Building a successful business is all about creating a recognizable brand. And that recognition requires consistency and a clearly defined vision for your brand. A brand style guide is your most precious resource for taking your small business branding and marketing to the next level. What is a Style Guide? A style guide is a rulebook that clearly defines your brand’s visual and text elements. Everything from the logo to the colors and font to use is included in the style guide as a go-to resource to keep everyone on the same page and the branding consistent. Why Does a Style Guide Matter? In a word, consistency. A brand is only effective if it is consistent. Customers and potential customers can’t easily recognize your brand if you use different colors or styles in each sign, brochure, or social media post. Consistent branding also builds your business’ reputation and professionalism. Customers may overlook or dismiss a brand that doesn’t look cohesive, while creating a consistent brand identity helps people pay attention and makes you look more professional, even if you’re just starting out. A style guide also streamlines decision-making and allows for a faster turnaround for marketing materials. Fortunately for small businesses, a brand style guide doesn’t have to be expensive. Taking the time to think through your brand, write it down, and create consistent guidelines can greatly boost your business without spending a penny. How to Create a Brand Style Guide Creating a style guide is more than just picking a logo and a few colors. It requires thinking strategically about your business's brand and purpose. Here’s how to get started and categories to include in brand style guide templates: Establish Your Brand Story and Voice To strengthen your brand strategy, start by establishing the story of your brand and what it stands for. Your brand story combines your vision, mission, and core values and is how you want your brand to be viewed by customers. The brand story sets the tone for your style guide and can be a guiding force as you make branding decisions. A business with a brand story of being customer-centric instead of product-centric will have a different style guide than a business that prioritizes innovation and wants to show off the latest bells and whistles. Along with your brand story is your brand voice, or how you share your story and message with customers and potential customers. Every brand has a unique way of communicating with customers. The best brands can easily be identified by their consistent voice. Find inspiration by looking at how brands you enjoy tell their story. What is the tone of their marketing and writing? How do they build a connection with their customers? Consider these common brand voice identifiers: Positive Knowledgeable Friendly Confident Welcoming Authoritative Bold Witty Direct Authentic Creative Irreverent Professional Playful One travel company describes its voice as adventurous, curious, and determined. That voice comes through with earth tones in its logo and confident writing. A manufacturing company ties its brand voice to its core marketing values: honest, assured, aspirational, and clever. Every aspect of its branding, from how it talks to customers to its logos and colors, ties back to those four areas. A mobile retailer describes its brand voice as expert but approachable. It focuses on the human element over its products and aims to provide peace of mind. That customer focus comes through in its branding, including social posts and brochures showcasing empathy. Once you’ve identified your brand voice, add a few brand guidelines examples in your style guide. You can include words to use and words to avoid, which should tie back into your story and voice. Coca Cola's Brand Voice Clarify Your Logo More than anything, your logo is the defining feature of your brand. A strong logo allows customers to connect with your brand. But that connection doesn’t come right away. Studies have found that it takes people an average of seven seconds to form an impression of your brand, but it takes five to seven impressions for customers to recognize a company’s logo. To maximize the impact of your logo, keep it consistent and use it frequently. If your logo is always changing or looks slightly different every time, customers will take longer to identify your brand. However, that doesn’t mean there can’t be variations of your logo. Many companies include multiple versions of their logo, such as the primary logo, a logo without text, or a version in an alternate color. Use your style guide to define when and how to use the logo, including what not to do. This can include not changing the font or color, not rotating the logo, and only using it in specific sizes that aren’t too large or too small. These small details go a long way to creating a consistent branding experience. Coca Cola's Font and Logo Guidelines Define the Font and Typography One of the easiest, but most overlooked, ways to create consistent branding is by using the same font in all of your marketing materials—everything from in-store signage to emails, text on pictures, brochures, menus, and more. Big brands often create their own fonts, but you don’t have to go that far to be effective. Choose two or three fonts that work well together and tie back into your brand voice. If your healthcare brand is professional and modern, you’ll likely pick fonts that are different from a whimsical boutique, which may lean towards a flowy script font. Be specific about what font is used for each type of print. Most brands choose three fonts: Headings Heading font is typically used for large-scale signage or content marketing titles. Because this font is larger, you can make it more unique with a decorative, handwritten, or script font that stands out. Make sure that whatever font you choose can be read and understood at a glance. Subheadings or Accents This mid-sized font typically goes below the heading as a support or accent. To stand out, this font needs to be different from the heading, either in size, style, or capitalization. If the heading is decorative, the sub-heading is simpler. But if the heading is simple, the sub-heading can be a script font. The key is to find a balance between the two fonts. Body Copy This is the font used for the bulk of your content marketing, emails, sign details, and any longer text that people will read. Your body copy should generally be the simplest font, either a basic serif (small lines at the bottom of each letter) or sans serif (no lines at the bottom). Here are some common combinations from standard fonts: Bodoni (all caps) Bodoni Futura Montserrat (bold) Montserrat (light) Garamond You can also download free or paid fonts to expand your options for a more custom look. The fonts don't need to be in the same family, but should be cohesive. Details matter. Include the ideal font sizes for certain materials in your style guide, such as not going above size 12 for emails or staying within 20-24 for photo captions. You can also include font weights, such as when to use light or bold text or how much spacing should be between letters and lines. Create a Consistent Color Palette A powerful way to create consistent branding is through your colors. Shades like Netflix red, Spotify green, T-Mobile pink, or Home Depot orange are easily recognizable by most customers. Aside from the logo, your color can help you stand out and quickly create brand consistency. Your branding can include a single prominent color or two or three coordinating shades around the logo colors . But it isn’t enough to say that all your materials will be blue. Be specific with the exact shade of blue, down to the RGB values and CMYK color codes to ensure you use the exact same shade every time. Cocal Cola's Colour Palette Conclusion What do you do with a complete brand style guide? Combine all of your resources into a single document and share it with everyone in the business involved in marketing. Even if you’re a solo marketing team or wear many hats, having your brand guidelines in one place can streamline decision-making and ensure your brand is clear and consistent. As a small business, your brand is one of your biggest assets. Creating a brand style guide can help launch that brand and your business.