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Brand Guidelines. How Useful Are They Really? Does Anyone Ever Read Them?


by Victoria Heyward, Brand Marketing and Communications Manager at Bright

Hands up who’s read their company brand guidelines? Take an extra ten points for Griffindor if you can remember where they’re stored. Historically, brand guidelines have been the doc that we know we should refer to under times of great decision-making, but for some reason, never do. The reason? More often than not, these docs are out of date, far too lengthy and difficult to navigate. Oh and stored somewhere in a shared drive that incites a shudder whenever it’s time to dig a file out.

We used to be this way, it’s true. But since rebranding, we saw the light and realised that if we wanted our team to actually use the brand guidelines, we needed to make them both useful and accessible. The benefits of utilising the guidelines are many. Firstly, we wanted people to feel supported in their communications by making sure everyone was on the same page with creating branded content independently. Next up – our mission was to increase brand awareness of our umbrella brand, Bright, to foster brand loyalty.

Finally, we couldn’t handle another outdated logo popping up on Google. Truth.

A need-to-know approach is the way to go.

Will a dev be interested in your photography guide? Does your sales team need to know about typography styles? The best way to build your brand guidelines is to clearly label each section so that the information needed is easily found (or skipped!).

Keep it simple, stupid.

We’re not being rude, it’s a classic design principle – honest! Before UX was even a twinkle in the internet’s eye, Albert Einstein uttered the phrase, ‘If you can’t explain it, you don’t understand it well enough.’ The KISS principle is well suited to the design of brand guidelines – keep layouts easily digestible and have visual application examples to make sure your team is able to see the guidelines in action. 

What should your brand guidelines include?

The revamped Bright guidelines are split into the following sections:

  • Logo

What does your logo stand for? What are the variations? (show these visually). How to use the logo in a design capacity and advice against misuse.

  • Colour

Primary brand colour and supporting colour palette. Colour gradients and how to use them.

  • Fonts

Primary, secondary and fallback fonts. Where and when to use them.

  • Graphic device

This area details the graphics that define the brand design. Ours include illustrations, holding shapes (taken from our logo design) background styles.

  • Photography

Clearly specify the type of emotional response your images should elicit in the viewer. Plenty of visual examples works well in this section.

  • Iconography

Any iconography that has been designed for branded assets and how to use them.

  • Application examples

Possibly the most important part – plenty of examples of how to create branded assets that fit the guidelines. We have examples of our eBooks, social posts, newsletters and branded merch to show the brand in action.

Note that we don’t touch upon copy and tone of voice guidelines here –  it wasn’t that we lost interest, however, these guidelines required an extra level of detail so we chose to keep them separate so as not to make the brand guidelines too bulky.

Avoid holding your brand hostage.

We begin our guidelines with the following words, ‘These guidelines are just that, a guide, rather than a set of hard rules. Instead, it should inspire and promote creativity.’ Your team are creatives, with their own ideas and interpretations. It’s important for both morale and your sanity to steer clear of wielding the brand rules over the team, as this can lead to fear of creative expression. This also goes for using branding imagery within a workspace. Gone are the days where logos and ‘motivational’ straplines are splashed across office walls – it’s much softer to utilise secondary imagery and the brand colour palette to bring a sense of cohesion rather than being slapped around the face with your brand values each time you rock up to work. Of course, there are instances where the guidelines will be shared with outside suppliers e.g. designers creating branded assets and this is where guidelines for areas like typography and colour palettes cannot be flexible. In this case, it’s useful to note in the guidelines which parts are open to creative interpretation.

Share your guidelines with pride!

Once your brand guidelines are built it’s time to work out where you’ll store them. Sounds simple, but it’s where many companies fall down – with outdated copies knocking around the shared drive or your downloads folder. If you have a DAM (Digital Asset Manager) such as Asset Bank this would be an ideal place to store the guidelines as it will allow you to assign varying levels of admin rights to the document. Otherwise, a shared cloud drive such as Google Drive works well – just ensure to upload the new copy each time it is amended.

Appoint a Brand Ambassador.

Not as glamorous as a social ambassador, it has to be said (fewer press trips) but a brand ambassador will be your secret weapon to success. Arm the chosen person with oodles of knowledge about your brand so that they can be the number one point of contact for any member of the team who has queries about how to use the guidelines. An ambassador could be someone in your marketing or brand team, or in a larger company, there could be a brand ambassador appointed in each department to highlight the importance of brand consistency across the organisation. Each ambassador should be in charge of keeping the guidelines up to date and ensuring that any new member of the team has access to the document. They should also be awarded an extra beer each Friday for their troubles.

So have we inspired you to dig out your brand guidelines, dust them off and scrap 80%? We certainly hope so! You can find out more about the Bright rebrand process on our recent podcast.


Victoria Heyward is head of all things Brand and Marketing at Bright. Her employment experience includes Head of Client Services and 4 years in Education and IT recruitment resulting in a real passion for customer engagement and means Victoria has a real focus on Employer Branding. She ensures that the company culture is not just felt within the Bright HQ but also radiates out to our clients.