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SW's JOURNAL

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HOW TO CREATE A 'BRAND GUIDELINES' DOCUMENT

Samantha Wills

Brand Guidelines, (also commonly referred to as brand standards / style guides / a brand's bible) are essentially a set of rules that explain how your brand works. These guidelines typically include basic information such as an overview of your brand's history, vision, personality and key values. The Brand Book is a collection of brand elements and a detailed description of the brand. It influences every marketing campaign, communication and product. By covering every aspect of the brand, this document functions as a strategic guideline to follow in the future.

The Brand Guidelines is a document constructed specifically for internal use. It is a very useful tool for creatives, who are shaping the voice & feel of the brand, and helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page. It allows you to have a standing gauge to measure everything against: does all of your collection sit comfortably against the guide? Is that translated seamlessly through your campaign? Does your point of sale resonate with the guidelines? 

It is also highly beneficial for your sales people and the in-house team members who will be talking to customers, so that they all tell a consistent story to retailers. You can distribute it to external partners; possibly those working on your packaging, website development or any other touch point of your brand. 

Below, I have featured an old SAMANTHA WILLS Brand Guidelines, which we refer to as Brand Standards. This is quite an in-depth document, and please remember this is a document constructed 10 years into a brand's lifespan. 

If you are just launching your brand, or it is a only a few seasons old, yours doesn't necessarily have to be this in-depth. It may also take you a few times (read a few seasons or years!) to define the language & message of your brand. Additionally, it will (and should) evolve over the years; your guidelines are a working document that should be added to or updated annually. 

Here is a break down of what I included in our SAMANTHA WILLS Brand Standards. Again, this is a very in-depth document so please don't feel that it's necessary to fill out all of these for your brand in the initial stages. Only use content that you are 100% on - this document needs to be presented with confidence & authority, and a clear message/vision for your team. If you're a one-man-band at this stage, the standards are an incredibly helpful document to revisit if you are feeling overwhelmed or feel you are 'too deep' in a project. I find it helps me to refocus. 

> BRAND STATEMENT:  What does your brand stand for? I treat this as your top three values as a brand. 

> DESIGN PRINCIPLES: The 7 Commandments that you stick to when designing your product. This allows you to ensure your ranges are consistent & tell a story that is true to the brand. 

> CREATIVE DIRECTOR PROFILE: This is dependent on what type of business you have.... If it is a design / fashion / creative product business, i suggest profiling your Creative Director / Designer. If it's not, then you should profile your Founder in this space. You can learn more on writing a bio HERE. 

>BRAND ORIGINS: What is the journey of your brand? When did you start? Why was it started? Who Started it? etc etc...

> DIVISIONS: This section is if you have different sections that make up your brand. I would not have included this for the first 8 years of having my brand. 

> VOICE: What is the spoken & written tone of your brand? If your brand was a person, what would be their attitude? This is often (not always) usually the actual voice / tone / demeanor of the the brand's founder. 

> Samantha Wills v SAMANTHA WILLS: This section is for modest people, like myself, who name the brand after themselves.... How do you differentiate between the person & the brand? Is it necessary to? In my case it was, as I was pursuing profiling & other career extensions outside of the SAMANTHA WILLS brand. Similar to the 'DIVISIONS' section, this only became necessary about 7 or 8 years into my brand's progression. If you do not have a profile behind you upon establishing your brand, I would keep the message VERY singular. Try not to add too much detail just yet, as this can dilute the message & become confusing. More on how I made this mistake early on in a future entry! 

> SOCIAL MEDIA: As it states, social media is just a snapshot of your social channels & how many followers. This is one page you will have to update more frequently in the document. I suggest maybe once a month. 

> LOGO + BRANDING: The SAMANTHA WILLS brand has multiple divisions - we have divisional logos which are mainly used on look books / press releases. This section explains that. If you only have a corporate logo (which is all you should have upon your brand's launch to have a clear message) - you can combine this section with the following two sections. 

> TYPOGRAPHY: This is specifically for your graphic designer or external web developers, and shows how & where you use your selected fonts. If you have an external graphic designer create your logo & typeface, they will be able to best advise on how to pull this page guide (and Branding / Colour Palette) together. 

> COLOR USAGE: If you have a corporate color, or a highlight color, here is where you explain this. You can also pull this, plus Logo + Typography into its own document should you need to send to external agencies that may be using / placing your logo as an example, in advertising, or if your brand is sponsoring something, or if your logo is being added as a decal to a retail wall etc. You can specify that you require it to have no background / a border / no additional colours to be added. They must also use your pantone reference. 

 

There is definitely a lot to take in in this post - and for the record, the SAMANTHA WILLS brand didn't have a Brand Standards document until the last few years - so you do not NEED one upon launch. However, I do think it allows you, specifically if you are the Founder or Creative Director (or both!) to get your brand vision & touch points down on paper, while communicating these easily (and visually) to others. 

Take your time (a few weeks, or months even) building this document. Build it bit by bit, step away & revisit later. Repeat. There is such value in stepping away from something & coming back with fresh eyes. - SWx