Why Create a Design Style Guide?
When you have a variety of different people (or even just two!) working on various elements of your brand identity, it’s important that everyone is all on the same page. Or pages. As in, the pages of your brand identity style guide. It’s a great way to make sure that the public sees the same design elements being used in all media, whether it be online, on paper, or on a sign.
This includes not just your logo, but also the colors used, the font, and even preferred poster layouts. One excellent example of a comprehensive style guide is the one for London’s Kew Gardens. Jamie Oliver’s style guide also is very thorough.
Historically, organizations like NASA have protected their brand identity with very thorough style guides. In the 1974 style guide, you can see the logo being presented in various sizes to show designers of NASA material what they had to use.
Display Graphic Design Collection
This example for a woman’s clothing company shows the whole thing on one page, from logo to font to color choice.
A rebranding of a product or organization should really be accompanied by a complete style guide so that the resulting new image is presented in a consistent and coherent manner to the public.
Look again at the Apple & Eve style guide. You can see that various sizes of the logo are provided to allow for its use in different contexts. A good style guide will mandate the minimum and maximum sizes for a logo, as one that is too small could lose important detail, and if is too big there might be undesirable distortions. It even provides examples of what cannot be done with the logo to make it perfectly clear to a media designer.
The options available to a website designer are more varied than for a graphic designer. For instance, it is possible to incorporate animation into an online logo, whereas the paper version has to be static. However, taking advantage of the extra possibilities of the online environment does not mean ignoring the brand style guide. A good style guide will include online versions that conform to the broad design mandates.
Imagine if the person designing an ad for your brand decided that Comic Sans was the way to go! That probably would be a mistake, and while that’s an extreme case, it’s important for all media to use the same fonts for consistency. That doesn’t mean just one typeface throughout: a style guide can have a couple of different fonts available, one for titles and one for text. Those should, however, be the only typefaces used: from the website, to brochures and booklets, through to signage, consistency is key.
Color is such an important part of brand identity, whether it’s today’s mandatory black and white or chrome of the Apple logo, or the original rainbow-striped apple. A good style guide will prescribe not just the color but the exact shade of the colors that can be used in all media. Obviously there’s more leeway with the colors in photographs, but the colors used in print, background, and logos should be consistent across all media to help define brand identity.
A good style guide will also provide layout options, both for web pages and posters or brochures, as well as image styles. Perhaps the style guide designer will establish the use of flat design images across all media, or whimsical drawings, or saturated color photographs.
Tying it all Together
A unified design style guide can make the work of all designers in an organization easier, as it gives a clear template for what can and cannot be used in promoting that particular brand. It is that degree of attention to detail that can create a strong, easily identifiable brand identity, whether the style guide is created for a multi-national corporation, a national or state government, or even a small town community theater.