How to create a brand book. Guide and examples.
Netflix, Starbucks, Mailchimp. Do these brands sound familiar to you?
I bet you already pictured each brand individually in your mind. Starting from the logo, colors, imagery, and even how they “talk,” you know exactly the different approaches each brand has. Interesting how much a brand can speak to people and instantly trigger recognition. But this is what great branding can do!
And do you know what else they have in common? A brand book, also known as their brand bible. A comprehensive document where each aspect of internal and external communication, design, and regulations are well established. These are the key elements that help them be consistent on all their communications channels.
This is why, in this article, we’ll cover all the essential components of creating a successful brand book, including the best practices used in the design process: color schemes, logos, fonts, and also communication guidelines.
If you’re not quite sure how to create a brand book, I’ll show how helpful brand books can be and how they can positively impact your overall brand value and recognition.
Here’s what this article will cover: (click to jump ahead)
- What is a brand book
- Why are brand guidelines important
- What to know before creating a brand book
- What should a brand book include
- How to create a brand style guide
- How to design a brand book
- How to create a brand book in Flipsnack
- How to use and enforce brand guidelines
We’ll take them one by one and get you all the information and insights needed to help you create a professional brand book.
But before we get into more details about how to create a brand book, let’s see, specifically, what a brand book is.
What is a brand book?
A brand book is a complete guide that explains the brand’s identity and covers all the brand’s details and standards. It usually starts with presenting the brand’s mission, core values, and it goes all the way through design aspects like logo, colors, typography, and imagery. Basically, the brand book will let everyone know how your brand presents itself to the world. Think of the brand book as your brand’s DNA or your brand’s bible, as we referred to it.
Brand books are also known as:
- Brand guide
- Visual identity guidelines
- Brand manual
- Style guide
- Brand identity book
- Brand toolkit
No matter the name, a brand book doesn’t necessarily have to be a comprehensive one. Some brand books are focused exclusively on the design aspect, while others include a company overview and communication guidelines. It mainly depends on the purpose of your brand book, but it’s pretty useful to have all the necessary information in one place, don’t you think?
Especially since you’re not creating a brand book for the customers but for your staff, collaborators, and future employees. By giving them a complete brand book where you present all your brand values and guidelines, they’ll know right from the start what brand language to use, design rules to follow, the principles and values you practice in your company.
Inspire from the big and successful companies that made their brand books accessible so anyone can take a look.
Why are brand guidelines important?
The primary reason for having a brand book is consistency. When you don’t have a set of clearly established rules, everyone within your organization can make and present whatever they think might fit. As a result, they’ll express their own personality rather than show 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. Distort messages can long-term affect the brand’s value and reputation. It will also dilute the brand identity and diminish the brand’s believability.
However, having defined brand guidelines assures that each segment from your firm is set correctly and follows guidelines co-agreed by the main directive board.
Also, a brand book can make the process of enrolling new employees easier. It can almost act as a new employee orientation guide. Reading a brand book will help them get accustomed to the brand rules much quicker and better understand the company’s vision, internal communication, regulations, etc., than by trial and error. And it’s more professional than having someone correct new employees because they broke a rule they didn’t even know existed.
Ensuring brand consistency is one vital step in your company’s success.
Just think about a new designer who joined your team and needs to use a particular font or place the logo in a specific position. Having the brand book will help them know what nitty-gritty design details to apply. Your marketing team will know what tone of voice to use, your management team will know precisely the dos and don’ts regulations.
Here’s why brand books are important:
- They help maintain brand consistency
- They help establish trust in your brand
- They help boost the efficacy of your brand
- They help achieve growth and success
What to know before creating a brand book?
It’s essential to have balanced guidelines. You don’t want them to be too strict and hinder creativity, but at the same time, you don’t want them to be too loose and become useless.
The brand book should be the collaborative result of a team. The management, designers, marketing, and copywriters should all be involved to some degree. If there’s a branding department in the company, the project is right up to its alley.
It’s recommended that you plan meetings with all of them when creating a brand book so each department can prepare their piece of content that contributes to the making. In fact, encourage your teams and their leaders to come prepared for the meeting and add their recommendations. By doing this, you’ll offer each department the opportunity to portray complete information regarding their rules and guidelines. A brand book can also provide structure and maintain clear consistency for each team member. Furthermore, it also can highlight what employee recognition is and why it matters in management.
Also, don’t forget that 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 book is pointless if employees don’t know about it or don’t respect it.
It should become the norm that new employees are informed about the brand book and asked to read it. We’ll talk more about the enforcement of the brand guidelines a few scrolls down this article.
What should a brand book include?
