We’ve talked before about what a brand is: the sum total of all the impressions your customers have of you, everything from your logo to your customer service to your product quality. As such, it’s important that you control all of those touchpoints. Everything you’re doing sends a message, and it’s your job as a brand manager to guide and direct what message is being sent.
At Novonto, we’re obsessed with branding, and we keep a close eye on what iconic companies are doing to maintain — and to change — their brands. And lucky for us, many of these companies post their brand style guides online, giving us an inside look at how they do what they do.
Brand style guides provide instruction on how to properly use the building blocks of a brand’s look and feel. Brand guidelines cover logos, fonts, colors, visuals, voice and tone, and other elements that make up brand identity. Style guides can even include a brand’s story, philosophy, inspiration, and positioning statement. Every brand guide is unique, but they all serve to help employees maintain brand consistency.
A frequently updated and easily accessible brand style guide will go a long way in making sure no one at your company is making off-brand collateral. If everyone knows how and where to find your brand guidelines, they can just quickly pop in and check the rules without needing to ask a designer or risk publishing something that doesn’t look like your brand.
Sounds pretty useful, right? It is — and if you want to see how brand style guides work in the real world, read on to check out some of our favourite style guides from brands with excellent style.
Skype’s brilliant brand book reads more like a cheeky comic than a stodgy brand style guide. Illustrations and speech bubbles are used throughout to convey exactly what vibe the brand is going for, and it’s a testament to what good creative can do for your branding. It’s fun to read, it’s colorful, it’s got jokes — what more could you want? Spend some time with Skype’s guidelines when you need inspiration for injecting fun into your brand. View the full brand guidelines here.
Our favorite small-business-focused marketing platform got a new look in 2018 that’s still serving the brand well today. The brand offers both a peek at the visual style guide as well as an in-depth content style guide. Everything from the brand’s colors to tone to animation style relies on vibrancy and simplicity, and we are big fans.
Scrolling through the style guide, you’ll see that the thought behind Mailchimp’s brand is well articulated and laid out. You’ll always find a “why” to accompany a guideline. This truly helps people understand the vision for the company, which in addition to laying out ground rules, is one of the most important things a brand style guide can do.
“Think of your brand style guide as a living document,” Mailchimp Art Director Jane Song says. “You want to give your brand expression room to keep expanding over time.” View the full brand guidelines here.
3. Boy Scouts of America
The Boy Scouts of America have a huge branding challenge: The organization needs a brand manual that not only conveys its message (“Prepared. For Life.”) but also allows for the customization of the brand in, literally, hundreds of thousands of troops. There are 2.2 million scouts in America plus more than 800,000 adult leaders, and any of those leaders might want to make a flyer or poster or brochure.
Because of this huge group of volunteers, most of whom do not have graphic design experience, the corporate brand guidelines need to be clear, concise, and easy to use. The BSA’s brand manual, therefore, offers a lot of hand-holding, as it might be the only brand manual these volunteers will ever see. There is more to this manual than just guidelines about font size and color palette, though. The book explains marketing terms that the average scoutmaster or den mother might not be familiar with. And for each logo and trademark asset, there are ample do’s and don’ts to advise the layman on how to move forward.
These brand guidelines, which are built upon a rich tradition of imagery, slogans, and trademarks, are a perfect example of how an organization with many products and variations can clearly and succinctly build a cohesive brand platform that integrates common design elements into disparate categories of symbolism. View the full brand guidelines here. View the full brand guidelines here.
4. Girl Scouts of America
We got our hands on Girl Scouts of America’s brand playbook, which differs from a traditional brand style guide in that it’s focused on the high-level messaging of the brand rather than design details. It’s the perfect opportunity to see how a sprawling organization with thousands of chapters all over the country approaches brand identity.
The guide’s purpose is to “help you understand how Girl Scouts functions as a brand and the key differences that set us apart from the rest of the saturated ‘girl power’ marketplace.” Look no further if you want to find out how a legacy brand tackles differentiation and keeping up with the times.
Inside you’ll find plenty of ideas on how to relay your mission, brand story, values, and voice and tone. View the full brand guide here.
