Last Updated on 15 January 2013

POINT: John Moore

A Brand Style Guide is important for businesses of all sizes. It’s a must have when working with outside vendors and with departments inside a company to ensure everyone is using the company’s logo in a consistent and correct manner.

The size of your business will determine the level of detail needed in a Brand Style Guide. Small businesses need less detailed style guides while big businesses need more detailed style guides.

At the most basic level, a Brand Style Guide is simply a reference sheet that explains the proper visual usage of a company’s logo, colors, and tagline.

It should include examples of how the logo should look in all types of situations from color to black & white to print ads to menus to business cards to t-shirts to anything where the company’s logo can appear. It should also include examples of incorrect logo visuals to better highlight the correct usage of the logo. Additionally, the Pantone color code (PMS #) should be listed for all colors used in the logo and the font name should be listed.

Every small business should have a reference sheet that lists proper logo usage, incorrect logo usage, exact logo colors (PMS #), and anything else someone must know to reproduce the logo so it looks perfect. When working with vendors like Fast Signs, FedEx Office, or a local print shop, it’s imperative to show them EXACTLY how the logo should look. This will help reduce any mistakes a vendor could make in using your logo.

For big businesses with several departments and multiple offices, a Brand Style Guide takes on a greater role. Yes, this guide should include how to use the logo, but it should also include more specifics on typography, color, sizing, imagery, etc. This guide should also contain information about the company, it’s vision, it’s purpose, and it’s brand.

In large companies, a Brand Style Guide serves as the “bible” for how the company should behave (attitude and actions) and look (visually and legally). This provides instructions to internal departments and external vendors to follow.

For example, United Way uses a Brand Identity Guide (.pdf 2MB) that explains what they stand for and then goes into great detail to show correct uses of its logo, incorrect uses, proper treatment of its tagline, exact color specs, and many more details.

The Brand Style Guide for McCormick Distilling Company (.pdf 12MB) intricately explains how to use the corporate logo and the logos for its portfolio of brands.

No matter the size of a business, it’s important to be consistent in how the logo is used in any way imaginable. A consistent looking logo tells customers you care about details and isn’t that what customers want… a business that cares about the details.


Did you know at the Disney theme parks they choose who dresses up in the character costumes based on height? Goofy is a tall character – needs to be a tall person. Donald, Chip and Dale? Short characters, short people.

I’m sure you know that there is more than one cast member (that’s what they call employees at Disney) who plays Goofy. There is a whole team of people who perform as Goofy. Yet, Goofy, and Mickey, and Pluto always behave the same way?

They put each cast member through a Disney Character Orientation guidelines and extensive training for the costumed characters. Since a part of taking photos with theme park visitors also includes signing autographs – they teach how to sign the character’s name. Mickey’s signature has to look the same in 2011 as it did back when you last got his autograph in 1978.

Each character is its own brand. The way Mickey walks, dances, waves, gestures and mimes, signs his name are all a part of his brand.

All the instructions, guidance, and rules for performing a character are documented in what is basically a Brand Style Guide.

This is the same for a company. With so many people playing a role in your company a Style Guide helps to ensure everyone is representing it and acting the same way.

There are two types of brand guides that which describes and indicates:

  • identity and visual standards and
  • for the brand platform and guardrails.

Identity and visual standards will cover details we mentioned such as color scheme, logo use, official company fonts, and may include key language the company uses. Disney calls employees cast members. Starbucks calls them partners. Disney calls customers Guests – with a capital G.

Marketers often use the term Brand Guide to mean one or both of these tools. It can get confusing. We’ll get into more detail in the next few articles.

The most important take aways are that:

  1. guides are important for consistency,
  2. they vary based on how structured and/or how large your company is, and
  3. they exist to help a company communicate with one voice, as one brand.

Crackerjack Marketer