You may be sitting there thinking they’re both the same, and you wouldn’t be the first. Quite often people interchange the two not knowing they’re different documents. In most cases, people get the reference, but for clarity on our behalf we’ll break the two down for you.
First, let’s do a little rundown.
When it comes to keeping brand consistency, having a manual that you can share with those that work closely with the brand is pretty darn important. Think of these as a rule book that house the instructions on what you can (and can’t) do with the brand, and how to do it.
Brand book and brand manual are also other terms used that mesh the meaning together.
So, if they’re both rule books, how do they differ? Let’s dive into that further shall we?
A style guide
A style guide is a simplistic take on the key visual components of the brand identity, in other words, the design standards and how to apply them.
Used for: implementing the design style across branded collateral.
The general rule of thumb is:
- Logo: The variations for different applications, brand marks, clear space, size requirements, basic usage, primary and secondary variants etc.
- Colours: Primary colours, secondary colours (if any), tint breakdown, and colour codes (PMS, Hexadecimal, CMYK, RGB).
- Typography: The primary font, secondary font (if any), font weight, and formatting rules.
Some may include a little more, but the above is the general consensus. For a great example (on the more in-depth side), you can check out the TikTok style guide (referred to as a brand book) here. Note this doesn’t include their business strategy (for obvious reasons) but does showcase in-depth rulings on their design strategy.
The branding guidelines are much more extensive and dive into everything from brand strategy right through to execution. This is usually tailored to each brand pending on their arsenal, but it’s a top to bottom document that key stakeholders can circulate so people know the who, what, when, where, how, and why of the brand. Especially for those who deal directly with the marketing and communication arms. These can be anything from 40-100+ pages long.
Used for: an end-to-end manual on the core meaning and essence of the brand itself.
The breakdown can include anything below (and some):
- Mission and Vision
- Story and narrative
- Positioning statement/s
- Brand Voice and tone
- Customer personas
- USP (unique selling proposition)
- Logo (as in the style guide) plus any sub-branded material and rulings
- Typography (as in the style guide) – plus any extensive formatting rules
- Colour system and breakdown (as in the style guide) plus any additional colour rulings like pairings and product segmentation (colour coding products)
- Assisting graphics and iconography
- Layout and placement
- Collateral examples and their application – meaning all of the different pieces and how to apply them. This can be signage, digital channels, internal systems, uniforms, etc.
Given the nature of this type of document, which would include brand intel, we don’t have an example to show you because they aren’t readily accessible online If they were they’d be opening their strategic plan up to competitors. And, for the same reason, we can’t share the extensivity of what we’ve done, but we can share a page.
While both words are used interchangeably, it’s good to clarify which one you want and have an understanding of your expectations. One is a simplistic guide to help you implement a style, the other is providing you with a much deeper understanding of the brand that essentially puts everything together in one place. And, if there is one thing we’re big on, it’s making sure people know the ‘identity’ aspect is not the brand.
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