As the company is large, with a hundred fingers in a hundred pies, we’re taking a close look at the case study of Google’s Logo, the Dots, and the Google G. The new logotype is imbued with “childlike simplicity” (a Google video shows the new logo being written as though it was on a grammar school’s middle-lined paper). It is mathematical, an ode to geometry. It was designed not only for a new brand aesthetic but also to scale up and down while looking the same across many platforms — a problem the previous logo struggled with.
Not to be outdone is the simple Google G: a circle with a small cut taken out and a reformed horizontal. It is designed for small applications where the full logotype wouldn’t have room to appear, but they’ve made it similar in many ways. The G is essentially the new G from “Google,” but with a thicker line weight, and it incorporates all the colors from the full word. It is recognizable at once as being the younger sibling of the full logotype.
Finally, the brand introduced the dots, which are referred to as “a dynamic and perpetually moving state of the logo.” The dots are emotive: gently rolling when awaiting a command, expanding when being spoken to, forming a turning circle when thinking, and so on. The colors of the four dots are the same as the colors of the logotype and the Google G: blue, green, yellow, and red. View the brand guide here.
The social-media giant has moved away from the heavy “twitter” and lower-case t-in-a-square. The former brand style was that of a company trying to fit into the same visual category as other social platforms, like LinkedIn’s “in,” Facebook’s “f” and Instagram’s square lens. The new logo is either a blue-on-white or white-on-blue bird (with some controlled allowance for a white bird on a muted photograph). Along with the logo, they have guidelines for how usernames and hashtags should appear—Helvetica, with negative tracking.
Everything is simple and clear in these guidelines. Blue is the only color allowed, along with various shades of gray. Helvetica and Roman are the only fonts allowed. And the manual shows the proper formatting of a tweet treatment. View the full brand guidelines here.
You can check out Slack’s brand guidelines to see how a tech giant lays down the brand law. The guide is designed to be as clear and user-friendly as the platform itself. It walks you through all the fine details of colors, icons, trademarks — the works.
The guide starts by taking you through its values (empathy, courtesy, craftsmanship, playfulness, solidarity, and thriving) before moving you through a thorough discussion of color, type usage, and logo lockups. This brand style guide has it all, including type adjustments for its international markets and rules for photography and videos. View the full brand guide here.
Take a dip into this 1976 old-school classic and fan-favorite of design nerds. Here is a deep-dive, 60-page brand style guide on how to represent NASA’s logo in a variety of mediums. The brand style guide was launched after NASA debuted its new logo, which came to be known as “the worm.”
The guide now serves as a nostalgic look at the modernist design of the era and is a great example of how to think through everywhere you’ll need to represent your brand, especially if you find your logo adorning the sides of rockets and other motor vehicles. View the full brand guidelines here.
Spotify has an extensive brand style guide for platforms it integrates with to ensure that the user experience is smooth wherever you listen from. This is a great guide to reference if people will be encountering your brand in a variety of places that you don’t have personal control over.
Spotify’s design guidelines cover the why and how of attribution, browsing content, logo usage, colors, naming restrictions, and more. View the brand guide here.
Walmart has a separate brand style guide just for internal comms and marketing. The guide pays special attention to voice and tone, encouraging human, but not chummy, language: “We have a specific approach that captures our fresh, always-Walmart spirit.” The brand’s Associate Spark logo is designed to represent the various people, cultures, and careers across the Walmart brand.
This guide is a smart look at how a huge brand takes its company culture seriously and works to maintain a good employee experience. View the brand guide here.
Uber has a very tidy brand style guide, divided into neat compartments like logo, color, composition, iconography, and illustration. It’s presented as an interactive webpage rather than a digital book, and this approach allows plenty of space to hash out details. You can even download templates and assets directly from each section, making the guide a functional DAM of sorts as well. View the brand style guide here.
Of course, we’ve got to include our own brand style guide on this list. Novonto refreshed its brand in 2021, moving to a cool-but-vibrant color palette and a new streamlined logo
The guide is simple and continually a work in progress, but it’s what we’ve got!