
Set a book like this one from the Museum of Humanity on every desk, or in every meeting room so anyone can take a look if needed.
Instead of showing employees where they can find your brand guidelines online, you could give them this book on their first day. Not only will it outline exactly how visual branding should be used, it can provide some insight to the history or culture of the company.
22. Expand brand colors to fit any situation
As you can see above, instead of using their old trademark blue, they expanded their brand color palette significantly.
These rather massive changes were undertaken to position the company as something that connects the creatives of the world. I think they did a great job with the rebrand.
23. Ensure your brand guidelines reflect your company culture
An easy way to create a bad brand guide is to include elements that do not line up with company culture, mission and values.
In this brand guidelines example from Little Free Radical, they make sure their values are exhibited all over their guide. From the custom icons and font, to the brown paper pattern, it all screams “Homemade with Love.”
24. Create an infographic brand guidelines template
Infographics are one of the best ways to present information in a visually engaging way.
That is why I’m happy to include this amazing example from the Girl Scouts in the collection. They masterfully created an infographic of their brand guidelines that outlines the many facets of their branding.
Overall they took something that usually has a very rigid template, and turned it upside down to make the information more engaging.
Learn how to repurpose your content into infographics and other visuals with our handy guide.
25. Offer a simplified version of your logo
If your brand or company has a very complicated logo, it can be a good idea to create a simplified version of it. I know that you spent a lot of time and effort crafting that logo, but it doesn’t work in every circumstance.
A simplified logo can use a more basic font face or just the initials of your company name. It looks like Erin Paris decided to use just their initials for their simplified logo. This gives designers and the press more flexibility to use their logo in many situations.
26. Show where your brand colors originated from
Every brand is going to include their company colors in their brand guidelines templates. That is almost a given, but what they don’t show is how they selected those particular colors.
In this brand guide example from Fight To Breathe they go the extra mile and do show the origin of their colors. In this case, it was an image that must have spoken to them, and in turn, influenced their whole brand.
27. Include a mood or inspiration board
In this brand guidelines example from Nordic Design, they use a mood board to help visualize the feel that they want their content to have.
Now even if you don’t put a mood or inspiration board in your brand guidelines, creating one is a great way to help flesh out your visual brand.
28. Clarify how your company name should appear
These days, many brand names are made up, missing letters or are a mashup of multiple words.
If your company has an obscure or made up name be sure to show the public how you want it to appear in print, like Kissmetrics did above. This includes showing what letters should be capitalized and if the name includes any spaces.
They also outlined some examples of how to not present their name, which I found helpful.
29. Show how to use your logo on different backgrounds
In this brand guidelines example for Maison Iggy, they show exactly how to use their logo on different backgrounds. As you can see, the main font color changes with each background to help ensure the logo can be seen.
30. Create a detailed typography template
Typography is arguably as important as color palettes when it comes to cohesive visual branding.
That’s why I really like how LinkedIn lined out their specific typography requirements in their brand guidelines. They even created a few typography templates to make sure there was no confusion. It may seem like overkill for a startup, but it’s important to build good habits early on.
31. Be sure to spell out font weights
Make sure your employees know what weight each of your fonts should have. Some places may need a bold font, a medium or a minimal font but they will not know that unless you tell them.
In this brand guideline template above, they show you exactly what weight should be used with all fonts.
32. Be bold with your design choices
A solid example of bold brand guidelines comes from Homestar. As you can see above, each page uses a font that readers can’t miss to give them some important information. From their brand colors to the motto and even the headers of each page.
33. Don’t forget about your sub-brands
In this example from Forest Found they actually include the logos of their three sub-brands. If you find yourself in the same boat, I would recommend including those sub-brands in your brand guidelines as well.
34. Put readers in the right visual headspace from the beginning
Generally speaking, it’s good practice to include a paragraph or two to introduce readers to your brand. But if one of your brand’s characteristics is thinking outside the box, then you may want to do something a bit different.
For example, you could show rather than tell the readers what their brand is all about like ALC did above. Each image that they used helps convey the mood, values, and subjects of their brand.