Since now you have some know-how about brand books, let’s dive a little deeper and see what exactly should a brand book include. Here, I’ll offer you a step-by-step guide to make it even easier for you.
A brand book should include:
- An about section
- Visual guidelines
- Communication guidelines
Let’s talk about each one individually.
An about section
Usually, the about section is placed right at the beginning of a brand book as it tells the reader more about the brand, what it does, and what it stands for. It’s also a good place to start revealing your brand story and let the world better understand the core of your business. So I encourage you to make a compelling brand story that people can quickly relate to.
This section can be short or long, depending on your intentions and how thorough you want your manual. In my opinion, this is the one chapter that’s skipped the most because the mission and values are usually presented in a very dull, corporate-style way. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, in Flipsnack, you can easily create an engaging brand book that will work for sure to entertain anyone that reads it. For example, instead of adding big chunks of texts, you can add videos, do a photo slideshow, and even add GIFs.
The about section in a brand book contains details such as:
- Brand mission
- Target audience
We’ll talk furthermore about them a little later.
As we live in a digital world, the first thing people notice is visuals. Be it through an image, video, GIF, color scheme, and everything in between, these are the elements of a brand that instantly catch the attention.
These are the elements that compose visual guidelines:
- Logo: color, placement, variations, size and proportions, examples of logo misuse
- Brandmark: color, when and where to use it
- Tagline: catchphrase or slogan
- 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
Visual guidelines can help you be consistent in all the design elements you use for digital and print communication. For instance, choosing a representative color scheme like Starbucks has used – green and black design elements on their communication channels – will let people easily recognize you from all the others, anywhere in this world.
Setting thorough visual guidelines will help not only your design team but also anyone within the company. From the social media manager to the content marketer, each team member will know exactly what colors scheme, typography, and images to use in their work. A digital asset management tool, like Dash, gives a home to all these visual elements so you can easily share with your teams and deploy them to your social channels.
So don’t neglect the importance of having appropriate visuals for your company’s brand kit because it can boost your brand value and recognition in a blink of an eye. And lastly, don’t forget that visuals can speak more than a thousand words.
See how Starbucks integrated visual guidelines in all its communication channels. Starting from the logo, colors, typography, illustrations, photos, etc.
Also, do you notice now how aligned each section is? They stay true to their brand and try to show it in everything they do. From the social media platforms to the packaging and everything in between, it all screams: Starbucks!
The way your brand communicates says a lot about your company. For example, are you trying to be more friendly? Does the tone of voice resonate with how you usually communicate in your company? These are some of the things you first need to envision for your company.
This is a list with all the elements that are part of communication guidelines:
- Language: what is the primary language of your brand?
- 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
Communication guidelines are kind of a MUST when you want to have a successful and professional company. So establish the communication guidelines you want to use with your team, starting from the in-house communication (internal communication) to the marketing and promotional messaging ones.
Set them clearly right from the beginning, as they will dictate how the world perceives your brand.
As I already told you previously, in this article, I will talk about big, well-known brands that already have a brand book. But if you’re just at the beginning of your start-up or business, it might be useful to learn more about building a brand from scratch and being consistent with it. It’s crucial to have brand kit elements then can later be used by anyone involved in the communication process.
How to create a brand style guide
Alright, since now we have found out that crafting a brand guide can bring your company structure, consistency, and cohesion. Also, that you need to have each team member on the same page regarding branding guidelines.
So now, let’s see how to create a brand style guide for your company.
Company’s mission statement
The first thing you need to add to your brand book is a mission statement. Mission statements should be clearly established and generally available even for years to pass. It’s good practice to tell people what your company does and what the purpose of your product or service is, the reasons you’re doing it, and how all of these impact the world. Mission statements also help future employees and even investors see if they would fit in your company or resonate with it.
A mission statement should:
- Communicate your company’s purpose
- Tell the world your company’s objectives
- Show the way you serve your audience
Setting the mission statement right from the beginning tells the difference between you and competitors, and it can stir consumer passion. So write a mission statement that reflects your company at its best! And make sure you reflect it in your communication strategies.
Vision and core values
While the mission statement should remain consistent throughout the years, in the vision statement, you can express your company’s present and future plans. It can also be changed with time and growth.
Having a solid vision statement can serve as a foundation force for all your future business decisions. It also portrays where the company wants to be and what it wants to become. Don’t forget to also add your company’s core values, so people know what aspects your company insists on.
A great vision offers all the necessary information for the customers and future employees about who your business is and what you want to accomplish.
If you need some help in this area, here are some ideas that might help you before writing your mission and vision statement.
- Do you want to grow your company? Then let your employees know that your plans for the future are to expand.
- Do you want to develop more products or services or stick with the ones you already have?
- Do you want to be more sustainable or contribute to saving the environment?
