After months of writing, designing, planning, redesigning, reading, studying, testing, banging head on desk, getting a glass of wine then jumping back in again, I FINALLY had my whole site exactly how I dreamed it would be.
I have dreamed forever about starting my own business, so nine months ago I quit my “day job” to make that dream a reality. I gave myself a deadline of January 2015 for my official business launch and I was way ahead of schedule. I was feeling great and super excited for my big launch party.
The DAY BEFORE my big launch, I was making a few last minute changes to my launch post and noticed I had an theme update. So like any other good self-hosted WordPress user, I updated my theme and continued on with my edits. Not long after I got a notification from a friend saying my site wasn’t showing up.
I had just checked it a few minutes earlier and it was totally fine. So I jumped onto the front end and was faced with what we WordPress users refer to as “THE WHITE SCREEN OF DEATH!” Naturally, I refreshed my screen, panicked for about 30 seconds, then quickly called the trusty customer service staff at Bluehost.*
After some thorough investigation, we discovered what I am now referring to as a CTD (a code transmitted disease) a.k.a a bad line of code in my theme’s update. We were able to remove the CTD but that resulted in wiping out my entire formatting and customized settings. Months of hard work – gone, like I never did anything in the first place.
I could have panicked, canceled my big launch, closed my computer and cried, but I had an insurance plan, or more specifically, a design insurance plan. My brand’s style guide. Yes, I had suffered a huge blow in a critical time, but because of my style guide, I was able to change themes, restyle my content, apply my brand’s identity specifics and be up and running in time for my big launch.
All of us here at DYOB have one major thing in common, we are all DIY designers who are investing our own time and energy into creating our own perfect little corner of the web. It makes sense for us to keep a thorough backup of all our creative and intellectual property, online and offline.
What is a style guide?
A style guide is a complete manual dictating all the specifics of your brand’s stylistic and content structuring from color codes, typography selections, sizing, tone, mood, images, and content.
This guide works for both personal and professional use. When you are working on creating a consistent brand identity for your business, a style guide is perfect to keep you consistent. When collaborating with other businesses, such as guest posts, or features, it’s a great resource to provide to them so that they know how you want your brand to be represented on their platform.
What gets included in your style guide?
Branding is all about the user experience you provide for anyone and everyone who comes in contact with your brand and business. Any element that factors into that experience should be included in your style guide.
I always recommend starting off with a visual inspiration collection to provide an overall example of your brands specific visual elements.
- LOGO + VARIATIONS
Provide specific examples of your brand logo as well as all variations used. Make sure to specify all usage guidelines like sizing, placing, colors, where it can and can’t be used.
Have a specific collection of your brand’s color selections. Make sure to include all HEX codes, RGB numbers, and CMYK percentages to cover all the major color formats you might need to refer to.
- PATTERNS + STYLE ELEMENTS
Include any and all patterns and style elements such as gold foil, glitter, wood, chevron etc… Make sure to also include if any style elements are to never be included in your design. For example, if you NEVER use glitter, specify that in this section.
Keep a specific collection of all your brand’s typography selections. Include all font names, sizing, style (script, handwriting, italics, bold etc…) and heading selections for both online and offline marketing. Include the information for all image overlay typography too so all your social posts will have a consistent brand identity linking back to your business.
Do you have any unique formatting rules you maintain for your brand? Heading styles, list styling, separators, image usage policy? Make sure to detail all that information here.
- TONE + MOOD
Tone and mood are critical elements in establishing a brand experience. Make sure to include tone and mood specifics including examples of your own work, quotes, terminology and language guidelines like the use of profanity or emojicons in your text.
- SOCIAL IMAGES
Don’t just keep a detailed record of the visual layout of your brand’s website and blog images, but your social platform images as well including Pinterest pins, Facebook posts, adds, cover photos, tabs, Twitter cards, and Instagram style guides. Make sure to include examples of all your major platform post styles.
- POST SPECIFICS
How do you plan to integrate your brand’s tone and mood into your social posts? Again make sure to include formatting regulations for your social posts. How and where you will add any attributes, and how to write the content of your social posts.
Keep a collection of your personal images and where you’ll use them so when other brands or sponsors are in need of pictures of you, you know exactly which ones to give them and how they should be displayed to best represent you and your brand.
So, ladies, let’s do this, DEFEND YOUR DESIGNS!
DIY Style Guide Resources:
- byRegina.com – byRegina’s excellent post about creating a style guide for your blog + a FREE Style Guide Worksheet to help organize your brand specifics.
- Story by Modcloth Visual Design – For a less content heavy style guide example, check out Modcloth’s visual branding style guide and how they specify the details of their visual brands guidelines.
- Colourlovers – Great site to help you identify and collect your specific brand’s color palette. You can look through pallets already designed, create your own, and if you create a color not yet in their database, you get to name it! (How cool is that?!)
- Design Seeds – Another great popular resource for getting color inspired. Beautiful simple color palette you can go through and find the perfect collection for your brand and business.
- Google Web Fonts – Great popular resource to collect typography selections. Find new font combos to use on your own site and get the specific names and font families for your typography choices.
- Canva – Popular image and content creation resource, also has what they refer to as “design school”. A blog with all kinds of tutorials and resources to help you organize and format your specific style elements to include into your style guide.
- Moodboard Templates – Free moodboard template by Pommel Lane to help you design your brands moodboard of images, textures, patterns and inspiration.
Just like car insurance, renters insurance, health insurance etc… you hope and pray that you’ll never need it, but you have it anyway just in case. Take the time and invest in your design insurance. Protect yourself from life’s little curve balls and maintain that brand consistency that your followers have come to know and love. Defend your design!
Each business is unique. So some of the sections listed above might be useful to you, and some might not. There might also be extra areas that are essential to document in your style guide. Mess around with it, tweak it, adjust, add, subtract, experiment and get creative until you have a collection of information that you know you can rely on.
There are TONS of different variations of style guides out there. If I haven’t listed one that was helpful to you, please share in the comments below. I know there are lots of people out there that would love to know what has helped you. Thank you so much Marianne for having me here today to share my story with all of you. I’d love to hear if this was helpful to you or if you have any other questions relating to style guides and branding.
As always, please share this post if it was useful to you! 🙂
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