A style guide forms the foundation of a company’s branding standards. The basic components of a style guide—logos, typography, color schemes—fall clearly within the realm of a visual designer’s expertise. A team’s designers will likely be the most frequent users of a style guide as they develop the visual content for websites, marketing materials, and more. But style guide literacy shouldn’t be limited to designers.
At its core, the purpose of a style guide is to create a recognizable brand, and every member of an organization shares responsibility for upholding and promoting brand standards. From customer service representatives to copywriters, sales account managers to coders, every member of an organization benefits from understanding the parameters of a style guide. And the successful implementation of a style guide at every level leads to better outcomes for the company.
Here are four key reasons a style guide is not just for your designers.
1. Build trust in your brand.
Beyond the basic visual standards, a style guide speaks to the core values and character of an organization. Every interaction a customer or client has with a company plays into their understanding of what the organization cares about. Style guidelines such as tone of writing or use of logos go a long way toward creating a cohesive and consistent brand awareness across media.
Although the majority of an organization’s branded content may originate with the design team, small details like a stylistically consistent email signature line can provide great opportunities to reinforce brand identity. Over time, a customer develops expectations for a brand. Delivering on those expectations builds trust and brand loyalty.
American Express’ recently unveiled logo and identity demonstrates the company understands the value of brand trust. Its identifiers have been updated for greater legibility across platforms—see the alternate “AM EX” logo particularly suited for social media icon use—and convey a bolder look to align with the roll-out of its new global platform, “Powerful Backing: Don’t Do Business/Don’t Live Life Without It.” At the same time, American Express remains faithful to the color scheme and typography its customers have grown to expect and trust—now keeping up with them on digital platforms and across every corner of the globe.
2. Work more efficiently.
Style guides can get pretty complex. In addition to outlining design standards, a branding guide should identify appropriate—and inappropriate—uses of the style. When teams create clear-cut examples of the correct implementation of style guidelines, they eliminate unnecessary guesswork and ensure everyone is working toward the same goals.
MailChimp’s content style guide is an excellent example of a tool that promotes both a company’s brand and its workflow efficiencies—especially for writers. The guide touches on voice and tone, how to incorporate web elements, writing for a variety of media, and even addresses company standards for writing with a “person-first perspective.” (For example, their standards eschew gendered language and descriptions of race or ability unless relevant.) The best part of the guide? It’s completely searchable, making it a one-stop reference for writers.
Companies that outsource content development or design work especially benefit from a clearly defined style guide. Outside companies are not likely to be as familiar with your brand, so a set of well-articulated guidelines will help them deliver a polished finished product.
Standards reduce confusion, save time, and center the core values of an organization in all its communications, rather than the personal preferences of an individual.
3. Collaborate more practically.
Some organizations are made up of numerous departments or employ team members who work in different locations. Style guides facilitate practical collaboration on projects by outlining norms and overarching goals.
Teams of writers and coders especially benefit from specific stylistic guidelines. Better to determine an official stance on the Oxford comma early than incite a war among copy editors. And for coders, a style guide specific to code syntax—like the one AirBnB publishes—eliminates the need for stylistic decisions in the development process, making it much easier to integrate the work of multiple team members.
4. Evolve your style.
A style guide does not need to be a static document. Rather, it should change and evolve with a company. By defining guidelines and consistently applying them, a company will be able to identify components of a style guide that are outdated.
Changes to a style guide can reflect design trends, new standards for mobile optimization, or the evolution of communication styles. And the process of rebranding or redefining a company’s style provides a great opportunity to re-introduce an audience to the company’s identity.
Does your company need help creating a style guide, rebranding, or something more?
Maestro can help with that.Contact us!