Check out this FREE ebook we created with our friends at HubSpot. It’s filled with tips, example, and templates to help you create a killer brand guide:
35. Use plenty of white space and margins in your brand guidelines
Your brand guidelines should set an example for other designers.
There is nothing worse than seeing your beautiful logo smashed up against another graphic on the page. Incorrect spacing can really ruin any visual in an instant. To avoid this fate, you should definitely include a section which shows how to correctly space your graphics
In this brand guidelines example from Idea.me they choose to do just that in a very simple way. Showing that nothing should come within 4px of the logo.
36. Color code your various projects, departments and sub-brands
To keep all your projects, departments and sub-brands straight, try color coding them.
Dribbble uses this tactic in their brand guide, with Hiring, Teams and other getting their own official color. This can come in handy when creating internal documents, blog posts, presentations and more.
37. Take your competitors’ branding into consideration
Standing out in the market is one of the main reason that you are creating a visual brand in the first place. But if the branding you choose is too close to your competitors, all this work will be a waste.
38. Embrace illustrated graphics & icons in your brand guidelines
Over the past few years, there has been a huge increase in brands using hand-drawn illustrations. They have already taken over Silicon Valley and social media.
And now brands are starting to add them to their official brand, like Fabled did above.
Not only are illustrated icons all over their brand guidelines, they officially sanctioned a handful of branded illustrations as well. These official illustrations are a fantastic way to set your company apart from the competition as well.
39. Include branded photos and camera settings
Some brands use photography to tell their story exceptionally well. When you see a photo by companies like this, you know instantly it came from them.
To achieve that level of recognition, they normally use the same camera settings in every photo.
That’s why I really like how the brand guidelines for Full Circle included those settings. To extremely simplify it, that’s like giving someone the hex code of your brand colors, but for photography.
Check out our post on how to incorporate stock photos in your designs for more tips.
40. Explain how your company name is pronounced
There are words out there that no matter how many times you read it, you still will never know how to pronounce it correctly. For me, that was “quinoa” for a while, until I was made fun of and corrected it.
But for some words, like Disqus, you aren’t going to have a friend to tell you how to pronounce it. So the people over at Disqus decided to create a short video that shows the perfect way to pronounce their name.
41. Use different sized graphics to quickly distill info
If you took a quick look the official brand colors from Mozilla you would probably be able to figure out which were the main and secondary colors instantly.
This is because they’ve created a visual hierarchy using different sized circles. Visitors can quickly see what their primary and secondary colors are thanks to this simple trick.
42. Illustrate how to NOT use your logo
One of the best ways to make sure people know how to use your logo is to show them how not to use it.
Spotify, and a lot of other examples in this collection used an entire page, or two, in their brand guidelines to outline idea. For a company like Spotify that works in hundreds of countries, covering just as many music genres, this is almost an essential.
Now they have an effective way to prevent the incorrect use of their logo.
43. Organize your company visuals by core features
Your brand guidelines should obviously include a nice collection of authorized company visual or images.
But if you dump all of those visuals into a single folder, regardless of content, it may be difficult for your team to find the images they’re looking for. Instead, try organizing the images by topic. In this brand guidelines example from Airbnb, they do that well.
Each of their main features are included on this page, as well as logos and such. All the curious party has to do is click on each to find more curated images.
44. Use your branded font throughout your brand guidelines
Over the past few years, a lot of brands have created their own custom fonts. These unique fonts help them stand out from the competition and rise above the noise on social media. Also, it helps companies inject their brand voice into every aspect of their marketing.
If you are one of those companies, I would recommend using your custom font throughout your brand guidelines. Don’t just list the font name on one of the brand guide pages, actually use it!
In the brand guide template above, a branded font is used in each page header. This ensures that the font is the first thing a reader or the press will see on each page. And whether it be serious, or playful, they can set that tone from the beginning.
45. Feature pictures of employees to humanize your brand
I would recommend adding real faces to your brand guidelines. A photo of your founders, employees or office pets can go a long way towards humanizing a brand.
This is especially important for internet companies like Reddit. Virtually all of your interactions with them are digital, through text communication. But by including a welcoming intro and photo they remind visitors that the company is more than just a cold entity.
46. Give your brand guidelines its own landing page
As you can see in this example, Netflix has organized all of its brand guides onto a separate domain. In my search for great examples for this article, I found that a handful of larger brands used this idea as well.
