Having an intentional brand means that you are purposeful with your brand and business. It means that you have a clearly defined foundation, strong brand graphics, and curated brand collateral. But all of the work that goes into creating an intentional brand can be wasted if you aren't intentional about using your brand. The best way to ensure that you remain consistent with your brand is to create brand standards, or a brand manual, that lays out exactly how your brand should be used.
What are brand standards?
After working with each of my brand clients, I leave them with a brand manual that shows each of their logo variations, font suggestions, color profiles, and brand elements and how they can be used so that they are well equipped to move forward with their brand and stay consistent and intentional as they grow their new brand. Brand standards are simply instructions for how to use your brand. It is a way to clearly define your brand so that you can use your brand consistently. It allows you and your team to be on the same page with your brand and create a cohesive brand across all platforms. Creating brand standards defines that visual identity and keeps your brand professional throughout every detail and touch point of your brand and gives you a framework to work within when extending your brand to all areas.
Brand standards are more common for large corporations and companies when there are many employees involved that need to be on the same page, but I also think they can be equally beneficial for small businesses too. It's a great way to set the tone of your brand and be clear about your intentions even if it is just for yourself to use.
What to include in your brand standards
There are 5 main elements to include in your brand standards to define and clarify the basis of your brand:
Mission, message, values, and tagline
As I've discussed before, this is the foundation of your brand. Having this included in your brand manual will help remind you and anyone else working with your brand what that foundation is. It acts as a guide for all the visual creation that relates to your brand and is an important part of keeping consistency in your brand. It helps to includes these things here so that they are clearly defined and easily accessible to anyone working with your brand.
Most brands will typically have at least 2 variations of their logos. This gives you the ability to use slightly different variations of the same design in your branding for versatility. When I work with branding clients, I focus on the primary logo for use in all of their main collateral like websites, business cards, and social media. But I also like to give them a secondary logo variation and stamp or circle design to use when those variations fit the situation better. It is important to lay out how each version should be used to ensure consistency and maintain the brand style. Think about when and where your primary logo should be used versus your secondary logo, what colors can your logo be used on or if you can use it in black or white when needed. Sometimes you can even included the amount of white space required around your logo, the size requirements for your logo, or other specific details. For small businesses, I recommend sticking with the basics and keep it simple.
As a rule of thumb, I suggest that you use 2-3 main fonts for your brand and stick to those for consistency. This is where you will lay out which fonts you use and how you use them. Think about which fonts look best as headings and which look best as main body text. Also consider the use of bold and italics and how those should be used too.
This is where you define what colors are used for your brand and the profiles of those colors. I provide my clients with the Hex code, CMYK and RGB values so that they can easily match the exact color in any design and format. This ensures that there are no major differences in the colors that you use across different mediums like print versus web.
Patterns and additional brand elements
You will most likely have additional brand elements that are used in your branding materials like patterns, icons, and more. It is important to define how those elements should be used and what their purpose is for your brand.
Brand standards are important for maintaining consistency with your brand and are a great way to get your team on the same page. When creating a manual for your brand, think about all the things you'll run into when creating new collateral or marketing materials for your brand. Think about any situation when your logo will be used or your brand will be represented and how you want that to be displayed. Think about your brand and what you are trying to convey to your audience about your business.
As a bonus, I'm sharing a peek into my brand style guide and a special look at some minor brand updates that I have been making behind the scenes. Take a look at my brand standards here.
Do you have standards set for your brand?
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