Think about the biggest brand in the world. What comes to mind? Is it Apple, Coca Cola, Google? All of these brands that stand out in our minds have one thing in common: they have coherent brand identities. You won’t see ever Apple using cursive fonts, and you certainly won’t find a Coca Cola product without the iconic logo.
With a strong identity, a brand can become one that is known immediately to customers and evoke certain emotional responses. Part of creating this strong identity involves outlining your brand standards in blueprint forms known as brand guidelines.
Brand guidelines, also sometimes known as brand books, contain all the necessary information about a brand from values to visual traits. Brand guidelines are also essential to ensure that your brand has a sense of visual coherence regardless of where or how the brand is found. Things like colour choices, design styles and logos need to remain consistent on all platforms so that customers can easily recognise and respond to your brand.
All brand books should include necessary brand information like:
- Logos and logo standardization guidelines
- Color palettes
- Image/photography guidelines
- Tone of voice
- Brand values
In this article, we’re going to be looking at fifteen inspiring brand guidelines from both popular and lesser-known brands to give you a clearer idea of what makes a brand identity, and what makes an effective brand guideline.
Let’s get started.
Listed on their website as ‘Design Guidelines’, Spotify’s brand guidelines are specifically catering for other developers wanting to integrate Spotify in their platforms to ensure that the brand’s identity remains unified at all times.
Unlike many brand guidelines that focus entirely on visual identifiers, Spotify has taken a more business-centered approach that highlights who can use their content and under which circumstances. Information about the brand is separated into categories like ‘Using our content’ and ‘Logos and naming restrictions’ that use a mix of copy and simple visual aids to explain the guidelines.
2. Jamie Oliver
Jamie Oliver’s brand is one that is used for everything from cooking utensils and cookbooks to restaurants and TV shows — so coherence is vital. This thorough brand guideline outlines an extensive list of qualities like tone of voice, logo, colour palette, product category rules, typography and packaging specifications.
From the outset the guideline makes it clear that Jamie Oliver as a person is the whole identity of the brand, therefore the guidelines that follow reflect his particularly warm, approachable and passionate personality. The brand archetype they’re aiming for is very regular guy/gal, with a friendly and honest personality, so the tone of voice (which they defined as ‘purposeful passion’) they’ve chosen reflects this straight-talking and energetic personality. There is very little room for interpretation, which makes sense when you think about the brand as representing one man.
Starkbucks is an iconic brand, but its also a brand that guarantees identical products served in identical packaging regardless of where in the world you are. This requires some concrete brand guidelines, which they outline on their website separated into 6 individual pages: Logo, Color, Voice, Typography, Illustration and Photography.
The brand guidelines are extremely simple and easy to understand, and they emphasis visual elements that are key to the starbucks brand. The logo and color palette are arguable the most important features of Starbucks’ brand, so heavy attention is paid to how the Siren must stay the same with the same green color. On all pages, regardless of the content, it is emphasised how green must always be the star of the show.
One notable feature of the Starkbucks brand guideline is its interactive display: there are animations and even plug-and-play features that let you see how the Starbucks brand is applied.
Asana’s brand guidelines, which can be found on their website, are also available for download as complete kit that includes their brand assets like the logo and typeface. By allowing people to download the brand assets you ensure that the correct ones are always used.
The brand guidelines are otherwise incredibly minimalistic. They focus almost entirely on the use of the logo: how it should look, where it should be places and what colors should be used, but they explain each use thoroughly. Asana is a perfect example of keeping things simple: they’ve chosen one brand element to focus on and have put all their attention into keeping it looking its best.
Slack’s brand guidelines come in the form of a downloadable PDF document with exactly 50 pages of information. Although there is much information laid out in the document, like brand values, photography, brand architecture and trademarks, they have compiled it in such a way that it is easy to follow and visually appealing — a character trait vital to a messaging platform that aims to make communication easier.
The guidelines perfectly represent the brand values (which can be found on page 10) of empathy, playfulness and courtesy thanks to the use of conversational copy and communicative visual aids that are not overwhelming or condescending.
From it’s unusual name to the bright yellow company color, Mailchimps is a brand that does things differently — and their brand guidelines want to emphasis that at every turn. They recently underwent a brand redesign in 2021, so their new brand guidelines explain what changes have been made and why, with brief explainations and simple visuals.
The style guide is very succinct when it comes to actual usage guidelines, unlike some brands who focus on regulations for partners they’ve instead chosen to explain what each element means for the company. For example, when describing their brand color they explain that “Cavendish Yellow is an energetic brand expression building recognition in moments when our voice must be clear and memorable. We anchor on a single color, used with purpose, to drive consistency across all properties.” You get a strong understanding of who Mailchimp is as a brand and what their values are.
As a company that is heavily focused on the written side of content, they also have an extensive writing style guide for Mailchimp employees and other creators writing emails.
Skyscanner is another brand on this list that recently underwent a brand overhaul with a new logo, new typeface and a new colour scheme. They beautifully explain their brand on their website under the ‘About us’ section on a page that gives context to the new identity and explains each element.
