What if every time a consumer saw something with a company name on it or an ad that promoted a service they offered, it looked completely different from all the others? It would not be easy to realize that the items were related. It would be difficult to understand what the company was all about. And it would be hard to remember. On average, 5 to 7 brand impressions are necessary before someone will remember your brand (Pam Moore). Creating consistency in your brand is one of the best ways to one, ensure brand recognition and two, express who you are and what you’re all about.
How do you do it?
Creating brand consistency can be summed up in two words: create boundaries. If you’ve ever seen a branding guide, you would have quickly realized that it is simply a document that outlines the dos and don’ts of a brand when it comes to colors, fonts, and language. But if we were to stop there, we would not give branding guides the credit they deserve. A branding guide is the core of a company. It establishes the whole essence of who an organization is and what they are all about. To do this, the first step is to start there. What are you all about? What are your core values? A helpful way to get your creative juices flowing would be to choose 3 words that describe your company. Ask yourself, ask your employees, ask your clients. Take note of which words pop up the most and write them down. At Pixel & Hammer, we do similar exercises when we start a branding project. We use these words to guide and direct our thinking as we make decisions about fonts, colors and beyond that embody those words and bring them to life visually.
Choosing 2-3 fonts that are complementary to one another is a standard method for creating guidelines for typefaces. A classic pairing technique is by choosing a serif font and a san serif font. There are thousands of font options available but be cautious, not every font is a good one. Often times, simpler and more classic/timeless fonts can have better results than trying to choose something fun or “eye-catching”. We suggest utilizing Google Fonts to get you started for font options. If you want a little direction or some safe suggestions, try fontpair.co to see ideas for good font pairings.
Colors quickly evoke emotions and can be crucial to a brand. Think of some of the most well known iconic brands like Pepsi, McDonalds, Starbucks, etc. Those brands have worked really hard at keeping color consistency to the point that there would probably be consumer pushback if they tried to change it. Why? Color increases brand recognition by up to 80% (University of Loyola). The whole look and vibe of a brand can change drastically when the colors are adjusted.
When choosing colors, we make sure to reference the words we began with. There is some scientific proof as to which colors evoke which feelings, but never forget to trust your gut and just ask yourself, “which colors make you feel these words?” If you want some ideas of color families, we suggest checking out Adobe Color CC where you can browse hundreds of schemes.
Depending on your company and what you do, photography may or may not be really prominent in every brand. In either case, we like to have a plan the style of images that will appear in a brand. Say you are going to get staff headshots taken. Will you have a solid background or will you be outside? Will they be close-up photos or be further away? If you have product shots, will you have photos of the product in use or will they be on display? On top of all that, will your photos be bold and sleek or intimate and soft? These decisions should be consistent and complementary with what has already been established in your brand.
The first choice for images is always a professional photographer. However, if you don’t have the budget for professional photos yet, check out our post about how to get great free stock photos.
Tone of messaging
Developing a voice can be tricky and can take some time to really develop. The basic idea is to create some guidelines for how you will use language within your brand. This will flow into your website content, blog articles, Facebook (etc), and anywhere else text appears about your brand. To choose a tone, think about your values and the words you chose to describe your brand. How would you say things in a way that expresses your values and engages the market you are trying to reach? For example, if you owned a chocolate company you could say “Rich, smooth, decadent chocolate that will satisfy” or “Chocolate that makes your tastebuds happy”. The first would be more suited for a refined taste, while the second would appeal to a more playful chocolate-lover.
Pulling it together
Brand consistency only works if it is just that: consistent. Once you know who you are, stay true to that. Branding guides help you maintain brand consistency and take all the guesswork. When a branding guide is created properly it should not steer you wrong, which is why it is so important to make sure the decisions that are made are best for you and who you are trying to reach. Branding is one of our favorite challenges to tackle here at Pixel & Hammer and would love to help you develop a strong branding guide that will help lead you to success.