We have all received a sales email, visited a LinkedIn profile, or landed on a “professional” website that has made us cringe due to typos, mixed messages, stretched imagery, or pixelated graphics.
As your company grows and more people are involved in communicating with the outside world, it is impossible to maintain control over each person creating, posting, and designing on your behalf. That loss of control can result in your visual identity being misrepresented or otherwise diluted by well-meaning creative people taking the initiative to get things done in your company.
There is no need to leave employees and brand partners guessing. A comprehensive written and visual guide explaining exactly how to use and create assets is an absolutely invaluable tool. It will serve to empower your whole company to be effective brand amplifiers. Every company that wants to maintain the integrity of their visual identity needs a style guide, and here are three reasons why:
The strength of your brand is not in how cool your logo is or whether you’ve coined the most clever tagline. It is in your consistency across multiple contexts and channels.
The most famous brands in the world are recognizable in part because they have been meticulously consistent with every detail of their visual identity. They have established strict guidelines for how their logo should be used in different applications, they are fanatics about using the right shade of their brand color, their wordmark always appears in the same orientation and — in the case of a rebrand — every move has been strategically planned so that all old assets are retired and replaced while the new ones are seamlessly transitioned in.
Consistency is why we all know what Starbucks green is, the exact proportions of the Nike swoosh, and why when you show us a plain white box we’ll assume you have just visited the Apple Store.
So, you have just finished overhauling your visual identity, received your logo files, and launched the new website. Hooray! Your team of eight employees are super excited as they were all intimately involved in the effort and understand how you got to where you are. Style guide? No need! We are all experts on our new look and will just refer to our design agency if we need anything professionally designed.
Well, fast forward 18 months. You have hired five new employees (that’s more than half of your current staff), some of whom are taking your marketing and design needs in house. Even with the best onboarding process and plenty of examples of how your visual identity has been used in the past, your new staff will not be prepared to fully execute it without knowing the “why” behind the “what.”
A style guide is more than just an outline of how your company looks; it gets to the heart of how you want the world to view you. A style guide will ensure your visual identity has a clear path to long-term success.
The only way to successfully collaborate without muddying the lines of your visual identity is to have one resource, agreed upon by stakeholders, that everyone can reference. It should define your visual identity in all its applications — that way, no one is left guessing.
In a company made up of different people with different styles and preferences, a style guide is essential to unifying what you push out to the public and ensuring your audience always knows who they are talking to and where you stand. Are you looking to leverage brand partnerships? More than ever you will need a style guide that clearly states how they should represent your company if you want to get the most from those relationships.
Your visual identity is an investment and one that you should guard well. There will be many voices and opinions that will want to give it their own spin or claim something could have been done better. Often times these voices carry significant weight at your company and fighting them is not an option.
Without an established style guide, your visual identity — which was painstakingly and purposefully created — will get picked at, tweaked, and diluted until it has lost all integrity and meaning. So, make sure you get the most out of your investment by creating a style guide, getting stakeholders’ approval, and watching your company’s brand recognition and credibility grow in the years to come.