Consistency is key to creating a streamlined, professional brand. But it’s difficult to create consistency if you don’t have a homebase for all of your brand standards (like your logo variations, color values, fonts, graphic style, etc.)
That’s where a brand style guide comes in.
And that’s why I invited graphic designer Melissa Yeager to join me for last week’s Ellechat.
Melissa creates vertical one-document brand style guides. And she shared her secrets for maintaining visual consistency and displaying professionalism through every detail of your brand by creating a brand style guide.
Here’s a look at what we covered:
- What a brand style guide is and why it’s important to have one
- Examples of vertical brand style guides
- A four step process for putting together a brand style guide
- And more!
You can watch the replay by registering through the Crowdcast window below, or keep scrolling and take a look at the transcript.
Lauren Hooker: Hello everyone, and welcome to this weeks’ Ellechat on creating a brand style guide from start to finish. I’m really excited that you all are taking the time out of your work day to join in today. I’m even more excited to have Melissa joining me today.
She is one of my favorite designers. I love her design style. I originally found her through Jamie of Spruce Rd. They work together. She’s been in business for about a year now, and it seems like her business has just taken off. Every time that I’m on Instagram, I’m seeing her work and her brand style guides. They are beautiful. Throughout this brand challenge that I’ve been doing for the month of February, I thought it would be fun to invite her on and get her to share some of her secrets for that.
Melissa Yeager: Hey!
Lauren Hooker: Good to see you!
Melissa Yeager: Good to see you, too.
Lauren Hooker: Thanks for joining me today.
Melissa Yeager: Absolutely.
Lauren Hooker: I usually start it off and invite you to tell your story, which I do want to hear about, but I also thought it would be fun to throw some random questions your way to get to know you a little bit better, too.
Melissa Yeager: Yeah!
Lauren Hooker: First tell us about how you started your business. Then we’ll get into those.
Melissa Yeager: Okay. I started my business a little over a year ago. It was January of 2016. I worked at a couple different design studios and a photography production company. Everywhere I worked I just kept hitting a ceiling where it was like I want to decide who I want to work with. I want to decide how I work. At previous places I kind of felt weird niche-ing down and specializing more in certain styles, and I always felt like my work was a little too feminine, and I couldn’t afford to be feminine because it needed to appeal to everyone. Then I kind of just got to a point where it was like you know what, screw it, I’m just going to do the kind of work I want to do and kind of shoot for the freedom and flexibility that I was looking for as my husband and I are thinking about starting a family soon and just building that flexibility now is ideal and just seeing where this takes me.
Lauren Hooker: That’s awesome. I’m glad that you did.
Melissa Yeager: Yeah, me too.
Lauren Hooker: So you celebrated your first year of business. First fun – I think these are fun questions – is what is the biggest thing you’ve learned these past 12 months of business? What’s the biggest take away? Because I’m sure a lot of the people who are tuning in here, too, have fairly new businesses or remember what it was like during their first year of business.
Melissa Yeager: Yeah. There are so many. A big one is to make sure you leave the house if you’re working from home by yourself because that was a problem for a while. I’d say that the biggest one is that whole, that quote that goes don’t compare your beginning to someone’s middle because as soon as I started a business, I started really keeping a track of … Jamie’s a great example, and you’re a great example of like looking at people and being okay, they’re doing weekly webinars, and they have e-courses and they’re doing all these other things, and I need to be doing all those things, too. When I should’ve been focusing on getting the business set up and gaining traction with clients, I was also stressing myself out by being oh I need to do these 17 other things as well.
It just added a lot more stress and pressure than I needed at the time. The thing that I’ve come to realize is I need to settle down. I can set my goals out, but I’ll know when it’s the right time to move forward with the next thing, and I don’t have to be doing everything all at once now. I’ve over time gained a little bit healthier of a perspective of seeing other people and being like oh that’s great that they’re doing that, but I don’t need to be doing that right now.
Lauren Hooker: Great for them, but not for me. Yes.
Melissa Yeager: Yeah, exactly. Not right now.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah. I can totally relate to that, too. I think that continues throughout business, trying not to compare what you’re doing to what someone else is doing. Something else that I’ve found helpful in that regard, especially starting out, is to focus on one thing per month. This month, I’m going to focus on just getting into a consistent block schedule. This next month I’m going to focus on this. That helped me to just take a step back and not try to do everything at once, but kind of prioritize and focus. But that’s a really good lesson. Thank you for sharing that.
Melissa Yeager: Absolutely.
Lauren Hooker: Question number two. Favorite design project of all time that you’ve worked on?
Melissa Yeager: My favorite project? Oh that’s really tough. I don’t know. I feel like my clients are like my children, so I have a really hard time picking a favorite. They’re all fun from very different perspectives. I love the work I’ve done for Function Coffee Labs in Philly because that was a really fun, hand-drawn, very warm aesthetic kind of project, and I got to do sign intro, which was amazing. At the same time, a former co-worker started the business Creative Picnic, and she’s a marketing specialist, and that is polar opposite end, very clean graphics and it has this cool art deco, badass Gatsby vibe, which is just really fun. Probably a tie between those two.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah. I’ve seen bits and pieces of both of them on social media, and they’re both beautiful.
Melissa Yeager: Thank you.
