A Strong Brand Starts with Standards

We’ve been discussing brand standards a lot recently, as we are wrapping up several large identity and branding projects here at Block Club. At the end of every identity project we provide the client with a brand standards guide that gives an overview of usage guidelines and best practices, including color, size and proportion specs, and application and typography guidelines. On some identity-only projects, the brand standards are a lightweight guide; in some cases they become very detailed and include collateral design templates, voice and tone guidelines, web design standards and more. Whatever form they take they are intended to help the next designer use the elements of the brand, which often take months or even years to develop, in a strong, consistent way going forward.

But brand books can go even further, becoming a part of the brand in and of themselves. For companies with a large visual footprint, a widespread staff, or just a discerning eye and commitment to their brand integrity, a beautifully designed, comprehensive brand standards manual can not only ensure consistency, but can also be used as a tool for building brand awareness and camaraderie company-wide. It also helps to get buy-in and confidence from staff and stakeholders on the heels of a rebrand or refresh. Today, a brand standards manual can take a range of forms, from a single-sided poster to a printed book, a downloadable PDF to a dedicated microsite.

Below are a few inspiring samples from brand guides from all over the spectrum. Some of them are vintage examples of how institutions detailed the handling of their brand before computers became design tools (the NASA brand manual is a particularly fun and oft-cited example) while an example like Medium or Dropbox demonstrates standards for a brand meant to exist almost entirely online.

Irish Red Cross

British Rail

Researchers in Schools

Dropbox Brand Guidelines

NASA Graphics Standards

Enea

Medium (pre-refresh)

Nike Pro Services

And of course I can’t let this post out of my hands without sharing the best brand standards parody (what a world that such a thing even exists): the brand standards for Santa himself by Quietroom.