A New Way to Build a Brand Style Guide

Use the Identity Prism for a Distinctive and Simple Brand

What is a Brand?

In essence, a brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.

Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash

Simplicity is Key to Brand Success

The world’s successful companies all say the same thing. The biggest asset is the brand. Some brands seem clear and obvious. Apple. Ikea. Krispy Kreme. The best brands are strong and distinctive, as well as simple and clear.

Screenshot from Interbrand

What is a Style Guide

A Style Guide is a document that contains the writing, formatting, and design rules for your materials.

Be Succinct and Distinct

Some brand manuals are enormous, like encyclopaedias. You be the judge. Cover what you need to cover. My advice is to start small and include only the fundamentals.

Where to start

Consider using a shared digital space e.g. a Google Drive folder. In the folder called Brand Manual, include copies of logos, forms, research, elements, Google Docs, or PDFs that need links for your team. Consider a password protecting the folder.

1. Physical Elements

Logos and Symbols

Include all the versions you need.

  • Web + retina
  • Audio logo
  • Favicon
  • Emoticons
  • Icons

Usage Rules

Include logo usage simple rules, especially if multiple people will be handling them. I have seen some logos so distorted they could be horror movie posters.

  • stacked and unstacked
  • with taglines and without
  • minimum sizes
  • exclusion zones (X space) around logo

Colour Palette

  • Brand colour palette
  • Reference the hexadecimal numbers for each web colour, as well as the PMS number for print, or CMYK
  • Reference paper stocks for print and packaging, and paper thickness

Typefaces and fonts

You may have a separate font for web to print.

2. Personality

Tone, Voice, Language


Have notes on how you explain jargon in your brand’s way.

Metaphor and Analogies

Mixed metaphors can be hilarious. Not so hilarious when you hear staff mangle your message.

3. Values/culture

If you have company values, link them here.

4. Customer Self-Concept

5. Reflecting the self-concept

We dig deep into the mind of our customers and try to understand what they really want in life. There is a way they see themselves, and how they want to see themselves.

People use brands as a form of self-expression.

Are they adventure-seeking? Many people over 60 years of age are seeking new experiences. Are they freedom-seeking? Are they health-seeking? You will never get self-concept from demographic data, you need a deep listening conversation or someone else’s qualitative research.

Imperial Leather logo
Imperial Leather logo
Logo from Imperial Leather website

6. Relationship with the Brand

What are the customer touchpoints?

  • Brochures
  • Magazines and reports
  • Gifts
  • Mascots
  • Merchandise

Brand Essence at the Centre

Right in the middle of the prism is the brand essence. One simple question can help you nail this.

Parting Words — Consistency and Clarity

You may not need to have a lengthy style guide, but only if you are running solo. As soon as you start outsourcing, however, or take on a partner, or employee, or delegate functions, you’ll find your own style guide very helpful.

Writes about strategy, storytelling, messaging, and communication…Prone to bouts of fiction.

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