One of my favorite parts of the brand design process is putting together a polished brand style guide for clients! This guide is simply a document with all of your brand color, font, and aesthetic information. I also like to include key brand messaging – like a mission statement, brand voice/tone, core values, etc. In this post, I’ll show you how to create a brand style guide of your own in 5 easy steps!
Whether you’re a life coach, nonprofit leader, photographer, influencer, or other type of small business owner – you NEED a brand style guide!
Having a brand style guide makes it easy to create designs (social media graphics, t-shirts, your website, pricing guides, etc.) that are consistently on-brand for your business. Whether you’re a solopreneur or have a small team, you’ll want to have a brand style guide ready for quick reference and sharing!
I’ve created a free Canva template for a brand style guide to make creating your own easy! I’m about to walk you through all of the major parts of a great guide. Go grab the template, then follow along with me!
Some guides only focus on the visual parts of a brand – logo, colors, fonts, etc. But I think it’s important to include strategy in there, too. Your messaging is just as important to how your brand is perceived as the visuals!
That said, you don’t have to include every single detail of your branding here (unless you want to). I like to stick to the highlights!
Here are 5 pieces of core brand strategy information to include:
You could definitely include more, but being able to summarize these pieces of brand strategy is a great place to start! Why? These 5 things are so useful and applicable to the day to day decisions that you make in your business.
Your brand positioning and mission statement will give you a greater sense of what sets your business apart, and your brand objectives will help guide you decide how to take action. Brand character, voice, and tone all affect the content you create for your business (think Instagram captions, blog posts, YouTube videos, emails, etc.).
If you’re thinking, “I don’t even know how to write a mission statement, or what my brand objectives are!” don’t sweat. Inside that free Canva template, you’ll find examples for each of those core brand strategy pieces. Feel free to follow the framework I used when customizing the text to describe your business.
Give yourself a pat on the back for writing down all that strategy! Now let’s move onto something more fun and light hearted: your brand color palette!
I don’t know about you, but picking out pretty colors makes my heart happy! It’s important to stay consistent with your brand colors because it helps with brand recognition. What fast food chain do you think of when you see red and yellow on a tv commercial? The same is true for your business – people will start to associate the colors you use with you!
If you already have colors that you’ve been using when creating graphics in Canva, etc. that’s great! You can add those to your style guide. If not, check out this YouTube tutorial I created on how to create a color palette in Canva.
The most important thing to remember when choosing brand colors is that you want to pick colors that:
With that said, let’s get into what color information to add to your guide so that it’s useful to you (and any designers you might hire!)
In the design world, we use color codes to identify and use colors. These codes have names, and each one has a different purpose:
I know I just threw a lot of technical terms at you, but don’t freak out! It’s really easy to find this information. If you’ve been designing using your colors in Canva, you can get the hex code in just a few clicks:
Canva will show you the #000000 code for the color, which is – you guessed it – the hex code! Add the hex code for each of your brand colors to your style guide.
Once you know your hex codes, copy and paste them into the free website color-hex.com. Once you enter a color, it tells you the RGB and CMYK values for them. (Find them on the right under “Color Spaces.” Now you can easily add them to your guide!
Once you’ve got your beautiful palette added to your guide, it’s time to think about fonts! Again, if you already have fonts and colors you’ve been using in Canva, on Instagram, etc. you can use those.
If you need to pick out brand fonts, I recommend exploring Google Fonts. They are free to use for the web, and lots of websites (including Canva!) already have several Google fonts built-in for easy access. I recommend sticking with 2-3 brand fonts (and possibly a 4th, if you want to use a script font).
Add your 2-3 fonts to your brand style guide, and identify how you’ll use each one. This helps with style consistency. Choose a font for your:
Since there are 4 categories there, I usually reuse a font for more than one category. (I might use a font in ALL CAPS, Bold for TITLES, and use the same font in Normal Caps, Regular for Headings. See the guide template for an example!
Just like with your colors, you’ll want to make sure that the fonts you choose work well together (look pleasing to the eye).
We’re almost done! These next 2 steps will be shorter.
If you don’t have a logo yet, feel free to skip this step! Go ahead to #5 below.
If you have a logo, add an image of it (as well as any variations) to your brand style guide. That way, if your ever working with someone else, they’ll know which logo is which.
I also like to include some “rules” for logo use. This way, your logo is never used/displayed in a way that reflects your brand poorly. I’ve included examples of logos inside the guide template.
You’ve made it to the last section of your brand style guide! There are a few more “rules” for you to write out.
If you use photos a lot in your marketing (ex: Instagram), write out some guidelines for the type of photos that should be used. Does your brand use stock photography, or professional brand photos only? How about iPhone photos or photos that your clients/customers took? What style of photos (ex: bright and colorful, dark and moody)? Is displaying diversity important to your brand?
Those are just a few things to think about. You can get as specific or as lenient with these guidelines as you’d like.
The last guideline is a quick one, so I’ve included it here as part of step 5: How should your business name be spelled when written out in advertisements, products, social media posts, etc.? Write down the exact spelling of your business name, and any abbreviations or sub-brands that you have as well. For example, you might also have a YouTube channel, podcast, or shop with a different name from your business.
Your brand style guide should cover:
Now you know everything to include in your brand style guide! Hooray! Are you feeling more organized and in control of your brand yet?!
When you’re done customizing the Canva file, download it as a PDF and save it somewhere safe on your computer. You can also print it out for quick reference!
Need to share your guide with someone? The PDF can easily be emailed to team members or contractors you work with (ex: graphic designer, printer, marketing company, etc.)
If you haven’t been already, it’s time to create your brand style guide! Block out some time and get it done. You’ll be on your way to more consistent visual branding in no time!
Designing from Raleigh, NC
©️ 2021 Maya Palmer Designs L.L.C.
custom design services
free brand + site checklist
03. How I Plan My Week
02. 4 Website Must Haves
01. Homepage Design Tips
Mon - Fri | 10 - 4 pm EST