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The Anatomy of Brand Guidelines

design team meeting design sample cartoon

Brand Guidelines are the pillars of consistent visual branding. Members of your marketing, art and advertising departments keep this document as their bible in creating design and campaigns. This is their manual.

Do you remember your first job? What was the first thing the manager asked you to do? To read the employee manual, right?

Everything you need to know to do your work properly is in the manual – from wearing the uniform correctly to operating the industrial fryer. 

When something is amiss or you need answers related to your employment, you consult the manual first.

As an agency owner, do you think a manual for design is necessary? 

You’re managing a small company without “departments” – only a team of awesome people wearing many hats – so it’s understandable that you’d think this is only a waste of time.

If it was an operations manual, you’d be pausing work to complete it first but a branding manual? Why should you give headspace to something that looks frivolous and fancy? I will give you 4 good reasons:

  • It will document how your brand should be used in any media
  • It will save you time in training designers because they can visualize the deliverables
  • It will save you from recurring revisions because your designer knows what the brand requires
  • It will help avoid subjective, unsolicited comments on the design, even from you

What do Brand Guidelines look like?

Also known as a brand style guide, brand guidelines communicate how the brand should be presented to the world. In it, you can see the overall brand identity, applications, purpose, and imagery. It also collates signs of mistakes and or incorrect usage of the brand.

Brand Guidelines first, more designs later

If you aren’t happy with your current guidelines, you will never be satisfied with any design based on it. Your days will be full of revisions, fired designers, and wasted sales opportunities.

It’s time to make one or improve what you already have. Here are the basic parts of a brand style guide to help you and your team create better designs.

Contents of Brand Guidelines


You can have a primary logo, secondary logo, and other little icons for your branding.

This section includes the ways on how the primary logo will be used with or without the wordmark. This is also where logo variations are presented and how these logos will be positioned within shapes.

Deer Designer Brand Guidelines Logo
Deer Designer Brand Guidelines Logo


This segment shows the chosen typeface for the brand and the variations the designer can use.

Since the typography also follows a hierarchy in design, this section shows options for these. If you have a preferred way of highlighting words, it must also be seen here.

Deer Designer Brand Guidelines Typeface
Deer Designer Brand Guidelines Typeface

Colour palette

This part of the document shows what colour variations are to be used for the brand. The RGB, CMYK, and HEX codes are indicated for the designer to accurately choose the shade. Check out this article to know the difference.

A comprehensive example guides the designer on the proper colour application. The more DOs and DON’Ts you can include, the better. This section is a must for web design since many elements require different colours.

Deer Designer Brand Guidelines Colour Palette
Deer Designer Brand Guidelines Colour Palette

Imagery and design elements

Using only the logo, colours, and typography for numerous designs is quite limiting. Choosing the right imagery is a must to get your message across. It can be a set of images, photos, and/or illustrations that match your brand.

Apart from those, you could also add design elements such as figures, lines, and shapes to breathe life into the design. Make your preferences known in the brand guidelines so the designer doesn’t have to guess it for each design request.

Deer Designer Brand Guidelines Colour Imagery
Deer Designer Brand Guidelines Colour Elements

Brand History and Story

Last but not least, there should be a brand history in the brand style guide. Commonly, the mission and vision of the company are found here. This serves as the north star for those who are planning a campaign for a specific target market.

Deer Designer Brand Guidelines Colour About Us

Brand guidelines are living documents

To end, let me remind you that brand guidelines must evolve.

Whenever there is a new medium or a new opportunity to use your brand, the guidelines must be updated accordingly. Documenting these changes keeps everyone in your company on the same page – literally and figuratively.

Great design is a combination of form and function. When your brand guidelines are designed with the same principles in mind, they communicate a clear message to your audience.

I hope you found this article useful. Deer Designer can help you improve your brand guidelines. In fact, it is one of our first design projects for new clients. Know more about our services here.