- What legacy do you want to leave for future generations through your company?
Keep these questions in your mind when you write the vision statement to know the future plans for your company and let everyone know about them.
Coming back to core values, they are all about your company’s beliefs and what it stands for. Core values are helpful as they set the path for achieving success and guide the overall behavior within the company.
Here are the core values that we practice at Flipsnack. Take a look and maybe find some inspiration for your company.
Having a brand persona is one of the critical elements that help you set the tone for your brand’s messaging. If your brand has a more friendly personality or uses a more formal approach, write that in the brand book and let people know what to expect from you.
However, don’t mislead the brand persona with the buyer persona. These are two completely different concepts. The buyer persona concept refers to the people your company wants to talk to. Basically, it implies having a fictional representation of the ideal customer for your company.
The brand persona concept is how you want to present your company to the world. It’s about what people will notice when they interact with your brand’s platforms. From the goals, product, or service you offer, to the social media content and even customer relationships department.
Moving on, there’s an old practice that companies used to add in the brand persona section of their brand book. Have you heard of the “Is and Isn’t practice?”. It’s about adding a list with all the things your brand is and isn’t. You only have to use 3-5 adjectives that describe what your brand is and 3-5 adjectives that your brand is not. But this is not necessary to do; I just thought it might be helpful to some.
Knowing your target audience is a vital step in gaining a company’s success. But, first, you have to know exactly for whom you create a product or service. What kind of buyer persona will buy your product? Between which ages? Are they young?
See, all these questions help in better understanding the target audience you have for your company. However, if you’ve been in the business industry for a while, this is no big news for you. But if you’re at the beginning of a start-up, think clearly who is your target audience.
It’s helpful to know this as you can narrow down the audience and reach leads that will be actually interested in buying your product or service.
How to design a brand book
And finally, the most awaited part, let’s see how to design a brand book. We’ll get into details about the logo, colors, images, and tone of voice, and I’ll offer you some examples from big companies that have branding guidelines well established. I’m sure you’ll love to discover insights about Apple, Mailchimp, and probably your favorite drink, Coke.
Without further ado, let’s get straight into it.
1. Add your brand’s logo
The first and most important thing you should talk about in your brand guide is the logo. The logo represents the company’s visual identity, so it’s essential to have one that really signifies your brand.
I know it’s quite challenging to have a distinctive logo but no worries. You can always hire professionals that know how to best design and reflect your brand through a remarkable logo. Still, you should have in mind to include all the approved alterations of your logo in the brand book. If you have 2-3 variations, don’t forget to also add them to the brand guide. And even include information on how to use the logo and how to don’t use it.
Wondering why? Because even if your logo can be used in white, black, or red, people will know that those still are the variations approved by the brand and that it’s safe to use it that way.
Let’s take a look at the Coke logo.
Just like Coca-Cola’s logo has 3 variations, you can notice that also the logo itself suffered some changes over time. But it’s important to also add them in the brand book and let people see how you changed and improved. It’s nothing wrong with having your logo adapt to the present times. Actually, it shows people that you care and try to consistently do the best for your brand’s growth.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that every 2 months you should change your logo to see if you like it more. However, that situation is not useful, and it will affect the brand’s recognition and credibility.
2. Add your brand’s unique color scheme
The color scheme you use will help shape the entire visual aspect of your brand guide. Keeping your colors palette consistent will also maintain the brand’s recognition intact. Likewise, it’s important to add the color scheme in your brand guide to let the collaborators, customers, and employees know the core colors of your brand.
Define clearly your brand’s color scheme or palette and specify the primary and secondary colors, the RGB values, and CMYK color codes. You can also add examples of how to use and when it’s right to use your brand’s color scheme. Try to offer as many examples as possible to avoid having misleading color associations with your brand and confuse people.
Think of situations when you have to collaborate with advertising agencies and how much easier you’ll make the designers work by telling them all the color details approved by your brand. It will make the process of maintaining brand consistency across all the media channels so much easier.
In the image below, you can see how Netflix and Spotify set their color guidelines. Take a look!
I’m not saying that you can’t play around when using different colors for some ad campaigns. But still, try to stick to the approved variations of your brand and make sure people will easily correlate them with your brand.
Here’s an example of how we, the Flipsnack team, decided on the color scheme for our 10th anniversary. We did a brand redesign to make the colors more true to the brand and how we want to communicate with our audiences. Now we use these colors on all our communication channels.
3. Include the matching typography
Another important aspect is to add the font selection you already use in the brand book. Typography reflects your brand’s personality and will immediately tell people if you’re on the more playful, friendly side or if you want to keep things professional and follow a more formal approach.
