Back 2 Basics: Branding Guidelines to Follow
You know branding is important - and you probably have been told 1000 times that branding isn't "just a logo". But what does branding really look like aside from the design aspect? Today we're going to dig into the personality of your business and talk about building a structure. We're also going to look at what goes into making a brand guidebook. Let's dig in.
01. Brand Board
THE BRAND ELEMENTS
The idea is to organize all your brand elements onto one "board" so you can easily share, print and move the images. Brand elements are the photos or icons that go on the brand board. Some elements could be;
- Brand logo (The logo you'll use most often)
- Social Media Icons (These should match your color scheme)
- Profile Header Images (This might be the same as your logo, it might be different)
- Color Schemes or Inspiration (3-6 colors are the best, one background, one for font and some accent colors)
- Fonts and Headings (This is more important if you have a website or blog)
- Other brand logos and images (Any alternative logos, icons or images you'll be using)
Each element should be created on its own then added to the board when it's complete. I use Adobe InDesign & Illustrator - but there are free alternatives such as Canva, PicMonkey or my favorite Pixlr. If you want to be able to re-size your images without any change in quality, you'll want to create a vector in Adobe Illustrator.
When creating your elements, you should first decide on a theme and a color scheme. This helps you focus on an idea and use that theme on all your elements, giving it the same feel. One of the best ways to do this is to create a private Pinterest board.
I created a Pinterest board for NoraConrad.com when designing the brand. I used elements from the board to inspire my logos and colors. You can have 5 pins or 500 - as long as it will narrow down what you want for your brand. I try to avoid pinning other brand boards, it helps keep original ideas in my mind rather than copying elements from other brands.
PUTTING IT TOGETHER
Whether you make the elements yourself or hire someone to do it for you, the last step is to put everything onto your board.
Open a New file in Photoshop and make it as large as you need. None of the images on my blog need to be wider than 1000 pixels so my final brand board is 1000px wide by 1000px tall.
Add all your elements as a new layer. I save the PSD file to my computer to use when making new images or changing any logos. I also save the photo as a high-quality JPEG so that I can share it on my blog and social media pages. I also have a folder where I save each individual element of my blog.
Just for fun, I thought I'd show you what my first branding board looked like when I launched NoraConrad.com (on the left) and what it looks like today (on the right).
USING YOUR BRAND BOARD
I used my brand elements to make all my social media pages matchy-matchy and recognizable. I used the colors from my board to design my blog & change the font settings.
When it came time to design the images for my blog post, I went back to my brand board and used it as inspiration to design the images. I use the same elements and styles so that readers instantly recognize where the post is from.
02. Style Rules
One of the first things I did after my rebrand last year, was to create a Branding Guidebook. If you want to learn how to make a branding guidebook and learn InDesign at the same time, my friend Kelsey has the most incredible ecourse for you. Check it out here. I figured it would be helpful to share what I included in my own brand guidebook as well as some general guidelines I follow for myself:
- We use a fade filter on all our images, for the blog, for Instagram, and on social media.
- We use our branding elements in all our content, courses, videos, workshops and sales pages.
- We filter our content through our 4 values to make sure all four are met and represented.
- We use simple language and define words that we’ve made up or had to research ourselves.
- We write in the first person. We use words like I, we, us, my, our.
Along with these basic guidelines, I included the following in the guidebook:
- Mission Statement
- 4 Core Values
- Job descriptions of each position
- How the company was started
- Branding logos, colors, and fonts
- Our ideal clients and customers
- Logo usage rules and variations
- A list of our services and the pricing of each
- The client process workflow
- Blog and Content Schedule (a weekly layout of when and where we post content)
- Tools and Apps we use as a team
Create a guidebook for your business and stick to it yourself. I find it helpful to read through the guide at least once per month to see what needs updating and to make sure I'm staying true to my brand and my mission.
03. Speech & Voice
HOW you talk to your audience is just as important as your logo. Your personality is what draws people in. You can have a beautiful website but if your clients don't feel like they have things in common with you, they might not do business with you. We love people who are like us! How you show your personality to your audience varies a lot, but here are some ideas.
First, lay out some guidelines for this. Just like you laid out how your logo should be used, you should do the same with your speech. Are your blog posts professional or casual, educational or funny (or both), sarcastic dry humor or goofy humor? How you write, talk in your videos, tweet and even share photos all turns into your business personality.
Once you have some guidelines down, figure out how to update your current site to fit this personality. Is your about page in 3rd person with professional text while your blog posts are personal, sarcastic and outgoing - something isn't matching up. Your audience should be able to go to any page on your site and feel like it was all written by the same person. If you have trouble with this, hiring a copywriter might be a great option.
Your brand's voice can come out in many different ways. If your business is very professional and serious, you probably should be dressed in professional clothes during your facebook live streams. If your brand is all about the work at home mom that hangouts in her PJ's for most of the day, wearing a pantsuit to your webinar just doesn't match up. Everything you do, post and share needs to go through the same filter.
It can really help to write out some adjectives that describe your business. For our business, we picked feminine, minimalistic, casual and informative. These words describe our branding, our blog posts, and our social media. We put our content through these filters to make sure we're always staying true to the brand we're working so hard to build.
04. The Experience
The last bit of your brand is the experience you give your audience, your clients or your customers. This is something we've been working on here at NC. The idea is to make your website as easy to navigate, consume content and find necessary information as possible. This means creating things like an archive page, a start here page, or even using a simple search bar.
Experience can go beyond this into the process you take your clients through. What kind of services are you offering, and how can you improve on that? Ask yourself these questions and then incorporate those experiences into your brand:
- How can I WOW my audience?
- How can I improve my site navigation?
- What would I think of my site if I was using it for the first time? (If this one is tough to answer, consider using a site like UserTesting or UserFeel to get real reviews)
Branding always makes people think of their design - but it's just as important to design your client process, design your blog post outlines and design your social media. Everything you do online contributes to your overall brand! So make sure your making good impressions.
- Decide if you need a design re-brand or if you just need to rebrand your presence online
- Clean up your social media channels and your online presence. Take time to make sure your branding is consistent.
- If you do want to rebrand, create an outline of steps you'll need to take to complete it.