With visuals and design, it’s true that some folks just “have it” and others may not. But let’s be real, “having it” is the result of invested time, effort, and passion. We each have limited energy to dedicate to learning new skills, so really it’s no sweat if you consider yourself not “having it.” You’re good at other things, which is why you’re coming to us to do what we’re good at.

But when deadlines are hot and to-do lists are long, I find myself forgetting that not everyone is as nerdy about color theory and type pairing as I am. While I am at the point where I make aesthetic decisions by instinct, other folks may need more time and explanation to make informed decisions. This is why we provide a brand book filled with guidelines, best practices, and samples to help you use your new brand. Here are a few tips on how to best utilize your brand book:

1. Read your brand book front to back.
This one is pretty obvious, but it’s necessary. I still see logos out in the wild not getting the proper amount of clear space. It happens, but it’s a rookie mistake that could easily be avoided. Ensure everyone who uses your brand has read your brand book.

2. Question the intent behind the rules.
Ah, a principle we should apply to every area of our lives, right? Each rule has a purpose and was developed for a reason. Once you can understand the ‘why’ behind something, it’s easier to make decisions when the circumstances aren’t so clear-cut. Sometimes the ‘why’ is pretty simple, such as placing a specific version of a logo in the same spot of a page for visual consistency. Sometimes it’s a little less obvious, such as not using certain colors on top of one another because it creates visual strain. These are all things a viewer can pick up on and subconsciously understand something is off, thus making your brand look less professional.

Understanding the ‘why’ also helps you make informed decisions about when it may be appropriate to break the rules. We define breaking the rules as “making sound decisions based on the overall brand and intent, and when no clear example is outlined in the book.” Always keep in mind other rules and guidelines outlined when you’re thinking about tweaking a rule. If you’re ever unsure of how best to adjust a rule, reach out. We’re happy to explain our thinking and help you continue brand consistency.

3. Read between the lines.
Now we’re venturing into more advanced territory. Not everyone in your organization needs to have this skill, just the key few people who work on developing marketing materials. Once you’ve spent time with a well-rounded brand book, certain things begin to become more apparent. Is your brand visually cute & bubbly, bold & edgy, elegant & sophisticated, etc.? These cues can help you make informed and detail-oriented decisions like whether or not you should use rounded edges on your rule lines. That might seem like a small change, I know. You might be rolling your eyes, but it matters for brand recognition and a brand’s continued success and consistency.

4. Invest in professional tools.
Tasking your marketing intern to make a flyer with the new brand in Microsoft Word is a sure recipe for failure. We’d highly recommend getting a license or two of the Adobe Suite for the people in charge of creating/editing marketing materials. This will help ensure consistency of quality and give your team the resources they need to do their best work.
In a pinch, Canva has also been known to be a helpful tool for creating marketing materials, specifically social media content. Of course the platform has its limitations, but when used tactfully with the consideration of your brand, it can help you create engaging materials.

When you’re not a seasoned brand designer, we know how tricky it can be to use a new brand. Following these few steps can help make it a little easier moving forward.