CREATING A STYLE GUIDE

The instruction manual to your client’s new logo.

The last thing you want to happen to the logo you thoughtfully designed for your client is for it to be used incorrectly.
To avoid this, when you send the final files of the logo to your client, be sure to include instructions on how the logo should be used as well as not be used. The purpose of this style guide is to help your client build solid and consistent visual branding.

Depending on the project you may or may not need to include all of the topics I am listing off in this post. Maybe you only need to include the information about the logo because that’s what you agreed upon, or maybe you need more than what I list (there’s a lot that goes into a brand’s visual identity).

The main point of a style guide is so that your client will use their logo accurately and appropriately.

A short warning: this topic is one that I could (and should) dig deeper into, but for the sake of this series of posts on the logo design process, I will simply list off the main components you should have in a style guide. I will then revisit this topic in the future with a more in-depth approach.

Introduction

The person who hired you for the logo isn’t going to be the only person looking at this style guide. They should also hand it out to any one else who will be using the logo so they can be sure to use it correctly.

Provide a quick introduction explaining the brand of company and why it is important to be consistent with their visual identity.
You can mention the memorability and that it’s easier to recognize with the use of consistency.

Table of Contents

Of course, it’s always helpful for those who are trying to find a specific page. If someone has read through it before, but couldn’t remember exactly what colors to use, having the table of contents helps the reader know where to go for each topic in the guide.

Logo

After designing the logo, this is the section that will be fresh on your mind. Include both the correct and incorrect usage of the logo so your client understands how to use the logo and avoid the ways that would otherwise damage their visual branding.

Correct Usage

In the logo section, provide a description of the logo. Cover the correct usage and the colors that should be used. Provide examples of every acceptable version of the logo (color, black, white, on light background, on dark background, etc.).
Think of all of the applications this is going to be used and provide examples of the correct usage of the logo.

  • The complete logo in color.
  • Does something need to change when it’s on a dark background instead of a light one?
  • What should the logo look like in black and white?
  • If you have various versions of the logo (size, horizontal, vertical, etc.), which one should be used and when?

Also include an example showing the clear space that should be used around the logo. This should show how much space the logo should be given so it isn’t butted up next to another logo or design element which could confuse the audience.

Incorrect Usage

It’s equally important to inform the reader the incorrect ways to use the logo so they won’t do them. One of the best ways is to provide a list with an example image of ways they should not use the logo.
Things that you could list are:

  • changing the logo to an inappropriate color
  • changing the font
  • skewing or distorting the shape
  • placing the logo over a busy image
  • using the wrong color on a certain background
  • Changing the words in the logo

Providing unacceptable applications of the logo will help the reader understand that the appropriate versions listed previously should be the only ways the logo is used.

Visual Identity Elements

The following are other topics you can include in your style guide if you have agreed to help your client with their visual identity. As I mentioned above, this is only a quick list – you can include more, or not use all of the topics I list here, but this will get you started.

Typography

In the description, cover the fonts that your client should use and when to use them (bold for headers, regular for body…)
Be sure to include examples of the fonts by showcasing the upper case, lower case, numbers, and characters. This provides a visual so the reader understands what the font looks like and can see how it matches the style of the brand.

Colors

Colors are a key factor when it comes to establishing a consistent visual identity, so do not take this section lightly.
The primary colors should be based on the colors you used in the logo you designed. Include the PMS, CMYK, RGB, and Hex builds to cover all of the bases and every media.
You can also include secondary colors – the colors that can be used to compliment the primary colors. Be sure to list the color builds like you do for the primary colors.

Applications

Nothing is easier for your client to understand how to use their logo and visual identity like providing examples. This will help them see exactly how they should use the logo.
Some examples to include are:

  • Letter head
  • Envelopes
  • Business cards
  • Packaging
  • Apparel
  • Signage

Also think about any advertising the client might choose to do and how should these ads look.

  • What should a billboard look like?
  • What content should be included in magazine ads?
  • How should a web banner appear online?

Consider all of the places the logo can and will be used. You don’t have to provide examples of every single application, but you want to provide enough so that the client understands how different applications should look.

The style guide helps the client maintain a consistent visual identity which will help them be recognizable to their audience.

Figure out what’s appropriate for your client

These are just a few of the topics that you can include in a style guide and as I mentioned before, what you should include in your guide depends on what you have agreed to do for your client.

Examples

If you would like to get some ideas on what a style guide should look like, or other topics to include, here are some great examples:

You’re ready to ship!

Wow… You’ve made it!
If you have been following along the logo design process since the thumbnail stage, you now have a logo in the books and ready to send off to your client with a style guide to boot.
The only thing to do now is ship it, rinse, and repeat for the next client.

It’s imperative to the integrity of the logo you designed to provide a style guide for your client. Without it, your logo could quickly deteriorate in the hands of an uneducated client.

What trouble do you have when creating a style guide? Designing one? Don’t know how much content to include? Let me know in the form below.

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