Why you need a style guide for your business
- What is a style guide?
- The key benefits of having a style guide
- The main components of a style guide
- How long should a style guide be?
- Top tips for creating a style guide
- In conclusion: get ahead, get a style guide!
What is a style guide?
A style guide (also known as a brand guide or brand guidelines) is a document that shows employees and stakeholders how your brand should look and feel.
Your style guide will help people create new content and resources for your business, whether a website, social media message, or business card.
The key benefits of having a style guide
The primary purpose of a style guide is to ensure consistency across all your communications. This means customers can recognise your brand from anywhere, building trust and recognition.
Businesses with consistent branding can experience up to 20% growth and 33% more revenue.
A style guide can also help you save time. Your style guide acts as a reference point, meaning people have all the information they need to create high-quality content.
For example, let’s say you need your brand’s colours to send to your web design agency. Rather than try and guess the colours through trial and error, you can easily find them in your guide.
Finally, a style guide also helps empower the different departments within your business. Rather than relying on the marketing team to create content for them, they can use the style guide to confidently develop their own resources.
The main components of a style guide
So, what kind of content can you include in a style guide? Here are some of the elements that can help ensure consistency within your business.
1. Mission statement, values, and goals
Your mission statement, goals, and values are the foundations of your brand identity. Including them at the start of your style guide helps guide your team’s actions and how they communicate with customers.
The easyGroup has a comprehensive online guide for all its brands, including easyJet, easyHotel, and easyCar. This is underpinned by one simple page that is the cornerstone for the rest of the brand guidelines.
2. Voice and tone
The look and feel of your brand must be consistent, but what about the words you use?
Defining the voice (the consistent and recognisable personality of your brand) and tone (how you adapt to specific situations) will help readers create effective and cohesive communications.
For example, is your brand voice:
- Funny or serious?
- Casual or formal?
- Irreverent or respectful?
- Enthusiastic or matter-of-fact?
Mailchimp provides a clear and simple explanation about its voice and tone in its style guide, as well as how to write content for particular situations.
3. Colour palette
The colours you use on your website and in your logo can say a lot about your brand. Think the clean whites, blacks, and greys of Apple or the fun and diverse multi-coloured eBay logo.
This section of your style guide lets you present the colours you use and shows readers how to replicate them on and offline through HEX, CYMK, and RGB codes.
Slack clearly and simply presents its core and secondary palette, providing examples of its different colourways in action.
Typography covers not just the fonts you use but the colour, size, spacing, and weight. This ensures consistency on your websites, brochures, adverts, and press releases.
It can be helpful to show examples of your typography in action so people can understand how best to use it.
The Walmart style guide has a detailed section about typography, showing the different types of fonts, how to size them, and examples of what not to do. It even discusses what font type to use on call-to-action buttons!
5. Grammar and spelling
Is your brand happy to use abbreviations? Are ampersands okay to use? Should phone numbers contain spaces?
Different businesses have different approaches to spelling and grammar. Including a section about your grammar and spelling preferences can ensure that all your copy is consistent and looks professional.
Your grammar and spelling guide doesn’t have to be as comprehensive as the Guardian and Observer’s guide. Focus on the details that are important to you, or if you see a guide online that you want to adopt, it’s okay to link to it.
6. Logo use
The Nike swoosh, the McDonald’s arches, the Starbucks siren… A logo can say a lot about a brand. The logo section of your style guide will tell people how to use, as well as not to use, your logo.
This section can include:
- How much space to leave around your logo
- The colours and typography used in your logo
- The minimum size your logo can be
- Alternative versions of your logo and when to use them. For example, you might have a white version of your logo to use on dark backgrounds or a simplified version to use in compact spaces
- Examples of how your logo shouldn’t be used. Instagram’s style guide below shows how other brands should and shouldn’t use its logo when they work together in partnership
High-quality photos and graphics are essential for telling your brand’s story.
The imagery section of your style guide is valuable for showing what imagery is acceptable and what people should avoid. This is especially important if you use stock photos.
Here’s the imagery section of the American Express style guide, which shows how to choose dynamic and exciting photos that represent the brand.
8. Other things to consider
While the elements we mentioned above are the key features of a style guide, you might want to include extra information depending on the industry you’re in, what you sell, and who you work alongside. For example:
- Your customer personas – the people you want to target
- How packaging should look – the size of the boxes and the colour of the wrapping
- How branded clothing and livery should look – logo placement and colours
- How emojis, gifs, and hashtags should be used
How long should a style guide be?
Style guides vary in size, from a double-sided A4 document to a 150-page guidebook.
Your own style guide can be as detailed or as brief as it needs to be as long as it covers everything that’s essential to your business.
A good starting point is to ask the people in your business what information is important to them. This gives you a guide to which content to include in your style guide, and what you can leave out.
Top tips for creating a style guide
We asked our digital marketing specialists for their top tips when it comes to developing style guides that are comprehensive and easy to understand. Here’s what they said:
Look at other style guides for inspiration
Many large businesses make their style guides available online. This is fantastic for getting ideas about how to lay out your guide and what to include.
We’ve linked to some style guides we love in this article, but here are some more to get you started:
Keep your style guide up to date
Your style guide isn’t something that should be created and forgotten about. You must regularly review and update it to ensure it always reflects your brand image.
We recommend that you review your style guide at least once a year, as well as if you make significant changes to your business.
Share your style guide with everyone
A style guide can benefit everyone in your business, not just your marketing team. For example, it can help your sales team write emails and proposals in line with your tone of voice and ensure HR uses the right branding on their documents.
Ensure the latest edition of your style guide is available to all your staff. If you have a digital asset management (DAM) system, this can be a good way of ensuring everyone can download the most recent version of your style guide.
Don’t forget external stakeholders too. If you work with a web developer, PR agency, or a cohort of influencers, they’ll want to know how best to represent your brand.
Done is better than perfect
You don’t need a glossy, perfectly designed style guide for your business. It’s okay to set up a Word document or Google Doc and put all your information in there!
Remember that you can add to your style guide over time. It may start off small, but it will grow and evolve as your business does.
In conclusion: get ahead, get a style guide!
Not all companies need a style guide. If you’re a micro-business doing your marketing in-house or in the early stages of your business and still shaping your brand, it will mean a lot of extra work.
However if you’re a larger business or regularly work with external stakeholders, a style guide will ensure your marketing is consistent, professional, and always targeted towards the right audience.
Want more hints and tips for marketing your eCommerce business? Check out the Xigen blog!