Brand guidelines graphic

Brand Guidelines 102

Kori Zangl Holsten, March 19, 2015

So, our company has this set of brand guidelines…now what? How do we know if our creative is properly representing our brand?

Brand is not about the rules detailed in brand guidelines—whether the headline is 24 point type or the logo is in the upper right corner at exactly 1.875 inches wide. In fact, the best brand guidelines don’t need such minutiae. Brand guidelines are exactly that: guidelines. And flexibility is key.

For a designer, brand guidelines provide inspiration and a clear sense of a company’s personality. They succinctly describe the attitude, image and mood the company wants to project. The color palette, typography, photography style and composition preferences are the tools a designer uses to express the brand visually. What the guidelines shouldn’t do is dictate exactly how the final creative will ultimately look.

But wait, if they’re just guidelines and open to interpretation, how do we determine whether our creative is brand compliant?

It’s okay to include criteria like a preferred logo placement or a specific color usage for particular situations. There may even be a few templates whose look is very static and controlled. Creative should be evaluated based on these criteria, but don’t be afraid to bend the rules. The tools of the guidelines (the colors, fonts, photography, etc.) should be flexible enough to be used in multiple ways, with one result—creative that represents and reinforces the brand.

There will be variation. Not every poster will have the same format. Not every ad will use the same font size. However, when viewed together, all creative will look like a family—each piece unique in its own right, but clearly part of the group. The variety is what gives a brand life and, oddly enough, the consistency that strengthens it. Using the same color, the same font, the same imagery in new and unexpected ways maintains the personality of the brand without allowing it to become monotonous and stale. When evaluated in this context, it’s clearly evident when creative follows the guidelines and fits the brand—no measuring required.