Branding 101: How to Create Your Brand Style Guide

Thoughtful and cohesive branding is essential for your business both on and offline. Colors, fonts, and imagery all play a large role in how your business represents itself and how your customers see you. Key to this is developing a detailed brand style guide. We give you the steps to building a style guide that accurately reflects your business and brand.

by Courtney Herda

Content Marketing | Digital Marketing

Reading Time | 7 min

The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to reflect on your brand identity, take stock of what’s working and what isn’t, and strategize for the year ahead. 

Why is branding so important? If your website is your business’s online home, then your brand is the front door. A well-designed, thoughtful, and strategic brand identity can make a stunning first impression on your target audience. On the flip side, if your brand doesn’t resonate with your ideal customer base, it will fall flat – and could even turn customers away. 

Take a look at your logos, website pages, and visual elements; if they look a bit flat and lack coherence, then it’s time to make a change. In this blog, we talk you through our suggestions for building a brand style guide that accurately reflects your business and promotes a successful brand. 

What is a Brand Style Guide?

A brand style guide is the most important document your business can have when creating a successful brand. 

A brand style guide is a document that defines all design elements that make up your brand’s visual identity: color palette, typography (fonts), logos, custom icons and patterns, and more. 

Why do you need a brand style guide? A style guide sets rules for your branding – if you need a graphic designer or a printing company to design your business cards, your guide will ensure they use the exact fonts and colors you use on your website, ads, and newsletters. 

So, a brand style guide helps you stay consistent in your branding across all mediums. Without one, you could end up with brand materials that look disjointed from your WordPress site and other business platforms, such as social media. It also helps our development team when they build new pages, templates, and features on your site. 

Some brand style guides for large businesses can easily exceed 50 pages, but there’s no set page number; yours can be much shorter.

How to Find Your Brand’s Style

Now, you can dive into creating your brand style guide! First, create a Pinterest board for your brand. Pinterest allows you to create vision boards, or ‘mood boards’ for your brand; look for color palettes, logos, photos, and fonts that you are drawn to and align with your brand personality. Note: Make sure to keep your target audience in mind when you choose images and pins. While your brand should also reflect “you,” you need to aim for engagement with your customers and followers.

Choosing Your Color Palette

Once you’ve created your Pinterest board, start defining your brand’s color palette. If you haven’t created your logo yet, working on your color palette first will make this process easier.

A few notes on color palettes:

  1. Search for “color psychology” on Pinterest. Different colors evoke specific thoughts and emotions in customers, so study this topic to ensure that the colors you select align with the brand message you’re trying to convey.
  2. Review the color palettes you’ve pinned on your Pinterest board. Choose two primary and two to three accent colors that match your brand personality. Your accent colors can include black or white (or both) if you choose.
  3. Once you’ve chosen some colors, go back and look at the adjectives you chose for your brand. Do the colors you picked match up with your brand’s personality? Following the guidelines of color theory, you’ll learn that your brand colors will impact your audience before they know much about your business. For example, orange is associated with being bold and adventurous, while blue is considered calming and trustworthy. Greens allude to nature or wealth, and yellow is often associated with optimism and happiness. There are many profiles for each color; just ensure your choices align with your brand goals. 

Once you’ve decided on your brand colors, save their HEX codes. HEX stands for Hexadecimal Numeral System, and its code is a string of six letters and numbers that tell the computer which color to display. You’ll need these to design your logo, business cards, print materials, and website.

Below is an example of a color palette. The primary blue shade represents a brand that prioritizes trustworthiness, professionalism, and reliability, while the accent colors are bold, complementary, and energize rather than overpower the primary blue.

An example of a colour palette. Four shades and their HEX codes in deep blue, gold, aquamarine and dusky pink. Below that, the words Care, Dependability or Investment, The Extra Mile, Excellence describe the feelings the colors evoke.

Top Tips: Font colors combined with overlays (or content boxes) should be monitored to ensure they meet proper contrast requirements, particularly in web design. Fonts and overlays are ideal for data visualization, graphics, and color components in images, and creating variation in our photography, imagery, and brand highlights.

Designing Your Logos

You’ll need a primary logo, a secondary logo (or submark), and a favicon (the little icon displayed next to the site title in your browser tab), at the very least.

A primary logo is the main logo you’ll use as the leading visual element of your brand. You will use it on your business cards and your website’s header, as you see it the example below.

An image of the home page of Smarter Searches' website, Knoxville's digital marketing experts. The logo in the top left is an example of a primary logo.

A secondary logo (or submark) is a variation of your logo that you can use when your primary logo isn’t the best fit. A submark is a condensed and simplified version of your logo that is often in square or circular form to use in places such as your Instagram profile picture. If you have a branding agency helping you build out your brand, they will show you the ins and outs of the various types of logos.

Figuring Out Your Fonts

Once you’ve secured your brand colors and logo, you can work to tie it all together with your fonts. Look back at your Pinterest boards to see which adjectives you chose to describe your brand; these will help guide your choice.

Here again, your branding agency can guide you in the right direction, but, if you’d like to get a head start on those decisions, consider these top tips for choosing a font:

  1. Decide between a serif font or a sans-serif font. 

Serif fonts, such as Times New Roman, tend to be more formal. If you chose adjectives like elegant, classic, romantic, or delicate to describe your brand, a sans-serif font could be well-aligned with your brand.

Sans-serif fonts are fonts without the decorative “stems” or “feet” that serif fonts have. They are smoother and more modern. Examples include Helvetica and Arial. If you chose adjectives such as authentic, bold, playful, or minimal to describe your brand, a sans-serif font might match your brand style.

  1. Decide if you need an accent font.

A script font is a decorative accent font that looks handwritten (think calligraphy fonts). Consider whether a script font makes sense for your brand. If so, they work well as accent fonts (not so much as main heading fonts or body fonts). Script fonts can be tricky to include on your website as they’re often challenging to read. Plus, if you promote accessibility and inclusivity on your website, screen readers might struggle to read script fonts.

We have included an example of an accent font below.

An example of four different uses of fonts, and especially the use of an accent font.
  1. Choose no more than three fonts for your brand. 

That gives you one heading font, one body font, and one accent font (like a script font). Alternatively, you can choose to have one font. Above is an example of pairing complementary fonts with accent fonts.

Top tips: use Pinterest again and search for font pairings. Search for Google font pairings for your website – they are free and can be used across the web with no styling issues.

Build Your Brand Style Guide

Now that you’ve defined your main brand elements, it’s time to make it official. When creating your style guide document, Canva, a free online graphic design resource, is an invaluable tool. Canva makes it easy for anyone to create documents, social media graphics, flyers, and much more while incorporating your brand elements. You can start your style guide from scratch or search through their template library for a pre-made template you can edit and modify. 

Add in your logos, fonts, and colors, and there you go! You’ve established your brand style guide for years to come. 

Does your brand need a boost or a facelift? 

If your brand needs a creative overhaul, we suggest pairing with a reputable branding agency to ensure your company is putting its best face forward. Plus, our WordPress and marketing experts love working collaboratively with agencies and creatives, so, let their team handle the aesthetics, and we’ll take care of updating your website and optimizing its performance. 

If you’d like to learn more or don’t know where to begin, let us know, our digital marketing specialists are just a click away.

Contact SiteCare

Courtney Herda

Courtney Herda, Director of Digital Marketing, is a digital marketing expert based in Knoxville, TN, with more than 16 years of experience in online marketing and strategy. Prior to joining SiteCare, she ran her own digital agency for almost a decade. She also teaches Digital Marketing Strategy at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, educating future marketers about utilizing digital marketing in a truly practical way.

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