How to create an effective style guide

Design / April 05, 2016 /

One of the most important aspects in having a successful brand is consistency. A consistent brand makes the visual aspects easily identified, and creates trust between your business and your customers.

One easy way to maintain visual consistency is by creating a style guide.

A style guide is a document that outlines the specific logos, colors, typography, imagery, etc. of your company’s brand.

Having worked with different agencies for many years, I have come across many different style guides, and I’ve seen some that are over 100 pages, and some that are as short as a single sheet.

You don’t have to be a big brand to make use of the style guide benefits. Even as a small startup or a one person business, creating this document can help you with your online presence.

Every brand style guide will need different information depending on how complex your brand may be.

Listed below are few basic elements that most likely can appear on every visual guide. And to help you have a better understanding, I have included samples of the style guide I created for our company Strutta plus few examples from other brands.

Your logo is a key element of your brand, and in order to stay consistent along the way your guide needs to define exactly how it should be used.

  • Create at least 2 versions of the logo: one for light and one for dark background
  • Define space between the Logotype and other elements
  • Specify the minimum size for your logo
  • Beware how not to use the logo

02. COLOR

Since colors can be easily shifted from designer to designer or application to application, make sure to specify the values to the point so you don’t end up with a color that clashes with your original design.

  • Give exact RGB color code as well as CMYK and Pantone for print use
  • Include a set of secondary colors along with the primary ones
  • Pick neutral colors (white, grey and black) so your primary brand colors can stand out
  • Use sites such as LOLcolors, Adobe Color for inspiration and creating sets

03. TYPOGRAPHY

Every brand should have a consistent set of fonts. Listing out these fonts, with examples and character sets, is very important.

  • Stick to 2 or 3 fonts
  • Specify sizes for elements such as headings, sub headings and body text
  • Choose weights and font styles within a font family

04. IMAGERY

Your images reflect your brand just as much as your graphic elements, logo, fonts and colors and can help you set your brand apart from others.

  • Specify a photographic style for your brand (bright, high contract, etc.)
  • Define how and where photos should be used within your brand
  • Choose a subject line for your photos
  • Create your style around the photos

I hope you find the above tips helpful to create your own style guide. It’s essential to begin with what is most necessary for you and take it from there.

It’s also important to realize that brands evolve over time. The style guide you create today might be different than the one you’re using in a year. So its good practice to version your guides with date and always keep the old versions so you can refer back.

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