Lauren Hooker: Then this is totally random, but one fact that no one would ever guess about you? Then we’ll move into content.
Melissa Yeager: I don’t know. I guess since I did it this morning, I practice hot yoga, so I’ve gotten really into Bikram yoga over the last year, and I’m currently towards the tail end of a 30 day challenge, but I’m supposed to do 30 practices in 28 days, so that’s happening, and if I do it, I get a free hoodie, and the studio has beautiful branding, so I’m like I want the hoodie!
Lauren Hooker: Ha!
Melissa Yeager: Of course that’s my motivation. In terms of working for myself and never really leaving the house too much, yoga’s been a really good compliment, belonging to a local studio. I don’t have enough time for it, but yes, I do, and I need to go, and I need to stretch, and I need to make sure I stand up and all of that. It helps me see other humans, too, which is good. Hot yoga.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah, we started doing Crossfit, oh man, months ago.
Melissa Yeager: Really?
Lauren Hooker: I don’t feel like I’m an intense person. It sounds so much more legit than it is.
Melissa Yeager: I’m picturing you picking up weights and throwing them, and it’s a really great picture.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah, I do it every morning. I love it. It might surprise you, but that’s what I do.
Melissa Yeager: Yeah.
Lauren Hooker: It’s been good just to get out of the house and see people during the day, so I can totally relate to that. I’m guilty of buying products solely for the branding, too, or getting excited about things totally for the beautiful branding. I can see why that would be a good motivator.
Melissa Yeager: We’ve talked about this before. My husband’s in IT, so he’s all function, and I’m all, well not all form, but a lot more of it, so even shopping for recording the e-course that I’m about to do, and I’m being like oh I like the white and gold one, and he’s like are you really choosing an audio thing based on how it looks? Have you been married to me for long? Do you know me?
Lauren Hooker: I love it. Right. Let’s dive in to content. Thank you for putting up with my random questions, but I thought they’d be really fun. I would have never known about your hot yoga challenge, which is good. We’re going to talk about brand style guides, but for a lot of people they don’t know exactly what a brand style guide is. How would you define the term brand style guide? What is it?
Melissa Yeager: I would say that a brand style guide is kind of like a visual inventory of all the assets you have to work with in your brand. It gives you a record of the different logos, variations that you have, like the different secondary marks you might have to work with, and then it gives you additional references for things like color and typography. Maybe if there are icons or patterns in your brand, it kind of lays everything out that you have to work with for you and reminds you of what those things are and what the values of them should be and even best practices for using everything.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah. I love that you said a visual inventory, too. An all in one place to keep all of your brand assets, like you said.
Melissa Yeager: Yeah.
Lauren Hooker: Which is super helpful with consistency because I think that’s one of the most important aspects of branding is consistency and doing the same thing over and over again. That’s awesome. I remember, too, and this was probably the case with you where you worked, showing up on my first day I started the company, and they had the brand style guide on my desk. They actually had it printed out.
Melissa Yeager: Really?
Lauren Hooker: Yeah. It was really helpful for me. The creative director gave it to me. Right from the beginning, I knew how to start using the brand and working with it.
Melissa Yeager: That’s really interesting.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah. It was really cool. At the time, I didn’t really understand the importance, and then once I started Elle & Company, it was like oh my gosh, this is so beneficial to have everything all in one.
Melissa Yeager: My day job that I left, I guess I’ll call it that, they actually didn’t have very nice branding when I first started working there. It was like basically the owner of the company had typed out the name and been like I like that font. Let’s go with that. He’s like, it took five minutes. So I re-branded them and came up with the style guide and everything. That was my first foray into a super comprehensive this is how you should use it, this is how you should not use it kind of style guide. In general, the ones I do for my clients are a little bit less in depth.
Lauren Hooker: Right.
Melissa Yeager: They’re generally more of the visual inventory and less these are all the use cases you might have and this is how it should look and all these different scenarios. It’s kind of your preference and the scope of the project.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah. What would you say are the biggest benefits you found from using and implementing brand style guides even for your clients, too?
Melissa Yeager: I’ve found first of all, it’s just nice for your client to be able to have that visual inventory because sometimes when it’s just a collection of folders within folders with different file names that they don’t understand, if they kind of forget what they have to work with, and they forget all the rationale and all the brand strategy that went into creating the brand to begin with. I like to include a lot of that in the brand style guidelines, so that way when a client’s looking back, months, years, after you’ve created the brand for them, they can kind of remind themselves, like oh right, I do have that asset which would work really well here, and this is why this illustration looks the way it does, or these are why these elements are in these patterns, or maybe these are why she created these different icons and the things that they symbolize.
Lauren Hooker: Right.
Melissa Yeager: I think having that rationale to give them a thing to remind them and to have that visual inventory is really helpful. Plus especially when clients are like I don’t know what colors to use and I don’t know what fonts to use, I think that the style guide’s a cool opportunity to actually have the style guide be branded within the client’s branding, if that make sense, so you can kind of pull elements and style the typography for the style guide as your client would style their typography and their brand. That way they can see it in use, instead of just seeing here are the names of the fonts, and sure that’s what they look like. It’s like no, this is what a large heading might look like, and this is what a smaller heading might look like, and here’s some body copy for you. That way you’re not going out and designing their website from a style guide, but you’re at least giving them the tools to start to visualize how the brand might come to life in other scenarios.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah, I love that. I think, too, the brand style guide kind of acts as a system. I keep using this word, system, but I can’t think of a better word to describe it where you have all these different components, fonts, colors, the different logos, borders, backgrounds, patterns, and the style guide gives you the opportunity to show what that equation looks like. Plug this in with this, and you get this result.
