Brand Identity Standards Manual Overview
This post is the second part of a previous article continuing a detailed explanation of how to design and create a brand identity standards manual. If you missed part one of the article, you can check it out here. Part two gives an overview of a completed brand identity standards manual and outlines the basic order of the manual. For specific details on understanding what goes into designing and creating a brand identity standards manual, read part one.
Outline of a Full Identity Standards Manual
This post is an example of an outline and organization of a full and robust standards manual. By no means do you have to use this structure, but at the very least, it’s a good jumping-off point. That is to say, you can take what you need and leave what you don’t, or do something completely different. As long as you’re effectively communicating the rules of the new identity, you will be accomplishing your objectives in this step.
First, a standards manual needs a cover. The cover should include at least the client’s name, the words “identity standards manual” (or some variation of that term), and an image of the logo. In addition, some other items to consider are the date, a version number, your name (or your business name), and other graphic branding elements (colors, photos, forms, etc.).
After that, there should be an introduction. The introduction gets the reader ready and prepared for what they are about to read (or flip through). It should be at least a gentle introduction to the new logo and to the manual itself. This section will probably be two or three pages. For example, some things you could include are:
• a letter from the CEO;
• the brand story;
• contact information to the brand management team, especially if this document will be made public or widespread;
• a table of contents;
• a “How to Use This Manual” section;
• legal information;
• a splash page showing off the new logo (possibly in context);
• brand history;
• brand mission, objectives, vision; and
• core values of the organization.
Once the introduction ends, the visual identity section begins. This section will define the logo itself as well as its supporting cast. When laying out these pages, you’ll want to include visual examples of everything as well as a supporting sentence or two explaining each item. Above all, keep it simple, clear, and straightforward. You never know who will be reading this—a seasoned designer, an intern, a marketing executive, a junior designer, etc. In other words, they should all be able to easily understand the message and how to use the logo. This section can include:
• the logo in its preferred form;
• the logo in a few examples of how it is not to be used;
• the color palette (be sure to identify PMS, CMYK, and RGB values for each color) hierarchy;
• tagline treatments (if applicable);
• typefaces to use (or not to use), including print and web options;
• other supporting graphic elements (if applicable);
The visual identity section more or less defines the logo as it exists in a vacuum. In addition to the visual identity section, the in context section attempts to bring that mark into the world by using specific applications and putting it into a real context. It can be helpful if some of these materials already exist (or are currently being created for real-world use). If not, you can make a few examples yourself. Think of this section as “examples in use.” For instance, the following contexts can be considered:
• The web (How does the logo look on the corporate website? How does it look on a third-party website?)
• Billboards or large signage
• Merchandise or usage on product
If you happened to design an identity that will be licensed, meaning third-party companies pay to use this identity on their own product offerings, then you’ll need to include a much more robust section on how to use supporting graphic elements. In fact, the identity design itself will have a much broader scope than just the logo mark itself. Because of this, this section can speak directly to other designers who will be creating artwork based on the standard. Include the following:
• Page layout construction instructions
• Grids and guides
• Robust library of acceptable supporting artwork
• Much more in-depth section on what not to do with the logo and branding elements
• Legal copy needed
• Contact information for those who need to approve any artwork that has been created based on the manual
• As many examples of approved art as possible
• Digital assets—now a necessity instead of a strong suggestion; you’ll either need a place online or a disc with supporting artwork
Last but not least, a completed standards manual may include an appendix section. This is a catchall for anything that doesn’t fit anywhere else. However, it will probably be pretty specific to the brand at hand. It’s also a good place for a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section.
Note that if the manual exists online (as a website, not just a PDF), the manual’s structure will be somewhat different. For instance, instead of a flowing book format, you may have navigation, drop-down menus, and downloadable files. The basic contents of the manual will still be the same. However, the organization of the content will be slightly different.