The Whats, Whys, and Hows of Brand Identity Guides

A number of clients have been working on various branding related issues lately, so I’m so pleased to be able to share this guest post from my colleague Sharon Bending at Rx Creative Lab on the keys to putting together effective brand identity guidelines:

A set of brand identity guidelines (also referred to as brand standards) is a part of every rebrand. It documents the whats and whys of a brand’s look and feel, including color and font specs, overall guidance on tone and message, and layout rules. These guidelines are important to maintain consistency, making a stronger impact with your materials.

Who writes the guide and who has input?

The brand identity guide is generally written by the designer who created the identity, because they can best articulate the thinking behind the design. The guide also spells out why adhering to it enhances the organization’s brand.

Is there one document for all purposes or different guides for different purposes (such as poster sessions, website, publications, eblasts)?

There is usually one master brand identity guide that covers the main areas. Specific websites, journals and publications would generally have their own set of guidelines.

What do you do when people either disagree with or don’t understand your guide?

Being written by an outside source has the benefit of eliciting a sort of respect that these are the rules put in place by an expert, and they are there for a reason. A good guide will help people understand the benefits of sticking to the guidelines.

What if my organization was last branded many years ago and we don’t have any standards in place?

At the very least, have your designer create a one-sheet brand guide to include at a minimum the color specs (CMYK, PMS, RGB, and hexadecimal) and the fonts used. Having one place to document this information is helpful to refer to when working with other vendors.

If you’re ready to take on more than a one sheet but are not interested in rebranding, perhaps the time is right for a communications audit. A communications audit is an objective review of all of your materials to see how well they reinforce your organization’s invaluable identity and branding assets. The audit may find branding inconsistencies that could be addressed in a basic style guide. During audits we sometimes find the branding is all over the place, and the report we create helps generate buy-in for a brand redesign or refresh.

Sharon Bending is the President and Creative Director of Rx Creative Lab, specializing in focused, holistic communications for medical associations. View their work at