Simplest ways to reduce your creative and graphic design costs

Every successful brand has its own unique style. Your style impacts how consumers view your brand and how they interact with it.

Most established businesses have a logo and standard colors they use, but to be consistent it’s important to have a thorough brand style guide.

You may think developing a thorough style guide sounds both expensive and time-consuming, but that doesn’t need to be the case. There are methods of a style guide creation that won’t break the bank.

The key is putting in the work now to develop standards that will serve your business for at least a few years with no major changes. It’s important to have your goals and expectations defined so you have a starting point for graphics and other creative elements.

In this article, we will look into style guides in more depth, discuss why they’re important and how you can create your own.

What Are Style Guides?

A style guide is an essential brand asset that outlines the standard design and communication elements for a business to adhere to. They include logo variations, colors, and fonts along with other relevant design elements and materials.

You want your brand to be easily recognizable. A brand’s style needs to be consistent and easily identifiable to avoid confusing your current and potential customers. Your style guide should be unique to your business and what you are trying to accomplish.

Style guides are utilized from all types of businesses, from e-commerce products to medical practices to government-run organizations. Everyone has a need for consistent branding and messaging.

The Importance of Style Guides

Establishing the basic standards of style guide creation and enforcing them consistently across a company is helpful when you are creating new graphic designs and other creative work. It ensures that the creatives don’t stray too far away from your original design strategy, but also gives them an idea of how much freedom they have.

If you’re hiring outside talent to run a campaign, it’s important to have a thorough style guide structure in place that you can share with them prior to beginning. This gives this external team the guidelines they need to effectively come up with new designs for your business.

Keeping your creatives on track will make their lives easier in delivering you a product you desire. It will also help you with getting them additional assets that they still need.

You don’t want to rush your style guide if it’s not ready. Make sure all of your stakeholders are on the same page and everyone is in agreeance on what is being defined. Your entire team needs to be on board with your style guide creation and the plan you put into place.

Too Much Freedom is a Problem

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When you give your design team too much freedom, it can actually hurt you.

These members may not have been part of your organization from the beginning, and perhaps there were some ideas or designs you tried in the past, but were not effective or were received negatively by customers. In a style guide, it’s important to note common do’s and don’ts to take out the guesswork for all parties.

If you don’t have your brand style assets fully in place prior to a project, it’s unreasonable to expect your team to be mindful of that standard if it’s not clearly defined. You don’t want your team wasting time on rework due to not being aware of your business's brand style guidelines and principles.   

How to Create a Good Brand Style Guide

A style guide that suits your brand and what you aim to achieve helps clarify expectations for all involved parties.

By now you should know how important style guide creation is. Now let’s take a look at the steps you can take to put one together for your brand.

Watch the video below for a quick summary:

1. Provide a Written Overview

First things first, create a written overview that outlines what your expectations are and the basic aspects of your style. This written overview doesn’t need to be overly long and detailed, but it’s important that you offer written guidance to accompany other aspects of the style guide.

Ensure that your style guide covers the most important details in a written format to provide clarity so that future creatives are clear and decisive.

2. Include Everything from Fonts to Color Palettes

Once you’ve completed the written the overview of your style guide creation strategy, you can start digging into the visual style elements that matter most.

This section should include everything from the fonts, colors, and any thematic design considerations that are important to your brand’s style. Be precise about which color palettes you want to stick to, along with which colors you don’t want to introduce to your style in any capacity.

It’s important to draw clear lines about what can and can’t be done when producing creative work.

3. Consider Tone

Do you have an idea of what kind of tone you want to achieve and why? Don’t forget about your brand tone when developing your brand style guide. How your brand communicates and speaks with others, impacts how customers view your business, even in a digital sense.

Businesses that do work in financial, legal and medical sectors should take on a more serious tone, while e-commerce products and media organizations might adopt a more lighthearted tone. It all depends on your business and what your goals are.

4. Be Specific

Be specific when preparing your style guide. Don’t be vague, or leave items open for interpretation. Everything included should be very "black and white" to avoid confusion and miscommunication.

For example, if you have certain colors you use, rather than just saying you want red and blue, include the specific color codes for your exact colors. This way, anyone who picks up on the marketing can easily find the exact colors needed to keep the brand consistent. Go into more or less detail as your brand permits.

5. But Also Leave Some Room to Maneuver

While being specific is important, you also need to leave a little wiggle room for maneuverability to ensure your graphic designers don’t feel too constrained. Focus on items that matter most, but aren’t so restrictive that your team is unable to be creative and think freely.

Try to find the right balance between both ends of the spectrum and structure them in a way that makes sense for everyone involved.

6. Have Fun With It

There’s no reason to not have fun with your style guide. It should ultimately be a celebration of your brand’s identity, and if it’s engaging to read through, your team will be more likely to pay close attention and use it more effectively.

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Always keep your business sector in mind as we discussed above, but if appropriate, add a little flair to your style guide.