Melissa Yeager: Yes.
Lauren Hooker: That’s kind of how I envision it functioning, so if my client has a question, well I need to go and design this that’s outside of the collateral items, here’s how you can go about it. Here are the fonts. Here are the colors. Here are the sizes. That makes sense.
Melissa Yeager: Yes, agreed. I think giving out a brand as a system is a really helpful thing because a lot of times it’s so visual, and you’re just drawing pictures for people, but it’s really key for the brand to be usable, and I know you do as well, and I really try to create modular brands for my clients, that way they have logos that work in different scenarios, that way they have something for when they have a more horizontal space, versus a more vertical space because there’s nothing worse than a client being like I love my logo, but it doesn’t fit anywhere that I need it to fit.
Lauren Hooker: Right.
Melissa Yeager: If you can’t use it, what good is it?
Lauren Hooker: It’s not there just to sit on your brand style guide.
Melissa Yeager: It’s not a pretty ornament for the top corner of your website.
Lauren Hooker: Right, exactly.
Melissa Yeager: That’s part of it, but that’s not everything.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah. What programs do you use normally to create the brand style guides?
Melissa Yeager: I use Illustrator. I’ve worked with people in the past who’ve used InDesign as well. I’d say it’s probably between those two for the most part for designers. I actually use a template that if you guys have ever heard of Sidecar or madebysidecar.com. I’ll throw that in the chat. Sidecar is from the folks at Focus Lab, so it’s kind of like their sister brand. They have a bunch of super helpful resources for designers, and they’re really high quality goods and everything. They have a vertical style guide template that I really love.
Lauren Hooker: Do you want to tell everyone what Sidecar is offering?
Melissa Yeager: Sidecar has been kind enough to set us up with a nice coupon code for our chat today. If you guys are interested in purchasing some things from Sidecar, they gave us 20% off anything that you would purchase, and it’s good for the next 90 days. The code is ELLECHAT20, so feel free to use that and go crazy. I know that I’m probably going to get off this call and go like what can I buy?
Lauren Hooker: I was like I am selfishly very excited for this coupon code.
Melissa Yeager: Yeah, yeah. I was just talking to Alicia about it and saying that I really want to show that I’m using the vertical style guide template. I’ll link to it. She was like why don’t we see if we can get a coupon code going? I’m like yes, please, that would be amazing.
Lauren Hooker: Well thank you for doing that. Those of you who are tuning in, this is an awesome opportunity. Melissa, if you want to share your screen to show. We talked about programs used to create it. I kind of skipped over examples. Maybe I’ll take a step back. I’m sorry about that. I think it might be helpful to show some examples of style guides and then maybe jump in. What do you think? Maybe we can just jump in and then show examples afterward.
Melissa Yeager: It’s because I need to install a screen share extension. Let me do that real quick.
Lauren Hooker: Okay. While you’re doing that, I’ll go ahead and share an example of a brand style guide that I really love. It’s the Skype brand style guide, just to give you all an idea of what a brand style guide can look like for those of you who might be unfamiliar with that. I’m going to share my screen real quick. Let’s see where the Skype … There we go. So this is Skype’s brand style guide. I might even copy and paste this into the comments so you all can flip through it at a later date. I’m not sure how old it is.
The great thing about this style guide and yours might not be as any pages or as in depth as Skype’s, so don’t freak out if yours doesn’t look quite like this. I also love how they paid attention to the tone, too. If you’ve been following along with brand challenge, I talked to you about the tone that you use. The intangible components of your brand are just as important as the visual elements, so the terms that you use and the tone of voice.
As you look through this, it talks about their logo, and it says our logo is a very valuable asset. We must treat it nicely. Never abuse our logo, it doesn’t have arms, so it can’t fight back. Our lawyers, however, are another story. You can even tell that they’re kind of witty within the tone of the brand. They show you how to use it for print and for screen, so that you can see the differences between the logos. They show you how not to use the logos. Never put it on the red background. You never put it on top of a photo or turn it sideways or add a really gross drop shadow. You can see that they cover everything, how you’re supposed to use their typefaces, their colors, so the spacing between their tagline and the logo. Strap lines. They even teach you how to draw their clouds. How are clouds made? They walk you through it.
It’s just very in depth so that they can hand it off to other designers within the Skype brand, and people can keep the designs all consistent, which I think is really neat. I’m going to stop sharing my screen at the moment. Melissa if you want to share more, but I’ll also drop that link to the Skype brand style guide right in here. It’s one of my favorites.
Melissa Yeager: Let’s start with this one. I’ll show you a couple examples of brands I’ve done somewhat recently. Sattwa Chai is a premium chai brand I’ve worked with recently, and this is me using the Sidecar vertical style guide template. A lot of style guides I’ve worked with in the past have been multi-page documents, which is great, but when I first heard about this, I really liked the way it pulled the whole brand together into a unified one page, one document. Well obviously, it’s one document, but one page span where it took you through panel by panel and just laid out all the brand elements for the client and just made it feel a lot more unified since it all existed together within that one page.
