How to Create a Style Guide for Your Business or Nonprofit

October 5, 2022

3 minutes

Are you a small business owner or nonprofit leader who’s been meaning to create a style guide for your brand but just hasn’t gotten around to it? Understandably, many folks in your shoes do not create style guides for a myriad of reasons. 

Perhaps you’re unsure what goes into creating a style guide or don’t know how to encourage your team or volunteers to follow it. On the other hand, some leaders think they can wing it and don’t want to take time away from other tasks to create a style guide. 

Wherever you find yourself on the spectrum, creating a style guide isn’t as hard as you think. In fact, making and implementing a brand style guide now will actually save you a lot of headaches down the road. 

In a perfect world, you were given a style guide when your graphic designer first created your logo and visual identity. However, that is not always the case. In some instances, you may have developed your logo long before establishing other brand guidelines, and you never stopped to consolidate everything into one place. If that is the case, you will definitely benefit from creating and implementing a style guide for your organization. 

If you’re just joining us in the style guide discussion, be sure to check out our previous post, What’s a Style Guide and Why You Need One. That post explains the details of style guides and their usefulness in marketing your business. Otherwise, if you’re ready to create a style guide for your brand, here are our tips for getting started! 

How to Create a Style Guide and Use it Effectively

Below is a list of brand standards that are normally found in a style guide. How detailed you get is up to you. This list is by no means exhaustive. You may need to provide other necessary direction that relates specifically to your unique context.

1. Define your brand’s voice.

Before creating your brand style guide, make sure that you and your team have clarity regarding your brand’s voice. In other words, how do you want your brand to sound when communicating with your audience?

For example, do you want to be friendly and approachable? Professional and knowledgeable? Witty and sarcastic? Once you know how you want your brand to sound, you can create guidelines for others who will be creating content for your brand so that they capture the proper tone.

2. Define guidelines for using your logo.

Your logo is the most recognizable element of your brand identity; therefore, it’s critical to establish clear guidelines for how others may use it. At its bare minimum, your style guide should define how and how not to use your logo. The guidance you provide should include details such as

  • size requirements
  • how to properly use the color palette
  • where on a page, photo, or screen the logo may be placed
  • rules regarding how to use white space and avoid crowding the logo

Instructions for logo use are essential to maintaining the integrity of your brand. Establishing brand standards will ensure that your logo is always used in a way that reinforces your brand identity.

3. Choose a color palette.

Your brand’s color palette is one of the most important elements of its visual identity. The colors you choose will be used in everything from your website and marketing materials to your social media posts and product packaging.

Ideally, your designers provided a color palette when they created your logo. If not, or if your logo is black and white only and you want to add color, you can always establish and apply new color guidelines to your visual identity going forward.

When choosing colors for a brand style guide, you should keep a few things in mind. First, consider the target audience of your brand. What colors will resonate with them? Keeping your target audience in mind will help you narrow down your options and choose colors that appeal to them.

Next, think about the overall look and feel of your brand. What kind of impression do you want to make? Do you want to be seen as playful and fun? Or serious and professional? The colors you choose should reflect the overall tone of your brand.

Once you’ve chosen a color palette, add that to your style guide. Include the hex and RGB color codes, so others who create collateral for your brand achieve an exact match.

Ultimately we strongly recommend working with an experienced graphic designer when selecting colors for your brand. Please contact us if you need help walking through this process.

4. Develop a typography system.

Typography is another key component of your brand’s visual identity. You will use these same fonts on all marketing materials, so be sure you like them and that they look right in all applications.

When choosing, look for fonts that reflect your brand’s voice and are easy to read. In addition to choosing primary and secondary typefaces, you should also define their use. For example, define how and when to use a bold font versus an italics font.

5. Create templates for common marketing materials.

Once you have defined your brand’s visual identity, you can start creating templates for common marketing materials, such as business cards, flyers, email newsletters, social media posts, and online ads. These templates should include the colors, fonts, and other design elements that make up your brand’s visual identity. Having these templates will make it easier and faster for you to create new marketing materials, and ensure that they all maintain a consistent look and feel.

We Can Help You Create a Style Guide

These are the big five of style guides, but you may want to include additional guidance relative to verbiage, words to use/words to avoid, what types of photography and images may be used, and other specifics relative to your brand.

Don’t overthink the process. A style guide’s function is to keep your organization on the same page and present a unified voice to your target audience. If you have specific questions or need additional guidance, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team. We’d be happy to help you create and implement a style guide for your brand!

Cross & Crown

About Cross & Crown

Cross & Crown is a team of creatives who are passionate about solving problems through design and technology, taking what is there and making it better. Based in Chambersburg, PA, we strive to help educate, advocate, and thrive in a digital world.

Our Culture

We drive results for work that matters.