In the past we've talked a lot about branding and how important staying true to it can be for your company. And to any brand-conscious business, the style guide may seem like a natural extension of that. Logos, colors, fonts and tags can be imperative to a brand's style, image and reputation in the community, however, how strictly does a brand need to stick to this guide? Is it better to be rigid with your brand's interpretation, or is it better to stay loose and go with the flow?
In my opinion, the first thing I would say is that a style guide IS important. Letting your vendors, clients, employees and advertising reps know the fonts, colors and layout that are important to your brand is a good thing, and ensures that you're being represented in a clear and concise way. It prevents some confusion, and easily lets everyone know how to represent your brand in social media posts, press releases, on signage and in advertisements.
It also helps you establish a "tone" or "style" for your brand when you're being communicated or talked about by other people. Do you want to come across as formal or informal? Are there words you like, or definitely don't want to be used, when referencing your company?
Your style guide doesn't have to be anything too complicated or complex. Create a word doc or PDF that includes any (or all) of the following:
- A picture of the logo and any size, coloration or placement guidelines
- Specific colors (primary and secondary)
- Specific fonts (and when they should be used)
- Voice and style guide of words, phrases and the tone of your business
- A social media/advertising guide to what is ok to be talked about online or in ads and what is not
- Your core mission statement or purpose
- Your brand or product differentiators
- Target demographic or audience
That being said, I'm never one for being too rigid or holding too tight to a certain set of rules. I believe that life is all about bending and flowing and doing what's right for not just your brand, but for the situation in which your brand is being represented.
A good rule of thumb is to ensure that at least 1 or 2 of the tangible pieces of your style guide is represented at all times. Maybe the color of a sign or advertisement doesn't make sense with your brand's colors. So if you're going to allow a different color, make sure your fonts and layout of your logo is represented correctly.
Allowing your brand to be loose and flexible, while still holding true to a few core representations, opens your brand up to a world of opportunities, however, ensures your company will always be represented in a way that you are comfortable with.