How to create brand guidelines for an existing brand in five steps

Head design

How to create brand guidelines for an existing brand in five steps

By Sam Jenzen, Graphic Designer at LUMA-iD

November 4th, 2019

At LUMA we are experts in taking ideas all the way from concept to production, which includes all packaging, graphics and branding. It’s common to take organically grown styles and turn them into robust and cohesive brands, which is what we did for the Freefly VR headset.

Style guides, or brand guidelines, are crucial to a serious business or product even when working alone, but especially with a growing team. It may be easy to fall into a natural and unspoken style, but you must outline your brand. A messy brand is an incoherent brand, so take a day and set out your style! It’s easy once you’ve got a library of artwork, you can achieve in these 5 simple steps:

1. Identity your identity

You already have a personality – do not lose this. Identity is the most important part of a brand, and the most time consuming, so make sure you don’t waste all that hard-earned SEO by throwing it all away for a slightly different name. You should also outline your writing style and give examples to ensure you stay the same throughout your presence. Imagine meeting someone and their voice changes halfway through – not good! Having said that, tone is different to voice. I speak in a different tone at the bank rather than the pub, however my voice stays the same.


2. Secure your assets

While it may be tempting to start editing the logo your original logo, these kinds of antics should be left for big (and cautious) company changes. Although you may feel that you are only just setting out your brand guidelines properly, the fact you have made a logo means that you already have brand guidelines! Follow what has already been laid out in your existing artwork but define the rules that already exist. This includes fonts, logos, graphics, colours, taglines and even photography style. An important thing to note with logos and colours is that you will need a logo that will work both on white and black backgrounds (an on-white option and an on-black option).

3. Update and refine

Once you have defined your assets, you can refine them to a clear identity. For example, if you have multiple logo variations already in use, it’s ok to reduce these and decide which should be used in each scenario. There’s no harm in creating new ideas, but make sure there aren’t multiple ideas clashing with each other. This is also a good opportunity for tweaks to things that you may not have given much thought to before, i.e. minor colour changes.


4. Explain to your staff (and yourself!)

Make sure you give short descriptions and explanations throughout. You never know who will be making posters and writing articles for you 6 months down the line, or even if you will remember what you were talking about! You are writing the rule-book so use simple and authoritative words, but don’t be too restrictive. If you display any technical skills in your rule-book, give brief tutorials on each one.

5. Demonstrate

Once you have your Bible, you will know your brand inside and out – great! But remember, there’s a fine line between “what isn’t included isn’t allowed” and “what isn’t included means free reign”, so quick reference pages such as ‘Correct Usage’ and ‘Incorrect Usage’ are incredibly useful for people to understand where they should focus their creativity. You don’t want to stifle people; you want to help them by giving them less to worry about and freeing them up to be creative in the right places.

6. Don’t be too precious!

Just get the first draft out there, anything is better than nothing! Your guidelines will evolve and develop in time. A life raft is better than nothing.