Brand standards, brand guidelines, brandards, style manual, style guides…no matter what you call them, brand standards matter.

Brand standards are a set of rules and guidelines that protect the look and feel of your organization. It provides a standardized approach to creative work in order to uphold the integrity of the brand. Simply put, the brand standards are far more important than the logo itself.

The top reason brand standards are important – consistency. Brands that aren’t consistent can seem messy, untrustworthy, and unlikeable. The brand is the face of the company and pulls a lot of weight in reassuring customers that they have made the right choice in trusting their business with said company.

So what is included in the brand standards manual? The answer is, it varies. These guides range from basic guidelines to extremely thorough rules with concrete examples of what the brand is and is not supposed to look like. The staples of a brand standards manual include rules around: logo use, fonts, colors, and imagery. Great brand standards go beyond these basics to provide even more clarity and uniformity to the brand. Despite the level of detail included in this manual, it must remain easy to navigate and understand.

It is important that people at all levels of the company understand the brand standards document. It addresses details as small as font type and size in the company letterhead, which is something many employees will touch at some point during their tenure. Brand standards become particularly important when multiple people start to touch the brand. Large companies can have dozens, if not hundreds, of people deploying vast amounts of content for a brand. That content must have the same look and feel, despite it being born from the great minds of countless creative people.

You can think of brand standards as the main tool for managing brand assets. Truthfully, creating the brand standards manual is the easy part, it is managing the assets of a brand on a daily basis that is challenging. Employees, especially creative folks, may resist staying within the strict lines of the brand standards, as they may feel it hinders their creativity. However, it is quite the contrary. Working within guidelines requires that you elicit even more creativity to produce the outcome you envision with all the extra rules and strings attached.

It is important that employees, contractors, and all who touch the brand understand that closely following the standards is critical to the brand experience and creating a brand that has a long and successful life. There is no better way to protect your enormous investment into your brand than to develop thorough brand standards.

But remember, you can’t stop there, the brand standards are nothing more than wasted time and trees if you are not enforcing the standards every single day on every single project, communication, or any other effort set forth by the organization.