Design Your Company’s Brand Guidelines In 6 Simple Steps

Graphic with text, design your brand guidelines in six steps.

Designing your company’s brand guidelines early on can save you a lot of heartache going forward. When your one-person operation evolves into a business with many different teams, departments and sub-departments, brand guidelines ensure that the content you present to the outside world has a unified and cohesive appearance.

Better yet, brand guidelines can save you time in the long run. Have you ever been in one of those senior meetings where three (or more) of your best people end up arguing over font size? A clear set of brand guidelines eliminates these kinds of debate, allowing your decision makers to focus on more important tasks.

Ready to design your brand guidelines? Follow these six simple steps to successful branding:

  1. Choose a logo (and think carefully about composition)
  2. Pick a colour palette
  3. Decide on typography
  4. Showcase your brand images
  5. Include examples of correct and incorrect usage
  6. Put your brand guidelines together in a brand manual
Guidelines for Exposure Ninja colour usage.

Our branding guidelines include notes on which colours are permitted for the logo

Perhaps the most important element of your brand guidelines is your logo. Your brand guidelines need to include your official logo, as well as advice on composition and use cases. The more details here, the better. What are the exact colours of each element of your logo (including each colour’s hex code)? How should each element of the logo be positioned in relation to each other element and at what angle?

It’s important to think about how your logo might be used in different environments. For example, how should your logo work with a circular background, a square background and a rectangular background? How should your logo look as a favicon, on Facebook and elsewhere on social media? And how should it look against a white background and a dark background?

The beloved software company Slack recently redesigned its logo, which upset a lot of Slack’s long-term users. But the decision makers behind the change explained why they had to make them in an excellent blog post. I recommend you read that post before making a decision on your logo, as it illustrates how logo design can go wrong and how difficult it is to fix a problematic logo later on!

2. Pick a Colour Palette for Your Brand

Permitted primary colours for Exposure Ninja's branding

Exposure Ninja’s branding guidelines also state which colours are permitted for use

After you’ve decided on a logo, the next step is to decide on a suitable colour palette for your brand. Colour is an important way of distinguishing your brand identity, so it helps to take a look at what your competitors are doing. It’s also worth thinking about what your company stands for and choosing colours that support that position.

If your company has a number of different products and services, you might use different colours to distinguish your products from one another. Internally, you might use different colours to represent different departments. Having said that, even if your colour palette does include different colours, those colours should have some unifying characteristics. For example, you might choose a number of fun pastels.

Don’t forget to include a colour hex code for each colour and consider how other visual elements, such as text or your logo, will look against your colour backgrounds.

Example of primary colours in use for our podcast branding.

Our primary colours in use in our digital marketing podcast branding

3. Decide on Typography to Express Your Brand Identity

Example of Exposure Ninja's typography sizes and styles.

Our branding guidelines also include rules for font usage

Font is about more than just a font type, size and style (although those elements are important too!) Think about how your brand will express headings, subheadings, standard text and much more. Should headings be capitalised? If so, which capitalisation format should be used? Should subheadings follow different capitalisation rules to titles? These may appear to be minor points, but deciding on a single rule and enforcing it early on is much easier than wading back through your website when you have well over a thousand (or more) live pages.

When deciding on a font type, think about how your employees work and when they will need access to it. While custom fonts are brilliant for branding, the drawback is that you’ll need to make sure that each employee has access to those fonts from day one.

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4. Showcase Your Product Icons and Brand Mascots

Graphic of Shinobi, the Exposure Ninja mascot

Shinobi is the mascot of Exposure Ninja

You might find it useful to express your brand identity via an icon or an image. For example, while Google’s brand logo is the company name in the famous blue, red, yellow and green lettering, the Gmail product icon is a picture of a white envelope with four red lines. This helps users distinguish between Google the company and Gmail as one of many different Google products.

At Exposure Ninja, we developed Shinobi, our brand mascot, alongside our logo, colour palette and typography. Our brand icon enables us to give documents or images a unique Ninja stamp, even in places where our logo wouldn’t work. Your brand guidelines should include all product icons and brand mascots, as well as clear usage guidance.

5. Include Examples of Correct and Incorrect Usage of Your Brand Guidelines

Examples of bad Exposure Ninja usage.

We also include examples of incorrect logo usage in our guidelines

If your company lasts for any substantial length of time, your employees will be tempted at some point to misuse your logo. Most often, this will happen when someone needs to resize your logo for a different use case and they take a shortcut, rather than ask the designer for help…

Don’t let this slide! By including clear examples of how your brand materials should and should not be used in your brand guidelines, you demonstrate to the rest of your team that your brand image needs to be treated with respect.

6. Put Your Brand Guidelines Together in a Brand Manual

Exposure Ninja's branding guideline front page.

All of our branding rules are compiled into a singular set of branding guidelines for everyone to follow

The final and most important step in designing your company’s brand guidelines is to put everything together in an accessible brand manual. Your brand manual should be something that your entire company knows where to find. Be sure to review your brand manual at least once a year. While your branding shouldn’t change too often, it’s worth reviewing your branding guidance as your company grows to be sure that everything is still aligned.

Throughout this blog, I’ve included references to the Exposure Ninja brand manual. For more inspiration, you can also check out Google’s visual asset guidelines and Twitter’s brand guidelines.

Want to learn more about brand guidelines? Subscribe to the Exposure Ninja Podcast. We discuss branding with some of the brightest minds in the business, including Disney World’s very own former Executive Vice President Lee Cockerell.

And as always, if you want a free and completely bespoke review of your website by a living, breathing human being, get in touch with us!

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