One key way to develop your brand is to create a set of design rules that tie together the look and feel of all your marketing materials. These rules are often referred to as “brand standards”.Ideally, brand standards create awareness of your brand and differentiate your brand from that of your competition.Think you’re not big enough to worry about your brand? It’s recommended that even the smallest companies develop and maintain brand standards from the very beginning.
The breadth and depth of your brandstandards can vary greatly, depending on your needs. Keep in mind that ifyou’re too strict, you may limit yourself creatively, while if you’re tooloose, design chaos can result. Focus on strategy and consistency in thefollowing five areas:
1.Logo. There’s perhaps no single more importantelement to your brand standards than the consistent use of your logo. Firstly,never alter or redraw your logo. Secondly, its placement and sizing shouldremain consistent within each communication vehicle (for example, yourletterhead, brochures, postcards, fliers, etc.). Rules can vary according tothe type of material you’re using for your logo, but they shouldn’t varydrastically. And if you want to look like a large company, remember this irony:the bigger the company, the smaller the logo.
2.Graphics. Use distinctive symbols and shapes in aconsistent way. Choosing the same basic graphic elements will help customersremember your brand faster. Also, be consistent when using borders and/orbackgrounds – or show a pattern of consistency that complies with your brandstandards. For example, you could choose a cupid-themed border for aValentine’s Day ad and a clover-themed border for a St. Patrick’s Day ad. Inboth cases, your border should be consistent in size and/or weight (the amountof emphasis it receives relative to the other elements on the page).
3.Colours. Colour is one of the most importantcomponents when it comes to brand identity. The colours you choose will make animmediate impression on your audience and play a large role in memoryretrieval. Therefore, colour can significantly impact on someone’s perception ofyour brand. For example, gold, silver and burgundy are perceived to be upscale,while green is viewed as fresh and healthy. So, research and/or test-marketcertain colours before you commit to a palette.An easy way to do this is to createseparate brochures or advertisements in three or four different colourpalettes, then survey various people for feedback. It is also important toremember that colours have different meanings in different cultures.
4.Fonts. Choose just a handful of fonts to use on allyour materials, selecting at least one serif font and one sans-serif font.Serif fonts have “feet” at the bottom of the font to guide the reader’s eye,while sans-serif fonts don’t. Times is an example of a serif font; Helvetica isan example of a sans-serif font. Serif fonts work well in paragraphs or bodycopy because they give the eye something to “hang onto”. Sans-serif fontsshould be reserved for headlines, numbers in charts, very small text or textthat’s reversed out of a colour. As a general rule, you should use no more thantwo fonts in a document, although a third, decorative font could be usedsparingly.
5.Illustrative or photographic style. Consider whattype of visuals or pictures you want to feature on your marketing materials.Will your visuals consist of illustrations or photos? Try to stick with one orthe other. Regardless of your choice, your visuals should be similar in styleand colour usage – black and white, four-colour, two-colour, etc. When you’ve identified rules for the aboveareas, write them down and distribute them to any employee or vendor – such asa designer or printer – who may need to reference them. Your brand standardswill go a long way towards building your brand equity. It’s worth the time andeffort to do it right.
Setting Brand Standards
- Logo. Ensure your logo is consistent on all your printed and digital material – pay attention to size and position
- Graphics. Use distinctive graphics – bold, but simple
- Colours. Pick colours from a printer’s swatch book. Pantone Inks are the most dependable for consistency
- Fonts. Select a set of fonts that represent the character of your business. Ensure they are easy to read. ‘Busy’ fonts should be used sparingly
- Illustrations & Photos. Use photos or illustrations that are consistent in style – do not mix and match