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Brand Guides - The North Star

Brand Guides are my favorite projects! In this blog, I am going to walk you through my approach to creating brand guides and why they are crucial. Hope you enjoy it!

What is a Brand Guide and Why Do I Love Them?

A brand guide is a guidebook that takes the heart and soul of your business and translates it into design. It includes your mission, vision, values, logo mark, and the graphic elements that give your business a personality.

Brand Guides are easier to understand when you actually see them. Reference my blog "The Nat Marie Brand" to see my personal brand guide.

I love brand guides because they are the first steps toward creating your brand. They encapsulate everything you want to represent. They are a north star to guide your design and ensure that your team is following the specific style that you created for the business.

Brand guides are innovative. They are exciting and new. And they are where I feel like I shine.

My Process

Where to begin… Brand guides take a lot of creativity. When you are creating a brand guide you have to consider the layout of the document as well as the pieces that are specific to the brand (patterns, colors, typography, etc.). These go hand in hand and you’ll want to apply these branding assets to the layout.

The best place to start any design project is to look at inspiration and sketch. Skipping this step is a common mistake among designers. When you are in a rush, it’s easy to convince yourself out of doing this. But this is one of the most important steps to follow. It gets your creative juices flowing.

I find inspiration everywhere. Think of the industry you are designing for and what graphic elements could represent the industry. For example, if you are creating a brand for an engineering firm, you want to find elements that are detailed and geometric. Take inspiration from architectural drawings or the tools they use. Find a way to represent that through specific line work or shapes. If you are creating a brand for a daycare, pull colors that connect to children and soft shapes and curves similar to the toys kids play with. Maybe look through preschool books or classroom accessories.

You don’t have to pull your inspiration from other brand guides. You definitely can and should, but I’m a big believer that inspiration can come from anything. Gathering inspiration is essentially just analyzing what’s around you and imagining how this can be translated into design.

Next, you’ll list out everything you need to create. I love lists. It’s the best way to stay organized and avoid forgetting anything. I simply create a blank document and write on each page what it will be. What’s important for this brand? What do they need? Think about it outside of design, too. This is a great place to write about brand personas or core values. Remember this document references the brand personality as a whole.

Identify what design elements make the most sense for the brand. Is it better to create a really interesting graphic style with patterns and illustrations or does it make more sense to show photography and how it comes together in the composition?

Each page should be using these graphic elements. This presentation is an example of how everything you’re creating comes together. If the brand guide could be made with a template in PowerPoint then you aren’t focusing on giving the presentation enough of its own style.

Finally, do not forget to review and tweak. I like to step away from the project for a few hours and then review everything with fresh eyes. Make every element of the presentation reflect the brand style (even down to the page numbers). Get some friends to review it and give feedback. Again, it’s easy to rush through and skip this step but taking time to reflect is where some of the best ideas come from.

When presenting this to the client, it’s important to graciously accept feedback. Their business is their baby. This is important and deserves respect. Work together as partners to land in a spot that you’re both happy with.

After All is Said and Done

I could go on and on, just remember to have fun with this. Whether you are a designer or a business owner, brand guides are fun and exciting. It’s work to be proud of and a great first step in turning your business into a brand.


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