The main difference we see between more established brands and startups is their ability to be consistent with marketing and communications. That’s because larger companies and brands have made a conscious effort to:
- Get their branding and communications designed professionally
- Make sure all documents and other communication design that reaches the customer have had the same treatment and look like they belong to the same brand
While this is easy to say, in practice, maintaining visual cohesiveness in marketing materials is difficult. Especially where the company has many people and multiple teams producing business communications.
This is where a brand manual comes in. This document has many names: Brand Manual, Standard Manual, Style Guide, Branding Guide- but they all are more or less, a rule book of how to consistently represent the brand in business communications.
Brand manuals will vary greatly in scope and complexity, but will typically contain at least:
- Information relating to the Trademarks, Logo and Brandmarks
- Their variations, orientations, how they may be used and what to avoid
- minimum sizes the should be reproduced at to retain legibility
- Typographic specifics
- Typefaces families in use
- Colour Palette
- Primary colours
- Examples of all of the different communication designs that have been designed for the brand
- Image Choice and Treatment to maintain the feel and brand personality
Naturally, the larger the company and larger the product range a more complex and elaborate set of design rules must be documented.
The brand manual, in practice, is used by designers, whether in-house or external, marketing companies, printers and just about anyone else who is responsible for creating visual communication materials for a brand.
The importance of a brand manual is immediately apparent in companies where everyone takes design choices into their own hands and colour, type, image style and layout become a random affair and the company marketing materials fall apart and look terrible – and even worse, unrecognisable.