“I’m a small business owner. Do I need a style guide for my brand?”
Yes! You absolutely do.
“But I thought that was only important for larger companies?”
Not quite true! A style guide is an important document for any brand, company, or organization regardless of scale.
If you own a small business or organization, and even if you’re just starting out, a style guide is an invaluable resource in helping you grow. A brand style guide sets the tone of your business and defines proper usage and utilization of your brand. This is just as important for small organizations as it is for any larger ones. It is a resource that effectively defines your brand’s elements and values and how to apply them across various media types.
Style guides are just as important for small businesses as they are for any larger organizations.
So how does a style guide work?
A style guide works by informing you, your employees, and vendors how to correctly and consistently present your brand. It’s filled with visual and verbal examples of what to do and what not to do when communicating to your audience.
The primary elements of a brand style guide address proper usage of your logo, official brand colors, and appropriate typefaces that should be used in conjunction with your branding. While these are the most common elements that you’ll find in practically any style guide, a few other points you may want to include are: core values, mission and vision statements, writing style and tone, photography style, iconography, and even guidelines for print and marketing collateral.
For now, we’re going to explore why those primary elements are important.
First and foremost: Your logo
At the very least, you should have an understanding on the usage of your own logo. A proper style guide will outline logo usage and placement to enforce that no stretching, skewing, or distortion occurs. This will also address how to keep your logos presence or dominance when paired with other content. It proves an important resource for any designers working on collateral, web admins, and developers who might be placing your logo online and for printers and sign-makers working with your brand. It will also address when and how to use primary, secondary, and tertiary logos, should your brand use such a structure.
If nothing else, you should have a firm grasp on how to use and implement your logo.
Colors: Pantones, CMYK, RGB and hex codes
Your brand is likely represented by a specific set of colors. Being that there are hundreds of shades and tones of red, a style guide will identify exactly what red should be used and on what medium. For example, all printers or embroiderers are going to want the correct Pantone or CMYK values for your brand colors. Otherwise, you might end up with something red-orange that should be a bright, vibrant red. On the other hand it’s useful to know what RGB and hex codes are necessary for screens and web to achieve that same color.
You may have a brand that utilizes or relies on multiple color versions of a logo or specific color sets for marketing materials, which makes having a style guide even more imperative to ensure those colors are always properly represented.
This section is often overlooked, as most people prefer to simply default to Arial, Helvetica, or whatever else their document editor defaults to or what looks good in the moment (please, enough with Comic Sans and Lobster). A strong typography section in a style guide eliminates the guesswork. This allows designers and web developers to work more quickly, eliminating headache and keeping your brand and messaging consistent.
Consistency is the most important piece of growing your brand.
Consistency is key
The primary goal of a style guide to keep your brand consistent. As important as that is for big brands like Coca-Cola or Target, it’s even more important for small businesses as they grow. If your branding and messaging are all over the place, your audience will have a difficult time following your story. With a little investment now, you can convey a clear and consistent brand far into the future.