The Do’s and Don’ts of Brand Guidelines

Clear guidelines are important for brand consistency, which in turn gives a plethora of benefits. Keeping a clear set of rules on how every aspect of a brand will be utilized, can eliminate possible confusion and inconsistencies in brand communication, visuals, or other elements.

In this post, we will list a few Do’s and Don’ts to help you set up a coherent and clean brand guide.

The Do’s

  1. Do include instructions on how to use the brand asset 
  2. Do be clear about how the design is to be used in different settings
  3. Do keep your brand guidelines up to date
  4. Do include a set of rules for the brand’s tone of voice and language
  5. Do define your brand’s differentiator

The Don’ts

  1. Don’t make the same set of rules for each digital channel
  2. Don’t list assets with no instructions attached
  3. Don’t forget brand vision and purpose
  4. Don’t neglect to include the target audience
  5. Don’t forget to upload more variations of your logo

The Do’s

the do's

Do Include Instructions on How to use the Brand Asset

Just listing your different logos with no instructions will open up the possibility of them being misused. For example, if you have a logo variant in dark blue text, which should never be used on a green surface due to color clash or other design issues, it needs to be stated clearly in the brand guidelines. Knowing how and where to use certain brand colors makes the brand look more professional and visually pleasing. Keeping design consistent will also help with brand recognition and brand trust.

Do be Clear About How the Design is to be used in Different Settings

Brand consistency is the key ingredient in building trust. If the design or visual elements are not explained and enforced with specific guidelines, the chances of inconsistencies increase. Giving the audience what they expect from the brand in visual and design elements, lets them know and trust what the brand is communicating. Suddenly changing the visual elements will throw the audience off, and make them question the credibility of that specific ad, poster, or other branded element that is not in line with the usual brand communications.

Do Keep your Guidelines Up to Date

guidelines up-to-date
An updated brand manual ensures consistency

Sometimes a brand changes, like a small update to the logo, a new channel where the brand needs a new set of rules, or another type of asset. Going over the brand guidelines from time to time is not a bad idea, and should be done routinely to catch mistakes or update outdated data. Having brand guidelines easily accessible can help keep all data up to date.

Do Include a Set of Rules for the Brand’s Tone of Voice and Language

When you speak for your brand, you speak as a personified version of your brand. Having a clearly specified tone of voice in your brand guide will help the person writing or speaking on behalf of your brand stay consistent with the brand personality. 

Making sure the tone of voice is always consistent brings trust from the audience, as they will be able to recognize how the brand speaks. Suddenly changing the tone or language may confuse and hurt the credibility of the brand communication.

Do Define your Brand’s Differentiator

brand differentiator
Stand out from the competition

“In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different. – Coco Chanel, House of Chanel.”

(A. Wheeler, Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team.)

Define what makes your brand unique. This will help publishers understand how your brand is different from similar brands, and how it can provide services that others cannot. This is the driving force to why consumers should choose your brand over other similar brands that provide the same service or similar products. 

Let’s say your brand sells online courses. The differentiator to this service could be that it is lifetime access, whereas your competitors only provide the online course for a limited time. 

The Don’ts

the don'ts

Don’t Make the Same Set of Rules for Each Digital Channel

Even though social media go into the same genre, the different social media platforms differ quite a bit from each other. Using Facebook in the same manner as Snapchat may become challenging, as the content is very different from one another. 

Define clear rules for digital marketing channels your brand appears on, and include what each social media channel’s purpose and marketing goals are.

Don’t List Assets with no Instructions Attached

Sometimes “Show don’t tell” is what matters. Not when it comes to brand guidelines. Simply listing a brand asset is not enough. Graphic designers need those guidelines to be able to represent your brand properly. Include instructions on how and when the asset is to be used. Providing examples is a great way to make the guidelines understandable in a visual setting.

Don’t Forget Brand Vision and Purpose

Stay consistent with the brand vision and purpose. Every step and action should be taken in consideration of what the brand efforts want to give to the audience and where it wants to reach. Including the brand vision and purpose in the guidelines will ensure that the brand constantly works towards these goals and keeps itself on track. It also helps third-party viewers understand the brand messaging.

Don’t Neglect to Include the Target Audience

target audience
Make it known who your target audience is

Never lose sight of what matters the most; the target audience. These are the people you want to please, and losing sight of them might make them unhappy with your brand and look to get their needs met elsewhere. 

Make sure brand guidelines include who your ideal customers are and how you want to be perceived by them. Customer experience is always the most important element of your branding efforts and should be the top priority. The target audience could also vary by which channel you’re communicating from and should be specified in the guidelines.

If you’re curious to read more about brand consistency, take a look at our holiday post, or read our post about brand delivery.

Don’t Forget to Upload More Variations of Your Logo

It’s not enough to include only the main logo. Logos should always have multiple variations for different purposes. Like colorless versions, CMYK and RGB file versions, sizes, and variations to ensure visibility across platforms. 

more logo variants
Logo variations matter for many different intents and purposes

A story behind the logo design is a nice treat to include for third parties or newcomers to the company!


Brand style guides, brand books, brand guides, or whatever you prefer to call them should all be coherent and provide a mutual understanding of how brand assets are to be used and how a brand should communicate to the target audience. They should be easily accessible by everyone, not just the marketing or design staff, to ensure brand consistency across the business.

It should also include every asset and brand element that is used throughout the company for branding purposes. There should be no confusion as to where all the branding assets are stored.

Distributing your brand guidelines should also be an easy task. By keeping both guidelines, files, and assets in one place, you can distribute them fast and easily to publishers or maintain consistency in in-house marketing. Upgrading to a digital platform to manage brand guidelines and assets may be the right choice for you. 

To get a taste of digital brand management, try our free 14-day trial to see if upgrading to a cloud-based system is something for you. Read more about on our product site.


Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team by Alina Wheeler

Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities by David Airey

Brand Bible: The Complete Guide to Building, Designing and Sustaining Brands by Debbie Millman

Experiential Marketing: A Practical Guide to Interactive Brand Experiences by Shirra Smilansky