It kind of takes you throughout the top, the mark, and one of the secondary marks with the pattern behind it, and then we get into the logo and the marks, all the different logos they have to work with and the different orientations, secondary marks that they have to work with.
Lauren Hooker: Love these. I love the illustration.
Melissa Yeager: Oh thank you so much.
Lauren Hooker: You’re welcome.
Melissa Yeager: You’ll see there are the different elements of the brand on the right, but there’s the rationale on the left, which honestly that’s one of the first reasons I purchased the template to begin with because I feel like all of us as designers, have this tendency to be like oh I must be doing this wrong. There must be some magic thing I don’t know about that someone else is including in their style guides that I need to be including, too, to make myself more legit. I remember purchasing the template and having the peace of mind to be like right, these are the things I would include as well, but them laying out these paragraphs here, that encourages you to write more and not just have a page that’s like here are the fonts, here are your colors, and just the swatches, and just to actually give more of the rationale and a behind the scenes look at these are why we use these elements, and this is what they signify and all of that.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah.
Melissa Yeager: This is an example, like I mentioned, of integrating the different brand elements together, so this is one of their custom illustrations. This is a lesser heading style, a heading one style, and then some body copy with some of the other hand drawn elements, and then the way it goes into typography is really helpful I find, that it just shows the logo with some different typography styles and tells you what the fonts are, but it also gives some background to when the fonts are created, what they were inspired by, and just shows you how they should be used instead of these are what they are.
Lauren Hooker: I love it.
Melissa Yeager: Same thing goes with color, so you’ve seen that throughout this document, but it shows you which are the key brand colors, what the different values are for all of them. Then the patterns that I created for the brand. Sorry, my computer’s being a little bit laggy.
Lauren Hooker: No.
Melissa Yeager: It lays out the different patterns that we created based on those hand drawn illustrations. These are illustrations of the natural form of the ingredients, by the way, so there’s cardamom in here. There’s black pepper. There’s ginger and basically what those plants look like in their natural form and creating those into a really organic wonkily placed pattern, where it feels handmade and it feels kind of human, which is the whole impetus of the brand to make it feel not cold and digital. It wanted that warmth and like a person made it, which is why there’s a lot of irregular spacing in all the patterns and all of the hand drawn element, they feel hand drawn.
Lauren Hooker: Oh, and you even included the favicon. I never know how to say that.
Melissa Yeager: I would say fave-i-con.
Lauren Hooker: Awesome.
Melissa Yeager: We’re going to decide that it’s right. I’ll even include this. Sometimes in collateral, depending on the scope of what the client and I work on together, I’ll even design banners for them for Twitter and Facebook as well. Just essentially all the core elements that the brand has to work with, we’ll include here. Yeah, so this is a great example of that, and just taking the client through each different part of the brand.
The great thing about this, too, from a design perspective is recently I had the moment of enlightenment where I was like why am I writing a full blog post afterwards where I’m coming up with all this content from scratch? Why don’t I repurpose some of what’s happening in the brand guidelines? I’ve kind of started to create that as a system for myself where I’ll write everything and spend a lot of time creating the brand guidelines, writing copy for them. Then when it comes time to share the brand with the world, I can have that case study pulled from the brand guidelines and use that same copy and everything. In case you’re wondering what these images are back there behind this top block, this is my client’s brand style board, so like a mood board, if you will.
Lauren Hooker: Yep.
Melissa Yeager: I don’t think this was originally in the vertical style guide template, but I liked pulling it in because I thought it slightly hinted at, it was a subtle reminder of the visual style we came from in order to create this final result. I think it’s nice to have the client be able to peek back at where you started. Granted, I don’t really share things like this on blog posts and things like that on my website just because these images are pulled from other brands and Pinterest and things like that. I don’t want to infringe on people’s copyrights and things like that. But for internal use, and for sending it straight to your client, I think it’s a nice way to give that nod to the strategy you started out with.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah, I love, too, the great thing about brand guidelines style guides, even brand style boards, but I think even more so the brand style guides that include text, not only for those of you who are designers and who are working with clients, but also for those of you who are working on your own personal brand guidelines, it really makes you think through why you’re making decisions in your brand, why you’re choosing fonts, why you’re working with the kind of logos that you’re working with. And it outlines a system, like I said, for using it. It forces you to use intention about how all of these brand elements are going together. This is a beautiful example of that, Melissa. I love this brand.
Melissa Yeager: Thank you.
Lauren Hooker: You’re welcome. I especially love all the illustrations.
Melissa Yeager: Oh thank you so much. Would you like me to take you through just one more?
Lauren Hooker: Sure, yeah. I think we have a little more time for them before we get into how to put the step by step process for putting it together.
Melissa Yeager: Perfect. I know I promised I would share this one. This is a project I recently wrapped up for a new wellness blog that just launched that it’s rooted in the founder’s fertility journey she’s currently having. The brand is Fertilust, and it’s a very different feel from where we just came from. Sattwa is like warm and hand made, and just earthy, and Fertilust is cheerful and hopeful and very friendly. It’s got a totally different feel to it. It incorporates this vectorized hand lettering.
