What’s a Style Guide and Why Do You Need It?


When building a brand, keeping things cohesive is key to a successful image. This includes using the same font, colors, even the same voice. But where do you keep this type of information?

That is where a Style Guide comes into play.

A Style Guide is a document (usually provided by your brand designer) that outlines how your brand should be presented. There are a variety of things that can be included, but the main content is usually:

  • Logo
    • Color Variations
    • Layout Variations
    • Spacing
    • Usage Restrictions
    • Size Requirements
    • Legal Requirements
  • Typography
    • Font Choices
    • Hierarchy Usage
  • Colors
    • Profiles Based on Production Method
    • Hierarchy
  • Personality
    • Tone of Voice
    • Social Media Persona
    • Brand Values
  • Support
    • Graphic Elements
    • Stationery Templates
    • Social Media Templates
    • Usage

As you’ll notice, it is not always about the visual aspect of a brand, either. It can also consist of your values as a company, how you’d like to interact with your community, and your overall voice in advertising. Depending on the type of business you run, other elements may be included as well, such as packaging or photography.

Let’s go into some more detail about each section outlined above.


The logo is an essential part to any business. It is what your audience sees first when viewing your products, services, or advertising. In order to make sure the logo has the intended effects, certain rules should be put into place. The purpose of these rules is to make sure that anyone affiliated with your brand will know how to properly display the logo, allowing uniformity.

Color Variations

One of the most common discussions is defining the brand’s colors. These can become synonymous with the company itself, think Coca-Cola with their signature red, or Tiffany & Co. with the Tiffany Blue.

Coca-Cola (Above Left) and Tiffany & Co. (Above Right)

There is also typically a hierarchy to the choices that will establish recognizable colors that have distinct meanings for the brand, including primary logo colors, secondary colors for headers, highlights, subheading, etc.

Make sure you have each color’s values for various production methods, including Pantone, CMYK, and RGB/Hex code. Each one allows for a consistent representation of the colors for the brand.

Layout Variations

Not every scenario calls for a logo that can fit in a perfect square, nor are all logos built that way. Showcasing the various layouts in which a logo can be used lets it be more versatile and keeps a professional representation of the brand when used in unconventional ways.

Coinciding with the company name, the logo should at the very least be shown in both portrait and landscape.


Logo spacing, also described as the negative space surrounding a logo, is another important contribution to a brand style guide. A logo should never be crammed into a space that doesn’t allow for it breathe. Giving the minimum empty space around the logo, at the very least, allows it to give the proper impact and be noticeable.

Usage Restrictions

Putting restrictions on how the logo should not be used can be just as important at showcases the ways it should be used. That could mean avoiding the use of coinciding images that aren’t representative of the brand and what it supports, as well as not using it in conjunction with other icons or colors.

Size Requirements

Have you ever shrunken down an image to a point where it is essentially illegible? I’ve seen this done countless times, making the logo completely ineffective and unusable. Having a predetermined minimum size for your logo makes sure it is always used with some degree of effectiveness.

Alternatively, some companies aim to have a specific version of their logo that can be used for those situations where it has to be really small. These are usually similar, but not as detailed, versions of the main logo.

Legal Requirements

Having legal restrictions allows for you to determine what kind of control you want to have over where your company name, branding, or logo is used. This section can include an approval process for if your brand is to be in a commercial, tv or web series, or even a movie.

Some restrictions and protections may only apply if you have your logo and company name trademarked or copyrighted. Different protections apply to each and I would recommend being advised by your legal representation on this matter before taking any type of action.


Typography plays a supportive but crucial role when it comes to your company’s branding. Like everything else, being consistent with your choices in typography keeps your brand looking uniform.

Means is a custom typeface for Mailchimp created by Greg Gazdowicz. Custom typefaces give companies even more freedom to build a thorough brand experience.

Font Choices

Different styles of typography can imply certain meanings. A great example of this would be using a western cowboy font for the main headers on Nike’s site. It would just cause brand confusion.

Hierarchy Usage

In some cases, having multiple fonts chosen for different purposes can be used to great effect. If a bold, sans-serif (Don’t know what that is? We’ll have a future blog post about this) font is used for your headers, it typically allows for them to be much more legible. On the flip side, a serif font used for longer content like blog posts, helps a user flow through from word to word, allowing better legibility.


Building the right image for your brand isn’t strictly visual. Much like our own individual personalities, developing a set of traits that will be attractive to your potential customers can help drive sales and further growth.

Tone of Voice

When speaking to your audience through different marketing channels, how do you want your brand to be conveyed? Having a serious tone can work well for a law firm, but if you try to use that for a children’s toy brand, you’ll be laughed at (and not in a good way).

Social Media Persona

Wendy’s, the fast food chain, has built a personality of snark and sassy remarks on their social media accounts.

Social media can be a whole new different beast and what may work on one is very possibly not going to work on another.

Brand Values

Do you and your business want to take part in funding AIDS/HIV research, or possibly work towards helping BIPOC build more equity in your field? Outline these details in your guide so it is dictated with the proper tone; and keep these values in mind in your business decisions.

For example, we believe heavily in eco-sustainability and give more detail about it on our about page. We carry this throughout many of the services we offer, including trying to use non-voc products when possible and paper from sustainably managed forests.


If anything has been proven true from this write up, it is that your business shouldn’t rely on just a solid logo and a good product (or service) to carry it.

Graphic Elements

Building out your brand to have supportive imagery will immerse the customers in the “world” you have built for them. It further strengthens your logo by giving elements that have the same spirit. There are a variety of visuals that you can have made, including illustrations, animations, photographs, and iconography.

Stationery Templates

In order to allow for there to be uniformity across all departments’ letterheads, envelopes, and business cards, it only makes sense to produce templates. Having a template made provides the designer or employee quicker and easier turnarounds.

Social Media Templates

Like with stationery, some scenarios on social media can call for having templates created as well. If you have specific campaigns you’re looking to run, or need to quickly relay information to your followers, templates will let you do that while staying “on brand.”


Just like the logo and its guidelines, expressing the same information about templates and graphic elements can be beneficial to new employees and outside vendors.

So, What is the Point?

Now what is the point of having all of these details laid out? Like writing a story, having set rules and outlines in place before putting pen to paper allows for a much more cohesive and compelling narrative. You want to be able to flow from one scene to the next without confusing the audience (unless it is intentional!).

Take J.R.R. Tolkien, for example. He created languages, landscapes, and lore around The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. This kind of groundwork helped him build a world that has lasted generations and influenced thousands. Creating foundations, rules, and supportive imagery for your brand will help you and your team build a strong image for your business. This will then help connect with your viewers, clients, or customers for years to come.

One thing to keep in mind is that these are in fact guidelines and not hard set rules that must be followed in every scenario. While you want your brand to have uniformity and in that, you’ll build strength and brand equity, sometimes the rules just can’t apply. Don’t be too hard on yourselves if they have to be stretched just a bit.