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February 18, 2020

Brand guidelines: Best practice

Your graphic profile plays a vital part in how your brand is perceived. We have compiled a guide on what to consider when you’re developing brand guidelines. 

Cassandra Stridh
Written ByCassandra Stridh

Although your brand and your graphic profile are two completely different things, they go hand in hand. The graphic profile affects how your brand is communicated and conveyed, and therefore also affects how the brand is perceived. A graphic profile contains the colours, fonts and logos to be used in the organisational communication.


The graphic profile creates a common thread in the communication that presents the organisation consistently. This unites the internal communication, as well as conveying a professional image of the organisation externally. Your graphic profile, therefore, strengthens your brand. To consistently convey the graphic profile, brand guidelines are included as a handbook for everyone who manages the brand. 


What should brand guidelines include?

For a designer, the brand guidelines are crucial for them to do their job. There are mainly two things that are needed: 


  1. The designer needs to understand the brand’s story, personality and narrative 
  2. The designer needs to have easy access to colour codes and important graphic elements
    such as logos, fonts, images, illustrations and icons. 


These are two fundamental parts of brand guidelines. Therefore, it is incredibly important to give a clear description of the brand’s personality and visual identity, as well as instructions on how different graphic elements should be used. In that way, anyone who manages the brand will do so in coherence with the graphic profile. The larger the organisation, the more people are going to manage your brand, and in this sense, brand guidelines are absolutely essential. The clearer the brand guidelines, the better. An inconsistent conveyance of the brand is going to confuse clients and make them question what the brand really stands for. 


One thing that is often forgotten, is that the graphic elements of a brand should be easily accessible and downloadable. Sometimes these elements are ignored completely because they are so hard to find. Many use the classic PDF format to compile their brand guidelines. The PDF format works for many different purposes, but when it comes to your brand guidelines and your graphic elements, there are better tools to utilise. Instead, you should try a brand asset system that makes brand elements accessible for the designer - such as the one Graphiq has developed.


Spotify’s logo is easily accessible for anyone who visits their website. 


What else should you consider when developing your brand guidelines?


Keep it simple 

Although brand guidelines can be very comprehensive, no one wants to read more than 70 pages of guidelines before they get to the actual graphic elements needed to do the job. Be concise and focus on what is relevant for your organisation and its visual identity. Make sure that the brand elements are accessible and clear so that the designer understands the brand and its graphic profile.


This can also be done by illustrating how graphic elements are NOT to be used. Also, make sure that the brand guidelines are updated. You do not want to see your old logo or font everywhere. By sticking to this, you ensure that the brand guidelines are used effectively and that material produced is in line with your graphic profile. 


Your brand is not for you 


“A brand doesn’t attract an audience, a brand IS its audience.” - Josh Spector 


When you’re developing brand guidelines and choose colours and fonts to be part of your graphic profile, you first of all have to identify who your target audience is. Decide if the brand first and foremost should be appealing to clients, current or potential employees, and who this is. Then base your branding choices on your clients’ and/or employee’s perceptions, not your own. It’s not as simple as choosing your favourite colour or font.


There is a lot of research on colour psychology and how different colours affect us. Taking into consideration how we are affected by different colours when you decide how your brand is going to be conveyed, is going to pay off in the long run. Don’t be narcissistic. An organisation can use whichever words in their storytelling, but what actually matters is the words its customers use to describe the brand. 


Create a brand story before the visual 

The brand’s visual identity should be based on a narrative, a personality, a story. The story of your brand, or your brand story, describes the vision, goals and values of the brand. Focus on this and what it is you want to convey before you start with the visual work. The storytelling is the core of your brand and is something that many slack on or ignore completely. Patagonia is one of my favourite examples on a captivating brand story where the founders’ own demand became the start of the successful business. The organisation’s values flow through every part of the organisation and the story helps build trust in the brand. 


Another example of a thorough brand story is Skype, who succeeded to capture its playful tonality that characterises the brand guidelines. 


Base the brand on your most important interaction 

Develop your brand based on your most important interactions with your most important clients. Think about what the most important interaction is and where it happens. Is it a physical shop? A physical product in someone else’s shop? A website? An app? People meeting people? Depending on what your answer is, this may have to be elaborated on in the brand guidelines. If your primary interaction is happening on an app or a website, you should focus more on how the brand is conveyed digitally.


Is it a product in a shop, you should include instructions on how the product should be packed and displayed. If your business is about meeting people, the brand guidelines should elaborate on how these interactions should happen. In that case, how your employees interact with your clients may be more important than what your website looks like. Focusing on how the interactions happen will help you optimise the structure of the brand guidelines to fit your brand. Just because someone else is focusing on personal meetings, doesn’t mean that you should too. 


You are now ready to develop your brand guidelines

Your brand is so much more than the product or service you’re selling. It’s not possible to stress enough the importance of how your brand is conveyed and perceived. You want your brand to be seen as unison and consistent. This could be the determining factor of why a customer chooses your brand and not someones else’s. 

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