Let us begin by defining the meaning of a corporate style (or brand style), only to assure ourselves we have the same definition in mind: A corporate identity is a collection of specific elements that are used to present and promote your company in a recognisable manner. Your corporate identity holds information about your company; it consists out of images and messages that are meant to tell clients and prospects who you are as a company and is usually derived from the companies’ origin, corporate values, mission and vision statement, technology, culture and strategy.
Besides the importance of being aware of the identity of your company, creating a clear and uniform message to the world is just as important. This way, you can protect and strengthen the recognizability of the company towards all stakeholders, from the employees to the customers. The more consistent a brand is portrayed, the more professional and trustworthy one appears to be to the outside world. A clear corporate identity will make it easier for stakeholders to understand and relate to a brand. This will ultimately affect your ability to attract and bind clients and employees, influence your ability to form strategic alliances and to find support within the financial market.
Take a moment to visualise the brands that you trust the most…
In all probability, you thought of brands with a strong and consistent identity. We recognise them by their logo, colours, type style, the music of choice, mood and even by the shapes that they use. At the same time, companies with weak or inconsistent corporate styling come across as being chaotic and unprofessional. Surely, that is not how you would like to portray your company? A corporate identity guideline will make sure that consistency is protected and is easier to monitor throughout the entire organisation.
Which elements should be incorporated in your corporate identity guideline?
In general, your logo is the most important element of your brand identity and deserves everyone’s attention. In this section of the guide, logo structure (height in relation to width etc.) is documented. Also documented here are the measurements for the logo when used in different mediums (social media for instance). Sometimes, minor adjustments to the logo are made in order to preserve quality in smaller sizes. If this is the case, it will be reported here.
Make sure you specify all logotypes. There are logos meant for print, logos that only classify for digital use and depending on backgrounds -one coloured or- black and white logos are used. Secondly, it is not uncommon for companies to design more playful or special logos used for special occasions (like Christmas) or use a variation for different business segments. You can either create links towards each specific logo and documentation or tell employees whom they can report to if they need a specific logo. It is always a good idea to show people how a logo should not be used as well!
Just as important to report is the amount of space to be used around the logo. Simply said, there is always a certain amount of space around a logo that should be kept clear of texts or images. These margins can be presented here and given in pixels, percentages or exact numbers (cm-mm).
Use of colours
As an organisation, you are bound to use several specific colours. These usually consist out of your logo colours and one or two colour accents to compliment the basis. The used colour palette is described here and their use is explained. Colour codes are clearly stated in Pantone, CMYK, RGB and the digital # code is also provided to ensure consistency. Some companies also explain how to use these colours (in which part of a logo or design) and in which proportions (we would advise you to do the same).
Fonts and characters
Chances are that you use several fonts and character sets within the organisation. You will probably use different fonts for titles, body text, online use and headers to ensure good readability. Sometimes specific fonts are combined with other character sets that are better suited for usage . Mention when one should use which font and when to use which character set.
Apart from typestyle, most communications have standards for sizes and proportions. These specifics can be explained under the paragraph Font-size. For example: which letter size do you use in your emails for your body text and which do you use for your title at the end?
Type space and white space
The spacing between sentences and letters are also described when they are different from what is regarded as standard. Don’t forget to mention differences between headers, subheaders and body text and specify the desired distance between titles and text.
When desired, you can indicate which way a text should be constructed. It is advisable to create a different chapter with templates.
Characters and icons
Characters and icons are often used to create enumerations and such. Indicate what character or icon is used and why. If you use a lot of different icons and characters, you could dedicate an entire chapter to this subject. In that case, you can illustrate how to construct chapters, create figures and how tables should be presented.
Images and illustrations
A lot of information can be recorded under this chapter. Image type, desired look and feel, desired quality (quality is specified with PPI and influences usage, we use images with a lower PPI for digital use and larger PPI for print), size (per application), and combinations are all discussed here. To make it easier for readers, mood boards are often included. You can go for a general mood board or construct a mood board per channel to show subtle differences.
Ratio image and text
It is optional to discuss the relation between text and image. Is it permitted to place text on images? Where should the logo be placed and which ratio is used for text and images in communications?
Tone of voice
In the chapter ‘tone of voice,’ you can explain and show what type of tone you would like to portray within communications. This is quite simply done by describing your linguistic style. Is your tone of voice formal, informal, technical, do you use UK English or American English, does this tone of voice differ per continent or culture etcetera.
The most commonly used words within the company can be added to a small dictionary (refer to it with a link). In your dictionary, it can be explained how to use certain words. Please focus on specific words within your market or field and words that have various meanings or differences in notation. Do you have clients or customers? Do you use the word human, person or individual? Do you write your own services and products with a capital or with small letters? Do you write numbers in full or not?
A dictionary will create a higher consistency in communications. There are also certain tools available to help you protect your corporate style in terms of text. Tools like PerfectIT automate these processes to make things easier.
Templates are a company’s best friend. It will help staff members to communicate the right way without too much of a hassle. Whilst a lot of companies have CRM systems that hold templates, this is not always the case. For those reasons, make sure you have up-to-date templates accessible such as (but not limited to):
- E-mail: Introduction, typestyle, colours, size, margins, spacing, closing, use of the logo, construction of title, disclaimer and address.
- Mailings: Lay-out, possibilities, elements, colours used, size, placement of the logo, construction of the text. Construction of elements such as subject matter and introductions or images.
- Letters: Margins, size construction of text, introduction, closing, construction of title, use of the logo, spacing etc.
Other examples of commonly used templates are business cards, brochures, posters, press releases, envelopes, stamps, presentations and websites.
The easiest way to go about the distribution is to place all templates on a central server (if one does not have a CRM) so that everyone within the company can access these templates. In the end, automating these processes decreases the margin for error and is also much more user-friendly.
Make sure your corporate identity guideline does not turn out to be 100 pages long. Keep it as short and simple as you can. Creating two versions will go a long way: Create one for employees and the second version for external companies (advertising agencies and such) and your department of marketing and communications. The version for your employees can be more compact and less technically written, this will ensure that employees absorb the contents easily. The other version should hold much more details to ensure proper communications.
Your target group definition, vision and mission statement, strategy, values and market definition should be compiled within your corporate guidelines. Other documents that influence homogeneity are the social media guidelines and HR handbook.