Brand guidelines template: the one document that will your brand be consistent and save you a lot of hassle along the way!
So you’ve decided to go freelance, you have your name for your brand, a logo, but no brand visual identity & guidelines. And that my friend is not good!
hello, I’m your host Kaycinho, I’m a digital alchemist, and this episode, is episode number five of a module dedicated to the creation phase of starting your business, so if you haven’t seen the first four episodes, I invite you to check the module playlist by clicking here.
And by the way, this module is the second module of a course dedicated to take you from the burning desire to become your own boss to actually launching your business. So if you want access to the full course (videos will be added until the course is complete) by clicking here.
Brand guidelines template: branding like a boss
Creating a visual identity is often overlooked, as many businesses think that a visual identity is just a logo, so let me share with you what helped me along my journey, and for those of you that will watch the full video, I have a little present for you that may just help you craft a solid visual identity for the years to come and give you the edge over your uneducated competition.
Now crafting a visual identity is a crucial step in establishing your brand, and just like for crafting a logo, there are two approaches to this:
Brand guidelines template approach 1: do it yourself
You want to do this yourself, and obviously if you’re in the graphic or web design industry that shouldn’t be an issue, but there are also people not in the industry that are good at this.
Brand guidelines template approach 2: use a simple yet effective template
Now before we move on, if you and design are a bit like dogs and cats, you may want to outsource this part, but even if that’s the case, I still encourage you to follow along, because this way you’ll know the process involved and you’ll be able to create a better brief for the creative professional that will work on your brand guidelines template, so all in all, you’ll end up with a faster and cheaper process.
The template I will show you today is not the most comprehensive and complete branding guide out there, but sticking to my principle to get things done, it is simple, powerful and you can get it done in a relative short amount of time.
Now let’s dive into it but we’ll only cover the outline since I have created a template for you, but watch out for additional episodes on the topic in the future and maybe even an upcoming course about branding and visual identity so if you’d be interested in such a course, just let me know in the comments.
Brand guidelines template: the outline
So the best way to create a solid brand identity, is to follow an outline that will lead you to create a brand guidelines template. That’s what I do for my own brands as well as for my clients: it’s helped me tremendously and my clients love it.
Now you may think that crafting such a guide is overkill, especially if you are a one-person-operation type of company, but think about this: let’s say you work with partners or you outsource digital advertising. Instead of constant back and forth about the visuals, the fonts and the correct use of your logo, having a Brand Guidelines Template that you can just send by email will save you a ton of time as well as a lot of unnecessary frustration.
Brand guidelines template: tools you need
Now you can create this guide in pretty much any app like Photoshop, Illustrator, even Google Docs, Google Slides, The Gimp or whatever software you prefer, but for a more streamlined workflow, I’d advise using a software that allow you to create multiple pages in a single document.
Personally, although I use Photoshop to render logo and perspective mockups (and you don’t have to do that, but I just find that it brings the final output to another level), I did actually fall in love with Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer.
These two apps are just so blazing fast, they’re available on both Mac and Windows, and they’re like 50$ each. No monthly payment plan, just a one-off. And these guys are getting it right.
Now don’t expect a 100% Photoshop clone because there are some features that I miss from Photoshop like the smart objects, but other than that these are some great pieces of software, and with both apps, you pretty much cover Photoshop, Illustrator and they have the Affinity Publisher on the roadmap, plus you can open PSD’s and most Illustrator files.
And by the way, this episode is not sponsored by Affinity, I just use and love their products!
Brand guidelines template: I’ve got something for you
Now, cherry on the cake, the good news is that if you have Affinity Designer or Affinity Photo, I’m offering you my own Brand Guidelines Template so that you can craft your own brand guidelines in no time!
To download the template, all you need to do is click on the button below and follow the instructions.
I could actually sell this Brand guidelines template, but I’m offering it to you for free and a tip for you: if you are one of my newsletter subscribers you will also get other freebies from time to time that I only share and mention in the newsletter, because I want to reward my subscribers with high value so if you are not yet subscribed to my newsletter, just click here and follow the steps on screen.
For Adobe users I’ve also created an editable PDF version of the guide so you should be able to use this guide with Adobe Illustrator, but keep in mind that it has been optimized for the Affinity software, and not for Adobe Illustrator.
And if you use Illustrator, unfortunately you will have to edit one page at a time, then hit the save command once you’ve edited a page and repeat the process for the other pages.
If you have Affinity Designer or Affinity Photo though, you can just open the file and all the pages will be editable on screen.
With that out of the way, let’s detail the brand guidelines template and how to edit it, to create your own in 10 steps!
Brand guidelines template: step one
Pages one, two, five, and thirteen of the Brand Guidelines Template are placeholders for images that put your brand logo in contextual situations.
You may use photos, mockups, and so on. Whatever re-enforces your brand in the mind of someone who would pick your Visual Identity Guide and discovering your brand for the first time.
In my case, as mentioned earlier, this is one of the cases where I’ve used Photoshop because there’s a ton of mockups (free and premium) that work with the smart objects feature, but you can also find a few Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo resources, you just have to do more digging around.
You can also simply use the built-in perspective tools and create you own creations or ask your graphic designer to create some for you if you are outsourcing.
Where to get mockups?
As often I will share free and premium resources :
Free: I’ve got a link for you with a whooping 2000+ free mockup templates PSD Designs. Yes you heard it right 2000 free resources, courtesy of cssauthor.com
Premium: how would you like 7000 premium mockups? (Photoshop, Illustrator,InDesign, Sketch) ?
