Building a brand manual can seem like a huge task if you’re starting from scratch. And, while it’s true that they can take a lot of time to build, the payoff is worth it. Brand manuals tie your brand together, building a cohesive brand that is unique and recognizable. They give employees guidelines on how to use your assets and talk about your institution. And they help outside partners understand who you are. Your brand manual is what keeps everyone on the same page.
In this two-part series, we’ll explore the two main sections of a brand manual — visual identity and messaging.
Your logo is one of the most recognizable pieces of your brand. Include all usable versions of your logo. Show the preferred version of your logo, but also show how it should be used on different backgrounds or in smaller spaces. This is also a place where you can determine the minimum size of your logo, and how much space should be allowed around it.
Brand colors are a visual representation of your voice. Choose colors that represent your personality and keep them consistent. It can be helpful for a designer if you show how your brand colors could work together, like Capture Higher Ed partner Southern New Hampshire University does in their brand manual.
Also, define colors for both print (Pantone, CMYK) and digital (hex codes, RGB) to keep colors consistent across all platforms.
Type can be very important to your brand. (You wouldn’t want someone to use Comic Sans on your letterhead, right?) List your brand’s approved fonts, including approved weights, and how they should be used. If you prefer a specific font weight for headlines, make a note of it in your manual.
Make sure to also add secondary options. Not everyone will have access to a premium font, so try to include fallback options. Google fonts are completely free to download and use and give additional options without compromising design.
To further enrich your brand, set some guidelines around the type of photography used. Do you prefer to use campus shots? Do you like students smiling at the camera or more candid student photos? Imagery can set the tone of a piece, so it’s important to help those working with your brand make the best possible photo choices.
The University of New Mexico has a great example of their imagery guidelines on their brand site:
Lastly, try to include a few samples of your brand in action. It gives designers just learning your brand a great starting point, and sparks their creativity. Your brand looks awesome — show it off!
By Sara Ekart, Creative Director, Capture Higher Ed