Creating a brand right at the beginning of a store’s inception feels fresh, fun and exciting. You get to brainstorm and test out different concepts. Although setting up a new business is daunting, most entrepreneurs agree that its this branding phase that is most enjoyable.
As your store gets settled into the routine and the whirlwind of orders, invoices and customer support demands attention, your brand identity can quickly fall down the list of priorities. It also becomes tricky down the line to stick to a brand when trends flash in and out. You may sometimes feel that your brand loses its shine or doesn’t connect as well with its target audience as it once did.
Another issue you may struggle with is feeling your brand is jumbled up and inconsistent. For instance, your Instagram page may not be flawlessly cohesive as it once was, or your company’s identity isn’t standing out as much as you’d like.
Once you’ve developed a strong brand, it’s crucial to maintain a consistent brand image. A brand style guide can help you do this. It’s something you or your employees can refer to if you’re unsure/ if anything is feeling a little off-brand. A style guide should be created during the development stages of your brand and if ever you complete a rebrand.
What is a brand style guide?
This is what your team needs to have in mind for every blog, Instagram post, product description and email campaign. Anything that has your store’s stamp on it needs to be consistent, and the only way this can happen is with a brand style guide.
Before we get into how to create one of these miracles of marketing let’s explore what it entails: a brand style guide is a rulebook of sorts that outlines the specifications of everything necessary to capture the look and feel of your brand.
A few examples include the typography, imagery, colour palette, logos, imagery, tone and colloquialisms.
Why does my brand need a style guide?
A style guide clearly defines the visual aspects of your brand, so you can confidently convey your brand principles to other people who will be involved in your business. We're talking here about web developers, photographers, designers and anyone else responsible for conveying your brand’s identity.
Other reasons to start putting together a style guide include:
The most prominent instance you’ll save time on is in the creative process. With a style guide in place, a lot of creative decisions get made without a second thought.
Helps you to set standards and rules
The first benefit to this is that everyone in your business will be on the same page for all your branding efforts.
Helps you stay ‘on brand’ (meaning your branding is more consistent)
One of the biggest issues with startup success is that the clarity that the business once had about its direction and branding can get muddled. It’s a lot easier to have a cohesive brand image when there are only two or three employees. Without a style guide in place, your brand can suffer when your team grows.
You want this to be instant. You don’t want to be a bland replication of the colour tones and typography associated with your industry. The more you eek out a unique image that’s endearing to your target audience, the easier it will become to distinguish your brand from competitors.
What should be included in a brand style guide?
You’ll probably see a lot of vagueness around what a style guide actually entails. However, through our experience in creating a consistent brand identity for our clients, we’ve narrowed it down to these key elements. If you’re looking for branding help for your Shopify store, check out our contact page to find how to get in touch.
Here is the skeleton of your style guide. It needs to be brief. You can send this to freelancers in the future for any outsourcing marketing campaigns, so it's also handy to have on hand.
What you’ll need is:
- Your brand mission
- Core Values
- Target market
Again, try to narrow this down to the essentials. The intention here is to efficiently bring the reader on board with your company’s identity. The details will come later.
Unless you’re reading this as a proactive clairvoyant, you’re probably an eCommerce merchant with a logo that’s already in use. That said, it’s still beneficial to run over what precisely a logo is and why you have one in the first place.
A logo is a mixture of symbols and text that links intrinsically to your store. A good logo stands out from the competition but also identifies key information about your store and is easily recognisable.
Logo rules tell your team how you want your logo displayed. Think about aspects like:
- Minimum logo size
- Minimum image quality
- Size in relation to other assets
- Clear space - this is the space between your logo and other graphic elements. It ensures visibility and impact.
It’s also a good idea to include ‘no-go’s’ such as:
- Twisting of the logo
- Drop shadows
- Alterations to colour or background
- Give visual examples of these faux-pas
So, if you find that over time your company’s flag has changed palettes quite a few times, then you might want to look into solidifying your brand’s colours. Check out this blog article for more info on choosing these colours based on semantics.
Within a style guide, you'll generally divide colours between primary and secondary.
Primary colours are those within your logo and also your ‘call to action’ colour.
Secondary colours either compliment or accentuate your primary colours. They add variety during the creation process. Imagine the monotony sticking to three colours when developing your online store!
Secondary colours provide flexibility and intrigue. For instance, placing a white logo on a blue background but also switching it up by setting the logo in black when on a pink background.
Colour codes are so important so you can pinpoint specific colours and make colour matching a piece of cake. You’ll need:
- HEX codes for web-use;
- And CMYK for print
In your brand style guide, there are two sections in the typography outline: typeface and font.
A typeface is simply the family of font that you intend to use, such as Arial or Times New Roman.
The font of this text refers to quite a few different aspects which include:
- Line spacing
On top of this, just like the colours, you’ll have primary and secondary fonts.
Your primary font is the more visual of the two and is great for headings as it grabs attention. Secondary fonts are easy to read, usually serif, and make up the bulk of your site’s text. That doesn’t mean they have to be boring, and can still add to your brand’s personality.
Another option to include is font pairings. Although we’d recommend not to go overboard with font usage, some fonts that look beautiful together, and you can fill these font pairings into your style guide.
How you speak to your audience is a crucial part of your brand identity. Setting guidelines for your team on how to express ideas to your community of customers will become a thing you’ll regret not doing sooner!
Online businesses have a narrowing frame of time to capture their audience’s attention, so it’s essential to have a game plan on how your copy will boost engagement.
We find that the best way to commit to a tone of voice and language style is to make a “do this not that” section. Give examples of what reflects your brand’s image and what detracts from it. Another area that many companies are unsure of are emojis, so it’s good to have a concrete plan.
As for language, it’s good to have grammar consistency, and I see you there rolling your eyes, but casual readers still notice inconsistencies!
Images are an incredibly valuable part of branding. Done well, they showcase your product/service, augment a mood, invoke emotions and tell a story.
In this section of your style guide, look to specify the guidelines for the type of imagery and photography your brand uses. Delve into the light and filters as well as image composition and colour hues.
Again, it’s useful to include examples of what does and doesn’t fit your brand’s identity. You might also want to outline how to meld photography with typography and logo placements.
What else can you include in your style guide?
Here is the only section that is semi-vague, but really if every company needed the same criteria for their style guide then they wouldn’t be all that unique!
Other sections that may impact your visual identity include:
- Print rules
- Social media guidelines (style and layout)
- Letterheads and email signatures
- Outdoor advertising
- Brochure guidelines
Get in touch
Whether you're a startup or an enterprise company we create tailored brand guides for all merchants. Get in touch with us if you're a new business or looking for a refresh on your existing brand guide!