A clear brand guide can make your business more recognizable — and profitable. Here are seven style guide examples to help you build your brand.
A new business venture is an exciting prospect. You've got a brilliant idea for a product or service, and you're chomping at the bit to bring it to market. But before you launch, there’s one essential question: What does your business look like?
No, we're not asking about organizational structure or logistics. We're referring to its visual identity. The answer to this question lies in its style or brand guidelines.
Consider this: A recognizable brand identity (McDonald’s Golden Arches, Nike’s Swoosh, Google’s quadricolor G) can mean the difference between success and failure. Branding encapsulates every design choice associated with your business and aligns it with strategy, including logos, fonts, acceptable colors, and more.
What is a style guide? 🤔
A brand style guide is a document outlining the visual aspects of a brand. Having a clear vision that’s set in stone is essential. After all, the aesthetics of your business are the first thing potential clients are bound to notice.
Think about Apple Inc., one of the most successful brands in history. Why is it so memorable? Apple's simple and easily recognized logo is an obvious reason. But Apple has also been careful to maintain a consistent look across the 40+ year history of the company. The products, marketing materials, and user interface all integrate seamlessly. Maybe your independent work isn’t at the scale of a tech giant, but strong branding is just as important.
Before creating a style guide, remember that it's more than simply the symbol you slap onto your product or the color of your storefront. A style guide provides a consistent look for your brand across each platform you use. Your target audience should be able to recognize your brand no matter where they see it.
And it isn’t just for your own benefit. If you decide to hire an Logo Designer to design materials for your business, this document will provide everything they need to maintain consistency across multiple platforms.
Now that we’ve laid out the concept, let's look at some specific components of a brand style guide.
What should a style guide include? 📝
A style guide should cover every visual element associated with your business or service. When creating a style guide, keep these tips in mind:
- Brand statement: A clear statement outlines who you are, what your company does, and the values it seeks to represent. This will inform how you present yourself to the world. An extreme sports company's branding and mission statement will differ significantly from that of a spa. Understanding how you will interact with clients informs how your business will look.
- Logo: A simple and recognizable logo is one of the most important aspects of branding. An identifiable logo across multiple platforms and products also communicates consistency. Consistent messaging will lead clients to associate your company with reliability and accessibility.
- Colors: Color can have a subconscious impact on our feelings. Hospital interiors are painted with soothing tones, while many sports organizations use bright and flashy hues to emphasize their competitive nature. The color palette is one of the most significant parts of a style guide. It can define the emotional connection your business has with its clients.
- Typography: Online resources give Independents broad access to tools for creating their own logos and signage, including a plethora of fonts. Your brand’s font choices should be deliberate and say something about the business. For example, compare the classic lettering of Coca-Cola with the bold and simplistic typeface of Diet Coke.
- Tone: All the aforementioned aspects of your style guide contribute to the overall tone of your business. Think of tone as your brand’s voice. Are you a physical trainer seeking to corner the keep-fit fanatic demographic? Your tone should be bold and daring, with dramatic colors and layouts that jump from the page. However, such tactics would be inappropriate for a brand that promotes relaxation and meditation.
These suggestions offer a general idea of what should be included in your style guide, but the finished document should dive into the specifics and develop a comprehensive vision. To illustrate how in-depth the elements of a brand can be, we’ve provided some examples:
7 brand style guide examples 🏅
Here are a few examples, some pulled from Contra’s own Independents.
This style guide from brand designer Hanna Woa is an excellent template. Woa provides background on the company, the reasons why the company hired her, and examples of the design work eventually provided to the company.
The brand design targets a younger audience, featuring bright colors and complex fonts. The simple white-green-blue-black palette is carried over from site design to logos to swag, binding all the disparate parts of the brand into a cohesive whole.
The commentary offered by Woa is perfect for those researching their own brand identities or working as a freelance graphic designer.
The world-famous music platform has garnered much of its success through intuitive and collaborative approaches to music curation. But even an audio-based service needs strong visual guidelines.
The Spotify guide is extensive, offering clear instructions on representing the service. The exhaustive stipulations ensure Spotify will be properly represented across all formats.
This rebrand for Moonwake Collaborative was headed up by Contra Independent Amber Koski. Koski does a nice job of showing readers why certain choices were made, and how all the disparate parts of the company are tied together with the rebranding.
Koski points out aspects such as the Moonwake Collaborative logo not only representing a moon and sky but also how it is in the shape of a clipboard to connect to the idea of a virtual assistant. This style guide also includes various website button designs, brand patterns, and color charts.
Each aspect demonstrates how a graphic designer has to tie everything together, from signage to website, to give the brand a cohesive, professional look.
Sitting in traffic can eventually frazzle even the most patient person’s nerves. The Waze navigation app addresses this in its brand design by relying on comforting colors and friendly cartoon characters. The tone reassures drivers that Waze wants to help them get where they’re going and enjoy the ride.
The Waze brand style guide includes short video animations, official quotes about the system, and a series of Waze avatar emojis. The emoji-like icons speak to modern communication standards.
A beauty and self-care supply notification app, this style guide for a brand design by Land it is extensive and thorough. Many of the graphics provided in the guide have notations explaining why certain choices were made and how various elements of the branding complement each other.
Design elements are included for a wide variety of platforms, from Instagram or Facebook to swag that might be sold in an online store. The key is that everything, from fonts to colors, is consistent and recognizable, regardless of the venue in which it’s presented.
As the guide notes, the developers want the app to “become part of [customers’] day-to-day lives.” If that’s the case, it’s vital that the app and the brand be instantly recognizable to those who use it.
The designers at Airbnb provide their complete style guide, along with commentary on why they made each decision. While discussing their cross-platform capabilities, the designers point to components that "can easily be adapted to different screen sizes." These design choices are future-proofed, emphasizing adaptation as a primary part of the design process.
Firefox presents an interesting case study because — as the style guide notes of their color palette — they use "basically the whole box of crayons."
How does one create a consistent brand without falling back on a few classic hues? The style guide holds the answer: Although Firefox plays with a variety of colors, there’s a consistent dark purple background. You'll notice each color in the style guide contrasts sharply with the background, meaning branding immediately pops out on the page.
What if I'm not artistically inclined? 🤓
Brand identity and design require an eye for the visual arts. If you’ve ever been disappointed by the community’s response to the release of new products or features, hiring a UX designer can help you identify and address the problem so you can build the traffic you need to move your product forward!