Creating or refreshing your brand standards

When creating or refreshing your brand standards, be prepared to do some soul-searching of your brand and its future. What is the first thing you want prospective and returning guests to think of when they see your name? Why should they choose your establishment? What do you like and dislike about your competitors’ look, and how can you differentiate your brand from theirs?

You’ll want to involve key team members across design, copywriting, marketing, and operations – whether these members are internal or a mix or internal and external is dependent on your organization. At some point, though, your brand standards will be shared with business partners as you seek to produce marketing collateral. A well-written, designed, and thought-out brand guideline will simplify a consistent roll out of your brand.

While these guidelines can take several rounds of revisions to get just right, there are three essential features when creating your brand identity standards: Typographic identity, Logo, and Colors. When created and implemented successfully, these three components will work together to reinforce your brand’s voice and purpose, leaving a lasting impression on guests.

Typographic Identity

TONE/LANGUAGE
The way you speak about your brand and the way your brand speaks to its target audience should have a consistent tone or “voice” that reflects your Brand’s Values and purpose. Outline specific language and buzzwords that are easily accessible to stewards of your brand; is your brand tone formal or conversational? What words do you want your target audience to associate with your brand?

Additionally, it is crucial when developing a new brand name and/or tagline to get your name trademarked. Equally as important is to proofread all written content before sending it out into the world; nothing is worse than finding a typo when your content is already printed, published, etc.

FONTS
Just as a logo, colors, and graphics are crucial visual elements of a brand, so are the fonts you choose to represent your brand voice and content. Fonts should be approached as additional visual elements in your brand development. Fonts represent not only the visual communication of your brand, but also the actual written communication.

Your design team should have experience in typography and be able to guide you in selecting fonts that represent your Brand Voice, but as a general rule here are a few guidelines:
  • No more than 4 fonts should be used to represent a brand; 2-3 is a good number, and always make sure you have a web-safe font option. Within those 1-4 font choices, multiple weights and cases can be utilized.
  • Look for a font family that has multiple weights and cases, and something that is scaleable – how does it look on a billboard? How does it look as a footnote at the bottom of a page?
  • Never use a font that is only meant for personal use. Fonts are proprietary elements that must be bought and paid for, just like any other service.
  • Sans Serif fonts work best for large scale use and in digital uses. Serif fonts tend to read easier when large blocks of copy are used and therefore are typically best recommended for body copy and smaller type.
  • Use a typeface that embodies the brand voice and purpose — fun/playful or sophisticated/modern? Consider your target audience.

Logo

Your brand’s logo is the main identifier of your brand, and must be the most prominent, memorable, and versatile element of your brand. It should succinctly convey the essence of your brand.

Here are a few guidelines in developing or refreshing your brand’s logo:
  • Reflect the Brand’s Values and Purpose – The values and purpose of a brand should be major drivers in the development of its logo, and the starting place for inspiration. For example, a fine dining establishment might create a logo that uses relaxing, muted colors, organic shapes, and a script font.
  • Easily be associated with the Brand’s Persona – This is the second place to come to when looking for inspiration for your logo. Colors, shapes, and graphic elements can be influenced by your brand’s persona or personality. For example, a family-focused diner would have a more playful and youthful persona might use loose, fun typography and bright colors.
  • Be Easy to Say and Easy to See… or… K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) – Just as your brand name should be easy to pronounce and concise, so should your logo–visually, it must be something that is readable in a variety of sizes and formats; how would your logo look on a billboard, as a tiny imprint on a pen or embroidered on a shirt? It needs to be scaleable, and consistently so. In the same regards, your logo must always be available in a variety of formats including horizontal, vertical, as an icon, and as a 1-color version.
  • Be Unique and Memorable – Easy as it is to follow what your competitors are doing, your brand must be able to stand apart from the crowd. Think about what speaks to your target audience and what will not only catch their attention, but also retain it over time and keep them coming back for more.

Colors

Colors instantly set the visual tone of your brand and are the easiest element for consumers to associate with your brand. If they can’t remember your brand name or what the logo looked like, chances are good they’ll remember the color and all the memories they associate with it. When selecting colors to represent your brand, you can choose as few as 1-2 colors or as many as 10. Consider your location and the overall mood of your brand and property. If your establishment is in a warm climate, you could use warm colors to represent the surroundings; or, you could choose to stand out by using cool colors that contrast the local climate. In this way, colors and how they are used can evoke lasting impressions upon your target audience.

Other branding elements you might include in your brand development are graphic patterns or shapes, photography, and iconography. When you combine all these elements into one concise document with instructions for usage, you have completed your Brand Standards.

When seeking out creative advice for your new or rebranding effort, be sure the work you pay for can be taken off screen and produced on the collateral and products you will need. While some concepts may look stellar on screen, it’s imperative that they can be taken to fruition and successfully applied to a tangible item for the branding effort to be successful.

Once your brand standards have been established, you’ll need to seamlessly implement them before the rebranding can take off. Find tips on how to do that here.