As more businesses and nonprofits are working with outside firms for their design and content development needs, it's more important than ever to establish a set of guidelines for how your brand is represented in all types of content - visual, textual, audiovisual, etc. To do this, organizations should set up a style guide. Style guides are the "rulebooks" for utilizing a brand, both for internal design and documentation and for external users.

There's no right or wrong way to do a style guide, but there are general elements found in most style guide documents. Typical style guides address things like logo colors (including their Pantone Matching System numbers to ensure appropriate color matching), logo sizing and orientation, and fonts approved for use on business documents in conjunction with the organization’s name. They can also address the types of images the brand can be associated with (lifestyle imagery vs product imagery, medical general imagery vs medical specific imagery) and whether or not all images must be pre-approved before being used in conjunction with the organization's logo or content.

Some larger businesses or nonprofits have two style guides – one for internal use amongst their employees and one for public use. Employee style guides ensure the organization has the same look and feel everytime a piece of their collateral (blog posts, marketing materials, collateral materials, even sponsorships that utilize their brand) is deployed or used in the public. Internal style guides give continunity to corporate communications efforts, build brand recognition, and underscore the authenticity of corporate-produced communications pieces.

Public style guides help organizations control the use of their branding in and by the public, including use by vendors, associates and competitors. Organizations that deal extensively with the public or have large vendor or distributor networks should have a brand style guide to ensure they’re being represented accurately in the public. This can mean the proper (current!) logo, appropriate colors, correct sizing and pixel ratios (to help avoid distortion of the logo or other branding images). When organizations have large contingencies of external networks, they'll oftentimes keep a repository of brand information (images, fonts, dimensions, etc) on their website for download. These reposititories can be called many things: media kits, brand kits, brand identities, but they'll cover the information noted above as well as provide links to cloud files containing downloadable images approved for public external use by the organization.

The industry a organization is in can sometimes impact the styles they identify as appropriate within their style guide. For instance, businesses that work closely with academic fields, like healthcare and medicine, will often include textual styles that are based upon the American Medical Association's AMA Manual of Style. Conversely, organizations that are larger and have frequent mentions in the business press are more likely to use the Associated Press' AP Stylebook. These style guides give guidance on all written communications, covering everything from the use of the Oxford comma to the proper punctuation of acronyms. While these things might seem nit-picky, the public will notice if they're deployed inconsistently within a brand's content.

Want some guidance on style guides? The experts at GYRE Marketing can help you determine the best approach for your business.