The Skyscanner brand evolution has leaned heavily toward visuals: each section on their guidelines is dedicated to visual elements of their identity like logo, color scheme, photography, illustration and iconography. It is clear that that visual communication is a top priority for the brand so they’ve curated a style that is bold, fun and inspiring and captures the joy of travel.
Snapchat was designed to be playful app, not a serious one — and everything about their brand guideline reflects that energy. Between the welcoming ‘Hi there!’ and final ‘Thank you!’, Snapchat very simply and outlines their brand identity that revolves almost entirely around the ghost logo.
As an app, Snapchat needs to stand out on a home screen to attract attention, which they’ve done so by choosing the bright Snap Yellow colour and ghost icon. This is why their brand guidelines focus heavily on the use of the logo and icon and how it should never be altered in any way, and the only colours that can be used are yellow, black and white. Its a simple brand guideline, but it conveys details about the feature of the brand that is most valuable to their image.
Vevo, the industry leader in music videos, recently underwent a brand overhaul towards the end of 2022 by New York-based design studio Porto Rocha. This polished new brand identity is laid out in panstainking detail on their website — each category has a subcategory which comes with more extensive explanations and examples. The brand guideline is not simple, but this is because Vevo has committed to putting their best visual foot forward at every occasion.
Their design identity, although expansive, is actually strikingly simple and caters for ease-of-use thanks to the modular block layout and extremely plain typography that can adapt to any context. Vevo’s visuals are colorful, bold and confident, and their brand guideline leaves no room for errors.
Duolingo is an iconic brand on the socialsphere, and that is thanks to the way they’ve capitalised on their owl character, Duo. This reliance on visual communication is exactly how they’ve structured their brand guidelines.
Duolingo’s brand guideline can be found on their website separated into five sections: Identity, Writing, Illustration, Marketing and Resources. Each of the guidelines are extremely descriptive and detailed, with many examples of ‘do’s’ and ‘dont’s’ alongside instructions. Just like the on app, the guidelines rely on colour, illustrations and simple language to ensure that people from every corner of the globe understand. As they say in the guidelines, “Our mission is to develop the best language learning education in the world and make it universally available. Everyone can Duolingo,” hence the focus on easy visual communication.
Have you ever seen brand guidelines for a country? You may think its a bit unusual, but once you’ve looked at Lithuania’s brand guidelines you’ll wonder why all countries don’t have their own. According to their website, the strategic visual identity aims to “ convey the refined values of the Strategy domains and the values of the society, and to present Lithuania abroad as a proactive country.” To do this they’ve created a fairly flexible visual identity that has been tailored to adapt to different political and cultural sectors.
Their brand guideline gives a lot of information about the logo, its background, how it can be used and what the alternatives are, and there is heavy emphasis on the ‘co creative’ values of the brand. This collaborative value feeds heavily into how adaptable the assets are.
CIsco’s extensive style guide isn’t just a page on their website, it’s an entire 44-page document that takes viewers step-by-step through their company values, mission, strategy and identity. The huge technology conglomorate summarises the intention behind the book on the very first page: “This book will help you envision how the Cisco brand is evolving and will serve as a guide for implementing the Cisco Brand Identity System”.
The Cisco brand guideline is an excellent example of a guide for larger companies that have huge reach and a curated company identity to portray. They give extensive explanations for their design choices and what they represent for the company, and also provide examples for how each feature must be applied for products and marketing.
13. The Guardian
The Guardian’s brand guidelines can be found on their website on a page titled ‘Thinking outside the news in boxes’. The newspaper, which covers a vast array of topics, has focused heavily on the structure of their website in their brand guidelines, particularly on their grids and spacing. Their use of ‘containers’ (the box shapes that separate their articles) are of utmost importance in the guide, taking up the largest portion of the guideline.
They explain why each size container or card is use for different stories, what it means for the story and how the fonts accompany this system. And they are hyper specific when it comes those sizes and spacing — they give the exact dimensions and emphasis that consistency is key. However, The Guardian does also a lot space to explain their logo, typography and color palette towards the end of the guideline.
The Airbnb style guideline is a feast for the eyes that relies almost entirely on visual communication with very little copy. The first few pages of the brank book are dedicated to explaining the the brand’s current identity that was first implemented in 2014 after a brand redesign replacing their old blue and white logo. With the tagline ‘Belong Anywhere’, a new logo and pink color palette, Airbnb repositioned themselves as trendsetters in the travel industry.
Their visual brand is easily identifiable thanks to the powerful combination of a recognisable logo and unusual color palette, so the focus of the brand book is ensuring that the logo remains untouched and that only two specific colors are used. There is also a regular use of photography throughout the guideline which emphasises the brand’s aspiration to create a ‘diverse and inclusive global community’.
Shazam, the music discovery app, has a very straightforward brand guideline that employs the same blue and white palette of their logo. Their is heavy focus on their logo, which also doubles as their app icon, and how it should stay as minimalist as possible on all platforms. The brand guideline is very causal and conversational, addressing the reader as ‘you’, posing lots of questions and even making humours quirks about jargon and capital letters.
Because Shazam is an application that works in conjunction with other applications — like Apple Music, Spotify and YouTube — the brand guidelines also focus on how their logo and identity must be implemented for partner usage. These particular guidelines are great for brands with lots of partnerships to get an idea of how to present their ideas for ease of use.