4 steps to creating brand guidelines every startup should follow

Crafting your brand identity guidelines can seem daunting, especially as a startup. Once you have your name and logo created, it’s important (and even fun) to build a brand guide for your team. Brand identity guidelines can help create a cohesive energy among your employees and guide your creative energy. The trick is not to get bogged down in the details as you’re still building your brand, while providing enough guidance for your team to work and make branding decisions independently.
Refreshing or expanding brand identity guidelines as a large, established organization is different than starting with a clean slate. As a startup, you have the opportunity to get it right the first time, break the rules, and let your vision shine. Click here for examples of how our Orlando marketing agency has helped other companies build out their brand, or follow these four unbeatable steps to start creating your brand identity. 

1. Start small when building your first brand identity guidelines:

When people think about brand guidelines, they often think of a large, polished document worthy of your urban-chic apartment’s coffee table. But that doesn’t always need to be the case. Start with your logo, color variations, font choices, and basic placement instructions. For a seasoned designer, mapping out these details should be no sweat. Kick things off by hosting a brainstorming session with your key stakeholders, decision makers, and design team. Bring examples of what you like, make a “dream board,” or do a little free form drawing as you discuss. Your designer should be able to create the basics based on this discussion. From there, you can begin adding elements and refining. As long as these four elements are in place, you can add more details as you go. And we fully support a coffee table book as the 2.0 version of your own brand identity guidelines, by the way.

2. Tie in imagery and symbols that resonate with your products or services:

Don’t be afraid to layer images and symbols that resonate with your brand into your brand identity guidelines. Even if they aren’t part of your logo or copyrighted photos, having inspirational imagery that captures your brand’s tone and vibe can help frame the “why” behind certain design elements, so other employees see their value. Images are also a powerful way to translate ideas without relying on huge blocks of copy. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Including images in your brand identity guidelines can be a visual reminder of your products, forge positive brand associations between your organization and a place or an object, or clarify the look and feel of everything from your office to your packaging and website.

3. Make your brand identity guidelines user-friendly for non-designers too:

When your designer or Orlando marketing agency creates your brand identity guidelines, they will include a variety of design specs so other designers and developers can use your brand guide when creating advertisements or tweaking the website. In addition to these valuable details – which often include specific color codes, font styles or typography, photo cropping and filtering instructions, etc. – having non-design-related elements can be an illuminating addition to your guidelines. Sharing your brand identity guidelines with non-designers is a good way to align the team, so consider including a few stylized quotes, your mission statement, or other images and verbiage that translates your core design elements for the average employee. You should never add “extras” in lieu of your design specs, but your style guide should also make as much sense to designers as it does to your accounting team.

4. Include any “do” AND “don’t” recommendations:

What designers and employees do with your brand elements is often as important as what they don’t do. Don’t shy away from including a “don’t” here and there in your brand identity guidelines. For example, if your logo features a square form, you may not want your employees to superimpose other images on top of or into the square. Your colors may be interchangeable sometimes, but sometimes they may not. Get clear on what you can and can’t do to avoid unnecessary editing. Naturally, you never know what you don’t know. Some of your guidelines will evolve based on trial and error, but if you already know there are a few deal breakers, get them out of the way up front.

The important thing is to start creating. Get something down on a page and let the rest flow naturally. Crafting identity guidelines are a key part of the brand evolution, so let the experience grow with you and your organization rather than waiting until your brand has taken on a life of its own.

Our team specializes in brand creation and refinement, so we’re here to help if you get stuck or need a little inspiration. Remember – this is the fun part!

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