Brand Guidelines: An Interview with Emotive Brand Senior Designer

brand guidelines

The Importance of Brand Guidelines

Emotive Brand hinges itself on the ability to transform businesses through brand strategy and strategically informed design. Miguel, a senior designer in the studio, works to bring brands to life by creating clear, inspired, and emotive brand identities. In this interview, Miguel discusses a process of branding that is often overlooked: building brand guidelines. Read to learn more about the importance of having a roadmap for your brand and how it should be used to create maximum impact.

Why might businesses overlook the importance of brand guidelines?

They aren’t easy. No one wants to read a manual. And it can be overwhelming, both to digest and to create. Building a clear guide takes focus, a high attention to detail, and a deep understanding of the brand itself. I think part of the reason why people disregard the importance of guidelines is that they don’t fully grasp all the places their brand touches. It isn’t just a logo. It’s composed of a variety of elements that when used correctly together make your brand recognizable and meaningful to people. You need a roadmap to keep the brand consistent. Brand guidelines are essential to every brand no matter how big or small, local or global, new or old.

How do guidelines help bring a brand to life?

The goal of brand guidelines is to help your people – designers, writers, strategists, new employees, veterans, freelancers, hired agencies, etc. – bring your brand to life. Brand guidelines help those people build a cohesive, clear, and recognizable brand and they are the people enabled to propel your business. Without guidelines, the brand assets have no value – the guidelines bring them to life. They provide a clear and simple toolbox that includes a set of standards for using brand names, logos, typefaces, and other design elements in ads, brochures, newsletters, packaging, digital communications, and any other ways the brand might communicate.

What happens when a brand doesn’t have clear guidelines?

The brand will inevitably become inconsistent. It will be diluted. This means that brand recognition goes down and customers and employees become confused about your brand. With all the pieces and no instructions on how to use them, the brand assets become valueless. Without a roadmap, your brand seems unsure of where it is and where it’s going. Especially during times of growth, those new to your brand need to have a clear understanding of how they can help your brand live. So you need a strong, consistent, and solid brand to stand out. Without a guide, that just isn’t possible.

How do the guidelines help employees?

In the end, having a clear guide helps the whole team become aligned. It doesn’t matter if you’re a strategist or a designer, everyone has the tools to build the brand in the most meaningful way. Everyone has a map and this map makes people feel empowered and able to do their job. Less time is wasted. Less people are frustrated and lost. Even when a business is onboarding someone new, the guidelines get them quickly on board with how the brand lives. And when you’re brand is truly living and all the parts are working altogether, that’s your emotional impact. That’s your brand doing its job.

What are some of the challenges of creating brand guidelines?

For me, as a designer, writing is not my strong suit. But I’ve learned to make sure whatever I’m writing for the guide is detailed, yet still clear and simple, much like a manual. It really has to take people through the process, step by step. It can’t be complicated because at the end of the day, complication will dilute essential brand information. I’ve learned that the simpler the visuals are, the fewer steps you need to communicate. It’s about achieving the right balance between visual and verbal instructions so the guide is the clearest it can be for everyone who might use it.

Another challenge is finding balance between laying out rules and structure, while also allowing for brand flexibility. When I’m working, I’m also thinking, “What’s the next thing for the brand?”. You have to try and imagine possibilities for the future so that the brand can grow. One thing that helps is showing examples of how the brand lives in real life situations. At Emotive Brand, we always outline parameters for print, digital, and environmental signage. These situations might not exist for the brand yet, but we are trying to help build a brand that thinks ahead and work within those parameters while still moving forward.

Do you think brand guidelines can help businesses grow?

At the end of the day, guidelines are what make a brand recognizable. The consistency a guide creates is key to people’s ability to recognize your brand. When people recognize your brand, your brand is able to grow. Strong brand guidelines help steer your business towards growth. Guidelines, in the end, are all about creating maximum impact for your brand.

Read Miguel’s post on Brand Identity: What’s Your Type?

Emotive Brand is a San Francisco brand strategy firm.

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