In Branding, Design and Inspiration

When you think of big brands…what comes to mind?

Is it Nike, Apple, or Banana Republic? Perhaps it’s Coca-Cola, Target, or Pantone? Which ever one it is, there is one thing they all have in common, something key to their brand success – brand standards.

With hundreds or even thousands of employees and users, how do they keep it all straight? Are brand standards only for big companies? Where do you get started? What do you include? Why do I need a brand standard? Hang with me for a minute or two and I’ll hopefully answer all of your questions! But before we get to what goes into a brand standards guide, we must first ask…

What’s a brand?

A great definition can actually be found in The Coca-Cola Corporation’s brand standards guide. It says:

A brand identity is the totality of all touch-points (media, platforms, channels). A brand identity is experienced by those who come into contact with the brand and influences their opinion of that brand. Central to all touch-points are the brand’s defining – or core – elements, the visual keys to creating an integrated, distinctive, and differentiated brand.”

What makes a brand stand out?

So, if a brand is the “totality of all touch points,” what makes the collection of all those points stand out? After completing the steps it takes to build your brand and uncovering your brand’s cultural personality, the next most important benchmark is the body of language and graphics that support those touch points. It’s what fonts are used, which colors are appropriate, how to place the logo in relation to other object…its the “visual keys” that lead to a “differentiated brand.” These visual keys are outlined in a brand standards guide.

What’s a Brand Standards Guide?

A brand standards guide is a map/rule book for usage of the core elements of your brand. Creating one is an important step in honoring all of the blood, sweat, and tears that went into formulating the perfect brand for your company. It’s a crucial step towards ensuring consistency, longevity, and effectiveness. The reason the top brand you thought of before is so engrained in your mind is because you repeatedly see it represented in a consistent manner. Of course, once something is so well-known, it’s standards become larger and longer, more adaptable and influenced. For example, The Coca-Cola Corporations standards has guidelines that overarch over 500 smaller brands that it owns. But, each and everyone of those have a unique identity that is protected and treasured with distinct standards.

Build you own Brand Standards Guide

Below is a starter list of things to include in your brand standards guide. But, adapt yours as appropriate to wherever your language or artwork may be used. With a guide in place, you can help make sure that every time a new vendors works with your company, an employee has to fill out a form or make a flyer, you get called into a media interview or order T-shirts – the brand you’ve built remains strong, memorable, and consistent.

    • Your logo

• Horizontal version • Vertical version • How it appears on a white background • How it appears on a black/colored background • How it should look if converted to black and white • The “clear zone” – measurement of space around you logo no other mark should intrude

    • Color scheme

• Primary colors in CMYK, RGB, Hex., and Pantone • Secondary colors in CMYK, RGB, Hex., and Pantone • Color combinations that are allowed (if there are restrictions)

    • Design elements

• Images, graphics, shapes that are used in your brand • Text styles for print documents (Headlines, bullet lists, pull quotes etc.) • Templates that display how elements work in letterhead, business cards, press releases etc.

    • Messaging

• How your company’s name should be written • If your name can be abbreviated, how should users do so and when? • Mission statement, belief statements, positioning or other language • Phrases or taglines

Check out some brand standard examples:

Twitter American Red Cross  Jiffy Lube  Apple

BONUS: A quick guide to file formats and color codes

It’s also important to brand standards that the right file formats and color variations are used in the correct scenarios. Use the guide below in your brand standards guide or as your own handy cheat sheet!

File types

    • .ai – Adobe Illustrator: A vector based file that can be re-sized as large as needed. Used when creating a logo and sometimes sent to a printer.
    • .eps – Encapsulated PostScript: A vector format that can be re-sized without losing image quality. Commonly used with print elements such as business cards or brochures. If you ever question when to use it, ask yourself, “Will this be used as a high-quality print?”
    • .png – Portable Networks Graphic: A web-based file that does not lose quality when compressed. PNG files were created to improve on the quality of GIF files and are best used for the web.
    • .jpeg – Joint Photographic Expert Group: A raster file best used for web-based designs because their compressed sizes load quickly. JPG images lose some quality but are great to use for emails, banner designs or anything web-based.
    • .tiff – Tagged Image File Format: A higher quality image than a JPEG or PNG, but is not a vector format like EPS. It is widely used among publishing industries and photographers. It is best used in common things like invoices, page layouts or letterheads.
    • .gif – Graphic Interchange Format: A GIF should only be used for web applications when you need a small file size.

Color codes

    • CMYK – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow Black: Used for print pieces. Typically used for photography and digital printing.
    • RGB – Red, Green, Blue: Used for web work. Images that will be placed on a web page should be saved using this color makeup.
    • Hex/Hexadecimal: Hexadecimal colors are a six character make-up/code of colors used only for the web. Ex: Allegory orange is #ef8200)
    • Pantone/Spot Color: – Pantone is a company that has created an exact color formula. Every brand should have a set of exact Pantone colors to ensure their exact colors are being represented properly. Use Pantone colors during printing when ever possible.
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