August 1st, 2012
by Jennie Jacobs
Hello Wild Web Friends. I would like to take a moment to introduce to you our new blog series titled Design Education Session. The purpose of these blog posts is to better equip our readers with some basic knowledge of design to better work with your designers, web developers, photographers and art directors. When working with any contractor/ vendor/team member it is helpful to verse yourself in the terminology of the craft to better communicate your needs. By educating our readers on the terms, lingo and logistics behind design work we are hoping to de-stress the design process and give you an upper hand in communicating the look and feel you are after.
As a side note; it is helpful to pick a designer or web developer whose work you like and that you have a great time collaborating with. And remember to trust your designer – chances are you picked them because they are an expert in their craft.
For the first installment of Design Education Session I would like to introduce you all to the work horse for brand consistency: the Brand Style Guide!
Definition of a Style Guide: A style guide is your brand handbook. It is the step by step instructions to using design, particularly a logo, and its coordinating brand pieces to keep an organizations brand used in a consistent manner. A style guide is generally constructed upon the completion of a logo/brand look and feel. A style guide should be handed out to any designer working with your organization and anyone who will have access to, and will be using, the logo and brand throughout any media channels.
Why a Style Guide is important: You remember that time when you were 7 years old and decided to build that Lego set without the instructions? Well, same thing applies for your brand. Without proper guidelines to help keep things consistent, you, or a hired designer, or the newspaper ad guy or the in-house intern, can end up turning your sophisticated, financial brand into a crazy nightmare of fonts and colors (just like the time you turned your Town Square Castle Scene Lego land into a shanty town).
Style Guide How To: The following basic elements should help cover the use of your logo through the majority of print and web uses. Some brands have much more strict guidelines or more complicated uses, such as clothes labels, restrictions on size or when certain elements can or can’t be used. For the sake of keeping it simple I am showcasing the Style Guide for the Web Marketing Therapy brand the Wild Web Women®. Our logo will be used primarily via the web and as such it is a less intense style guide then, say for, lynda.com. If, in the future, we do end up developing a set of Wild Web Women Dolls then we can address these brand uses at a later date and add to the style guide.
Cover page: Include the title, company name and logo. You can also include the date of creation to make sure people always have the latest, greatest version.
It is also helpful to have the company name and contact information in the footer of the guide. You can also include a designer contact for questions.
State the importance of the logo: Describe your logo and remind people of its importance to your organization (that way, if they still manage to mess it up you can say “I told you so” and steal their donut from the break room…I kid, I kid).
Here is an example: “The Wild Web Women® logo helps establish our identity to the public, and must be used with utmost care and respect. It is usually the first element of our company that the public sees, and therefore it must be applied consistently in all communications and media, both externally and internally, to support and enhance our brand and mission. This guide serves to establish rules and conventions for the accurate and professional presentation of our logo.”
Describe the logo: When describing and showcasing the logo options available for use it is helpful to highlight specifics in regards to spacing and proportions, orientation specifics and more. Be as detailed as you need to be to reduce the chances of the logo being used improperly.
Show them what NOT to do: Make sure to explain to people the way in which not to use the logo. I know it seems like the obvious, but it helps people to really see how terrible a logo looks when stretched, distorted or placed over ugly text.
Present the Color Palette: Most brands have a specific color palette that should be maintained across collateral. Many brands use a Spot Color (or a Pantone ink) to help maintain consistency across printing and to keep printing costs down (I will blog more on this at a later date). Spot colors are really only relevant when printing – since the WWW® brand is web based organization, we are pulling our branded red color palettes from RGB (web based) and subsequently CMYK (full color printing) color profiles . It is helpful to show as many color options as possible in your Style Guide. It assures consistent color across all media (and no, red is not just red).
It is also helpful to specify what the logo should look like when used in a single color ink for printed work. In the case of the WWW® it is hard to use the star in a single color application without going “grayscale” so the recommendation to omit the star during these uses.
Font Choices: Most brands have standard fonts to be used in branded collateral. You can present the font that is used for the logo and also the coordinating font that is to be used in other ways. For instance the WWW® logo font is a script font that can be used for things like decorative headlines, but it is not very readable, so we have a coordinating san serif font to use in other circumstances.
Extras: If you have any other brand details here is the time to do so. You can showcase extra brand elements, including colors, graphics or other details. You can also include a conclusion to the Style Guide outlining rules for adding additional brand information in the future.
It is important for a brand to stay consistent, but that doesn’t mean you have to be stale in your use of the elements. Style Guides are meant to keep you on the right path with the branding, not to box you into a tight corner – certain situations will require adjustments and additions to the Style Guide should so be prepared to be flexible and make changes as needed. Happy styling!
If you have any questions about Style Guide construction you can ask me in the comments section below or tweet me @jenniejacobs