What is a visual style guide?
A visual style guide is a document or digital file that you create for your blog or business as a reference guide to help you keep a cohesive brand style throughout your website and content.
This usually consists of logo variations, a colour scheme, font selections, patterns, icons and illustrations etc.
Why is a style guide important
The main advantage of creating a style guide for your blog or business, is it helps you create a recognisable brand identity which ensures you keep a professional and put-together look throughout your online presence.
This will do wonders in creating a successful blog or business as it helps readers know and remember who you are and what you look like.
For example, someone might stumble upon one of your blog articles on Pinterest, read your blog and enjoy it, but then leave and go elsewhere. If you have a consistent style to your brand, every time they see a post, tweet, article or product in the same colours, font and style again, they will be reminded of your content, making them more likely to become a regular reader or customer. And that’s what we all want, right?
Having a style guide also takes the guesswork out of deciding on your colours and fonts every time you publish content, which saves you a lot of time!
Step 1: Brainstorm what you want your brand to represent.
Before you can start designing your new brand image, you need to jot down some ideas of what you want your blog or business to be about, and how you can represent this with your brand style.
It is important to make sure you fully understand what you are trying to achieve and the audience you are trying to target, before you move on to designing a style that will best fit this.
- What is the purpose of your blog/business?
- Who is your ideal audience?
- How do you want people to feel when reading your content?
- What do you want other people to remember you as?
- What kind of style would best represent this?
At the end of this post you can download my Style Guide Kit including a Style Guide Question Sheet for more questions to help get those creative thoughts flowing!
Step 2: Create a inspiration board
Now it’s time to use your answers from the previous questions to think about how you can use your brand style to portray your blog or business this way.
I would recommend using Pinterest to gather some inspiration. Create a secret board and pin anything that relates to what you want your brand to represent. I like to pin colour themes, photos, fonts and typography, logo inspiration, illustrations, patterns and layouts.
Remember, you want to reflect what you want your blog or business to portray, even if its a different look to what your personal style is drawn too.
For example, If you want your business to come across as professional and smart, you might want to collect images with more of a simple, clean style. But if you want your blog to radiate feminine vibes, you could pin bright colours, or soft pinks and calligraphy fonts to your Pinterest board.
You can also get inspiration by checking out what other people in your market are doing, but it is important not to copy them as you want to create your own style so you stand out from the crowd!
Step 3: Narrow down your inspiration
Next, go through your Pinterest board and look at any common colours or themes that have occurred. Group together any images and colours that work particularly well together and best represent your blog or business.
Use the Moodboard Template (you can download it at the end of this post), to add in your final colours and image inspiration. You can then print this off and keep it at your desk to remind you of your chosen theme while designing the rest of your style guide.
I like to hang mine, along with my completed style guide, on the wall above my desk. This way I can always keep my brand image in mind and it helps me get into my “Joanna Kay Mode” whenever I'm creating new content for my blog.
Step 4: Pick a colour theme
Use your moodboard to choose about 6 colours that you will use throughout your site and content, and stick to these colours for anything you create. It is best to keep to about 3 or 4 main colours for your logos and headers, and use the other colours sparingly, this way everything can stay looking cohesive and not too messy.
- What colours will you use in your logo?
- What colours will you use in your banners?
- What will your link colour be?
- Do you want all your icons to be the same colour?
- What colour do you want your text and headings?
Remember to write down the hex codes for all your colours (looks something like this #565689), along with the RGB values (web colours) and CMYK values (print colours). This way you can always make sure you have the exact same colours throughout your brand.
Step 5: Choose your fonts
Choose 2-3 fonts to use throughout your site. I would avoid using any more than this, otherwise things will start to look a bit inconsistent and distracting.
Make sure the fonts you chose are clean, easy to read, and work well together, as people will lose interest in your site quickly if it’s hard to read!
- What font sizes will you use?
- Will you use bold, underlined or italic text?
- Will you use capitals for headers?
I personally like to chose 3 fonts when designing a site, one for headings or logos, which should be the most bold or noticeable, one for subheadings, and one for the main content text, which should be simple and easy to read.
Step 6: Design logos and banners
When designing a logo or banner, remember it’s probably going to be one of the first things your reader sees, and what they are likely to remember you by. This means it should represent your brand well and be consistent with the colours and fonts you’ve chosen.
Many people chose to have a primary logo, which is their main logo that is used for promotion, and a secondary logo that’s smaller or simplified, which is used for email signatures, stamps and watermarks etc. If you chose to do this, ensure the two logos aren’t completely different styles, as this would be confusing to customers.
- Where are you going to use your logos?
- Are you going to have a primary and secondary logo?
- Will you change the colours of your logo for different backgrounds?
- Will your logo contain images or vectors?
- Will you save your logo in different file formats?
Step 7: Choose your image style
Choosing an image style is an important step in creating a style guide that can often be overlooked. But you want your images to match the rest of your website and theme too!
Think about the overall look you're going for with your site, and how you can ensure your images fit in with that.
- Do you want high or low contrast and saturation for your photos?
- Are they going to be light bright images, or darker tones?
- Are you going to crop your photos to a particular shape?
- Are you going to give the images a boarder?
- Are you going to use a filter?
If you want to edit or apply filters to your photos, use the same technique for all the photos. This way you’re not creating conflicting looks. As long as you keep the photos consistent with each other and the rest of the brand, you’re good to go!
Step 8: Deciding on illustrative features
Are you going to include buttons, icons, patterns or other illustrative features?
- What will be the purpose of these?
- Where will you use them?
- What style will they be?
Step 9: Stylising your social media accounts
Make sure you continue to keep your style consistent everywhere you have an online presence. This means your social media accounts as well as your blog or website.
Think about all the ways you can customise your social media accounts, how will you maintain your style on these sites?
- Will your Twitter or Facebook banner be the same as your website banner?
- What kind of images will you re-pin on Pinterest?
- Will you have a background colour or pattern on your Twitter profile?
- Will you have a theme on your Instagram account?
If you use Instagram, think carefully about what you post. It wouldn’t make sense to have a bright coloured brand theme and then post lots of dark pictures on Instagram.
Step 10: Fill out the style guide template
Use the Style Guide Template (you can download it at the end of this post) to add in your personal brand style choices. Print this off or save it on your desktop so you always have it to refer back too.
Remember, consistency leads to being recognisable! Think about all the big brands you know of, do they change up their colours, logos, fonts and images throughout their brand? No. They stick to a style and people remember them because of that. In fact, most of the large brands haven’t changed their style in years!
This is because they are well-known with their current brand, changing it up would only confuse people and lose customers! Mcdonald's wouldn’t be iconic, if they changed the size, shape and colour of the ‘m’ logo throughout the stores and adverts.
Always keep your brand elements cohesive and you’ll thank me later!
Don't forget to enter your email below to download my free style guide kit.
I included the following templates and worksheets to help you create the perfect style guide for your brand:
- Branding Questions Worksheet
- Mood board Template
- Style Guide Template
- Copy of this blog post in a PDF Guide