Why Every Non-Profit Needs a Brand Guide
If your non-profit has been around for any amount of time you’ve probably noticed how difficult it can be to keep your branding consistent. Whether it’s the words you use in your marketing copy, or the graphic style of your social media posts, achieving brand consistency is a never-ending battle.
Just know you’re not alone in this struggle. In fact, it’s a common challenge for businesses of all sizes.
But, there is one tool you can use to help with brand consistency — a brand guide.
What is a brand guide
Brand guides (or sometimes called a style guide) vary from business to business. But, there are a few common themes every brand guide covers.
First and foremost, a brand guide documents all important elements of the brand. How in-depth this documentation goes depends on the brand, but it often covers when and how to properly use each element. The goal is to provide enough documentation so a designer understands how you want the brand to be presented. A good brand guide will give you the ability to utilize multiple designers while still keeping every design “on-brand”.
Elements covered in a brand guide
The most common elements covered in a brand guide are:
- Logo Usage
- Typography (or also known as fonts)
For logo usage your guide should dictate when each version of your logo should be used. It should also cover what modifications (if any) are allowed to be made to the logo itself.
This is an important one. You’ll want to document not only when a color should be used, but all relevant color codes as well (RGB, CMYK, Hex Code). Don’t worry if you don’t know what those are — a designer can help you find and document the color codes.
Using the wrong font is one of the most common mistakes we see when it comes to brand consistency issues. By documenting which fonts can be used and when they should be used you’ll ensure the right font is being used at all times.
Here are some other elements often found in brand guides:
- Text Heirarchy
- Brand Tone
- Approved Verbage
- Visual Styles
- Brand Mission
Why you need a brand guide
You may still be wondering why a brand guide is necessary. Shouldn’t it be obvious which logo version and colors to use in a design? Sadly, that’s not the case.
Many times what may seem obvious to us is not obvious to others. That, combined with the fact that we all have different options on what we think is “correct” for a brand, leads to inconsistencies.
At the end of the day, your brand guide serves other purposes beyond basic guidance:
The most obvious benefit is the one we’ve already talked about — visual consistency. Having a brand guide means designers know what your expectations are. Also, the documentation in the guide gives them the guidance they need to make sure their design is on-brand.
An added benefit of having a brand guide is that it helps settle disputes. It’s not uncommon for team members to argue about elements of the brand (or to want to change the brand over time). Your brand guide has the final say on what is considered appropriate for the brand. If someone wants to make a change to the brand that goes beyond the brand guide, then the guide itself will need to be changed.
Finally, your brand guide can help you align your team. When everyone knows what the core elements of the brand are, they can all work together towards that vision. This is often an underrated and underutilized benefit.
How to create a brand guide
Creating a brand guide does not have to be complicated. In fact, you make one with a simple text editor like Microsoft Word or Google Docs. To make it even easier, we created a brand guide template you can download and fill out. Simply follow the template’s instructions and you’ll have a brand guide created in no time (takes about 30 – 60 minutes total).
Download our template
First, download the template file HERE.
You can also use the steps below if you decide to make your own brand guide without assistance from the template.
Add your elements
The four main sections we’re going to add to your brand guide are:
- Brand Mission
- Logo Usage
- Typography (Fonts)
As we discussed above, there are other sections you can add, but these four will serve as the foundation for your brand’s core elements.
This one is straight forward, write out your brand’s mission.
Insert every version of your logo and explain when each version should be used. Don’t be afraid to also mention when it should NOT be used. The more guidance you can provide, the more consistent your branding will be.
This one is the most difficult. You not only need to explain when to use each color, you need to provide the different color codes as well.
For color codes you can use a website such as HTML Color Codes to find the codes you need. Simply enter in the Hex Code and it will also provide the RGB code and the CMYK code. In the end you want to provide the following codes for each color:
- Hex Code (this is a 6 digit number with a # sign in front)
- RGB Code (this is a 3 number system with each letter, R G B, having a number from 0 – 255)
- CMYK Code (this is a 4 number system with each letter, C M Y K, having a number from 0 – 100)
If you need assistance finding the Hex Code for your colors please reach out to us and we can assist you with that.
For this section you want to list which fonts are used in the brand and when each font should be used. Most brands only have 1 – 2 fonts, with one font being used for headers and the other font used for body text.
Place it where everyone can access it
Once you have your new Brand Guide created make sure to place it in an area everyone can access it.
Also, don’t forget to let everyone know where they can find it.
If you have any questions or ares struggling with your brand guide you can reach out to us to setup a free consultation. We’d love to hear about your non-profit and how we may be able to help you.