Well structured brands are built with purpose. A Brand Book is an organized collection of guidelines and information that establishes the foundations of a brand.
Brand books are often designed purely for internal usage. They act as a guidebook for the team, to ensure consistency and alignment with all team outputs.
Some of our favourite Brand Book examples ooze with slick design execution, as they excite readers to continue delving through their pages...but aesthetics are merely a bonus. The primary focus should be on clarity.
The aim is to clearly establish why your brand exists, what it stands for, how it should be communicate, and how the brand assets should be used.
Granted, success is possible without taking the time to create a Brand Book. Yet it is undoubtably advantageous to take the time to dive deeply into the identity of your business, and map out thoughtful, strategic decisions.
Imagine you won a new client, a huge client, and needed to expand your team at speed to meet their demands. All new recruits would need to quickly adapt to the team culture, understand the brand, and ensure their output reflected the expected style and quality. Without a brand book, the learning curve would certainly be longer, and mistakes would be more likely.
Structuring your Brand Book can be a highly creative activity—but with your focus being on clarity, there are some usual recommendations to follow. Typically we'd recommend including the following aspects:
Of course, depending on the nature and size of your business, you may require more sections. For example, if your brand is particularly large on Social Media and likely to expand with multiple accounts (i.e. country specific pages/accounts) then you may wish to map out Social Media guidelines too. These might include how content should be structured, or even how the brand can be adapted for unique identities.
E.g. Coca-Cola's 'diet' range is rebranded as 'light' in many countries, therefore the companies main brand book would need to outline how they communicate this product globally and how media should be adapted.
To get things started, we'll offer further information about each of our recommended sections.
The brand heart consists of the brand's purpose, vision and mission. The purpose of the brand is its reason for existing, beyond the need to make money. The purpose can be abstract and should align with the needs of the brand's customers. The vision is what the brand aims to achieve. This should be focused and clear.
A purpose is "advancing man's capabilities to explore the heavens". A vision is having "a man on the moon by the end of the 1960's" - Peter Senge
The mission outlines how the brand is going to achieve its vision.
Including the brand story and background is a recommended option as it can be a very powerful way of communicating the essence of the brand to any new employees.
The brand story is typically made from two elements:
The brand's core belief and the brand's 'happily ever after'.
There are some key elements to an effective brand story to consider. When possible, try to make it the following:
The use of a brand pyramid allows companies to 'humanize' their brand, making it easier for them to connect with their customers on an emotional level. It is these emotional connections that allow brands to build lasting, meaningful relationships with their customers.
A traditional brand pyramid has five sections:
1. Brand Essence
2. Brand Personality
3. Emotional Benefits
4. Rationaal Benefits
5. Functional Benefits
Due to similarities and overlaps of the rational and functional benefits, we, at Mäd, have streamlined them into a single tier. Learn how to create an impactful Brand Pyramid from our insight.
This is a core section of the Brand Book. Not only does it showcase the concept and construction of the logo, but it also outlines the rules that will protect the integrity of your logo.
Most brands will have two logo variations - the vertical logo and the horizontal logo. Having these variations allows the logo to look good, no matter its application.
It is also possible for some brands to have a different variation of the logo for each product under the brand, making it important to showcase each logo variation in a clear manner.
This being said, some brands, like Mäd, only have one logo variation. This happens when a brand's logo is only typographical.
Creating guidelines around the use of the logo and slogan will make sure the integrity of both elements is maintained.
Adding a Clear Minimum Space around the logo ensures that the logo is always completely visible and recognizable. An element from the logo itself is typically used to determine the Clear Minimum Space. When possible, more space should be added around the logo to ensure that it always stands out and creates the desired impact.
This section outlines the various ways in which the logo can be used. It is vital that this section is strictly adhered to.
Taking extra care with this section is advisable. Marking the ways in which the logo may not be used will help protect the integrity of the logo. This can be especially helpful to new employees—or for any affiliates.
Social Media has made it easier for brands to reach and build relationships with their customers. Having a consistent presences across all social media platforms help brands appear more thoughtful and trustworthy. This consistency can be achieved by treating the logo the same in each platform's profile image.
Color is one of the quickest ways for customers to recognize the brands they love. It is, therefore, vital that a brand's color palette is applied correctly and consistently throughout the brand's various touch points.
When crafting a brand color palette, it is worth looking at the associations colors have. For example, a green logo often evokes connotations of nature and health, whereas pink is more playful and quirky.
When outlining the brand's color palette, the following color codes should be used:
If applicable, the brand's color palette should also be converted to the nearest Pantone, ensuring consistent printing regardless of the supplier or printer being used.
It is not uncommon for brands to have a primary, secondary and sometimes even tertiary color palette. Each color palette and its intent use should be clearly specified to avoid confusion.
Typography has the power to say a lot about a brand. Each typeface has unique characteristics that elicit certain feelings. These feeling becomes more impactful when different typefaces are paired together.
Specifying all typefaces and their correct use is important when creating a consistent brand that carries a consistent message.
When choosing a brand typeface, it is important to keep the application of the typeface in mind. Unfortunately, not all typefaces are web friendly. Using Google Fonts is a good way to ensure that all brand typefaces can be used both online and offline.
Keep in mind that it is possible for typefaces to become synonymous with their brand. Can you guess which brand this typeface belongs to?
This section does not apply to all brands. If a brand does however make use of illustrations, creating guidelines on how these illustrations are made will ensure that all future illustrations are consistent. The same goes for icons/iconography.
Tip: These guidelines should include the artboard size, stroke weight, and color palette, to name a few.
The use of imagery, both stock and in house, plays a big role in that way a brand is perceived by its customers. You know what they say, "a picture is worth a 1000 words".
Outlining the type of imagery used, how it is used and when it is used will help make sure that all '1000 words' create value.
For an example, you may wish to define that imagery should be bright, focusing on certain color tones, and evocative of certain moods. Some brands are so precise with this, that they've got their photographers highly honed in the style—meaning that when consumers see an unbranded photograph, they'll still know the brand behind it.
The way a brand communicates with its customers is incredibly important when creating meaning relationships with said customers.
Having guidelines around the brand's messaging will ensure that it is always consistent and purposeful. The Brand Voice can be broken up in the following way:
This refers to have a brand expresses its personality.
This refers to the brand’s personality traits.
This refers to the type of wording being used.
This refers to what the messaging aims to achieve.
This refers to the sentence length and paragraph structure.
Ideation doesn't always mean reinventing the wheel. Often, learning from industry giants is a great starting place for thoughtful work. We've curated some choice picks from brands that have brilliant brand books.
Stepping back even further, brand design includes further considerations. How your brand is perceived by your team, and external individuals, is clearly important—yet there are steps to be taken beyond establishing a solid Brand Book.
With the Brand Book in place, next steps can be taken to create a wide variety of useful and necessary corporate materials. This may include: signage, letterheads, business cards, uniforms, and all sorts of supporting items.
The more time you spend carving out thoughtful foundations, the more time saved in the future...and the higher a chance you'll have to move forward in the right direction.