Creating a consistent brand isn’t an easy stroll in the beautiful Oregonian woods. It takes a significant amount of time, planning, and work. But it is so worth it if your goal is to craft a brand that draws your ideal client and keeps your business thriving.
If you’re not sure how brand consistency can help your business, check out last week’s blog post, 4 Ways Consistency can Help you Build an Amazing Brand.
Your visual identity can play a huge role in bringing consistency to your brand. Your unique combination of graphic elements can serve as the visual language that communicates your brand message, gains your ideal client’s trust, and helps your audience identify you. All at a glance. A cohesive visual identity ties everything you do together into a neat professional looking recognizable bundle.
It can be difficult to keep track of all the pieces that make up your visual identity, though. You have your logo, fonts, and colors as your basic building blocks. Your supporting elements (like patterns and textures), photography style, and layouts add another dimension. But once it branches out from there, things can get a little crazy.
Your visual identity is made up of every single graphic tied to your business. Everything from your business card to your website to your Facebook page is included. That’s a lot to keep track of.
So how do you bring consistency to such a large array of design pieces? That’s where an awesome brand style guide proves its value. Having a style guide keeps all your graphic elements together for easy reference so that you can create consistent visuals that strengthen your brand.
Having a brand style guide means you never have to waste hours trying to find the right font or have to take a guess at your colors. And when the time comes to hire someone to help with your graphics, your style guide will help you easily and clearly communicate exactly what you need.
Use this free Canva template (make a copy before you start editing) to create your own visual style guide in these 4 steps:
1. Set up value and tone boards
This is the foundation of your brand, and therefore, also the foundation of your visual identity. It’s not enough to have your brand values and tone words written down or even memorized. As words, they’re abstract and up to interpretation.
Having visual boards for your values and tone words helps translate those abstract words into a visual style. It gives you something more concrete to compare your graphics to so you can determine whether your brand message is being communicated.
To create these boards, start by collecting images for each of your value and tone words. Once you have around 20 photos, edit those down to the six that you feel best communicate each word. Then, put those together to create a separate board for each word.
It may take a while, but when you have a really good feel for what each word looks like, you can combine your boards. I like to keep separate board for my brand value and tone because they have slightly different, but complementary, moods.
2. Create a brand board
Your logo, colors, and fonts are the building blocks of your visual identity. If they’re not consistent, you have no way of building cohesive graphics. These are the most important elements to keep track of.
A brand style board keeps these building blocks neatly together for easy reference. Think of it as a design cheat sheet you use any time you need a new graphic piece for your business. It keeps you from ever wasting time trying to remember an obscure font name or having to guess at which exact shade of green to use.
Start this board by arranging your logo and any variations on one side of the page, with your main logo at the top. Use the other half of the page to document your color swatches along with their hex codes and Pantone numbers if you have them.
Any patterns, icons, and textures you use can go under that. Last, list out your fonts and what each is used to be used for. You can include a sample of each, too. Here’s a sample version of my brand board for Wild Olive:
3. Add photography style boards
Just like your fonts and colors, your photography style should be consistent and help you communicate your brand message. The photos and images you use should be planned and well thought out.
A photography style board will help you be consistent in your DIY content like Instagram posts and social media images. It will also give you a clear and straightforward way to communicate with your photographer so that she’s able to give you the images you need.
List out all the types of photos you use in your business and create a board with examples for each. For Wild Olive, I have separate boards for the flat lays on my web pages, the background photos for my blog titles and workbook covers, and my Instagram posts.
4. End with layout and detail boards
Even if you’re consistent in your tone, building blocks, and images, things can fall apart if you’re not also being consistent in your layouts and details. Being consistent in how you use and place your different elements highlights the consistency you’ve created in everything else.
It can be really difficult to keep track of all the layout specifics for all of the graphics you use. How you align your text, what type treatments you use, and how much spacing you leave between images are all details that are impossible to memorize.
Gather an example of all of the different graphics you use and create a board for each one. Include notes on text alignment, spacing, fonts, colors, and any other treatments that make each piece unique. Think about what information you’ll need the next time you create that type of graphic.
Creating a brand style guide is the best thing you can do if you’re DIY-ing your visual identity. It’ll help you keep all your graphics consistent so you can visually communicate your brand message in everything you use. And it will make your life easier by eliminating any guesswork when you’re creating designed materials for your business.