Saatchi & Saatchi Design

Brand identity, positioning and design communications.

20 top tips for designing effective brand guidelines

  1. First understand:
    • Who will be using the guidelines
    • What they will gain from using them
    • Where & how it will be accessed
    • Why the guidelines are being produced
  2. If it’s being targeted at an in-house design team, then involve them from the beginning.
  3. Pick up one big idea which permeates the brand. Explain how following the brand guidelines will help communicate this idea to your brand’s key audiences.
  4. Live the brand; design the guidelines in the look and feel of the new brand design.
  5. Before working on details, first create a pagination and have it signed off.
  6. Create a clear section numbering system make clear reference to it in the body copy.
  7. Create section dividers containing a table of contents for each section.
  8. Have a clear introduction upfront to explain why the guidelines have been produced and how adhering to them will strengthen your brand.
  9. Guide, don’t tell. Engage the user. Tone of voice is key, so keep it short and simple to understand. Depending on your brand, some light-hearted copy in key places can keep it fun and creative.
  10. Have a clear typographic hierarchy. A three tier typographic platform works best, i.e. 1. Headings, 2. Introduction copy,  3. Body copy.
  11. Brand Guidelines by Saatchi & Saatchi Design

  12. Make rules flexible enough for designers to be creative but rigid enough to keep the brand easily recognisable. Occasionally situations will call for rules to be bent, but never broken. Continuity is key, especially if you need the brand to breath and extend across multiple media.
  13. Digital distribution is now common, so you needn’t be restricted to a limited pagination. For clarity, try to express only one or two key messages per page.
  14. Provide a Toolkit to help the designers get started. This should be a single page overview of your brand look and feel, and including your identity, colours, typographic treatment, imagery and other graphic devices.
  15. Show clear examples of how the brand should look across a full range of different media.
  16. If your brand has been mishandled in the past, consider including a Don’t Do section, showcasing common errors.
  17. When distributing digitally, create an interactive pdf. Hyperlinking your table of contents, email and web addresses will greatly improve usability. Create these in the Master InDesign File and not within Acrobat, to save having to repeat the process with each revision.
  18. Basic contents for brand guidelines should include:
    • Contents
    • Introduction
    • Company Values or Spirit
    • The Big Idea
    • Toolkit
    • Identity
    • Identity Clear Space
    • Copywriting and Tone of Voice
    • Colours
    • Typography
    • Photography
    • Graphic Devices
    • Layout and Grids
    • Applications
    • Overview with examples
    • Further Information
    • Contacts
    • Glossary
  19. More detailed brand guidelines may include:
    • Signage
    • Advertising
    • Stationery
    • Digital and Web
    • Merchandise
    • Co Branding
    • Cultural or Behavioural directions for staff training.
  20. Have your Management Team sign off all design at key stages before going public.
  21. Brand guidelines will not be enforced automatically. Be sure to schedule a review after the launch of your guidelines to ensure that they are being followed and to see where any problem areas may be occurring.
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Filed under: Branding, Tips, , , ,

10 Responses

  1. Bien Alambra says:

    Gentlemen,

    What is the ideal size format for a Corporate Brand Guidelines?
    Is it A3 or A4?

    Thank you

    Bien

    • saatchidesign says:

      Hi Bien,

      It really depends on the client’s individual requirements. Often brand guidelines will need to be printed internally, and therefore A4 is better to suit standard office printers.

      However, if this is not the case, A3 can allow you to show examples (particularly grid applications) in greater detail.

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