Lauren Hooker: It’s so pretty.
Melissa Yeager: This is a really different feel. This is all lettering that I hand sketched and then pulled into Illustrator and then vectorized from there. It’s created in a very smooth vector kind of way. Then this mark has a whole lot of rationale behind it where a quail is a symbol for love and abundance, and an orange is the symbol for fertility, so it kind of happened where I was messing around with organic natural elements, and that feeling of freedom that the bird represents and then came across that I could do both at once, and it was kind of that aha eureka moment that happens after maybe a few eight hour days of just banging your head against a wall.
Lauren Hooker: Yep. I can relate to that. It’s gorgeous. I love it.
Melissa Yeager: Thank you so much. It’s something I’m really happy with visually, but it’s just got that rationale, and the symbolism behind it, the meat of the brand. I’m really happy with how it turned out. They’ve got a couple different things going on, so there’s the brand descriptors up here that say the feeling the brand should evoke. It’s authentic, encouraging, fun, and playful. Then this is a secondary element that they have to work with that is their tagline progress redefined and add this kind of botanical frame element that I created. It’s got a very different feel from what we were just looking at, but it’s using the same template to lay out all those brand elements, and in the same way, go through that rationale and remind the client this is why we created this. This is what everything symbolizes and means. This is the story behind this logo and all the different ways they can use it as well.
When I was talking about creating something that’s really modular, they have this stacked primary logo, and it can fit next to each other as well. The logo type can be used on its own. It can be used with the type going around it. I went a little crazy on the submarks, but a lot of times that happens where I’ll create one and be like ooh, I can also do it this way, and I’ll do it that way. It just gives them more fun ways to use the brands, so things like this can happen in the footer of her website and various Instagram and things like that. It just makes the brand even more fun to work with, and it gives it more depth.
Lauren Hooker: Yep, so versatile, and when you have those elements, you can really rearrange them and pull them apart.
Melissa Yeager: Yes, exactly. It’s taking you through the different type faces within the brand and how they should be styled and kind of gives you an example. I also like pulling in the same type of content for each one, so this is the client’s tagline. This is something that I pulled from our brand strategy document where any time that you can basically reiterate the client’s words to them, it’s the best thing for them. It just makes them feel heard, and it makes them feel understood, so pulling back in the brand strategy and having the words that are the main focus of the brand, and I have a question in my brand questionnaire that’s basically what do you wish your clients would say about you? I like to pull that question in here as a whole quote, that way it just kind of like…backs that up as well. It gives the client, right, this is someone reacting the way I want them to to my brand, in my brand’s visual style and voice and everything. It’s just like any time you reiterate things and back them up to your client, it builds the strength of the brand, and it makes everything feel more cohesive and whole.
Lauren Hooker: That’s a great piece of advice. I love that. I love this color palette.
Melissa Yeager: Thank you. It’s very fun and very soft. It’s a nice mix of the cool and the warm and everything. Their website was very fun to look on as well. I’m going to be sharing that in the next couple weeks. If you’d like to hear more, stay tuned. She pulled in a quote from Ferris Bueller on her site, and I was like well we have to include it on the brand guidelines obviously.
Lauren Hooker: That’s great.
Melissa Yeager: So that worked out pretty well. Then the favicon again. At the end, I just basically … With brand proofs, those are more branded for me. My logo is on the front of them, and then within the actual meat of the document, it’s more for my client, but on the cover, it’s more for more letting them know this is coming from my brand, but when it comes to the brand style guides, your client’s brand is first and paramount, and then your branding takes a backseat to that. In the bottom I like to remind them of who created this for them and give them a nice send off message and remind them that it was you that created it, but it’s all done in a way that’s shown to be in the voice of the brand. It pulls in those colors, and it subtly incorporates something from you while still keeping it cohesive with the brand.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah. I love it. Those are great examples.
Melissa Yeager: Thank you.
Lauren Hooker: So, how can the people tuning in create their own beautiful style guides just like this? You said, too, that this was that template.
Melissa Yeager: Yes, both of the ones I just showed were created based on the vertical style guide template. I did do some customization with the styles of things to make it a little bit more cohesive with my brand, and like I said, pulling in those images behind this top are.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah.
Melissa Yeager: But for the most part, it’s pretty much how it was when I bought it. I would say that you should either create a template for yourself or find one online that you like to use as a starting point, and then make sure it has all the things that you need it to have, so make space for showing the brand working as well as laying out that visual inventory that we were talking about, so the logos and any secondary marks, your color palette and all the corresponding values for the colors as well, which is really helpful for your clients to be able to go back and reference. Even if they don’t know what it means, they’re going to be like I want this printed on stainless steel cups, and I need to know the Pantone color for that. The person asked me for a Pantone color I don’t know what that means, but do I have one? And then they’ll be able to look through the style guide and be able to see that.
Any time you can give them that information and provide that background is great. You definitely want to just make sure it includes everything that you need. I would say while you’re creating brands to just have fun in the moment, just to test things, and don’t immediately try to pull it into brand guidelines and be like oh which fonts need to be here and everything. I think the brand creation part of the process is more about playing and experimenting and seeing what works and visualizing like okay, if they were going to use this on a social media banner, what would it look like? What feels like a good type hierarchy? What balance of the colors feels right?
