5 Steps to Fully Utilize Your Brand Book

Your designer just sent you a 30-page PDF at the end of your branding project and named it your "Visual Identity Guidelines" or simply your "Brand Book." I know what you're thinking, "I don't need to read this because I was in the branding project and already know how to use my logo files. And 30 pages?! I've got better things to do."

While all of that is true, there is so much in those PDF pages! Here are 5 easy steps to fully understand and utilize your brand book.

1. Read it.

Simple but necessary. The design is cool and the picture is pretty, but the copy explains the why behind the design. Understanding the content will help remind you of the brand you're building, helping you to consistently repeat the brand story through all visual and verbal channels.

2. Share it.

Everyone on your team should have access - yep, even those non-designers! Imagine if even your sales team understood your brand story like your creative team... You've invested time, energy, and money to develop the brand, so be sure everyone understands and loves it like you do!

 Want to save this image for later? Pin the image above!

Want to save this image for later? Pin the image above!

3. Reference it.

With each new project, all artists and project leads need to understand your brand as much (or more!) than you. This will eliminate wasted time and unnecessary drafts, and will empower the artists to think creatively within the brand's guardrails you've set in place. Trust me, knowing any brand's parameters will help, not suffocate, creativity! 

4. Know your colors.

Out of all the post-project questions I get, color questions top the list. SPOT, RGB, HEX, CMYK, PMS... it's all jibberish until you know what you're looking at. Here's a cheat sheet: 

  • Memorize your Pantone color numbers. These are sometimes called "PMS" colors for the "Pantone Matching System" or "Spot" colors. Pantone numbers are a universal color matching system that all printers across the world use. If you hire a printer in China, she will have a Pantone book and can match colors, just like a local printer would. Always mention your Pantone numbers to any printer you hire. They'll be glad you did!

    • Example email to your local printer: "Hi, John! We are excited to get our new business cards. Will you be sure the blue matches our brand color, PMS 281c? We want to be sure all of our stationery matches. Thanks!"

  • Use CMYK colors when creating new documents for print. In any word processing software or design software, you'll want to use the 4 number CMYK color mix to create new graphics. Do a test print on your office printer to check for accuracy!

  • Use RGB and/or HEX colors for web or email campaign design. HEX numbers are 6 digits or letters following a pound sign (#1C7CAD), and RGB colors are 3-digit numbers in a sequence ranging from 0-255 (28, 125, 173).

5. Revisit each year.

With small businesses, we know change happens fast. Review your Brand Book each year and be sure it still represents your vision and business trajectory. I'm not suggesting you redesign your brand mark every year (in fact, a mark will gain strength and recognition over multiple years in circulation!), but the content should still be relevant. An update to your brand book may be simply adding a few pages or tweaking the copy a little. Whatever you do, keep it current and keep it close!

Did we forget anything? How are you using your company's brand book? Comment below!

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Laura BalfourComment