These resources are PSD’s for Photoshop, so all of those can be opened in Affinity software, but you just won’t be able to use the smart objects feature that allow you to perform some actions, such a replacing a distorted placeholder by your logo for example, but as I said previously you can then use the built-in perspective tools to replicate the desired effects if you’re doing this on your own.
Brand guidelines template: step two
On page 4, write down the brand statement that you’ve created after video number one of this module dedicated to “the creation phase of your business”, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about or haven’t yet created your brand statement, I invite you to check that episode.
You can also expand the brand statement to other aspects that you find important.
And remember, just use common sense and approach this exercise with the angle of someone who discovers your brand and picks up your Brand Guidelines Template for the first time. That will help you communicate the essence of your brand.
Brand guidelines template: step three
On page 6, break down and clearly describe the core values of your brand by following this simple outline :
- write down the keywords describing your brand’s core value (maximum four)
- insist on how and when these core values should be implemented
- describe the tone of voice of your brand
Brand guidelines template: step four
On page 7, place your logo, and break down its construction by clearly identifying the fonts used.
That step is pretty straightforward.
Brand guidelines template: step five
On page 8, outline the variations of your logo, such as original, horizontal, vertical, and minimal versions or whatever versions match the use of your logo.
Also, you’ll want to show how your logo looks on a white background versus a dark or colored background.
Brand guidelines template: step six
On page 9, define the correct and incorrect uses of your logo.
That will help partners know what they may or may not do with your logo.
Just imagine that you partner with a popular website in your industry for a joint campaign happening on their website.
Now they may have a cluttered looking website and by clearly defining how your logo should be used, they will know that for example, there should be a minimum of whitespace around your logo, or that they can not change the aspect ratio of it, and trust me I’ve seen that done way too many times.
So having this clearly outlined in your Visual Identity Guide helps cut down unnecessary discussions and at the same time ensure your brand consistency, when your brand is outside of your control.
Brand guidelines template: step seven
On page 10, illustrate your primary and secondary colors.
Make sure you specify the CMYK, RGB and hexadecimal values for each individual colors, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, these are just values that accurately describe a specific color. A quick google search should get you up to speed on that matter.
That will help to use the correct colors without wasting time in different scenarios like crafting a printed panel or a banner for your Google and Facebook Ads.
Brand guidelines template: step eight
On page 11, define the fonts that will be used in contextual situations like on print, on the web, in titles, in paragraphs, and so on.
Now fonts are often overlooked, when actually they are an essential part of a brand’s visual identity, and of good design in general.
I can’t stress this enough! Take the time to research your fonts!
Let me repeat that again: take the time to research your fonts!
If you want to stand out from the crowd but only spent like 23 seconds looking for a font that everybody else uses, what do you expect? That’s not gonna work!
Lately I’ve worked on a project for a client and spent a sheer ten hours looking for two fonts. Why ten hours? Well, to end up with these 2 fonts I ended up testing fifty fonts in context, testing them in various scenarios until I found the harmony that makes for a unique visual identity.
Now where do you get fonts?
As always there are free and premium resources.
For free fonts, I usually go to dafont.com, whereas for premium fonts, there are a lot of resources but some of those are really expensive so I found that a good compromise is to use one of my favorite services online : Envato Elements which I’ve already talked about on this channel, and which is sometimes called the Netflix for creatives.
If you don’t know what Envato Elements is, I suggest you click here and look at what they have to offer.
Basically for a few dollars a month, what you get at the time of recording this video is the following:
- about 800 000 thousand digital assets and growing week after week
- video templates
- graphics, mockups, graphic templates
- Photoshop and Lightroom add-ons
- Powerpoint, Keynote and Google slide templates
- Web and CMS templates and if you subscribe on a yearly basis you can even get WordPress premium themes and plugins!
- you also get 3D objects
- and lately sounds effects and music that you can use commercially and legally on your projects
I personally use Envato Elements and it has changed the game for me BIG TIME.
It’s a gain of time and a gain of money because that service is dirty cheap for what you get.
And before you ask, no this video is not sponsored by Envato, I just love their service, and really think that given the price, this is a very interesting service if you plan on doing things professionally.
And as mentioned, I only recommend stuff that I use and love, so I hope that you will enjoy your subscription as much as I do!
Brand guidelines template: step nine
On page twelve, describe your domain names, your domain name strategy and your social media assets.
Brand guidelines template: step ten
On page fourteen, describe the visual imagery that comes with your brand’s visual identity.
Does it use the cartoon type? Or the photographic type? Is it colorful? Or is it black and white? Do all your image have a blue overlay? Must there always be a human faces in your imagery, or do you focus more on tech?
See where I’m getting at?
Also, describe any technical information about the imagery that should be used with your brand, such as the aspect ratio, the preferred file formats, and so on.
And on page fifteen, put a visual that illustrates what you just described in text. It can be either one picture or a picture wall.
Brand guidelines template: get to work!
Well, I hope that this episode gave you a clear outline on how to create your very own Brand Guidelines Template for the years to come!
I’d like to know what are the challenges you are faced with and also if you’ve ever used a Brand Guidelines Template, let me know in the comments.
If you watched the companion video and if you like it, please give it a thumbs up, as it really helps growing the channel and if you know someone that could benefit from it, I’m going to ask you if you’d like to share it now.
Because let’s face it, there are so many things to do in a day that if you don’t do it now you’ll probably forget.
Now if you want to brand, market and grow your business it in the Digital Age make sure you subscribe to my email newsletter so that you never miss your share of digital alchemy and tips, tools, services and case studies that can help you grow your business online.
So, that’s it for this video, and in the next one we’ll discuss about how to create a website for your business.
I hope to see you around here or on the Youtube channel, and in the meantime, don’t forget to invest in YOUR success!