Brand principles and guidelines: how to work with them

Author: Michał Żołądkowski

11 min read

Brand principles and guidelines: how to work with them

Brand principles are your starting point for whatever you do brand-related. Before you start a new project, no matter the size, you should always consult your brand book to have a clear vision of how to properly proceed. This will ensure that you always end up with consistent results as well as a valuable product that furthers the success of your brand.

First off, let’s explain the difference between brand principles and guidelines. In fact, these two are very similar, thus causing some confusion. Brand principles are general rules defining what your brand is all about and how it should be used and communicated. Brand guidelines, on the other hand, are more specific and are usually all covered in your brand book (or equivalent). You can think of them as of a brand on the practical level, while brand principles are more theoretical. A brand principle might be as simple as “everything has a purpose” while a brand guideline might be “all icons should be red”. We talked a lot about them in the brand compliance article.

Knowing and understanding both principles and guidelines will help you create texts, graphics and messages that are understandable, clear and fully compliant with your brand. Do you remember when we told you that one of the crucial facets of every mature brand is consistency? The best way to ensure brand consistency is by setting and sticking to brand principles and guidelines.

Brand principles and guidelines: how to start working with them

Start with the values and visual elements of your brand that are existing and extrapolate them. Also, you should always consider the nuances of the particular subject you’re defining. Encourage employees and consultants to ask as many questions as possible so that these new guidelines will be comprehensive and ready to use in different situations and contexts. They should also comprise answers to all the relevant questions and doubts concerning the usage of your brand.

how to work with brand principles and guidelines

Brands usually work with external branding agencies such as Admind to help them develop accurate and versatile brand principles and guidelines. If you’re at this stage of work – we’re happy to help!

Make your principles accessible

Secondly, you have to make sure that each party involved has easy access to all the relevant knowledge. This element is especially important when you work with an external agency. Make sure that everyone who is involved in the project understands your brand principles and knows how to use them. That includes the following experts:

  • Web developers
  • Visual designers (graphic, motion and 3D)
  • Copywriters
  • Client partners, project managers and executives
  • Strategists and other consultants

The best way to help them get acquainted with your brand principles is by providing them with a list of the best practices along with legible examples. Of course, the whole brand style guide/guidelines should also be easy to find for everyone. These guides typically showcase various forms and types of brand usage along with approved materials and designs. This way, your employees can get the look and feel of the brand and continue their work following the guidelines. What is crucial here is that the most memorable elements and rules for brand guidelines are the ones that are easy to understand. If your brand is built on complicated logic and the rules, its users will struggle to implement it.

While we are talking about legible examples – think about incorporating templates into your branding strategy. Let’s talk a bit more about them.

Check out our Brand Portal solution,
a secure hub for brand and products assets for your employees, partners and media.

The role of templates

Shortly put, templates are ready-made marketing materials that can be used in various situations. They are extremely helpful! For starters, they allow you to save a lot of time. After all, you don’t have to build everything from scratch since the first part of your work is done. Secondly, because they are created based on brand principles and guidelines, there is no risk that the outcome will stick out or undermine your brand’s image. They even provide a foundation for how your brand is implemented into real assets, allowing you to extend the design system to many different formats and applications.

Obviously, all templates have to be approved by the company owning a given brand to ensure brand consistency. Only then you can use them in future projects. Templates can be divided into various media and purposes (for example, you can have a billboard template or multiple PowerPoint presentation templates for investors, business partners and clients).

Brand templates – examples

Most branding agencies will happily help you design all the templates you may need. They will provide you with a solid foundation that can be easily adjusted, adapted and expanded to your needs. For example, a presentation template will contain sample master slides. These master slides are ready-made slides fitting a specific context. All you have to do is replace a working text and data with real information. Take a look at how such an exemplary slide could look like:

ready-made master slide

Templates show:

  • How brand visual elements should be used and where
  • What fonts to use (colour, size, hierarchy)
  • How everything should be organised in the layout

All the designer has to do is replace the lorem ipsum text with real content and update any graphics. Quick and simple! Of course, some templates can be more complex and offer a variety of arrangements and elements that offer a wider range of customizability. Ultimately, templates are there to help streamline everyday work.

The important thing to remember about templates is that they should be an extension of brand principles put into practice. As mentioned, one of the major objectives for every template is to ensure brand consistency and alignment. They also work perfectly when it comes to communicating brand principles in an understandable way, even for non-designers.

That said, if you don’t have sufficient brand guidelines, stick to templates or start by creating them from the ground up. They will be a good base for future/updated brand guidelines.

Summary: How to work with brand principles

To sum up, working with brand principles and guidelines is actually quite straightforward. Make sure everyone has access to updated guidelines and that they have time to get acquainted with them. Try to grasp the big picture – how your brand should be showcased and communicated. Check your brand style guide to verify the use of brand elements in different contexts and media. Make sure to take all that into account while working on your project and you’ll have no issues with brand consistency. If you have time and resources, create templates first. Yes, it will take some time to craft them, but they will be a massive simplification of work in the long run. Consider investing in a brand portal that will be your principles ultimate guardian.

And if you’re looking for some help in developing or updating brand guidelines and principles – feel free to reach out to us. At Admind, we help companies and institutions all over the world with designing mature, compelling and well-thought-out brands. We will gladly help you, too!

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