Then once you create that, you have a basic idea of how those systems, like Lauren said, work, then you can start pulling them into the brand guidelines and kind of bring a voice to that system, so explain how it’ll work and visualizing that. I just rambled a lot. I hope I answered your question.
Lauren Hooker: No, you did. I was just going to say I think it’s helpful to always be keeping a record of the fonts you’re using and the colors you’re using, but I usually wait for the brand style guide until right at the end of the project. That’s when I pull everything together and just explain it. I’ve been working on it. It’s been coming together through the entire project, but I don’t pull it all together in a style guide until the very end to explain everything. I don’t know if that’s what you do.
Melissa Yeager: Yeah.
Lauren Hooker: Good. You have four steps. I want to leave enough time for questions. But four steps for putting a brand style guide together. Will you walk us through this?
Melissa Yeager: So the step by step for creating a brand style guide is basically like create a template for yourself or find one that you like and note what information you want to include. Then from there, the second step would be to gather everything that you’ve created for the brand. Basically, I open up my brand proof, the final proof that you created for the client, and I just cut and paste things. It’s like okay here’s all my logos, and here’s all my colors, and if you can pull in all your global colors, and use those, that’s great. Then just start to organized things in the different sections and pull them in where you need them and customize the template with respect to the brand. So maybe one brand has a set of patterns and icons, and another brand is just the logo and secondary marks, and then colors and typography. There might be some projects where you have additional elements to work with and then some where you don’t. It’s kind of like customizing and adjusting based on what you have to work with.
The last step is to balance your own brand with your client. Again, remembering that your brand takes a back seat when it comes to the brand style guides because it’s great to remind them of who created it for them and to give them a nice sendoff and a nice note, but it’s really about giving your client a tool that they can reference back on to know their brand rationale, know the different elements and the value of those elements and to see how their brand starts to come to life, so that when they’re thinking about designing their own postcard because they don’t have the money to hire you for it, they can look at something and be like oh okay, if I use this element on top of this color, it’s going to look really nice on the one side, and then I can have text on the other side. When I do the text, maybe the more important lines should look the way that she made that quote look. It starts to give them an idea of how everything should be used without designing everything for them just yet.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah. Those steps were number one, create a template for yourself or to find one. The one we shared with you would be a great option for this, for you who are just creating your own brand style guide. Maybe you’ve been following along with the brand challenge, and you’re not a designer, and are intimidated by it. That’s a great place to start. Gather all your brand assets. Those of you who have been joining in the brand challenge, again you should already have all of those created by this point of the process. Then customize your template, and then balance your branding. Is that right?
Melissa Yeager: Yes. I didn’t mention this as much, but for my clients, I do the vertical style guide template because it’s not building out a whole usage system for the brand, but if you are going into something more like that, I believe Sidecar even has this template that’s a printable style guide where it’s pages and data. If you are going more into depth, you can’t just have a vertical style guide that’s going to be years long. You’re going to need to break into pages at some point if you’re going to be showing usage cases. If you’re going to be talking about voice and tone. If you’re going to be showing all of that. There’s a fine line. It depends on the depth in which you’re going.
What I’ve been doing for my clients is a great starting point, and if the brand starts to grow, and they want to come back to you for something more in depth of the multi-page brand book, it’s a good way to go.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah, that’s a really good option. Thank you. Are you ready to take some questions?
Melissa Yeager: Sure.
Lauren Hooker: We’re going to take on as many as we can in the next 14 minutes. I’m being respectful of your time. Marie asks, hi Marie, thank you for joining in today. She says, "I’m a designer. I’m totally capable of all of this. I’ve made dozens for clients, so why is it so darn hard to make up my mind and stick with it from start to end? How do I prevent reinventing myself every two to three years as something new inspires? I’m already thinking the answer is I haven’t found the right look yet. That when I do I’ll want to stick with it, but how can I be sure? Do you find yourself ever wanting to edit Elle & Company or your site, Melissa, ever?" Or your brand rather. There’s a lot in there. Do you ever get fed up with your brand and get the itch to change it?
Melissa Yeager: Absolutely. I think for all of us, it’s always hard to design for yourself first of all because everyone says to take yourself through your client process, but if we’re honest, a lot of us haven’t done that. I know that when I was starting my business, it was like I need to get this done. I need to get this out there, so I did it pretty quickly, and I didn’t put as much thought in everything as I wanted to. I have it on my lengthy to-do list to readdress certain things to my brand and build it out a little bit more.
I think, at the same time, it’s not having the right look, but at the same time, you’re constantly in front of your brand, and you’re constantly using the elements, so it’s easy for it to feel stale for you, but remember that you still love your client projects because you don’t see them every day, and certain brands out there that you see, if you love them that they’re designers work, you love it because you only see it so often. It’s like a special treat when you see it. You’re not as in with the different elements as you are with your own brand. It may feel stale for you, but the odds are it doesn’t feel stale for other people, but you should definitely be really pumped about it at first. So if you haven’t found that I love this look, then definitely keep working on it or hire someone.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah. I don’t know about you, Melissa, too, when I was going to design my own brand, I love color, and I find it hard to make color decisions. Of course, it depends on your audience and types of people you’re trying to attract, but I was like okay, I’ll go with a black and white logo, and then I’m able to add color in to blog post graphics and things like that. I have some recognizable brand colors, I guess, but the logo itself is just black and white and classic so that I can mix it up occasionally with color. Sometimes, I’ve been using this color green, this is a coincidence, but more and more in my branding, it wasn’t an original brand color. I don’t know. I don’t know if you ever feel like that.
