Dogs need training and brands need manuals. Otherwise they’re chaotic and nobody likes to interact with them. A brand manual that clearly articulates all aspects of a brand, from the logo to the language you use, is the fundamental resource for managing it. It gives your clients hard and fast guidelines so consistency and professionalism is preserved through role changes, new hires, and uncertain situations. Plus, it keeps the brand purposeful and always pointed toward its mission.
Not sure where to start? Here are seven crucial elements to include when constructing your brand manual:
1. Brand Platform
This is arguably the most important part of your brand. The brand platform lays out the foundation for who you are and why you do what you do. What this outlines is the reason you hired someone for a logo in the first place, so don’t neglect establishing your brand platform!
Typically, this section should include your target audience, mission, vision, values, purpose, positioning/USP, tone of voice, brand promise, tagline, and (usually) an elevator pitch. These are incredibly useful tools for reference when talking about your brand to those who may not be familiar.
Obviously, your logo is a significant part of your brand. At the bare minimum, this section should include full color and reversed, and potentially single-color if that is not shown elsewhere in the manual. If there are different versions, like “vertical” and “horizontal” or “primary” and “secondary,” these need to be outlined here as well, alongside a brief explanation of proper use.
Sizing and spacing requirements are a must to ensure the logo is treated properly. It also helps to show other common examples of poor use so your clients can understand what they need to avoid.
Some brands, depending on the size and use, will commonly be shown with other logos. To ensure proper alignment, sizing, and hierarchy, including a co-branding section can be very helpful if necessary.
3. Color Palette
Strong use of color is something that makes a brand recognizable, and establishing a color palette is a necessity for creating a visual brand. This section of the manual should outline the palette and share the exact values in all of the necessary color spaces (CMYK, PMS, RGB, and HEX).
Certain brands need an extensive color palette, or a primary and secondary palette. Lots of color options can be both exciting and overwhelming to folks who have to execute the brand. To avoid the end result looking like a bag of melted Skittles, include a paragraph or two on how to use colors in a tasteful and harmonious way. The way colors are used with one another affects recognition, so keeping a consistent guide will help.
Much like color, signature typefaces are another tool brands use for recognition. Depending on brand needs, the typefaces chosen can be basic font families or extensive superfamilies. Showing the various typefaces and weights, along with a guide on how to properly set the typography, helps clients understand how to create consistent, recognizable, and on-brand materials. A win-win!
5. Visual Language
This section can vary a lot based on what your brand looks like; it is how you execute the visuals to meet brand standards. Most of the brands we work with heavily rely on photography, therefore a section outlining what kind of photography is on-brand typically makes it into the manuals we put together. This is also the space to include things like patterns, graphic elements, and special typography/photography treatments that are specific to the brand.
6. File Guide
With a new brand often comes a pile of new files. It can be overwhelming for clients, even with stellar file organization, to know exactly what they have on hand. Including a visual file guide is a nice reference that can put a client’s mind at ease.
7. Color Space and File Type Guide
This is a useful informative section for clients to know which file types and color spaces will best suit them for making a social media graphic, or printing their logo on a pen.