Setting up a Brand Stylesheet
There’s often a misconception about what I am actually designing when I style a whole visual brand for my clients. Some people think it’s just the logo. Others might think it’s the entire strategy and positioning of the business. Both of these are slightly correct, but not entirely. When I take on a brand design project, what I’m doing is working with my client to build a foundation of values that we can apply to a visual communication system. That certainly includes a logo, but it’s also about the colour palette, the font systems, brand tones, logo iterations, icons and other elements like patterns along with image style.
It’s so important to put your brand out there in a consistent way. We want to make it as easy as possible for people to interact with your brand (whether that’s through your website, social media accounts, signage...etc.).
The more consistent you are with your visuals, language choices and tones, the easier it is for people to recognize you, remember you and want to follow up with you.
WHAT'S IN A BRAND STYLESHEET?
So what does a brand stylesheet look like? Glad you asked! Here’s an example of one I finished for a client of mine:
1. The Primary Logo:
This is the top of the hierarchy, mainly because I do want the logo to be a great captivator and the first impression of your biz. The logo I put at the top of my stylesheets is the primary logo you’ll use in your brand. This would be the default version if someone asked for your main logo and is often in full colour
2. The Brand Tones:
These are a few key words to describe your brand vibe, or brand approach. Let me break this down into an example: some brands are super feminine. You know the type: vibrant colours, feminine “boss babe” language, script writing, gold + black + white tones...etc. Some brand tones I’d give to a brand like this would include: feminine, playful and uplifting.
Then there are other brands that are bold. These might use curse words or strong language, have solid, strong, geometric fonts, bright colours and daring imagery. Some brand tones I’d give to this stylesheet would include: bold, daring, direct and strong.
The point here is to capture your brand in about 3-5 adjectives that you’ll use when you consider things like the language you use, the way you communicate, the channels you use to communicate, the colours, the fonts, the imagery...etc. This section really does dictate the entire stylesheet!
3. The Brand Colours:
This section represents the colours a brand will use in all of its communications. When it comes time to make that social media graphic for a promo? Primary brand colour please! This is THE best way to get recognized and say consistent in your business. It’s so important to create a foundation that makes it super easy for your audience to catch a glimpse of something and tie it back to your brand in an instant. Colour is one of the most effective ways of accomplishing that.
4. The Brand Fonts:
This is where I see the most inconsistency with businesses, but it’s so important. I see it time and time and time again - people using a slew of all kinds of fonts in their communications. Email lists are totally different from social media posts, which are stark opposite from their website. This is confusing for people and it’s just ineffective in creating that streamlined, easy experience for your community of people.
A font system like this makes it extremely easy for my clients to know what fonts to use and where.
5. The Logo Iterations:
Once I design a primary logo, I’ll move on to the submark or alternate versions. These are iterations of the main logo that can be used in all sorts of different contexts. Logos need to be versatile. That means there are tons of different scenarios where you may need a different colour, version or more compact iteration of your logo.
In this section I always include the different ways my clients can use their logo within their brand.
6. The Brand Elements + Icons:
Often times my clients require some elements to use within their brands on things like business cards, greeting cards and their website. Elements might include a favicon for their web browser, a pattern for their print materials, a specialized or custom button design for their website...etc.
This is the section I would lay all of those requirements out nice and clearly!
7. The Brand Image Style:
Just like choosing one Instagram filter for the rest of your brand’s existence (scary, right?), this section outlines the exact image style that my clients should strive for in their images.
This helps tremendously for social media graphics and also things like website banners and cover photos. The idea here is to create a cohesive vibe in all of your imagery styles, filters, editing approaches and content.
When you step back and look at a stylesheet as a whole, you can start to see the visuals of your brand working together to effectively communicate those brand vibes I mentioned above.
Something like 80% of people (there are mixed sources on this of course, because, well, the Internet…) are visual learners. That means most of us learn through taking things in with our eyes, so to put an effort behind your business’s visual system is crucial in standing out and being more effective in reaching your ideal people.
Not only do visuals play a huge role in the success of delivering your message to the world, but the language you choose and the channels you use to deliver them count too.
Having a professional stylesheet in place for your brand can help keep you on track, stay organized with your material, maintain consistency and look damn professional in your biz! These reasons alone are why I include a brand stylesheet in every single one of my brand design projects instead of designing just a logo.
The best place to start when you're trying to assess your brand is to narrow down exactly what you're business stands for, what you want to do with it, who you're trying to reach and how you're going to reach them.
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