As a craft business or small business, it seems we are used to DIYing everything from the logo to labels to marketing and selling our product to… and the list goes on and on. In today’s world of distractions, to be successful means having a strong brand presence. You can’t always control what happens on the internet, but one thing you can have complete control over is how you’re viewed visually. Therefore, the best way to stay consistent is to put together a Style Guide (in which you can download a template here) that you can reference again and again.
Now there are tons of online versions you can look at (issuu.com has a bunch ). If you check out the Sony Style Guide you’ll notice one thing first, it’s crazy long! By all means do you not need to go into depth for your craft business or small business, but it shows how brand consistency across all touchpoints (places where your viewers see your brand, anywhere) is crucial to building a solid and recognizable brand.
A Style Guide consists of the following 'brand assets'
What your business is all about. Includes your mission, values, and vision of your company.
Typography. Hierarchy is crucial for readers to easily understand what is on a page, and what is most important.
Color Palette. Colors are the easiest way for people to recognize a brand. Can you think of a brand that’s red?
Tone of Voice. Your content, and the way you say it, is the most crucial part of your brand. Your voice must reflect your mission, values, and be relatable to your clientele.
Iconography. Icons add additional understanding to readers what you’re talking about.
Imagery. Of course custom imagery is the best, but what else can you use that enhances your brand? This style guide can help with determining what stock imagery works with your brand.
Forms. Simple ways to get in touch with you.
Buttons. Call to Actions (CTAs) that direct your audience to do a certain thing.
Spacing. Allowing breathing room for readers to digest your content, and it keeps everything looking visually consistent.
Do’s & Don’ts. Look into how to properly use other brand’s logos. If you’re passing the job, or in the future, to a designer or developer, I would highly suggest taking some time on how you want your logo to be used in your style guide.
How Do I Start?
First, determine your mission, values, and vision. This is probably the hardest yet most important aspect of building your style guide because it directs your business visually, emotionally, and determines what decisions you make.
For the mission I would ask myself:
“Why did I get started in the first place?”
“Why is this important to me?”
“Why should other people care?”
Next I’d brainstorm my vision:
“What is the final outcome I want to see with my business?”
“What would make me feel accomplished?”
“What kind of impact do I want to have?”
Your values become adjectives to these answers. For example, I started a candle hobby business because I wanted to help use natural aromatherapy and smells to change people moods. My values could be something like “All natural, de-stressing people’s lives, using smells to change your mood.” A vegan cookie company’s values would be about having organic, natural, and vegan products. The company would stay true to and push these values.
Next, I would work on the most important part, the content. This is where you put in the personality and spunk in your brand presence. If you’re a serious brand, you shouldn’t have smiley faces and emoticons everywhere. If you’re more on the quirky side, you shouldn’t be talking just about your product. Having this in your style guide is crucial if you’re thinking about outsourcing any branding work, online and in print because it gives a deeper understanding for the designer of your brand.
Bring in a piece of you. People relate to people, not products or brands. Just don’t get stuck, the beauty of the internet is that it’s adaptable; you can evolve.
The Rest is the Fun Part, the Visuals.
Typography & Spacing.
There’s a lot of fun fonts out there, but make sure that readability is number 1. Consistent spacing between different font styles helps with readability too. Also don’t mix too many different style of fonts for your brand. Start off with Google Web Fonts to search for fonts because they’re free to download and use online. A good rule of thumb for fonts, if you have a Serif style logo, have a san-serif subheader and a book version or easy to read serif font for paragraph text.
Take inspiration from your existing logo, packaging, or promo material. If you haven’t dialed in a color palette for your brand, now’s the time. Don’t forget about background colors and button hover-overs, and while you’re at it, find the hex#, cmyk, and pantone numbers for your colors (I use rgb.to). You’ll be thankful for future projects. To find color schemes, I use color.adobe.com, find my main color and play from there.
Find styles of icons that go with your brand because it will add to your tone of voice. If you’re a handmade craft, a more sketchy icon may fit, while if you’re a more modern small business clean thin icons would suit your brand better.
Forms & Buttons.
Mainly for your website, but also take advantage of buttons and form opportunities on social media platforms. Having these buttons and forms stand out and simple to understand will call your audience to do something you want, and all of the content around the button or form should build onto what you want them to do. Keep forms simple in order to get more interaction. If people don’t feel like they’re giving their life away for a free template or to signup for your newsletter, they will more likely opt-in.
We can’t always take the time and/or money for custom photography. So to fill in the gaps, look online for stock photos that fit the mood/feeling of your brand. It could be how the product is presented, nature photos that fit your brand’s personality, or find imagery of activities that your target audience also likes.
Do’s & Don’ts for your logo.
If you’re outsourcing designs, it is crucial to define what you can and can’t do with your logo because you don’t want to be misrepresented. Your logo is your image of your business, and if it looks bad, it makes your business look bad. Some things to consider on what to and not to do:
- Changing colors
- Adding Gradient
- Tilting it at an angle
- Spacing – breathing room around other text/objects
- Removing or adding elements to the logo
Having a strong brand online is a simple way to stand out over your competition, build a reputation, and share what you’re passionate about. Get a step ahead and download my free Style Guide Template to get started!