How to create the ultimate brand style guide

The identity of any business, organization, product, or services starts with a logo. But as we know a brand identity is so much more than just a logo. So the question is — how do we transform a logo into a recognizable and lasting brand? That is a question we will explore in this article.

When it comes to building a business that lasts, it's essential to pay attention to your brand identity. Whether it's an in-store poster or store front, on social media, print, events, merchandise collateral, or internal documents, your branding will help communicate who you are to your customer.

Whether it’s Dove, Thank You, Glossier, YouTube, or Google, all these companies have one thing in common. A strong brand presence. And while they offer a wide range of products and services, they all have a clearly identity through their use of logos, fonts, colors, images and their brand story within every customer touchpoint.

In the article below, we will explore how to create a brand style guide from scratch.

What is a brand style guide?

The secret to your brand’s success is brand consistency, and the best way to do this is with a brand style guide. Also known as a brand book, brand bible, or visual style guide, this essential document navigates every person on your team towards your brand identity. Whether they are an agency, social media influencer, designer, or from the marketing and product packaging department, web developers, or the online team, brand guidelines ensure everyone stays on the same page to help present a unified vision of the brand to the public.

The best brand style guide examples

The following are three fantastic examples of brand guidelines from Uber, Starbucks, and YouTube.


In a recent rebrand, Uber shifted from what we knew as a rideshare company to a platform for global mobility that is people-focused; hence its newly updated slogan, "Move the way you want." A key feature of Uber's brand is its bespoke, typographic logo that exudes simplicity to reflect Uber's universal 'beyond simple' brand and be visually legible across 13+ languages. Uber's brand tone of voice is approachable, friendly, and relatable, and this is personified in all their messaging.

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Starbucks is one of the world's most iconic brands. To establish strong recognition, Starbucks consistently utilizes and maintains the Siren logo in all stores worldwide. Their mix of marketing and social media communications all feature the core elements of the brand that have been thoughtfully implemented — from its palette of greens, the tight family of versatile typefaces, to the artful graphics and expressive illustrations. The photography reflects Starbucks' brand experience, which focuses on pleasurable, relaxing customer experiences that are joyful, authentic, and honest.

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YouTube is a video-sharing social platform. Its mission is to give everyone a voice and show them the world. So it's no wonder their newly refreshed wordmark logo features the play button - which also works as an iconic shorthand for the company. The icon provides flexibility in its design system which you can see in their brand guidelines. It’s visually versatile and recognizable when applied across various devices, even on the tiniest screens, where space is limited, such as smartphones. As a brand, YouTube's big focus is making the brand simple and approachable for everyone. All its branded visuals or onscreen collateral are never distracting, for the main reason you're there: and that is to enjoy watching videos.

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How to create your own brand guidelines

Whether you're selling packaged snacks, your real estate agency, fast food, a car-share service or a simple coffee, you want your brand to be spotted and recognized from any location. Together with a comprehensive set of brand guidelines, you can create the glue that brings all the important elements that make up your brand so it can be visually applied to inspire and connect with your audience. Here are the eight ingredients of a successful brand guide:

  1. Brand story - Mission and Vision
  2. Logo and its variations
  3. Color palette
  4. Typography and font
  5. Brand personality/Tone of voice
  6. Photography and imagery
  7. Iconography/graphics
  8. Motion

1. Build your brand Story

Your brand story embodies your company's mission statement and vision and expresses the essence or values of what your brand believes in. Research says 77% of consumers buy brands that share their values, so your brand story must empower people within your organization and inspire your audience to react and connect emotionally with your brand, the product, or the service you are selling.

Your brand story also delivers meaningful goals that touch the hearts of people. And along the way, ensure every piece of content, copy, or slogan created is working towards achieving your brand's purpose. Think of it as a compass for your brand guide.

The Complete Guide To Creating A Powerful Brand Story In 2021

2. Perfect your logo

The swoosh. The bitten apple. The golden arches. Without labeling these three logos, you could probably guess which brands these iconic visual marks belong to. Your logo is an important visual cue for your brand. So keep it simple and use it correctly to deliver visual impact without burying it in a cluttered or confusing setting.

With that in mind, your brand guide needs to specify and illustrate all approved versions of your logo, details of the colors, how it’s used, where it should be placed, and the size requirements.

3. Curate your color palette

Never underestimate the power of color. Brand colors are a powerful way to solidify your brand presence, increase brand awareness, and recognition. Coca-cola’s use of their classic red is one great example. You can even own your color. Netflix calls its primary color Netflix red. Spotify calls their green — Spotify green. When it comes to choosing your brand colors, the fewer colors the easier it is to keep things consistent and for a stronger and more immersive brand experience.

Branding Design: What Is a Brand Book and Why You Need It

In your brand guide, make sure you display accurate color swatches of your brand colors and the exact details needed to reproduce those colors in different shades, brightness, and hues. So do include the color name, and color codes (HEX or RGB) or values. To make deciphering color codes easy, there are 15 online tools you can use to work out your brand colors.

4. Select your typography and font

Like brand colors, a family of well-chosen fonts helps capture a brand's personality and deliver the tone of voice of the brand message. Different fonts can do different jobs, so make sure you prescribe specific fonts for headlines, titles, and the body copy.

Other details you'll need to provide in your brand guide are how and where each font should be used. These rules will need to be followed and applied correctly when used across multiple channels, including web and print content, emails, internal communication, or TV.

5. Define your brand personality and tone of voice

7 Best Examples of Brand Tone of Voice | by Arek Dvornechuck | Ebaqdesign™

Looks aren't everything. A brand with a distinct personality helps create a more seamless emotional connection with your audience. This is where the tone of voice of your brand comes in to bring its personality and core values to life. So what’s your tone? Are you logical and professional? Safe and warm? Or quirky and sporty? Do you have a sense of humour or are you serious about what you need to say?

The way you talk or phrase your sentences also needs to resonate with your audience. You may also have different types of audiences to consider when speaking to them. So how do you want to sound?

6. Create and select your photography and imagery

Levi's Brand Book - NTU FMB - Year One by dominiqueyearby - issuu

As visual creatures, imagery is a key part of telling your story. Setting a photography style guide for your brand allows you to achieve the right visual style and look for your brand. The tone and palette of your photography should evoke emotions and feelings your brand wants to convey to your audience. For example sharp, bright, high contrast colors can deliver high energy images that create a sense of happiness and youthful playfulness around the brand of product or service. While warm, minimalistic, neutral tones in the imagery or photography helps create a sense of calm and relaxation. Your photography style not only has to visually speak to your audience but also suits their style.

7. Choose your iconography and graphics

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Using custom icons for your brand not only draws attention to what the brand has to say, it’s the perfect way to convey information at-a-glance. It also works as a universal visual language. No translation required and works perfectly for any online or digital brand executions.

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8. Invest in motion graphics

How your branding comes to life can go beyond just a still image. Motion graphics, animated effects, and video are new ways your brand can communicate ideas and values to your audience in a dynamic, eye-catching way. And as more brands shift towards digital channels and animated content within social media platforms become more popular, motion in branding is an invaluable audiovisual extension to any brand guide. Think about how an animated logo or title can immediately stop the scroll compared to a static one.

Remember, a brand guide is the heart and soul of your brand and company. It can be as basic and simple or complex and detailed as you need it to be. The key is in specifying how it communicates your brand identity's technical and communication components. Your brand guide is the starting point for setting up your brand for success.

Learn how to build a brand kit with Canva

To learn more about how Canva can help build your brand at scale, go to the Solutions page.

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