Melissa Yeager: My black and white is gold and white. Gold is my go-to neutral, so it’s very classy, but at the same time, it looks neutral, and it goes with pretty much every other color and looks very classy. That’s my fallback color, but I adore it, and I love all things gold. It actually works pretty well for my brand, and the nice thing that since my brand looks like that, I’ve had clients come to me who want gold things and want gold foil and things like that, which are all things that I love designing. That’s worked pretty well.
But the same thing you’re saying, I’ve noticed certain colors that I’ll work with in a client project and be like oh I really love this. I think it’s natural for your brand to kind of evolve, throughout its life. It’ll have seasons where some things feel appropriate, and then it’ll evolve from there.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah. It’s funny because in the comments I saw Marie said she thinks my color palette is pink, mint, and teal, but you think that because of the blog graphics, not necessarily because of the logo.
Melissa Yeager: Yeah.
Lauren Hooker: Which is what I was going for.
Melissa Yeager: You’re doing it.
Lauren Hooker: But yeah, that was a great question, Marie. Hopefully that was helpful for you to just stick with it and maybe make some tweaks if you don’t necessarily love it, love it yet. But a lot of times it’s just that consistency and realizing it’s good for other people to see it the same way over and over again to create that recognition.
Melissa Yeager: Yes, definitely.
Lauren Hooker: Great question. Aslyn asks, "Every brand I see lists only two type faces, but the display fonts and the logo and tag are missing. What’s the deal?" We’ll answer that one first. She has some other questions too. We’ll start there. So what do you think, Melissa?
Melissa Yeager: Display fonts and the logo and tag are missing. In particular, I tend to not include the, if … A lot of the brands I work on, they’ll be custom lettering involved, so that obviously wouldn’t be included. If there are different type faces used in the logo, a lot of times they aren’t called out in the typography or in the style guide just because I don’t want the … We’ll have discussions about what the font is, but I don’t want the client to purchase that font and be using it in their brand because it’s supposed to be special, and it’s supposed to be for the logo. If they are constantly reminded about it, I worry they would take it and style it exactly as the logo, and then the brand would just start to look off and start to cheapen it. That tends to be why I don’t do it.
Lauren Hooker: I was going to say it’s an unspoken designer secret that you don’t use the font that you use in the logo anywhere else because it makes the logo special.
Melissa Yeager: Yes.
Lauren Hooker: That’s probably why you don’t see it a lot on brand style guides because that font is supposed to be special for the logo. Sorry. There’s my cat. She was sitting in my lap for the last 20 minutes. I was trying to …
Melissa Yeager: My husband and my dog just charged through to go on a quick walk. He was trying to wrangle him.
Lauren Hooker: All right. She said, "Are the two listed fonts meant for print and web copy?"
Melissa Yeager: Are the two listed fonts …
Lauren Hooker: Usually I do it for headers and body texts or the two main type faces. I might add a few more in there or just use them differently with like italicized fonts or something like that. A lot of times, I try to make the print and web copy the same. How do you handle that?
Melissa Yeager: The same way. I’ll generally try to have a couple different headings styles, so if you’re thinking about their website, it’s like headings one through three. One will be the most important one, or even if you’re not thinking web, and you’re just like here’s their important heading, and here’s their subtitle. Then I think it gives them some flexibility there. If you can keep that consistent through to the website, that’s paramount. That’s the way to go. If they’re using some kind of web template where it’s not possible to use those exact fonts, you could always find something similar. I think ideally you would use the same typefaces.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah. Then their last question, and I’m going to say it’s the last because three and four are really similar. "Should they be using web fonts, and while we’re on it what is a web font?" I’ll let you start on that one, Melissa.
Melissa Yeager: Thanks. I think that some type faces that have been designed more recently or finessed more recently have been adjusted for better on screen legibility. I think that web fonts, to me … I don’t know if they’re talking about should they be using web fonts, because I know there are certain web fonts that work for Mail Chimp, and there’s Georgia and Tahoma and all those, but I think maybe we’re talking about type faces that are designed for web.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah.
Melissa Yeager: I think it’s just a matter of those being, there were only a certain amount available on the internet, open like 10 years ago. But now there’s type kit and Google fonts, and there’s all these different things that allow you to have much more flexibility and freedom when it comes to using typography online and pulling that in for your clients. I would say that any time you can bring that diversity in the type to a client’s site, then I would do that. What is a web font? I think that’s what I would say. Then if you’re using a type face that has a version that looks nice on web, I know that Hoefler & Co has been doing a lot of updating to their faces over the last five years to make them all really crisp online, so that they handle a lot better when it comes to the pixel ratios and everything like that. That’s a really good example of screen smart, like [inaudible 00:55:53] is saying. But they just look a lot nicer on screen because of the way the curves are handled and they’re handled with screen resolution in mind.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah. I’m just going to leave it at that. I couldn’t do any better. Those were great questions, though. Aslyn, thank you for asking them. Marisa says, "Can you talk more about the idea of outlining your brand’s color systems?" This is actually step 12 of week three of the brand challenge. I don’t know if you use this terminology, Melissa. But I talked about having a color system for your brand, that when you have all these color, the beautiful colors that you outlined in the brand style guides that you shared, you can’t use every color together.
