Visual branding – Why do brands need a graphic charter?
November 27, 2020 Bhakti Sharma
Uncategorized, Video Marketing
The graphic charter translates the soul of your company (your mission, your vision, and your values) into several design elements. It also allows you to show others how, exactly, you want to represent your brand. How to make your own guide? We explain it to you in this article.
What is a graphic charter?
A graphic charter is a document that contains all the rules for using a company’s graphic elements (color codes, typography, logo, etc.). It must be taken into account on all communication media and allow the visual identity to maintain a certain consistency.
With a branding charter, you can be sure that your brand is being represented as it should, in all circumstances, even if your staff changes over time.
Why is it important to have a graphic charter?
Your visual identity is much like the personality of your business. It’s the way the world recognizes and trusts you. If you change the way you dress and the way you act every day, those around you probably won’t feel like they know you and will have a harder time trusting you.
Imagine that one of your colleagues, always clean on him, puts on a white shirt tucked in his pants every day and one day he arrives at the office unshaven with tattered jeans and a huge tattoo on his arm. It would probably make you uncomfortable, as you are not used to seeing it like that. You might even be tempted to ask them if everything is going well in their life, out of concern.
It’s the same with your brand: changing appearances too often will confuse your customers and possibly drive them away from you. A graphic charter is an important document because it helps you stay consistent no matter what medium you use.
The key elements of your visual identity
Before creating your graphic charter, you must define your brand. There are five key elements: mission, vision, target audience, personality, and values.
These are the most important elements because together they explain what you are doing and why you are doing it. All the other aspects of your graphic charter will be concrete elements that will explain these crucial elements in a design way.
Mission and Vision: Writing your mission is to explain why your business exists while your vision will explain what you are striving for. Both can be very ambitious (change the world) or on the contrary very modest. The most important thing is that they are both true.
Target audience: Describe your customers and why they are your customers (e.g. your products or services meet one of their needs, etc.) If you did a marketing research before you started, add your results to your guide to help your team better understand your customers.
Personality: Make a list of four or five adjectives that best describe your brand. This will set the tone for your designs as well as your texts. Are you sophisticated or quirky? Traditional or trendy? Seek advice from your team.
Tip: Listing the four or five adjectives that are opposed to your brand can also help. Besides, a lot of marketing agencies start their projects like this.
Values: Determine the founding principles that will guide the decisions you make for your business. The easier your values are to remember, the easier it will be for your team to apply them.
How to create a graphic charter for your brand?
You’ve heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, haven’t you? Start your prep work by putting together images that will convey the feeling you want to provoke with your brand. One of the ways is to ask each team member to create a board on Pinterest to show how everyone understood the company’s values.
It’s a great exercise to get everyone in a business involved in the process.
What are some things that have worked well for your business so far? Gather successful advertisements, emails and newsletters.
What other brands do you like?
What questions do you get asked regularly? Keep a journal of comments that come up often. If you find that you are providing the same information to your designers and copywriters, you might want to add that information to your style guide.
This exercise will give you concrete examples that will help you define your brand identity. Take specific notes about the things you like and the things you don’t like (for example: “the image is my brand, but not the text ”).
DEFINE THE 6 ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS TO INCLUDE IN YOUR GRAPHIC CHARTER
Once you’ve gathered enough material, it’s time to start working with a graphic designer to give shape to your guide. Choose a designer with whom you communicate well and with whom you feel comfortable. It’s all about finding out what works for you, and your designer is there to help you through this process, and sometimes even give ideas that you haven’t thought of.
We can reduce to six the essential elements that must appear in all graphic charts. Make it your priority and that of your graphic designer. Some of these elements may already be well defined (your logo for example), but others will require you to consult all the images and all the texts that you gathered in the previous step. Your designer will help you translate this content into tangible graphic elements.
1st element: the story of your brand
Showcase your brand. A simple summary will allow your employees as well as your collaborators to understand the values that are at the center of your brand and to represent it as it should.
The five elements that make up your brand that we talked about earlier (mission, vision, audience, values and personality) can be added to this presentation. You can also choose to make only some of these items public.
Evaluate what will be most useful as a reference. Everything that appears in your style guide should be true to these basics.
2nd element: the logo
You may have already figured out what color your logo will be, but have you thought about how it will blend in with the different media you are going to use? This chapter of your style guide should explain how you want your logo to be implemented depending on the different environments it is intended for. It also helps prevent certain graphical catastrophes (stretching, compressing, modifying, misalignment, etc.) that could scramble your message.
Showcase all the approved versions of your logo, explain when to use a particular version and illustrate what you say to make it clear.
