Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Style Guide 101 | What a style guide is and why you (might) need one.

Firstly, no. I'm not branching out into fashion. Yet.
This is about design + marketing.

A style guide is, "a set of standards for design and writing of documents, either for general use or for a specific publication or organization" according to Wikipedia. That doesn't really tell you much now, does it? Besides what you've surely already gathered from the name: 'style guide'. It's a guide for style. Duh. But what is it really? And why does anyone need one?

Successful marketing requires consistency. That is the purpose of a style guide: to help you (and me for that matter!) be consistent. A style guide serves as a reference for each piece of visual communication – ads, letterhead, envelopes, business cards, website, invoices, fax cover sheets, mailing labels...the list goes on and on. It includes specific information regarding approved colors, logo usage, typefaces and any number of other elements. This way, what you're saying to your audience doesn't change with the flickering trends. As a result, your life is easier. And who doesn't want that!? When you have an established style guide, there's always something to bounce new layouts off of and get inspiration from. You're not questioning the logo placement, color scheme and type selection for every print communication piece. Ahh.

Although it may seem regimented to some, a style guide is absolutely essential if you have more than one person working on your account or you see your company expanding in the future. I ran across some really great arguments for why it is so essential on the University of Alabama at Birmingham website such as, "Using the same style and design helps us project a strong unified, organized, and professional appearance to our audiences." Universities are known for having super detailed style guides due to the aggregative nature of their institutions. But really, don't you want to look unified, organized and professional, too? I also love the way they handle the definitions of graphic identity + style. Read away.

You can see some examples of style guides I've developed here and here.

And finally, Wikipedia has something to conclude the matter. This time I think they're on to something: "Such guides allow a large design team to produce visually consistent work for the organization." Exactly. And that's why it's important. It facilitates successful marketing. Period.

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