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brand identity guidelines: what they are and why you need them.

Updated: Feb 5, 2019





Yo! Brittany here.


We all know that a killer brand is important (if you don’t know…now you know). But what good is a bangin’ brand if you don’t know how to use it or there isn’t a personality behind it? That’s like dating someone who has massive arm-candy potential but can’t carry on a conversation. You know the one—the person you’re stoked to show-off, but never want to introduce to mom and dad? Yeah, that one. Story short; any potential of success is bound to fizzle out. Abort! Abort!! (Or you could just meet with Maker + Made <3.)


When you work with a professional graphic designer (like us!), you should get a handy-dandy brand identity guide. They’re so important that we cringe when a potential client asks to get a brand without the guide. Point-blank...we just don’t do that. It’s like buying a car with all the bells and whistles and then realizing you don’t know how to drive a stick while asking yourself, “what the fuck are those buttons for on the dash?” Brand guidelines can be anywhere from a few to fifty pages long, depending on the depth and scope of your brand, it’s application, and how you expect to reach and interact with your market.

Here at Maker + Made, our brand guidelines include everything you need to apply your brand across the giant scope that is your business. From business cards and letterheads, to coffee cups, apparel and websites, it’ll give you all the “rules” to make sure you’re keeping things consistent and crafting an identity that is memorable to your consumers and clients.


If you’re thinking, “But...can’t I just skip this part? I’m sure I know how to place a logo on something,” that’s cool. But hear us out—establishing a BRAND is very different than slapping the same logo all over every single one of your social media posts. We want your brand to have a personality with some basic social cues. Your brand deserves to be the one you take home to mom and dad, not a superficial bimbo, remember? (Back to business!) Here are the main 3 reasons you need a brand guideline to light your path after working with a designer:


1. Consistency


2. ^ Which leads to...brand recognition


3. Ease of use for you and future designers (of COURSE we want to always be your go-to, but we also realize it isn’t always realistic)


4. To never “steal the show” in a “bad way”. Nobody wants to be remembered for shitting the bed, or giving off a bad vibe (don’t do this to your brand!). This also goes the other way around; you don’t want your brand to be forgettable either.


So what does a brand and identity guide include?

So glad you asked. Here’s what we like to share with our clients in our guidelines—

1. Your brand’s marks & all the glorious options

We’ll describe how and why your brand was built the way we made it, and include all of it’s expanded marks in your branding guide. You may be thinking, “What the…? Why can’t my brand have one single logo that I can apply to everything?”. While this is true in some cases (we’re talking around 5% of the time), it’s important to note that your brand will be seen in multiple environments on the web and in print. Simply put, a single logo option may look perfect in one environment, but won’t visually capture your audience’s attention in the right way when placed in a different shaped space. The way I like to describe this to our clients is by reminding them of when they were kids trying to fit square pegs into a circle hole. It just doesn’t “fit”. Expanded, responsive brands give you the option of setting the tone of your brand by using hierarchy—which we design nerds totally geek out on. What do we mean by that? Sometimes you want your brand to be the most important part of a design (for instance, when your audience is seeing it for the very first time, so we place it front and center and super huge or with a ton of margin so it can breathe big, deep breaths), and sometimes you just need a little whisper of a reminder. This is where a combination mark comes into play versus using a logomark, icon, or a logotype.


Are you pulling your hair out in confusion yet? No worries, we’ve got you covered on where and when to use what mark in your branding guide.



2. How to use your brand fonts

Font choices are made based on the personality of a brand. Some fonts are masculine, structured and stately, while others are rounded, friendly and approachable. Personification is everything when it comes to creating a brand and it’s identity, and font choices play a big part.


Brands should speak to and resonate with the audience they intend to reach. In our branding guidelines we explain why you should stick to the font choices made, how to maintain your brand presence by using the same headline and body copy options when available, and how to differentiate between a web font and one that is used in print. We also show how changing up font choices is one of the worst decisions you can make when trying to maintain brand recognition.


3. Your color palette


Colors are one of the main ways we differentiate and recognize things visually. We attach emotions and memories to color, and a brand’s color palette is no different. We explain in our brand guidelines how to use contrast to your best ability and what color to use when.


4. The do’s & don’t’s (who knows how to spell don’t’s?!) of applying margin and spacing


You know when you’re in an elevator and it’s packed tight and everyone is silently freaking out that the elevator can’t withstand the weight and you’re all going to fall to your doom? Or when a stranger leans in for a hug after a sweaty handshake and you don’t feel right about it? Your brand and all it’s components need space, just like we do. Our branding guides show you what works best visually to let your marks breathe.


5. Brand application examples (all the mockups!)


Nobody likes a blind date from hell (except all the fun stories we get to hear when it’s not us, right?). Another way to put it: sometimes something looks SO GREAT on paper, or screen, or in context—but when you see it applied in the wild, it just doesn’t have the same appeal; like meeting someone on Tinder (ew).


The point I’m trying to make is that our branding guidelines cover all the bases on how your brand will look in the wild by applying the right marks to the right products for your audience. We never like to suggest the gimmicky things, but always the products or services that apply to your brand. For instance, a bottle opener definitely won’t be used for a children’s hospital, but would be a great addition to a brewery’s branding guide.

WANNA SEE ONE?! Check out one of the guides that I made for a local brand I really love, Full Bushel.