What are brand guidelines?
A company’s brand guidelines are a collection of documents which set out how to use the design elements of a company’s brand.
The brand guidelines should be developed to complement the company’s house style which sets out the language to describe the company and what it does. Some elements of a company’s communication (such as standard letter templates and email footers) involve both graphic design and wording (see the article on writing technique for more information on house style and agreed wording).
 Who are they for?
Most brand guidelines are produced for the company’s employees and representatives to ensure the company is presented in a coherent way.
Additionally, some events, shows and projects produce guidelines for contractors and their designers to ensure there is consistency in the application of a project-specific brand. For example, at a rock show the brand guidelines would ensure the lighting designer on a stage set would specify the correct pantone for a colour wash.
 What makes a good brand?
A good brand communicates the key elements of a company’s identity, its brand values. What this is and how it is perceived will depend on the goods or service being offered and the market that is being targeted.
 How does a brand work?
Brands communicate using a range of techniques, some of which are obvious and some of which are more subtle. A good brand works on every level and communicates the desired message to the company’s target audience.
This may be through:
- The logo.
- The colour-ways associated with the logo.
- The typeface (for example, sans serif implying stability or modernity, or with serif implying academic status or trustworthiness).
- The font size.
- Image selection (for example, always moody and black and white, or always bright colours and smiling faces).
 How to get started
A company needing to create a brand should start by appointing an internal team and agreeing a management structure. The project’s progress can stall if responsibilities and the decision-making process are not clear in advance. Most branding projects work well when there is a single point of contact within the company, and a senior team signing off decisions at key points.
 Prepare a brief
It is very important that the internal team agree what it is that they expect their brand to represent and what they expect their brand to include. Brand design projects which change direction part way through the process end up costing more. If a fixed fee has been agreed with the designer it may be necessary to recompense them for additional work. Frequent changes of direction means good will between parties can become strained.
It can be helpful to break the work into stages so that the designer can cost each stage, and the company has the option to pause the brand design project or review its direction.
Generally brand design projects fall into three main stages:
- Initial concepts – there may need to be discussion as to how many iterations the designer anticipates.
- Detailed design – there needs to be clarity about which documents the company needs to be designed and the format in which they are to be delivered. A suggested list is included below.
- Associated design work – the company will need to roll out its new design, and may require work to its website, graphic work on vehicles etc. The company needs to consider any input or checking required from the designer.
The internal team then need to Identify potential designers. They may develop a short list through recommendation, internet research or by looking in the design press.
If the company has the resources, it can be helpful to ask short-listed candidates to undertake a paid pitch to undertake concept work. This establishes good will and can help enable up-and-coming designers to show their skills on an equal footing with more experienced agencies.
It can be helpful to set a task for candidates to undertake and to allow each candidate a set number of hours to spend on that task. This makes the work presented easier to compare.
If this is not possible, it may be sufficient to ask candidates to bring a portfolio of previous work to interview. Good designers create designs which fulfil their clients’ requirements, so ascertaining the brief for portfolio projects is important.
 Initial meeting
An initial meeting or series of meetings should be held with the designer and relevant parties in the company. The designer will want to get a good feel for the company, what it does and what is unique about its work, as well as understanding the wider field in which the company operates.
It is helpful for the company to provide:
- Its business plan detailing where it aims to be in its marketplace.
- Its brand values and a written description of what the company does (see Company information in 'Writing technique').
- Details of any previous design work that has been carried out.
- A list of direct competitors so the designer can see the visual impact of other companies in the marketplace.
- Details and samples of websites, books and design work which the company likes and aspires to (not necessarily in the same field).
 Initial concepts
Most designers start with a logo, but the concept work undertaken will depend on the brief. It is advisable for the company to ask the designer to create more than one concept. Some designers prefer not to, but most clients find it much easier to see and comment on a range of ideas in the early stages.
The designer should present this work to the company and undertake iterations of redesigns until the company is satisfied. (It is advisable to agree a capped number of iterations in advance so that the client and designer are both clear how many redesigns can be undertaken before additional payment is required).
The designer should apply the brand to the company’s documents. This may include the following information and design work:
- Details of the company’s typeface, its use and size.
- The reasons for its selection, what it is felt to convey.
- The main logo and where it is used, its size(s) and alignments.
- Secondary logos and how they are used (such as the continuation sheet logo - see below).
- Specific aspects of the logo, how to talk about the logo to clients.
- The company’s colours (with CMYK and Pantone references).
- Where the colours are used.
 Business cards
- Information included on the business card.
- A graphic of how it is laid out.
 Sample letter
- Where the address and date are to be placed.
- Possibly an electronic version as well as a printed version (which will be on letterhead and therefore not include a logo/company details within the template).
 Continuation sheet
- The continuation sheet is a page with a logo but reduced company information. This may require different designs depending on its end use.
 Sample report designs in A4 and A3
- These should show how to manage headings and subheadings.
- They should also include details such as header sheets, contents pages, footers, dates and margins.
- They should show how to incorporate a range of images in different sizes and formats so that employees are able to use the templates with ease.
- This should include an individual’s landline, mobile and email details.
- It should have the company's details.
- It may have a particular logo or colour-way.
- Some companies use the footer space to announce awards or company news.
- It may include a legal disclaimer.
 Image selection and use guidelines
- The designer should create guidelines for the selection of images.
- This may refer to colour-ways, angle or detail of the shot, or other branding requirements.
- The company should be able to use this information to develop an image bank of suitable shots for use in branded materials.
 Other documents
- Invoice templates.
- Drawing title blocks.
- Project case study templates.
- Bid templates.
- Presentation templates in different packages (such as Powerpoint).
 Brand guidelines
The designer should produce a document to enable the company to apply the brand itself. This should include screen grabs of each designed document showing how margins should be managed and templates applied.
The brand guidelines should also include printing notes and templates for lithographic printing and digital printing (for more information on printing methods, see 'Getting published'). The designer should specify any relevant dimensions as well as detailing paper stocks and materials as necessary.
 Associated design work
Associated work on a company’s website, graphic work on vehicles etc can take place as part of the detailed design work or as a separate project.
 Roll out
It is very important that a brand is applied consistently. Time should be spent ensuring that every member of the company understands the new brand and how to apply it.
The company needs to ensure all computers are updated with the new templates.
It is helpful to schedule a review of the brand three to six months after it has been launched. The designer should be asked to assess its application and address any issues which have arisen through use.
This article was created by --Kurz Gestaltung 12:31, 19 September 2012 (BST)
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Architectural publishing.
- Getting published.
- Notation and symbols.
- Paper sizes.
- Self publishing for architects.
- Symbols on architectural drawings.
- Technical notes on architectural publishing.
- Using publishing to optimise real estate projects.
- Writing technique.
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