So my clients, if I have a blog template for them, and they’re coming up with new blog graphics, and some of them want to take a secondary color and pair it with one of their other secondary colors, and they’re both really light colors, it’s not going to look great together. When I say a color system, I’m saying these colors work well together. If you’re going to use a navy blue background, then the logo needs to be gold on top of it every single time. You aren’t switching up the color of the logo on a navy background every time. Or if you’re using, I don’t know, pink as your blog post graphic, to have a lighter pink on top of it. Something along those lines to have a system for how you’re using color in your brand. Does that make sense?
Melissa Yeager: Yeah. I would say so.
Lauren Hooker: Not just here are the colors, but here are how the colors function.
Melissa Yeager: Yeah, I would say I do these are your primary colors, secondary colors, and tertiary colors, like you’re saying, and I tend to handle it from more of showing them how it’s done kind of perspective, where it’s all have graphics within the brand guidelines, within the brand proofs. If you’re using a black background, then obviously, don’t use the deep purple logo on top of it. These are the different colors that would pair well together, like use this taupe instead, and then have the blackberry logo on top of that, and things like that.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah. That’s what I meant by the color system for your brand. Think about how you’re pairing colors. Your whole brand should work as a system, but within that what colors are pairing together, because a lot of clients are coming to us because they aren’t design savvy, and they don’t know how to do it for themselves, so a lot of times, they’ll go to implement their brand, and they’ll choose a dark color on top of another dark color, and you’re like you can’t read this, this doesn’t work, so outlining color pairings and things like that with their brand.
Melissa Yeager: Yeah, absolutely.
Lauren Hooker: Great question, though, Marisa. Rachel asks, "What is the difference between a brand style guide and a brand board? I feel like those terms are often confused with each other." That’s a good question. It’s the last question we’ll do. We’re coming up on the hour.
Melissa Yeager: Do you want me to handle it, or do you want to take it?
Lauren Hooker: Yeah, go ahead.
Melissa Yeager: The difference between a style guide and a brand board, I would say that the style guide does everything we’ve talked about it doing, like being the visual inventory for your client and dipping into the rationale and showing your client how the different elements are used, and it can even go into usage guidelines for how not to use it, don’t stretch the logo, don’t put it on top of a photo in black, and that kind of thing.
Lauren Hooker: Right.
Melissa Yeager: As far as brand board, I could imagine that meaning two different things. I tend to call the mood board a brand board sometimes, where it’s like a style board where it pulls in the different inspiration that leads to the brand style in the forefront, but I’ve also seen a kind of simpler version of the vertical style guide we’ve shown you today, where it just lays out all the different elements, but not in as much detail. There would be like these are circle swatches of the brand color, but we’re not going to tell you the names of the colors or any of the values of them, and these may be are the brand fonts, but we’re not going to show you how they’re used, and it might have a couple inspirational images. It’s just basically a more simple, less in depth style guide.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah. That’s what I normally do is the brand style board. That’s what you would see in a blog post or something like that. That’s usually what’s shared on Pinterest, but then the brand style guide is for my clients, and like you said, much more in depth. That’s where I share how to use everything. That’s what I would say the difference is. The brand style guide is much more in depth. It might be pages that you flip through, like the Skype brand style guide or the vertical style guide template that Melissa shared, and then the brand style board is just one image. It’s kind of the brand at a glance, but it’s not explaining how it’s used. That’s usually good to share on social media, on your blog, that kind of stuff. But great question. Awesome. Sorry that we didn’t get through all the questions today, but hopefully you all found this webinar helpful. Thank you, Melissa, for joining in today, and sharing.
Melissa Yeager: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah, and your beautiful brands. Also, Melissa, you want to explain the link below, the call to action button down here.
Melissa Yeager: Oh sure. Every other week, I share a blog post on my site where I give brand insights and share recent work and share the process behind creating it. We’ll give, it’s like a range of business topics to like work-life balance advice, and brand inspiration and new work and process details for me. It’s a solid mix of designer branding details mixed with work-life, self care, balance kind of things. If you’re interested, you can sign up for those emails. They come every other Tuesday morning, and I would love to have you. So yeah, hopefully I’ll have some valuable insights to share with you guys, and I appreciate everyone tuning in.
Lauren Hooker: Yeah, thank you. Be sure to sign up for that. I loved even today just hearing your behind the scenes process. I find it fascinating to learn how other designers do things, too. Thank you for taking that time to share with us today, Melissa. It’s fun to have you on.
Melissa Yeager: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.
Lauren Hooker: Awesome. Well thank you all for tuning in today and taking time out of your work day to join in. We will not have an Ellechat next week. I’m actually going to be out of town, but the following week we’ll pick back up with the regular Ellechat routine. Hope to see you in another Ellechat on a Thursday at three p.m. eastern standard time sometime soon. Thank you, Shay for saying hope you have a good trip. I will see you all soon. Thanks for tuning in. Bye guys.