Why brand guidelines are important (and how to create them)

“A bad logo used consistently is infinitely more valuable than even the best logo used inconsistently.”
– Drew Davies, Oxide Design Co.

Brand guidelines are a key part of the final deliverables you should be handing over to a design client. These guidelines help ensure that everyone on the client’s team can maintain consistency as different elements of the brand are used internally or externally. As we all know, consistency is vital to building brand recognition.

“Consistency is vital to building brand recognition. ”

Brand guidelines are just that—guides for using the brand elements. Any part of a brand that has been codified should come with user guidelines. These guidelines can be used by anyone within your client’s company and should be shared with any vendor who is applying the logo (or any part of the brand) to ensure it’s being used in the right ways. For instance, a vendor can make sure they’re using the right Pantone when they recommend an incentive for sending to customers.

Let’s say your project was simply creating a logo. In addition to the final logo files you provide, you should provide some basic rules about how to use that logo—and how not to. For instance, you should remind your client not to skew the logo or use it in a context that makes it illegible. Quantify a clear space to be used around the logo, and a minimum size at which it needs to appear. You should spec the colors that are in the logo to help ensure all instances of it—especially anything being printed—are produced consistently.

why brand guidelines are important and how to create brand guidelines two on brand people sitting in color coordinating space two people working on laptop and writing Britt and Rese from Flywheel’s marketing team working at Hutch

Creating brand guidelines

When Oxide Design Co. completes a corporate identity project, here’s a list of what we typically provide as final deliverables:

  • The logo (and any variations of lockup) in a variety of formats for print and on-screen usage
  • Color palette specification (including RGB, CMYK, Pantone, and hex)
  • Typeface specification
  • Logo iterations in proper colors (e.g. showing how it can be used in reverse and in black and white)
  • Logo usage restrictions (e.g. don’t skew the logo, rearrange it, or change its colors)

Some examples of well-known companies’ logo guidelines:

Of course, some brands have more assets that have been codified. Again, any of these elements should have guidelines to support them.

The most complete brand guidelines would cover, at least as far as Oxide is concerned: 

Visual brand guidelines:

  • Logo usage (do’s and don’ts)
  • Colors
  • Typefaces
  • Icon styles
  • Imagery guidelines
  • Typography hierarchy examples
  • Business cards, letterhead, or other references to the implementation examples of the visual brand

Verbal (or written) brand guidelines:

  • Brand foundation
    • Vision
    • Mission
    • Core values
  • Brand expression
    • Brand story
    • Brand promise
    • Brand slogan
  • Brand voice (could include attributes, qualities, types of things the brand voice would say)
  • Messaging or campaign elements

why brand guidelines are important and how to create brand guidelines two on brand people sitting in color coordinating space pointing at laptop

Here’s an example of the brand book we built for Jibo. That was an interesting case because the client wanted to have slightly different voices for the corporation, the robot, and the platform, but the visuals were consistent across the board.

When you’re creating brand guidelines, just remember, anything that can be a valuable tool for reinforcing consistency is something you should include.

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