7. Ensure Visual Examples Are Included

Don’t forget to include visual examples of your style so that your team and stakeholders know exactly to expect. Many professionals in today’s day and age are visual learners, so having that added visual component can further solidify your brand image in the eyes of who will be working on it.

Graphic examples should easy for you to obtain or quickly mock up. They’ll also help break up all the of the heavy text in your brand style guide and clarify any hard to comprehend sections.

How You’ll Save Time and Money

Rather than viewing it as a chore, your style guide should be viewed as an investment of both your current and future time and money.

By putting work into creating a thorough brand style guide now, you can make sure that your business reduces costs later on.

In the long-term, you’ll save money but cutting down the amount of time on rework your creative team will be responsible for since they’ll have a clear idea of brand expectations. That time and money saved can be reallocated to other aspects of your business.

It will require putting in the time and resources now to get the dirty work out of the way, but down the road, you’ll be glad you did. Don’t overlook how important style guide creation can be.

Conclusion

As we’ve discussed, a brand style guide is essential for the successful cohesion of your creative marketing strategies and campaigns. If done correctly, they will keep all involved parties on the same page, and ultimately save your organization valuable time and money.

Start thinking about what assets you already have at your disposal, and what can be done to improve upon them to create a clear guide for your brand. If you need help, a Glenmont consultant would be happy to guide you through the process.


The Difference Between Marketing and Design

The Difference Between Marketing and Design

The Difference Between Marketing and Design

A Marketer and a Designer Walk into a Bar...

The Difference Between Marketing and Design

Designer: “You know what would be cool? It should be a clean black pallete, representing the existential state of your being and then we finish with a single, dramatic product image, resonating the importance of the product with the viewer.”

Marketer: “The consumer must be informed, we have to communicate that our product is all natural, low fat, never animal tested, environmentally friendly, high fiber and contains more than six times the recommended daily value of phosphorous. They shouldn’t be confused by alternating brand messages or fun fonts. Just the facts.”

When The Chips are on the Table

The Difference Between Marketing and Design

We are using this hypothetical example of chips because it’s a good example of what we’re talking about, though what we’re saying really has nothing to do with chips per se. Insert any product here, we’ve all seen examples of how design or marketing can pass or fail out there in the boardroom and on the sales floor.

When brand imagery, be it product packaging, web presence, presentation materials or the like, are created without a carefully rendered balance of marketing and design, there is a significant portion of your message that can become lost. Designers look first to create something visually appealing to capture the attention of the viewer, considering dramatic presentation, sensationalism and composition as some of their primary goals. Meanwhile, marketers know that they have to set their brand or product apart from the competition, establish or validate what they do and how they do it. They need to demonstrate the features and benefits of the product as well as explain why it is more valuable…and never the twain shall meet, right?
Wrong. They must meet. They will meet, and when they do, it will be amazing. It is your job to make these factors balance. Or your boss’s job, or your subordinates’. Whether you outsource your artwork and marketing, or you have in house teams or you are the designer and the marketer, someone must be (or should be) carefully considering the balance of both the design and messaging of all of your brand’s content.

When marketing and design come together, wonderful things can happen.

A Delicate Balance

The Difference Between Marketing and Design

This balance is delicate, and to do it successfully not only do you need to consider and align all your touch points and editorial calendars but also connect the right team together to pull it all off. Figuring out why you do what you do (and I’m not referring to profit) is an important step and exponentially valuable. It will not only help you to select the team that believes in the core values of the organization and the products, it will help you to identify who you are marketing to. If you know the why it can be relatively simple to seamlessly align design and marketing objectives all while targeting the audience that believes in what you believe, making selling much easier from every way you look at it.

Often times we see successful marketing that does not seem to be balanced between dramatic or artful imagery and clear messaging or seems more weighted in marketing or in design, but it somehow works. Why?

This ad isn't the whole story.

How Much of your Story Do They Already Know?

The Difference Between Marketing and Design

This might seem to be both wholly dramatic and hugely successful to you. But consider that this ad isn’t the whole story. Apple is a company that’s been creating innovative products since the 1970’s and their marketing has evolved drastically over the past 40 years. You know the brand, you know their beliefs and you know this product already. You already know what the product does. They have created such a powerful brand identity that they don’t need to waste time or space telling their customers what they already know. Today an Apple ad can focus on any one element and bring to mind the other parts of their overall message. They have so successfully communicated their belief that they “think differently” that those who subscribe to the same beliefs will wait on line for hours to buy the newest product release.

For the rest of us who aren’t Apple or insert mega brand here, we may not be currently enjoying the same massive success but we can analyze and learn what makes them so successful.

When you or your team combines marketing with design, consider what the target audience already knows about your brand, or more aptly, what they don’t know. Consider which touch points will promote the different aspects of your message and where in your marketing you will introduce more. Remember that you must capture and hold their attention long enough to tell them your story so decide what part of the story you want to tell. You’ll want to create a content map to help to organize how and where to focus on features and benefits or your mission statement. When marketing and design come together, wonderful things happen.