Design Insurance: The Power of a Style Guide

Defend Your Design! Design Insurance: The Power of a Style Guide + Free Style Guide Workbook. By guest blogger Julie Harris on www.DesignYourOwnBlog.com.

Defend Your Design! Design Insurance: The Power of a Style Guide + Free Style Guide Workbook. By guest blogger Julie Harris on www.DesignYourOwnBlog.com.

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.

Hello everyone! As you may or may not know, I’m currently on the beach in Costa Rica sans computer (gasp!) so the lovely Julie Harris from Julie Harris Design is helping keep DYOB warm while I’m gone. I am SO excited to have her share this Style Guide post with you because I’ve been meaning to write one for forever, so yay! PLUS this story has happened to me too! Now back to Julie…

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.

Download Your Free Style Guide Template (+ more free resources) here.

  1. MOODBOARD
    I always recommend starting off with a visual inspiration collection to provide an overall example of your brands specific visual elements.
  2. 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.
  3. COLORS
    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.
  4. 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.
  5. TYPOGRAPHY
    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.
  6. FORMATTING
    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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. HEADSHOTS
    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.

Julie Harris of http://www.julieharrisdesign.comAbout Julie Harris
Julie Harris is a creative business consultant and digital designer specializing in Social Media Marketing and Brand Development. With communication, community, and collaboration at the heart of what she does, Julie brings a passionate and intentional focus into her work as she helps artists and entrepreneurs of all levels develop a stronger creative clarity and confidence in their businesses by clearly defining who they are and what they do.

Aiming to bridge the digital gap between who people are online v.s. offline, Julie strives to redefine what it means to be an online business professional. She provides business, brand, and design development services as well as free resources for creative professionals looking to establish themselves online as leaders in their industry. Learn more about Julie and her beautiful mess of creative madness at www.julieharrisdesign.com.

As always, please share this post if it was useful to you! 🙂

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31 Comments

  • Erika Madden says:

    I love tips #2 and #3, Julie. Fabulous post. Your situation is the perfect example of why it’s so necessary (and helpful).

    • Julie Harris says:

      Thanks, Erika! I jump into my Style Guide all the time just for my HEX codes. I really need to memorize them. Applying a consistent logo and color scheme across all your branding helps so much in brand identification, plus I don’t have to redesign them every time I want to use them. Having them all pre-defined and collected in one place has helped me so much!

      I know I’m not the only one who’s gone through a “design disaster” before and I probably won’t be the last, so I really help my story and the style guide help other DIY designers protect all their hard work.

  • INA says:

    so many good advices, thanks so much for that great ideas and your ressources!

    • Julie Harris says:

      Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to enjoy the post! I absolutely love collecting resources from all over and sharing them with my followers and friends. Share the knowledge! 🙂

  • Keizra says:

    Great guest post Julie! I really love #1 for the reasons you listed in #7 and #9. When I create a moodboard, I’m always thinking about the tone, the overall vibe and brand words. Then I always look back at that moodboard to remind me of the vibe and personality for posts!

    • Julie Harris says:

      That’s exactly what I do too, Keizra! I find that everyone is inspired in their own way. Some people are visually inspired while others are inspired by quotes or sayings, and others are inspired by actions. Moodboards are very pretty and are often identified with the visual branding process, but I think they are equally as powerful in the content building and business branding process as well. I like my brand packages and style guides to speak to as many of the 5 senses as possible and visuals help make that happen.

  • Marianne says:

    I am so happy to have you here Julie, thanks for such a great and thorough post, love the resources!

    • Julie Harris says:

      Thank you, Marianne for having me here! I was so excited to be here. As you already know, this was the first blog I ever started following and to see my own content shared here is such an accomplishment and honor in my mind 🙂 Thank you! I hope your creative community finds my resources helpful in their own DIY branding and design endeavors.

  • This was a great post, very informative and who knew you could get insurance for your brand?! or maybe I’m just behind on the times (hehe). Thanks for sharing yet another great post 🙂

    Lauren
    LB Designs
    xx

    • Julie Harris says:

      Lauren! I am so happy you got a chance to pop in and read my post. I used to work in a bank and they were always pushing up to promote financial insurance and investment options so I often joke with myself when designing my content with the mindset of “investing in my own branding and design future”. But it’s seriously so important. We have insurance for everything else in our life (car, home, renters, flight, business, health….) why not design? 🙂 I am so happy you enjoyed it.

  • Riette says:

    Thank you so much for this post Julie! I love love looove your design, sooo beautiful!

    I think between you and Marianne I am finally motivated to really go for it and start my blog – again.

    Thank you so much for this.

    • Marianne says:

      Yay! I am so happy to hear that Riette! We’re here for you if you need support!

    • Julie Harris says:

      Thank you so much, Riette! I’m so happy you like my site design. As mentioned in the post, it has truly been a labor of love! Yay! Blogging has been such an amazing way for me to engage my creative community and build strong relationships. Marianne was one of the bloggers who inspired me to get into blogging in the first place. I was too shy at the time to reach out say hi to her, feeling like my blog wasn’t worthy yet, but then she stumbled upon my blog and reached out to me. Now I consider her one of my BBF’s! (Best Business Friends). Blog love at first sight! 😉

      I noticed you’ve joined our amazing community of brilliant creatives over on FB. Please take advantage of the powerful community there! All those ladies are so truly supportive, constructive, and truly brilliant entrepreneurs. I can’t wait to hear more about your blog!

  • Kristal says:

    Marianne
    I am so glad that I invested my time in branding my blog, my website, and my Etsy Boutique.
    I have everything backed up 3xs { once on the computer hard drive, once on a network family drive, and a removable hard drive that I can take anywhere. This makes life easier if you decide to take a step back from blogging and refocus your attention on other matters.
    I recommend backing up designs for business cards and anything printed related to selling a product.
    I had my original concepts for 3 years before I decided to hit delete and start fresh. I think I may have even had screen shots of everything until I figured out what was important and what needed to be deleted.

    • Marianne says:

      Hey Kristal, so good to see you! Have you picked up on your blog again?

      Thanks for visiting again and chiming in. I think it’s SO important to back things up as well. I have lost designs in the past and make sure to do backups now on a regular basis.

      I hope to see you around more these days!

  • This is so useful, great post!

    Even though I find reading bout the creative design process behind other blogs fascinating, I’ve always been too lazy to do a style guide for my own blog. But of course it makes absolute sense to have one, both as a way to be consistent and as an insurance.

    I’ll get to it promptly. Thank you for this post!

    • Marianne says:

      I’m so glad that Julie could convince you to take the same care for your own blog in this way, Maria. If you ever want to share it for feedback in the FB group, please do so!

  • Cat says:

    Aghhh that must have been heartbreaking when you lost the work! Such a good reminder to have a visual back up.

    I’ve always combined style guides in with my brand guidelines – kind of making one epic ‘THIS IS ME’ doc!

  • Chintan Raval says:

    Love to read such clean and clear cut info for design 🙂 :*

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