What Is a Brand Manual?
Style guide. Brand guide. Brand guidelines. The brand bible. These are all marketing speak for a brand manual. Brand manuals are the instruction manual and rulebook for your brand identity. Brand manuals can be dense tomes, or they can be short and sweet. Either way, they are an essential tool.
What Should Brand Manuals Include?
There is no right or wrong way to build a brand manual, but at the very least they should include guidance on:
- The logo. This includes details about what the logo looks like and how it should be used. Be sure to note variations in usage, including full color, one color, reversed color, and any exceptions including different logos for vertical or horizontal scenarios.
- Color. Include a breakdown for each color in the logo. This includes specifying CMYK, RGB, HEX and Pantone values. Also include any supporting colors the brand uses and their color breakdowns.
- Typography. Call out what typefaces are used in the logo. Also list any supporting typefaces used with the brand, such as body copy on the website or in brochures. Note if you are using an entire family of a typeface or just a single one.
How Detailed Should Our Manual Be?
Every company is different, but in general, the more detail you include in your brand manual, the better.
Take stock of your business. If you sell a physical product, does it make sense for your brand manual to have packaging design information? If social media is a bigger part of your marketing strategy, do you have guidance for templates or image style? Depending on your operations, you may want to dig into:
- Examples of collateral (e.g., stationery, brochures and social media posts)
- Common mistakes (e.g., stretching the logo, using unapproved colors, etc.)
- Photography style
- Iconography style
- Supporting graphics (i.e., any elements used frequently)
- Website and social media information
- Writing guidelines (e.g., AP style)
- Video style
- Values/mission statement
- Company history
What Issues Can Be Resolved With a Brand Manual?
TOO MANY TO COUNT. But here are some immediate scenarios where a brand manual can save you time and energy:
- Quick Reference. You want to order some uniforms for your employees. The vendor needs to know what Pantone colors you need for your logo. You could contact your designer or simply peruse the brand manual.
- Team Communications. You have a team of people and they are all using different versions of the logo or altering the logo to fit their specific needs. Circulating a brand manual can help promote consistency and tamp down on logo misuse.
- Outside Vendor Use. You need to use software from an outside vendor that your customer will interact with. With a brand manual to reference, the vendor can style the software for a cohesive customer experience.
- Onboarding. An employee abruptly resigns, leaving you to hire a new social media manager. Having a brand manual at the ready can empower your new hire to hit the ground running on day one.
In Short, You Need a Brand Manual
Your identity is more than just a logo. A brand manual reins the many facets of your identity into a single document. It ensures that the brand stays consistent and cohesive. Whether you are a small business or a large company, a brand manual is your compass.
If you already have an established identity, but no brand manual, it’s never too late to have a designer create a bespoke one for you. If you’re starting a new brand identity, be sure to add a brand manual to your must-have list.