How to create a style guide that makes your brand stand out

A style guide or brand guidelines will help you enhance your brand image and stand out. Here’s everything you need to create one!
10 minutes

We have a deal for you. If after reading the introduction of this post on why your brand needs a style guide, you still think it’s not a priority, then you can forget this post and continue creating content just as you did before.

However, if you want your brand to be unique, with a defined personality and style, you’re going to want to read this post to the end. You’ll find best practices for creating your brand’s style guide, details of what to include, and some inspiring examples. Deal accepted?

Introduction: Why your brand needs a style guide

Imagine someone you know. Imagine that one day they speak to you kindly and in a gentle tone, but the next day they swear and curse, and the day after that they scream at you. Or one day they appear with their hair nicely styled, wearing a suit and tie, the next day they’re in dirty and torn sweats, and the day after they show up with bright blue hair.

Of course, everyone can dress as they see fit, but… could you trust someone like this? Wouldn’t you think that person was a little unpredictable, maybe even unstable? You probably would. Do you know why? Because of their lack of consistency.

Consistency is the first requirement for building trust. And trust is the basis of every stable relationship, precisely the kind of relationship we want to build with our community.

People communicate with words and the tone they speak in, as well as their appearance. Similarly, brands communicate through their website (with their aesthetic and content), their social media posts, the emails they send, etc.

Each person in charge of managing a brand’s communication leaves their mark on the content. Your style and personality are reflected in your communication. This affects the brand’s consistency, whether it’s a personal project or a large company’s communications.

The function of a style guide or brand guidelines is to avoid this, and ensure that all content (textual or visual) that is created accurately represents the brand. Strength and consistency will benefit the brand in many ways, starting with credibility. If a brand does not create trust, their other efforts will not be successful.

Do you still think it’s not important to create brand guidelines?

What is a style guide or what are brand guidelines?

A style guide is a manual that defines the basics of a brand. It provides the guidelines to follow in creating visual and textual content, facilitating the whole process.

Your brand guidelines or style guide can exist in different formats. It can be presented as a document, a URL to your website, or interactive content. You might think of a guide as something boring like a dictionary or list of rules, but it doesn’t have to be! In fact, you should make it as fun and engaging as possible so people will use it!

Click here to see an inspiring example.

example of a brand guideline in a website

What information should the guide contain? It varies according to the needs of the company. The aim is to make it useful to help resolve any questions about creating both textual and visual content.

The information a style guide usually includes is: 

  • Overview of the brand – its mission, vision, and values
  • Definition of its visual identity
  • Definition of its textual identity

Throughout this post, we’ll define these sections in greater detail.

How can it benefit your brand?

  • It’s a basic step to ensure the proper use of brand identity, help to strengthen the company and make it unique from the competition.
  • It enhances brand recognition and communication, improving the experience of your target audience.
  • It facilitates the process of creating content, providing consistency, and streamlining it. The guide minimizes revisions, which will help your team meet deadlines.
  • It allows for greater control over the quality of the content that is created. There will be less need to monitor some phases of the content creation process, but the quality and effectiveness of your content will remain the same.
  • It ensures that the content is effective in conveying the company’s organizational culture and values. This helps to achieve brand positioning, so that it’s perceived by its values.

Before creating your style guide…

You may find yourself in different situations when starting the task of creating your business’s brand guidelines. Is your brand starting from scratch or is the business already established? Have you been part of the team for some time or have you just started there?

Ideally, from the start of the entrepreneurial project, a creative person took charge of translating the idea of the project into a corporate identity manual, and then worked on developing a brand identity from the company’s values and manual.

That fact is that in most instances, this is not the case. It’s often the growth of the company that makes it necessary to define its identity because it arrives at a point where it’s necessary to position the company and establish its unique identity.

The stage you are at will mark your starting point. If, for example, you have recently become part of the team, it’s important to investigate whether there is any content about the brand style already established that you could use for your guide. In this way, you can make sure you avoid doing the same task twice or creating conflicting instructions.

Remember: We must always take into account the culture of the company. It’s very useful to decide on key questions to be resolved before starting to create the brand guidelines. Here are some of the questions you can include:

  • Why does your brand exist? (purpose)
  • What are its values and its mission? Values are actually the starting point of the style guide.
  • What image do you want your brand’s audience to see?
  • How would you define your brand image?
  • If you had to describe your brand using 3-4 adjectives, just as if you were describing a person, what would they be?
  • If your brand was represented by a person (or character), who would it be? If you think it’s a mixture of several people, list them all and think about what you like about each of them.

