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5 Style Guides to Help You Define Your Brand

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What’s your brand’s style?

It’s not so easy to put into words. After all, we are more than what we do for a living or the clothes we put on in the morning. The same is true for brands. A brand is more than a logo or a collection of fonts and colors. Strong brands that stand the test of time have an unmistakable personality.

But how do you express that personality if you have dozens of different people making hundreds or thousands of individual decisions about the brand?

That’s where a brand style guide comes in handy. The best style guides inspire, whether it’s having the guide itself mirror the product or communicating the larger “why” to your employees and stakeholders. Here are some brand style guides to inspire you and help bring your brand to life.

Provide a Rationale

Humans are inquisitive by nature. If you tell someone why you’ve made a decision, you’re likely to have more of an impact than if you provide no rationale whatsoever. In its 24-page style guide, Animal Planet explains how each color in its palette mirrors those naturally occurring in the animal kingdom—the warm brown spots of a giraffe, the bright green of a tree frog… By linking the look and feel of the brand to the core of its offering, Animal Planet is saying that every detail of the brand connects to its larger mission.

Tell a Story

Anyone can slap a bunch of instructions into an 8 ½ x 11 binder. To really get people excited about what you do, you have tell a story. When Barnes & Noble put together its brand guidelines book, the bookseller mirrored the look and feel of a book, complete with intro page from CEO Leonard Riggio recalling how he spent his formative years eating cookies and drinking hot chocolate in his father’s bookstore. With its style guide, Barnes & Noble is making its brand into something tangible that all book lovers can relate to.

Be the Brand

Modern brands encompass everything from products and services to people. When creating a style guide, it’s important to reflect the unique attributes of the brand. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has built a cottage industry selling food and cooking equipment. Since the brand speaks to multiple audiences, the style guide is divided into three sections: one for mass products, one for premium and one for gifts. The book is incredibly detailed, highlighting dos and don’ts, as well as detailed tone of voice for each section. Of course, the guide itself is filled with photos of the man himself to provide further inspiration.

Related: What Zombies Can Teach Us About a Strong Brand

 Make it Easy to Reference

If you hand someone a spiral-bound book, chances are they’ll put it in a drawer never to see the light of day again. A good way to get noticed is to break out of the 81/2 x 11 rut. The Big Lottery Fund, a U.K.-based public body that distributes funds raised from the national lottery to nonprofits, uses a poster that includes colorful icons to help differentiate between sub-brands. By making it into a poster and hanging it on the wall, the Big Lottery Fund is making it easy for employees to regularly refer to their style guide.

Show, Don’t Tell

We live in an age of eight-second attention spans. If you want people to engage, you have to pique their interests. That means maintaining a balance between words and images. Ollo, an internet provider focused on emerging markets, created a style guide chock full of color. With minimal wording, the reader is able to focus on what matters most while the dynamic images keep them engaged and enthralled.

The most successful brands stand for something. By creating a cohesive style guide, you’re ensuring that your brand accurately represents your core mission, vision and values. Take a look at JConnelly’s brand style tip sheet for more inspiration.

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