While a branding kit can include anything that you deem necessary to anchor the tone of the brand, there are some key elements that probably are worth including in any quality branding kit.
What components we will discuss:
- Accent Color
- Vision Statement
#1 Your branding kit should include a logo
While it might sound obvious, a logo is actually not necessary. Let’s say you are a blogger: You use the default typeface on your blogging platform, and you use a picture of yourself in social media. In this scenario you don’t have a logo, but still a clear brand.
But if you want to take your brand to the next level, a logo is your #1 step. A logo in its essence, is a single mark that denotes your entire brand. It can look vastly different for different industries.
A useful logo should be flexible and simple
Don’t make it overly wide, overly tall, or overly complex.
Do make it close to square, and keep it simple.
The idea is that it should function in any context, and the closer to square you are, the more usable it is in absolutely all contexts.
A useful logo is in vector
When you work with a designer, make sure they deliver the final logo in vector. Vector means that the logo file can be resized to any size without loosing quality.
#2 Your branding kit should include an accent color
If you are just starting out, the first color you should choose is an accent color.
Say you use a blogging service and you want to put your mark on the brand with zero effort. Pick one color that stands out, and stick with it. Your journey has now started, and like a logo mark whatever you do from now on adds or detracts value from your brand color.
There are countless ways to approach color, but this is a surefire strategy.
Consider Facebook Blue, Coca-Cola Red, Starbucks Green, YouTube Red. These have become icons of the brand because of consistent use over time.
#3 Your branding kit should include a typeface
As you get by now, a strong brand is as much (if not more) about consistency than it is about quality. There are quite frankly brands that have become iconic because of consistent asset use, and quality content — but the actual assets aren’t particularly nice.
I’m not going to trash talk any brand here, but I am sure you can come up with an example if you think through it.
So pick one or two typefaces, and use it in absolutely every media. Again consistency is the key to memorability.
There are also countless ways to go about type. There is no rule stating that you can’t have ten typefaces, and let the consistency come from color use and a general uniform style. The key point here is that these alternative approaches require more skill from the designer, and more work to keep it consistent.
Google Fonts is a great free resource for your first typeface, as font licenses can be quite expensive — especially for use on the web.
#4 Your branding kit should include a vision statement
The purpose of a brand guide is to anchor the tone and style of a brand, and there is probably no stronger anchor than a clear vision statement.
I recommend beginning with a single line slogan/statement, plus one–two paragraphs summing up what you’re all about.
And in design work and text work alike, we begin by throwing everything on the table. Write 10 pages if you must, but eventually sum them up in two paragraphs at the most. The truth is that no matter how good it is, people will seldom re-read, let alone memorize a 10 page document — but two paragraphs you can ready every morning.
#5 Your branding kit should include guidewords
While there are many ways to structure your branding kit, listing a few simple guidewords that entail either your values or aesthetic anchor points, is always helpful.
The reason I don’t separate values and aesthetics is because they tend to blend.
For example “Old and rugged,” as a guideword does imply grungy designs and ancient typography. But it often comes with a set of values, such as enjoying gritty work and being down to earth.
So my suggestion is to list a couple of guidewords, and think well through them — do you actually embody them, and do they point in the direction of your future vision?
Your branding kit should be agile
I am a strong believer in an agile branding kit. What it means is that the kit should be easy to use, and actually do its job, while trusting the users of the brand to utilize it correctly.
When you are starting our a brand, it is really a reference and a database for you and your team to refer back to, and ensure that you don’t veer from the path. And if you do change paths, the branding kit needs some work to stay alive.
That’s why I don’t recommend the classic brand books that specify how much margins a logo should have, and such details. This is an attempt to tech a non designer how to design — and guess what, if you have a non designer do your design work, it will end up terrible no matter how much instruction you give.
Here are two golden tips.
Keep the texts somewhere central
On a Google Drive or on a Dropbox — the point is it should be easily accessible, and editable (to the right people) at any time. This allows it to grow and develop with your brand.
Use an asset library
The same goes for your graphics. You can keep assets in a Drive or Dropbox, but there are also alternatives such as Adobe Creative Cloud Libraries, and other online resources.
This is a suggestion of a very basic branding kit, containing the following:
- A logo.
- An accent color.
- A typeface.
Your branding kit should start with the assets you’re going to use, and then grow as your needs grow.
Your branding assets and texts should be centrally available, with editing rights granted the right people.