The answers to these questions will help define the introduction of the style guide.

What should your brand’s style guide include?

The key values of the brand will be established in the introduction, and you must work from there. Developing brand identity based on the brand’s values is key to consistency. Meri Millán, Head of Content at Genially, and Pau Ruiz de Maio, Branding Designer at Genially, gave their input to create the following content on visual identity and textual identity. Thank you, team! ?

Meri Millán, Head of content de Genially

Meri Millán
Head of content

Pau Ruiz de Maio, Branding designer de Genially

Pau Ruiz de Maio
Branding designer

Visual Identity Manual

The visual identity manual covers all the elements that make up the graphic universe of the brand: what they are, what they are used for, how they are used, and why they are a certain way. Everything your eyes can see has to be addressed in the manual – and what you should never see from the brand should be addressed as well.

The definition of the graphic universe of the brand must be addressed on the basis of the values that the brand wants to communicate. We know that colors awaken emotions in people, and so do shapes and other visual resources. Creative professionals use these elements to awaken or evoke emotions with their designs to effectively communicate the brand and its values. This forms the corporate visual identity that will be included in the manual.

There is a part of the guide common to all brands to which you will need to add the specific part according to the needs of each company. In addition, if the brand has other sub-brands or divisions, it’s necessary to define the manual of each one, differentiating it from the general identity.

Here are some of the basic points included in any corporate identity manual, in addition to the introduction:

  • An introduction to the brand’s visual universe
  • A complete definition of the logo: logo, isotype, color versions, and all its variants
  • All information related to the logo, such as graphic construction, rules of use, its applications (on and offline), and incorrect uses.
  • The corporate fonts, defining the style of titles, body text, and other applications that may be needed
  • The main and secondary color range
  • The definition of what visual communication is like outwardly. For example, emails or feeds from different social networks.
  • The iconography
  • The direction of art in real images, illustrations, and/or animations
  • Textures, what they are, and how they are applied
  • Videos and their elements: intro, outro, transitions, etc.

allys genially ilustraciones

Colores corporativos de Genially

Tipografia de Genially

Textual identity manual or style guide:

The section where we did the exercise of describing your brand as if it were a person is very useful here. If your brand was a person, how would it speak? Here are some of the important points in the textual identity guide:

  • Define the voice and tone. Remember this: There is a single voice and different tones. The voice is the personality of the brand expressed in words, while the tone is the result of the voice. Brands adapt their tone in the same way that people adapt their tone to each situation. The guide should define the different tones to apply depending on the context. It can be helpful to include some examples to illustrate the point, especially if there are several people who write the brand’s content
  • Add the brand’s personality traits. The “Do” and “Don’t” method, which establishes personality qualities from two opposite ends, is very useful here.

Culture of Genially brand

  • Include examples of different types of content: the title of a blog post, training content, copies of social network posts, an email, etc.
  • Define the basic points of the brand’s grammar. For example, will you talk to customers informally or formally? How do we greet them?
  • Add a dictionary of terms to unify criteria for how to express your brand-specific concepts.

The checklist for good brand guidelines

The effort to create the guide will have been worthwhile if it is useful, if people consult it frequently and find what they need in it. To achieve these goals, keep the following checklist in mind for your guide:

Create your style guide with Genially!

Aren’t we talking about stylish content that’s always up-to-date? Then we’re talking about Genially!

Genially makes it easy for your content to fit your style guide and be aligned with your branding. In the “My brand” section, you can add your logo, fonts, corporate colors, images, and illustrations. This will make it much easier to implement everything you’ve defined in your style manual. 

In addition, content is automatically updated in Genially. You can share your guide made in Genially with a link instead of a file, so that everyone who needs it can always access the latest version. Unlike with other programs, you won’t need to share updated versions or change the link to your guide every time you update it. Think about the amount of time and work you’re going to save!

Here are a couple of Genially templates with which you can create your visual identity guide. Which one are you going to try first?

Picture of Natalia De la Peña Frade
Natalia De la Peña Frade
Content creator: I try to write things you like to read

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