Why creating a Style Guide matters for use across all marketing materials.

Your logo is your company’s key visual asset. It appears on your letterheads and publicity materials, leaflets and marketing – and your promotional products. Consistency is key in order that your brand presents a uniform look to build that all important recognition, and that’s why you need to think about creating a style guide.

What’s a style guide and why might I need one?

A style guide is a set of rules that governs the way your logo appears – the size, colours, layout and typography. Being clear about the way you want your brand logo to be displayed helps to ensure that it looks consistent right across your marketing materials and promotional items.

Without clear guidance and a style guide, your logo can be printed quite differently on different products, ruining the consistent branding that you’re striving to create.

But it’s more than just how your logo should look, it’s about considering the entire interaction of your brand with your audience across all your published marketing materials. It’s a quick and easy way of showing how your brand should be presented.

Getting the rules right

There are three main considerations when it comes to creating a style guide for use with promotional products – the imprint area, your logo’s colours and your budget.

Different marketing materials will have their own rules to consider, promotional products have differently sized imprint areas. So why is this important?

Because your logo will be required to fit into a predefined area that varies between different products – just consider the difference between the size of a logo on a printed pen and a shopping bag.

Thinking carefully about different layout styles to match different imprint areas means that your logo will display to optimum effect.

The chances are that your logo might have multiple colours or different colour combinations, maybe full colour, a one colour and maybe also black & white.

Remember that each variation will have a different cost on different materials and that may determine which goes where but are the consistent?

Having a clear style guide with different options for imprint areas and colours that nevertheless are consistent within your marketing can help you keep tight control of your budget.

Focus on your logo

At the very heart of your branding, the logo is basically the face of your brand, the instantly recognisable key that enables customers to differentiate your products or publicity materials from the competition.

Therefore it’s vital that you ensure your logo is accurately reproduced in terms of its colours, layout, size and relationship to the white space around it.

For example, if you have two elements to your logo, your style guide would define the exact relationship between the two elements so they remain in proportion, whether it’s being reproduced on a mug or a T-shirt.

Creating several variations of your logo that are recognisably of your brand but adapted for use on different imprint areas is something you should consider right at the beginning of the design stage to keep consistency and a professional look and feel. This is crucial to building brand integrity.

Choosing colour

When you choose the colour for your logo you’ll almost certainly consider colour psychology – that’s why Coca-Cola has its famous red for youth and excitement, Facebook chooses blue for dependability and trust and Starbucks uses green to promote a sense of health and peacefulness.

Colour can connect with us on the most basic emotional level, so choose your colour palette wisely. You’ll also need to test how it appears on different coloured backgrounds – for example, printed on a black pen or a white T-shirt. If possible, you should also specify the exact values for the background colour.

But it’s also important to be absolutely precise about the colour or colours you choose by picking specific Pantone, CMYK, REG or HEX values.

This will ensure that your brand colours are consistent whatever they appear on depending on the process being used.

It makes sense to keep it simple with a maximum of two colours for your logo – this will not only keep your print spends down but keeps the repro options simple and yet eye catching.

Within promotional print more and more digital CMYK print options are becoming available but this can still create restrictions and if a design is full colour then a simpler single colour alternative makes a lot of sense at design stage.

Keep an eye on type

Typography is often neglected when you think about the way you want to represent your brand, and yet using certain fonts has become a design disaster for your brand.

When once creating typography was a specialist art with every letter carved from metal and set by hand, modern computers are preloaded with hundreds of fonts, of which several have become ubiquitous and best avoided.

Times New Roman, Arial and Comic Sans are just a few of the main offenders, but a good designer is likely to be able to suggest some dynamic and innovative replacements.

For example, if you like the authority and sense of tradition which a serif font like those used by Hugo Boss, Canon and Marlboro implies, then there are several modern serif fonts such as those used by Vogue and Cartier that give the same impression of reliability and quality.

Likewise, if you prefer the clean, contemporary and stylish look of a san serif font, then you’re in good company – this is the kind of typography favoured by brands as disparate as Samsung, FedEx and Nike. Steer clear of Arial and instead opt for fonts inspired by architectural and gothic forms.

Don’t completely discount script style fonts, though they are notoriously hard to work with and will not reproduce well on a small imprint area like a printed pen unless you choose very carefully.

However, they work for Ford, Coca-Cola and Instagram and can range from the casual and playful to the formal. These fonts need handling with care but they can create a big impact and brand personality if you use them properly.

Next steps

Surprisingly enough, a basic style guide is something that you can DIY without the need for a big art direction budget and an army of graphic designers.

Search online for resources and take a look at what companies with easily identifiable logos are doing with their style guides – Apple is an obvious choice.

Remember that creating a simple to follow style guide is about organising your brand principles and presenting a consistent brand experience to your audience. Consistency reinforces brand identity and when combined with cleverly chosen promo products, will keep your audience’s eyes on you and not the competition.

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