How to Create Your Corporate Style Guide

A style guide outlines the correct portrayal of your brand in written and visual communications including your website, printed documents, email, marketing materials, and more. These materials represent your company and are the first point-of-contact most potential customers and partners will have with your business.

Why do you need a style guide?

Inconsistencies between your corporate materials undermine your image and may make recipients question the professionalism of your company and your staff. By creating a style guide and ensuring employees adhere to it, you maintain the quality of your brand and make your communications recognizable and relatable to your customers, vendors, distributors, and the public.

How do you create a style guide?

Take some time to consider your brand and how you want it portrayed within your company, to your customers, to your business partners, and to the general public. It’s a good idea to do a branding exercise, if you haven’t done one already, to develop a brand that aligns with your business’ goals, values, and target markets. Based off of your brand concept, your style guide should outline the following elements:

  1. Typography

    Provide font specifications for titles, headers, copy, quotes, citations, labels, contact information, and any other written elements in both digitally and in print. This includes font face, size, spacing, leading, kerning, line height, and any other relevant elements. Outline how you would like numbers and symbols displayed, and include web-safe alternatives for non-web fonts.

  2. Colours

    State the allowable colours for fonts, logos, graphics, charts and tables, and any other branded elements. Include RGB and CMYK colour codes for each and indicate which is the primary and which are secondary colour options as well as specifications for any special cases such as the use of fonts and logos on top of photography.

  3. Logos

    Detail the correct size, layout, placement, whitespace, and allowable variations of your company logo. Many people feel that they can and should make adjustments to the logo for their own uses, so it’s best to be extremely clear about what is and is not allowed. Provide examples of the correct version of the logo as well as examples of what not to do. Also include guidelines for partner or client logos.

  4. Layout

    Set out guidelines for the layout of titles and headers, text, images, graphics, tables of contents, charts and tables, and any other items you deem necessary. Specify the sizes and ratios, shapes, spacing, required elements, and what not to do.

  5. Brand Voice

    This includes the voice, tone, language, grammar, and use of slang or special terminology. Your brand voice should be aligned with the corporate personality you want to portray to the public.

  6. Imagery

    Specify what kinds of photos, illustrations, graphics, icons, shapes, buttons, and badges can be used including colour and style guidelines, sources, and how to caption and cite photographs.

  7. Paper

    State the size, weight, brightness, and gloss of paper to be used for materials including letters, billing documents, brochures and flyers, business cards, catalogues, and any other printed documents.

  8. Templates

    Provide templates for Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, email styles and signatures, voicemail messages, and other often-used tools to maintain consistency and avoid employees creating these for themselves. Point out the allowable colours, fonts, layouts, and content for each, as well as details such as wording for email footers or voicemail messages.

  9. Social Media

    These days it’s important to outline social media rules including what kinds of language and content are allowable, what information employees can and cannot share about the company, and whether any guidelines apply to personal profiles as well as company ones.

It’s best to be as detailed as possible so that there is little ambiguity and employees don’t have to guess at what your brand expectations are. By laying out guidelines for all of your brand elements, you make it easy for everyone on your team to portray your brand effectively and reduce inconsistencies that can reflect badly on your company and staff. Your corporate style guide lets your brand personality shine through and lets your company communications make a great first, second, and many more impressions with your customers and business partners.

Have questions about branding and corporate collateral? Contact us or leave them in the comments.