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Don’t have a style guide? Start here.

I’m always surprised at the number of companies who don’t have a visual style guide. These documents can be very brief, and they’re not in any way pretentious or a large-firm luxury. Indeed, they save a lot of time, because whenever a supplier needs a logo or any related graphics, a business with a style guide can just point to it and leave the rest to the supplier.

More importantly, customers often see collections of products and documents together, which may have been created at different times, and in different places. It looks utterly amateur to see an instruction manual alongside the product it refers to, and for them to have mis-matched colours, logos and other branding elements. This stuff does matter.

So what does a visual style guide need to contain, and how long should it take to compile one? It doesn’t need much, and consequently, could be put together in a couple of hours. When you think of how often it’ll be used, that’s nothing.

Creating the guide

A typical guide might include logos, logo rules, colour specifications, font specifications, formatting preferences and points of contact. Logos should be provided in print and web resolutions, and in vector and bitmap formats, including on transparent backgrounds. Logo rules should specify where the logo can be used, the space that needs to surround it, the backgrounds that are acceptable, and what to do in exceptional circumstances. Font specifications need to include alternatives if the fonts are unavailable. Formatting preferences should illustrate typical positioning and a library of templates for printed material, slides, web pages, etc.

There are loads of visual brand style guide templates available online which can be used as a basis for our company’s guide. Like any good engineering drawing, it should be freely available to anyone who needs it, and updated continually with a full change log.