Developing Brand Identity Guidelines – Part 2: What’s in a Brand Identity Manual

In Part 1 of the Developing Brand Identity Guidelines series, you learned what brand identity guidelines are and why you need them for your brand. Now, it’s time to learn what goes into a brand identity manual, so you can create comprehensive guidelines that explain how your brand elements should be used across all communications touch points.

brand identity guidelinesThe best brand identity guidelines are lengthy documents that spell out exactly how the brand can be used in all media, communications, and so on. This article explains the most common parts of a brand manual, so you can create a comprehensive guide from the start.

1. Brand Essence

Your brand identity guidelines should begin with a complete strategic overview of your brand. Explain your brand values, brand promise, brand image and message, and goals.

2. Logo and Tagline

Your brand’s logo is the most valuable tangible symbol of your brand, so you need to make sure everyone understands exactly how it is to be used. Offer horizontal and vertical representations of your logo as well as logos with and without your brand tagline if you use one. Include logo designs for brand extensions as well. Specify acceptable sizes the logo can be reproduced at as well. For example, what is the minimum size that your logo can be reproduced and still be legible? Also, specify the colors the logo can be reproduced in.

bing logo guidelines

3. Color Palette

Provide the specific Pantone (PMS) colors of the brand color palette. Include primary, secondary, and tertiary colors at minimum. Identify how these colors should be used in the logo and in branded communications. It’s also important to provide the RGB, HEX, and CMYK equivalents of the colors in your color palette for varied uses.

4. Typography

Identify the specific fonts that should be used in branded communications, including typeface size, line height, kerning, and so on if your brand fonts are customized in any way. Furthermore, specify the fonts that can be used in header vs. body text, online, offline, and so on.

5. Positioning, Size, and Clear Space

Your brand identity guidelines also need to explain where your logo can be positioned in ads, on promotional items, on letterhead, on business cards, and so on. Similarly, include instructions related to acceptable sizes and the amount of clear space that should be around your logo or other brand elements at all times. For example, it’s very common for brand guidelines to state that there must be clear space around the logo that is at least half the width (or height) of the logo.

6. Imagery

The photos and images used in your branded materials and communications say a lot about your brand persona and need to match consumer expectations based on your brand promise. Therefore, your brand manual needs to show examples of the types of imagery to be used. For example, is it okay to use cartoons in branded materials or are only professional photos of real people allowed?

7. Voice and Style

The voice, tone, and style of the messaging and copywriting in your branded communications are critical to developing your brand. To ensure consistency, you need to include instructions related to voice and style. For example, should branded communications be written in a friendly, uncomplicated style or a highly professional, technical style? Furthermore, if you have specific style requirements related to grammar rules, word usage, and so on, include those instructions in your brand manual.

8. Trademarks and Intellectual Property

If your business owns specific trademarks or intellectual property, you may be required by law to use specific wording or styling in your branded communications. For example, is a service mark, trademark, or registered mark required after your brand name? These types of requirement need to be included in your brand identity guidelines.

9. Layouts and Grids

To make things as simple and error-proof as possible, it’s a good idea to include templates for common uses of your logo and brand elements. For example, include a template complete with specific measurements and dimensions for all elements for your business cards, stationery, co-branded advertising, presentations, promotional items, and so on.

10. Application Examples

You can either include examples of brand applications throughout your brand identity guidelines (recommended) along with examples of how to use your brand elements the wrong way, or you can include a separate section filled with the do’s and don’ts of how to use your logo and brand elements across varied applications.

In Part 3 of the Developing Brand Identity Guidelines series, you’ll learn more about brand identity guidelines formatting and design as well as get a brand identity checklist that you can use to create your own brand manual, so stay tuned! If you missed Part 1 of the series, follow the link to read it now. And to get some more insights related to developing brand identity guidelines, be sure to read AYTM Co-founder and CEO Lev Mazin’s thoughts below.

lev quote

Image: stock.xchng, Bing Brand Guidelines

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius, MBA is a 25-year marketing and branding expert and President and CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She is the author of 10 books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com. She is also the Founder and Editor in Chief of WomenOnBusiness.com, an award-winning blog for business women.