Also, by giving your brand guide its own site, you show to the public that you really care about what it says.
47. Specify which colors go on mobile and web content, and which colors go in print
Colors are going to interact in different ways if they are used on a mobile device. Something could look amazing on your massive monitor, but when seen on a small phone, screen it’s much less impressive.
So to make sure this doesn’t happen to your brand, try copying what Yelp did. Each color in their palette has been approved for use on a device, or not, with a smart icon.
With a simple icon you could also ensure your colors aren’t used incorrectly.
48. Explain what makes your company tick in your brand guidelines
Company culture is incredibly important to both your team. People want to know that their company stands for the right things and will feel safe working there.
How do you convey your company culture to prospective employees and fans of your brand? If you include a culture section in your brand guidelines like Twitter did, you can show how branding goes beyond design–it’s also a mindset.
49. Designate each section of your brand guidelines with a different color
Using color to help readers move from section to section is a classic design hack. It helps let them know that they are reading a new piece of information, without spelling it out for them.
The designers for Campus used this design hack to help organize their brand guide. With the 5 primary colors breaking down the somewhat long guide into manageable chunks of information.
50. Don’t forget branded tints & shades
One of the easiest ways to expand your official brand colors is to also include branded tints and shades. This is a great way to make a few simple colors go a long way.
But with so many options out there you probably should make a list of approved colors. Otherwise, you are going to have too many “official” colors to keep track of.
In this brand guidelines template for Stories, they include five official variations of their official colors. This should take the guesswork out of using tints and shades in the future as well.
51. Present your brand’s unique personality and style in your brand guidelines
Another way to add some humanity to your company is to explain your brand personality. This can help designers better understand the content you produce or the decisions you make.
The people at Atlassian did just this with their uniquely designed brand guidelines. They even decided to include a section that explains their writing style.
Check out our post on how to customize your infographic template for more hacks on how to quickly inject personality into your designs.
52. Let your written voice be heard
As I mentioned in the previous example, Atlassian designated a section to explain their voice and writing style.
But in this example, Envato takes it a bit further and creates a massive guide just for written content. This is extremely useful for a large and rather diversified company like Envato.
Creating a guide like this will avoid calling the same thing a handful of other names throughout your site or company. This will just leave the reader confused and could even lead to the loss of a customer.
53. Define any words that your brand invented
If your brand has coined any words or phrases, include a dictionary in your brand guidelines.
For example, the word “YouTuber” wasn’t intentionally created by Youtube but it became synonymous with their brand. So they take the time to explain how that word should be used in their brand guidelines.
54. Select at least five official colors
This tip is popping up near the end because I’m guessing that most people already have picked their official colors. But if you haven’t, select at least five colors that represent your brand’s spirit.
Just like in this example created by a designer for the brand Skyscanner. The five colors are different but they all complement each other.
If you can’t come up with five, at least pick three and fill the other two spots out with black and white.
55. Curate your own collection of icons and graphics
If you work for a company like Lonely Planet, which publishes a ton of travel guides and content, creating your own custom icons is a must.
By creating a collection of these icons, it will help hundreds of individual contributors produce consistent visual content. This consistency will help readers or travelers recognize and utilize their content instantly.
Check out this FREE ebook we created with our friends at HubSpot. It’s filled with tips and templates to help you create a killer brand guide:
56. Create content templates for affiliates and press publications to use
A simple way to guarantee that your branding is used correctly is to make some simple templates for everyone to use. These templates can be as simple as showing exactly how something should be used, like in this brand guidelines template from Facebook.
Or they could be a graphic that allows users to add on top of their images. Whatever the item, if it makes creating a consistent graphic easier for users it’s definitely worth it.
57. Create a brand positioning guide for your employees to reference
It’s very important these days to have a unified brand message or voice coming from all of your employees. Having a bunch of random messages, ideas, or visuals coming from people working at the same company is never good for consistency.
To make sure that everyone is on the same page from day one, I would recommend creating a brand positioning guide. This shouldn’t replace your brand guidelines but instead be supplementary to it.