Either way, add the details about the fonts selection and stick to 2-3 fonts your brand uses the most. Don’t forget to also add the name of the font and the sizes you usually go for. Make sure to also specify the fonts you use for web communication and which fonts you use for print materials.
Add typography details lin your brand book like:
- Font name – examples: Arial, Roboto, Times New Roman
- Font size – for the headers, subheadings, and paragraphs
- Font weights – light, italic, bold
Here is an image example of how Starbucks included its typography guidelines in the brand book.
It’s also good practice to add a little description about the fonts you use. Doing this lets others understand the purpose of the typography style you use and how you want to communicate the message. For example, how would you describe the font your brand uses? Are they warm and easily recognizable? Or do you like to keep it dressed-up and editorialist? Again, typography has significant importance in the message you want to convey.
This brings me to my next point.
4. Add your brand’s tone of voice
Your brand’s tone of voice it’s a key element that you need to add to your brand book. It shows the world your brand’s personality, and you can reveal once again the communication style you want to have with your audience: be it informal or natural language between friends or even a formal, professional tone. It’s important to add these details to your brand book.
You should keep in mind to maintain the tone of your brand throughout all the communication channels you use. Let the tone of voice speak your intentions. Also, remember that it’s essential to use the appropriate tone for a target audience. So when you’re doing some campaigns for a different target than you’re used to, you can step out of your comfort zone and use the tone of voice that would speak to the specific audience.
Netflix, for instance, has an informal tone of voice, and it mimics the language friends would use on social media platforms. They want to be fun, engaging, and entertaining, which suits their brand best. On the other hand, Apple has a more confident tone of voice, and it reflects the expertise, quality, and trust – which is appropriate for a software company like them.
But there’s one more important thing that should be added to your brand book…
5. Include image and video style
I probably don’t need to stress this too much, as you’ll agree with me that images and videos are hands down the most important aspect to add to your brand book. As we live in a digital world, these two elements can trigger instant brand recognition and help in the buying decision process.
It’s essential to specify the photographic details used in your company in the brand book as every advertising campaign might imply different collaborators. They’ll know exactly what details to look for, keeping the style consistency throughout the entire shooting. For instance, if your company usually uses natural light for the videos and images, you’ll also want to maintain the photographic style in future marketing campaigns and social media channels. Natural light already means that you want to go for a natural, clean look. You can also create this natural effect artificially with the use of an online video editor with filters and overlays.
So make sure to add these details and specify how you use images in your design process or how to best represent your brand in an ad campaign by adding specific colors, elements, and so on. Make a list and even show examples so people will know how to best reflect your brand’s personality through images and videos.
Here’s a video with some other useful tips to design a brand book, check it out!
How to create a brand book in Flipsnack
Now is the time to learn how to create a brand book for your company in Flipsnack! No worries, I made it easier for you by offering a step-by-step tutorial. Instead of only making your brand book digital with a 3D flipping effect, you can make it engaging and entertaining for anyone who reads it. You can also start with premade templates for brand guidelines to make the design process even easier.
So let’s see how you can stand out among your competitors and surpass your reader’s expectations with a fantastic brand book design.
Shall we begin? Let’s do this!
Create a brand book in Flipsnack:
- Firstly, you’ll have to plan your content in a content calendar. Prepare all the previously discussed guideline details, from the mission statement to logo, colors, and images.
- Organize the layout of the pages and try to make them as visually appealing as you can.
- Either upload your PDF document to Flipsnack or start the design process with a brand book template from our wide collection. Our Design Studio tool it’s easy to handle as everything happens with a simple drag and drop.
- Add interactive elements like videos, social media buttons, captions, or anything that you like. It might be a good idea to include a video with the company’s founder telling about the band’s story and how it all started instead of adding a long text description. Think of the box ideas that might surprise anyone who gets your brand book.
- Save the document, and don’t forget to share it internally with your employees and externally with your brand’s collaborators. We offer you the option to share the document unlisted, through a link, a password, or private. Let the right people know how your brand communicates!
Here’s a brand book template that you can start with.
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 be in vain.
So the next step you should do is train people on how to use and apply the brand book. If you just hand the brand book over to people instead of actually telling them how to consult with it, you can still expect many errors and mistakes.
Firstly, 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. Then, 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. Of course, the ideal scenario would be that the same person who supervised the creation of the brand book is also the person who enforces the rules.
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.
Your brand book is the bible you should always follow and review every once in a while.
Hope this article is useful and that you’ll apply all the guidelines tips I shared with you here. It may sound challenging to put together a comprehensive brand book, but you can make it as basic or as complex as you need. Create a brand book that reflects the soul of your company, and make sure to be cohesive and consistent in presenting your brand guidelines. Good luck!