brand guide

Before we get into how to make a brand book and talk about brand identity guidelines, let’s discuss what it is and why you should make one.

What is a brand book / brand guide?

A brand book (also referred to as: brand guide, visual identity guidelines, brand manual, style guide, brand identity book or brand toolkit) is an official corporate document that explains the brand’s identity and presents brand standards. Some brand books are focused exclusively on the design aspect, while others include a company overview and communication guidelines as well.

The most important thing is to assess the need of such manual in your company and decide what aspects should be included.

Why are brand guidelines important?

The primary reason for having a brand guide is consistency. When you don’t have rules every designer and every marketer will present their ideas in whatever way they see fit.

They’ll express their own personality rather than present the brand’s identity. There’s nothing wrong with variety, but there is a point when the dissimilarity can be too much. Opposing design styles and communication approaches will make the brand look confused. It will also dilute the brand identity and diminish the brand’s believability.

A brand guide can be especially useful for new employees. It can almost act as an new employee orientation. Reading a manual will help them get accustomed to the brand rules much quicker than by trial and error. It’s more professional and it’s better than having someone correct new employees because they broke a rule they didn’t even know existed.

What to know before creating a brand book

It’s important to have balanced guidelines. You don’t want them to be too strict and hinder the creativity, but in the same time you don’t want them to be too loose and become useless.

The brand identity book should be the collaborative result of a team. The management, designers and copywriters should all be involved to some degree. If there’s a branding department in the company, the project is right up their alley.

The project needs to be coordinated by someone who helped shape the brand’s identity, who has enough authority to make decisions and impose them. The entire brand manual is pointless if employees don’t know about it or if they don’t respect it.
It should become norm that new employees are informed about the brand book and asked to read it. More about the enforcement of the brand guidelines at the bottom of the article.

What to include in a brand manual

Perhaps you’re here to see what the brand guideline should include. No two brand books are the same, but they generally have the same structure. The 3 main sections of a brand manual are:

About the brand

  • Usually includes the brand mission, values, target audience
  • This section can be short or long, depending on your intentions and how thorough you want your manual to be. In my opinion, this is the one chapter that’s skipped the most, because the mission and values are usually presented in a very boring, corporate-style way.

Visual guidelines

  • Logo: color, placement, variations, size and proportions, examples of logo misuse
  • Brandmark: color, when and where to use it
  • Tagline: where it should be displayed
  • Colors: primary brand colors as well as secondary colors
  • Typography: corporate fonts for headlines and body texts, etc
  • Photography: photography style, image guidelines
  • Other graphics: icons, patterns, textures

Communication guidelines

  • Language: – in what languages does your brand communicate?
  • Grammar and formatting: abbreviations, numbers, capitalization, acronyms, times and titles
  • Readability: intricate sentences or short, simple ones
  • Style: technical/ non-technical; formal/casual/slang
  • Tone of voice: (logical / emotional; intimate / distant; serious / humorous, etc )
  • Email: email structure, email signature
  • Editorial style guide: guidelines, formatting and structure for blog posts
  • Social Media: purpose, posting times, post types, for each social channel

How to design a brand book

Here are some things that you need to know about brand book design. Before you get started with the layouts, make sure you have the copy, or at least an initial draft. There might be some alterations after or during the design process, but you need something to work with.

Next, talk to the person in charge of the project and make sure you understand their vision. Ask them to show you brand book examples that they like and explain what they like about each. If they don’t know where to look, tell them to check the examples below and pick their favorites. It will help you understand what they want the brand book to look like: big type and short paragraphs on each page, or a more compact view? Colorful layouts or minimalistic?

The guidelines that are presented in your brand book must be reflected by the book itself. The book should be visually attractive and not cluttered. Take the time to make it visually appealing.

After you make a first draft of the layouts, you may want to ask for a second opinion. It is very important that this document represents the brand and not your personal preferences.
Revise, edit and when everybody’s happy, put the finishing touches on.

You can save the book as a PDF, and then import it to Flipsnack. We recommend you to publish it as unlisted (private), to limited the access to just employees. This way the only people who will be able to view it are those that you’ve shared the link with. You can also add an extra layer of security by setting a password that only your employees know about.

The flipbook format makes sharing a lot easier than having to work with attachments. Simply copy the link and share it in a newsletter or group chat. Your digital brand book will look very polished.

Examples of brand guides

What does a brand guide look like? Check our brand book examples below, and then make your own!

Echelon brand book:
echelon brand book
Click the image to see the full example.

Children’s hospital brand guidelines:
niswonger children's hospital
Click the image to see this digital brand book example.

NPL Canada brand book:
npl canada

Fashion brand book:
nannete

Upload your brand book PDF to Flipsnack to get a stylish presentation! Looking for a brand book template? We have a large collection of ready-made page template that you can use in your designs.

Who uses brand guides

All the big brands have some brand guidelines that they share with resellers and distributors, to make sure the brand is not misrepresented by their partners:
Apple brand book PDF
Starbucks brand book PDF
Skype brand book PDF

But most brand books are intended for internal use, just for employees.
Here’s a Coca Cola brand book preview:
cocacola

And guess what?! Even Santa has his own brand book! Yes, Santa Claus:

santa clause

How to use and enforce brand guidelines

Once you develop all these rules you must make sure they are respected. If you don’t enforce the brand guidelines, you run the risk of brand damage. All the time and effort that you’ve invested in building the brand book will go to waste.

The first step is to make sure all employees know about the existence of this document. Share it in a newsletter and ask all employees to read these rules and standards, not just designers and copywriters. Each employee can become a brand ambassador. Developers, for example, are not directly involved in branding decisions, but they might catch some mistakes in time, before implementing the design. This is why it’s important to involve your entire team.

The next step would be to assign the task of enforcing these guidelines to one person. The ideal scenario would be that the same person who supervised the creation of the brand book is the person who enforces the rules.

You could also schedule a meeting after about 1 month to ensure that these guidelines and rules are being followed. Ask your team about any issues that they are experiencing and problem areas.


It’s important to remember that brands are like humans: they evolve and change over time. This is why you need to revisit and update your brand book once a year. Make sure the rules reflect your current standards and guidelines.


As a final thought, remember that Flipsnack would make a great home for your brand books!

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About Jani

Janina is passionate about PR, digital publishing and online marketing. She loves the seaside, crafts, books, adventures and summer nights.

Category

Design school, Marketing