The Importance of Visual Brand Standards
You've invested the time and money to have a logo professionally created—an important step in branding your business. But it's not the only step. Your logo is part of your brand, not the whole of it. That's why setting a visual brand standard, or style guide, is important. During the development of your logo, certain choices were made in things like color and typeface, and it's from these things that the visual component of your brand will grow.
When it comes to development of a website, print collateral or any marketing material really, the brand should direct all design decisions in these processes. There needs to be specific directions for how to handle it, partly because there will likely be different people or organizations handling these designs.
A brand standard will let each of these entities know exactly how to handle your image. Typefaces need to be chosen and adhered to. Placement of your logo should be spelled out. Colors need to be defined and recorded. If you have a certain shade of blue representing the majority of your brand, that shade should be known (very specifically) to any designer working on your collateral. It keeps designers from making mistakes. Not only that, but designers have a strong desire to respect your brand. Having a list of restrictions and options will allow them to be comfortable making important decisions on your behalf.
Your brand standard can be as defined or as loose as you choose, and the level to which it restricts will often depend on the business you're in. For an entity like NASA, there is a need for extremely strict use of branding. Not coincidentally, the organization’s brand standard is dozens of pages long, covering logo placement on vehicles and aircraft, type on uniforms and public marketing material—it spells out exactly what can and cannot be done in almost every imaginable instance.
For the mom-and-pop shop on the corner, the restrictions do not need to be nearly as airtight, but it’s in the store’s best interest to make sure their postcard colors match their website. It presents a far more professional image, and gives consistency in the marketplace, which in turn makes a brand more easily recognized and remembered.
When it comes to setting up a brand, consistency really is key. Having a manual that spells out expectations is a great way to ensure that consistency.