Dimensions: give the minimum dimensions and proportions of your logo
Space: If your logo requires a certain amount of empty space (around it, for example), write your instructions.
Colors: Show the possible variations (negative, color, black and white) and explain their different uses.
Avoid: It is just as important to illustrate the dos and don’ts.
3rd element: the color palette
Speaking of colors, it makes sense to define the color palette that matches your brand identity. Most brands choose at most four colors and don’t stray too far from their logo colors.
For example, you can choose a light color for the backgrounds, a darker color for the text, a neutral color and a last color that stands out against the others.
4th element: typography
Another essential aspect of your brand’s identity: fonts. The needs of your brand will influence the number of fonts you need. In general, we use a different font for our logo and for the rest, in order to create a contrast. Your designer can help you determine your needs.
No matter how many fonts you choose, make sure each of your fonts is used correctly by giving clear instructions.
Presentation: Explain why you chose this or that font, to what extent this choice corresponds to your brand and in which situation (s) to use the font in question (headline, size, caption, etc.).
Alignment: Specify the desired alignment (left, right, center, justified).
Spacing: Indicate the proportions to respect for each chosen font.
5th element: Images
It is normal for you to know which images and illustrations best match your business. But by including a chapter on this topic in your style guide, everyone else involved in your business will also know what to do, without requiring your approval every time a decision needs to be made.
There are a number of ways you can approach this subject, and don’t hesitate to include the images you gathered in the previous steps.
Best Practice: Provide examples of images that have worked well for your business. Explain the different ways you want people to communicate about your business (paper catalog, Instagram account, etc.).
Inspiration: If you don’t have an example to provide, illustrate your words with it by taking an example from the big brands. This will give your team an idea of what you have in mind.
Mood board: Bring together images that evoke the feeling of wanting to communicate to your customers.
6th element: Voice
We don’t always think about the tone we adopt when thinking about writing a style guide. However, it has a great influence on how your audience perceives you.
As with images, you can approach this topic in several ways:
Best Practice: If you have any sample communications that match the tone you aspire to, add them to your guide.
Your Brand Personality: Use the four or five adjectives that best qualify your brand to describe the appropriate tone to use within your business.
Dos and Don’ts: Sometimes, simplicity is still the best solution. List the words you like and the ones you dislike to help your team understand your thought.
THE SPECIFIC NEEDS OF YOUR BRAND
While all businesses have common needs and need to include the above 6 elements in their design guidelines, some brands will also need to talk about their specific needs.
Is your business based on the internet? Provide details on the layout of the images on your website.
Do you sell products? Add your guidelines for the packaging of your products.
Are social networks your priority in terms of marketing? Give examples of appropriate images to use on these communication channels. A style guide should match the company it is made for. Start by making a list of all the things you need to go through in your guide.
OUTLINE AND DESIGN
Take your 6 essentials, add them to your specific needs and create the outline! This will help you determine the structure of your guide:
History of the brand
Hello, we are BRAND, here is what we do.
Our mission, our vision and our values are …
This is our logo and what it means to us.
Here’s how to use our logo.
Here’s how not to use our logo.
Here is our color palette.
Here are the CMYK and HEX references of these colors.
Here are the fonts we use and the reasons why we chose these fonts.
Here is the main font we have chosen.
Here is the secondary font we have chosen.
Here are the images that correspond to our brand.
And here’s how to layout them.
This is the way we speak.
Here’s what to do and what not to do.
This is what our home page looks like and here is what you can and cannot put on it.
This is how we present our products.
Once you have defined the main guidelines for your guide, think about the format in which you want to distribute it (PDF, print version, etc.). Talk to your designer about all aspects (portrait versus landscape, print dimensions, etc.). After that, you’re good to go! Remember this is a working document. The information must be clear and easily accessible. For example, consider adding a summary.
DEVELOPMENT OF YOUR BUSINESS
Your graphic charter is not frozen forever and ever. It will evolve as your business grows and you will come back to it to adjust or add information from time to time. The most important thing is to start on a solid foundation with a well-constructed guide from the start.
However, you are not going to change it every two days either.
Designate a place to keep all the new things as they arise (new decisions, new examples, etc.) so that you can update your guide in one go when the time comes. For example, every month, every quarter or every year.
You are now ready to create your graphic charter!
Your business is more than the products you sell and the services you provide. A strong and well-defined brand image will set you apart from your competition. Your graphic charter clearly explains to your team how to accomplish this.
Graphic charters are not all endless paving stones. Some even fit in one page. It all depends on your business and its needs. The important thing is that it contains all the information relevant to your brand which will then serve as references for all your future projects.