#101: Brand Guidelines – What should those include?

Jul 23, 2018

Let me tell you, I have seen some incredible brand guidelines in my life and some astonishingly awful ones. Before you even begin having someone develop your brand guidelines, you need to be very clear on what you mean (and what you want.)



Are you talking visual identity? That is called a Style Guide. That should include your primary logo(s) and the size proportions of each. It should include any alternate logos that have been developed (secondary pieces). It should include your color palette, including ALL color codes – RGB, CYMK, HEX and pantone. Lastly, it should include all of the typefaces associated with the brand. It could also include any patterns or other visual identifiers associated as well.




I want to briefly mention that some companies may have other guides. If you are a product based company, there might be an entire guide just outlining all of the different product suites and how they are visually branded. You may see a guides dedicated to different parts of the business – social media, campaigns, etc. For example, if you work for lululemon you are going to see an entire brand guide specific to Here To Be, their corporate responsibility program. 





Now when we are talking true brand guidelines, this is really different from a style guide. Some people call it a “brand bible” or a “brand development guide” but they all mean the same thing. The point is to have your entire brand and all of its facets articulated. For many companies, this can sometimes mean 80-200 pages of content.






I will break down what I often build for my clients:

1) An introduction: this will often include some of the company narrative and the purpose of the brand guidelines and how they should be used. If you onboard and grow your company, you want everyone on the team to know the company story and infuse the brand into every aspect of their work.

2) A breakdown of the brand:  this will include everything about the company – from the mission, vision, essence, values, personality to a full in-depth look at the muse and/or target audience.

3) Understanding the brand landscape: this will include a very in-depth look into the intention behind the company, the promise, the value proposition and positioning in the marketplace.

4) Core Identity: this includes any and all facets of your company culture, the brand voice, the brand character and any other details like the brand molecule or the architecture.

5) Communicating our brand: all primary and secondary messaging, taglines, bylines, narrative and so on and so forth.

6) Living the brand: how you as a company “act” the brand, or how you walk the talk. This really varies from company to company but just know that brands not only look, sound and feel a certain way, they also behave a certain way too (and this should be guided by your values).

7) Language and Copy: an in-depth guide into how anyone communicating on behalf of the company should be going about doing so. The tone of voice, tips and tricks and perhaps some examples are often showcased. This might also have “social media and online presence as an entire subsection, or a section on its own.

8) Photography and Imagery: how your brand approaches anything and everything imagery. It should also include examples for reference.






Every brand guide will vary significantly from company to company. There is so much more that could be included but for all intents and purposes, this is your baseline. Now if you are a mom and pop shop, do you need something so in-depth? I would say no and spend your money elsewhere. If you are a growing company or looking to scale in the future, I would say its a really smart investment.