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The Modern Brand Style Guide: Elements of a Visual Language

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Your brand is communicating in more ways than ever, using new tools and mediums to get your message across. From tweets and annual reports to infographics and sales collateral, your content reaches many audiences, both internal and external.

And at each touch point, a unified visual identity is necessary to create a consistent brand experience. A robust brand style guide is the best way to ensure that visual presentation is unified, but your brand managers and designers will only adhere to what’s included. If your guide only covers traditional elements such as color palettes, fonts, and logo treatments, you can’t present your brand appropriately in the many mediums available to publish. Want to make sure your guide is up to date? Here are 4 things your brand style guide is probably missing.

1) Data Visualization

USA TodayUSA Today’s style guide, created by Column Five, includes guidance for various types of data visualization. 

Infographics, client reports, presentations—wherever you’re using data, it should be visualized and well designed. Good design helps you communicate more effectively by presenting information in its most optimized and easy-to-interpret form. Including best practices for data visualization and other information design will help educate your company and guide their creations to ensure they are accurate. Provide guidelines for charts, graphs, maps, tables, and diagram or any other visualizations your brand consistently uses.

2) Iconography

USA Today IconographyUSA Today iconography allows users to easily grab visual elements to enhance content. 

All sorts of branded content can be enhanced with visual illustration or iconography. Unfortunately, your marketing team is not necessarily full of design experts (as evidenced by the abundance of clip art in professional communication). Providing a library of stock iconography can help content creators produce better looking, on-brand materials in less time, saving headaches and eyesores all around.

3) Photography


GYG_case-study_interiorThe visual language for Get Your Guide, created by Eidenspiekermann, includes direction for brand photography, emphasizing the depiction of real people and real experiences.

As visual content becomes more prevalent in brand publishing, setting guidelines for elements such as photography helps keep everyone on the same page. Consider how photos, filters, overlayed text, etc. should be used in all publishing, from advertising, to social, to presentations.

4) Interactive elements

USA Today Interactive

USA Today‘s interactive style guide. 

Interactive content engages audiences, so it’s likely that your brand will move toward more of this type of content. Creating a consistent style for interactives, including things like navigation, overlays, text placement, animation, etc., helps ensure users are interacting with content that is well-designed and optimized for maximum effect.

How Strict Should You Be With Your Style Guide?

Adhering to your brand style guide is the best way to ensure your communication is on-brand, especially as new methods of communication and publishing platforms are adopt. However, as you have these conversations, also consider how strictly the guide should be followed at different communication touchpoints.

Visage-VisualFor content that is heavily tied to your product, service, or brand, such as sales collateral, brand guides should be strictly followed. But for content that is more editorial, you’ll likely want to empower your team to be more creative—especially considering platforms like social, where you may be posting user-generated branded content.

Regardless of what content your brand is creating, make sure you are regularly reviewing and updating your style guide to keep everyone on the same page.

Think we missed some? Tell us what elements you think a modern brand style guide needs.