Why Your Business Needs a Brand Guide

A designer sits at a desk with color palette options around them.

Does your business have a brand guide? We meet a lot of people who own small businesses and startups that just haven’t gotten around to having a brand guide made yet. Often, folks aren’t sure if they even need one; after all, aren’t brand guides just something that big corporations need? 🏭

Did you know that we won’t build a website without a brand guide? If that seems extreme to you, let’s talk about why we require brand guides as part of our website process.

The role of a brand guide

Brand guides can get a bad rap: some people think they’re stuffy and restrictive while others just think they’re kind of useless. 😅 But a good brand guide functions like an instruction manual for how your brand should be communicated. 

The core of your brand identity 

The most important parts of your brand guide are probably the specifications around your logo, brand colors, and fonts. These design elements are what most people will come to know you by, and if you don’t have a good handle on them, it’s possible to end up in a place where you’ve used so many variations that your brand might feel a little wobbly. 😵‍💫 Staying consistent with colors and other elements allows you to develop a cohesive presence, the foundation for success.

You also don’t have to lock in every decision for the life of your business; your brand guide can evolve as your business evolves. It’s more about laying a firm foundation for your brand and making sure that there is a constant throughline that allows folks to feel connected to your whole history.

Keep it consistent 

Your brand guide keeps the expression of your brand consistent wherever it might appear. Why does this matter? It comes down to two things: recognizability and trustworthiness.

Be easy to recognize 😎

If you looked out the window and saw a brown box truck driving down the street, you’d probably immediately know that it was a UPS truck. If someone shows you their new shoes and there is a swish on the side, you don’t need to ask them to know the shoes are Nikes. 

Recognition by branding elements is an important part of growth because it allows people to get used to seeing your brand out and about, and they will begin to make associations with your brand. Don’t make people work hard to remember who you are every time they encounter your business!

Familiarity can also give you a leg up against the competition. If people are faced with a decision between two things, they are likely to go with the option that is familiar to them in some way. ⚖️ If they’ve become aware of your brand and built good associations, they are more likely to be customers (or repeat customers!). 

Build credibility 💁

The other part of brand cohesion is trustworthiness. Think about the last time you went to buy something new from a company you’d never purchased from before. Did you have a sense of unease? If you did, it may be because you’d never encountered the company before, or maybe their branding felt off and made you wonder if it was a scam. If you trusted the company, ask yourself if you’d been exposed to them before, either by a friend or family member or just via advertising.

The more people encounter something organically, the more likely they are to accept and trust it. If someone gets used to seeing your logo and branding, they’ll begin to accept that you are a trustworthy source of whatever you are selling or providing. A professional use of branding allows people to trust that you are a business that they don’t have to feel skeptical about. 🤨

Effective use of branding also makes marketing easier. When you have to spend a lot of resources trying to build brand awareness and recognition, you’re doing that work on top of also trying to sell your product or service. 💸 If people are already aware of your brand, you don’t have to explain as much or qualify your claims to the same degree. 

Guiding outsiders

Perhaps you need a flyer developed for a big opening or you are having shirts made for your team, and you hire a freelancer to complete the project. You don’t want to spend your time answering questions about what color you would like used and where. You hired a professional to design it for you! If you are able to have a meeting discussing goals and preferences and then hand off a brand guide, you can often let the professional do their job with little input because the brand guide is answering all their questions

Brand guides and websites 💻

If you visit two websites for companies that offer the same product or service, you’ll probably notice that a lot of the components of the website are the same: navigation, pages, buttons, etc. The things that differ will be the colors, fonts, and other design elements that are unique to each brand. In other words, it’s the brand guide that dictates what makes one website look different from the competitors’.

What makes a website unique

Many times, when we’re building a website, we begin with a wireframe: a barebones mockup of the website that doesn’t have much besides copy and some general design around content blocks. This sets the stage for the eventual appearance of the website, but it’s at the design and development stage that the brand guide swoops in and really brings the website to life. ✨ Taking the words and putting them in the brand fonts, creating backgrounds and visual elements, placing the logo in the header: these steps make a website really fit the business it is representing.

We require a brand guide because it does a lot of the legwork for us, making room for the design process to move more quickly and allowing us to keep the number of meetings to a minimum. Our design team will take the wireframe as broad guidance for the layout of the website, but it’s the brand guide that really informs what the finished product will look like. 

Getting down to business with limited interruptions

I’ve mentioned before that brand guides can answer a lot of questions that designers might have. We love a comprehensive brand guide because it means we don’t have to pause work on the website to ask questions about fonts, colors, etc. We are able to just move seamlessly from the approval of the wireframe to design. We aren’t waiting to hear back from you and you aren’t having to answer question after question. That work has been done when the brand guide was developed, and now it’s just smooth sailing. ⛵

This also frees our design team up to make the best decisions possible. Website design is an art, just like any other graphic design project, but there are some other considerations that are heaped on top of general aesthetic considerations, such as accessibility, SEO, and more. It’s helpful for designers to know the bounds of a brand so that they can go ahead and make the best possible decision regarding these issues, instead of navigating a conversation about preferences while trying to also stick to best practices.

We want to give good advice ✅

A lot of times, folks get into the website project and begin to feel a little overwhelmed by everything involved. There are a lot of decisions that go into a website project, and we are often asked for our advice about them along the way. Knowing the boundaries set out in your brand guide allows us to make educated suggestions about how you should proceed when you’re uncertain.

We always want your website to feel true to your brand and your vision, but we know our expertise is a huge part of bringing that to fruition. So we value knowing as much as we can about your brand before we ever start designing or developing.

How to get a brand guide 📔

So you get why brand guides are important, but how do you get one?

Ask your designer

If you have an in-house designer, or someone you’ve worked with before, ask them to create a brand guide for you. Any designer with prior knowledge of your brand should be able to make quick work of a brand guide, so you can get on with your website project.

Hire someone

If you don’t have someone you’ve already worked with, it’s a great idea to hire a professional to create a brand guide. It’s also a good time to assess your brand and see if maybe you’d like to update anything or have a new logo made. Lots of designers offer packages that include a logo and brand guide.

If you’re looking for a designer, we have qualified referrals that we’d be happy to share with you. Just visit our Trusted Partners page to see our current recommendations. For tight budgets: check out Logology

🌿

Brand guides are a crucial part of our website process, and many other developers will also require full branding before they’ll start a project. Whether you’re thinking of starting a website project in the near future or you’re just beginning to consider it, it’s a good idea to get your brand guide nailed down now. That way, nothing will be holding you back from a beautiful website.

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