Developing Brand Identity Guidelines - Part 3: Brand Manual Formatting, Design, and Checklist

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Posted Nov 11, 2011
Susan Gunelius

Now that you've learned what a brand manual is and why you need one in Part 1 of the Developing Brand Identity Guidelines series and what goes in a brand manual in Part 2, it's time to learn how to format and design your own manual. Here you'll get all the details as well as a brand identity guidelines checklist.

brand identity guidelines

Brand Identity Manual Design

One of the most important things you need to understand about creating a brand identity manual is that the formatting and design of the actual manual can have a significant effect on how well it's received and how effectively it's used.

The first rule of brand identity guidelines design is this:

Format and design your manual to match your brand identity guidelines.

Every part of your brand identity manual should be in compliance with your brand guidelines from the layout to the fonts and color palette. Everything should match.

Think of it this way, if you can't produce a brand manual that follows your brand guidelines, why should anyone else care about producing branded materials and communications that comply?

Brand Identity Manual Formatting

There are some commonly accepted formatting techniques used in brand identity manuals that can make your guidelines easier to read, understand, remember, and follow. Some of these techniques are listed below:

  • Divide the manual up into sections such as the 10 listed in Part 2 of this series.
  • Include a table of contents and make sure it's clickable by section and parts within sections. For example, the Layouts and Grids section could include a part about packaging, a part about presentations, a part about ads, and so on.
  • Offer the manual in PDF format and make it clickable, so it's easy to navigate from one section to another.
  • Include a section that provides resources and links for further information.
  • Include a contacts page.
  • Include a link for downloadable logos, fonts, and so on.
  • Include specific information for when approvals need to be obtained for third-party logo use and how to get those permissions.
nc state university brand book

The NC State University Brand Book pictured above is a great example of a brand manual. The Saatchi & Saatchi Design Blog also provides some great tips for formatting and designing a brand manual.

Brand Identity Guidelines Checklist

To help you get started in creating your brand identity manual, use the checklist below to ensure you include the minimum elements that are relevant to your brand and business.

  • Stationery and Communications Letterhead
  • Envelopes
  • Business cards
  • Fax cover sheets
  • Shipping labels
  • Invoices, receipts, purchase orders, and other forms
  • Notepads, binders, etc.
  • Email signatures
  • Marketing, Public Relations, and Sales presentations
  • Ads
  • Trade show and event displays
  • Video introductions and closings
  • Media kit
  • Press releases
  • Packaging
  • Co-branded ads, materials, etc.
  • Promotional items
  • Point-of-sale displays
  • Signage building
  • Vehicles
  • Websites
  • Blogs
  • Online ads
  • Twitter profile
  • Facebook page
  • Other social media profiles  

Your business will likely add to the above checklist as you find more instances where brand consistency is required, and some businesses might not have a need for vehicle signage or other elements in the above list. Furthermore, remember that your brand identity guidelines are likely to need tweaking as your brand and business evolve. The goal is to maintain brand consistency with flexibility in your guidelines.

Stay tuned for Part 4 of the Developing Brand Identity Guidelines series where I'll provide examples of brand manuals to learn from as well as some creative brand guidelines that break the mold and are very effective.

If you missed earlier parts of the series, follow the links below to read them now:

Image: stock.xchng, NC State Brand Book

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