Here at Contrast DesignWorks, when we meet with a new client the first thing we do is ask a lot of questions. What are your business goals? What challenges are you facing? And in every conversation, we eventually get around to asking about a prospective client’s brand guidelines.

You can learn a lot about a client from their brand guidelines, and when you ask about them as often as we have you learn that most often a brand has only thought about:

Logo and usage – ✅
Color palette – ✅
Typography – ✅

So we nod. And ask a lot more questions. And in the back of our minds, the hamster starts getting that wheel up to speed, because as an integrated marketing agency, we just can’t help but think about brand strategy and a strong set of guidelines. They put us in our happy place.

Why? We thought you’d never ask. Here are our top reasons we’re big on guidelines:

They’re way more than just telling people not to stretch your logo. (But please, stop stretching the logo!) You need to first think through how you want to look, sound, and feel across all of your channels. Brand guidelines should include everything from voice and tone guidelines to web guidelines and social guidelines. You’ll thank us later for mapping out all of these touchpoints and helping create a strong and unified brand.

Everyone is singing from the same song book. Regardless of your size, there are always people creating for your brand. Maybe it’s a mix of internal and external resources. Maybe it’s your sales team throwing together a presentation. Maybe you only have a few designers making graphic assets, but who is writing copy? Who is posting on your social channels? Who ensures that the logo doesn’t get scaled horizontally 150% on your trade show booth? Clear guidelines ensure that no matter who creates the asset, or who writes the post copy, it all looks, feels, and sounds like your brand.

It’s a lot like going to therapy. It takes work and discipline. It helps deal with some deep seated issues. And in the end, you come out a better version of yourself. Put in the discovery, research, insights, and forward-thinking and you’ll find your brand blossoms.

Change isn’t painful. T-rexes are cool and all, but if we learned anything in 6th grade, it’s that adaptation is key for survival. Brands are no different. To continue our prehistoric metaphor, it may be an ice age that comes on over centuries or it may be a giant asteroid hitting the Earth – either way you’re going to be forced to adapt. With a strong, well-thought-out set of guidelines, you have a roadmap for evolution. You already understand what your brand can and can’t do, and that gives you the space to pivot without pain.

It creates brand stewards. Every one of your team members and every one of your external agencies want to do the right thing for the brand. No one’s purposely messing with your logo (again with the stretching!). They just don’t know any better. But arm them with what they need and – bingo – you have instant brand stewards, ready to make you and your brand look good. Finally, make sure to keep things up to date and don’t forget a company-wide roadshow to educate them.

When you approach brand guidelines at a more holistic and strategic level, it has an exponential effect on your brand. That deep brand and design thinking is one of things we love to do most at Contrast DesignWorks. So if you need help, you know who to call.