As you can see in the style guide template above, they outline their slogans, competitors, market and more. A guide like this is probably not needed for small teams, but larger companies should already have something like this drawn up.
58. Offset minimalist brand guidelines with a bold font
The font used in this brand guide example from Anna Vanderiet is incredible. It jumps off the page and grabs your attention in an instant. And when it is paired with a minimalist guide, the font looks even better.
Creating a font guide like this also shows that certain fonts are important in maintaining consistent visual branding.
59. Show off your color palette in an interesting way
As you have probably noticed, most colors are presented as circled or squared palettes. This makes a lot of sense because most design programs organize colors in a similar way.
But if you want to break away from the crowd you can use really any shape or graphic you want. Like a triangle.
The designers over at Lovelytique went with that shape actually, as you can clearly see. The triangles fitting together shows how the colors will interact.
60. Direct how your mascot should be used
Not every company is lucky enough to have a mascot as recognizable as Mailchimp’s. His name is Freddie, if you were wondering.
Because of that value to the company, they have to make sure that likeness is used correctly. So in their brand guidelines, they have a section dedicated to using a monkey correctly.
61. Always have a second color palette, or ten
To conclude this list I thought it would fitting to feature the company that probably has more color palettes than they know what to do with.
In this example from yelo, they actually have more official colors than we saw with the LinkedIn example. With the total in at 90 different colors.
If you haven’t been paying attention to the design world, or social media in general, you may have missed the resurgence of gradients. They are literally everywhere–from websites to social feeds, to well, brand guidelines.
As you can see in this brand guideline template for Crypho, a fake crypto company, they even included a branded gradient that people can use. This can be extremely useful, especially if it’s part of your company’s design vision.
63. Outline how your brand visualizes data
Presenting data in an effective, consistent and beautiful way is a bit tricky sometimes. That’s why it’s important to outline how your company visualizes data in your brand guidelines.
In this incredible brand guidelines from Truth, they spend two full pages telling their employees how they should visualize data.
When you have a ton of teams working on different projects, this brand guidelines should help them present a united front. Almost like they each came from a single (overworked) designer.
64. Make your brand guidelines very easy to follow
Created by Steven Arnold, the directions in this unique brand guidelines are so simple and straightforward that anyone could follow them.
Each page is perfectly crafted to help almost anyone use the STIHL branding correctly.
They make sure to include examples of it being used in the real world, and fun visual to drive home the point. Even though this is a fake brand guidelines template for the company STIHL, I’m guessing it’s better than the real one.
65. Make your brand guidelines interactive
Why not show your readers exactly how a font would look in all your brand colors with a single click? That’s exactly what the team at Frontify did to help people visualize the different facets of its branding.
This was one of the only interactive brand guidelines that I saw, but I think it’s extremely helpful. I hope more companies will follow their lead and make the guides more interactive for everyone.
66. Add textures to your brand colors
In this brand guidelines template for Bash + Butter they did something very interesting with their official color palette. As you can see, they included a gold pattern or texture alongside traditional colors.
This extra element to their visual brand helps make their content distinct from other brands. Plus, for a company that deals in a niche like food, adding a tactile element to their visual branding will appeal to their audience.
67. Include a personal statement in your brand guidelines
A personal statement can go a long way in helping your audience understand your brand. This statement is especially useful for entrepreneur or founders, but smaller brands can also utilize it.
For example, in this brand guideline example from Lauren Sambataro a large section is used for that statement. I also like how prevalent it is in the graphic, which also shows that they take this statement very seriously.
Create your own brand guidelines
Congrats! You made it to the end in one piece.
If you want to learn more about creating brand guides from scratch read our guide to creating a brand style guide from scratch.
But before you go let’s review a few of my favorite tips:
Create a simple handout or cheat sheet
Break down color palettes by HEX, RGB and CMYK codes
Print out your brand guidelines and hang it in the office
Highlight the signature feel of your brand
Start with a helpful intro or FAQ section
Design an infographic-like brand guide
Expand brand colors to fit any situation or need
Illustrate how to NOT use your logo
Approve of branded tints, shades and hues
Let your written voice be heard
Follow these tips to create brand guidelines that are comprehensive, easy to follow, and that represents your brand’s personality.