Should your business have a style guide?

By Laura Burns | May 24, 2021

The simple answer is - yes! A style guide helps create an identity for your business, a combination of logo, colours, fonts, layouts and strategies that make people remember your business and recognise it in its many forms across all platforms. It also makes your business look organised and professional.

Many assume style guides only benefit large businesses, but it is also essential for smaller businesses if they want to grow their customer base and find their unique niche in the market.

But let’s break it down into some key factors as to why this is so important for businesses and what they should consider when developing one.

Dress to impress

Just like you dress differently for a business interview than a casual outing with friends, how you ‘dress’ your business is very important. Because that very first impression can be the difference between someone engaging your business or moving on to the next one.

For example, a phone number written down on a napkin gives a very different tone to a designed business card. What would you want to keep in your wallet? Something someone did on the fly, or something someone considered, organised and put time into. If they do that for their business card, they will probably conduct their business in the same way.

A consistent, planned style guide utilised across your various media platforms creates a sense of organisation and consistency, and thus appears more professional.

Stand out from the crowd

The marketplace can be very competitive, so you need to ensure you stand out from your competitors. An innovative and engaging logo and design strategy can make all the difference. You want to ensure your business is easily recognisable and memorable, so even if someone isn’t looking for your services today, they may come looking for you down the track.

A good strong logo is often central to this. Most people will recognise a logo quicker than a business name. For example, most of us would recognise the large yellow ‘M’ of McDonalds with out needing to see the name at all.

However, a logo alone will not work. How you use your logo in conjunction with every aspect of your business from fonts, colours, tag lines, customer service and marketing strategies, all can help your business stand out.

Working with marketing and design professionals can assist in finding fun and innovative ways to utilise your style guide to make your business more memorable and engaging.

Say the right things

Did you know that your design choices say a lot about your business? Even the different fonts you use can give an impression. That’s why you want is to ensure that your brand is saying the right things.

If you’re a Doctor, then you’d want your business to look organised, smart and professional. If you’re a cutting-edge developer, then you’d want to appear innovative, modern but practical. If you work with kids, you’d want something playful, fun but safe. All these things can be communicated through your branding choices and if they match what a customer is seeking it can help them make their decision to engage your business.

However, if you don’t put any thought into your style guide, it can reflect negatively. It’s amazing how small design decisions can impact a customer’s opinion.

And say it clearly

A style guide needs to express your voice, but it also needs to do this clearly. A good style guide takes into consideration how to communicate to customers. Different target audiences may require different considerations.

For example, a business that resolves around helping senior citizens may want to utilise larger font sizes, while one focusing on youth groups may want to have more adventurous and playful designs because they are more engaging.

This can also define the types of imagery and other visual elements that should be used to help give visual ques that connect to the types of customers you are looking to engage with.

Reflect your goals and values

With the growing trend of the conscious consumer, it is more important than every to express your goals and values to customers. This can be reflected in various aspects right down to the materials you use. Make sure your key values are captured in your design, as this can help customers relate and preference your products and services over other businesses.

An example of this is the growing interest in sourcing locally grown produce, environmentally friendly practices and hand made products. If you run a smaller business, this can be a strong deciding factor that can put you ahead of your larger competitors.

Go looking for your audience

Of course, a good style guide won’t work if no one sees or hears about it. Make sure your style guide compliments your advertising and marketing strategies, and that you use it across all your platforms.

A few things to consider:

  • Update stationery to all match the new style guide, so everything looks neat and organised.
  • Utilise your logo and design elements on your social media feeds, this way people know they are dealing with the correct business.
  • Make sure to create matching signage for any physical business locations. This helps those who have seen your advertisements locate your premise easily.
  • Update your website to reflect these new designs to build continuality between your physical and online businesses.
  • Find advertising channels that suit your audience, examples include digital advertising, TV On-Demand commercials, flyers, email marketing and more!

Once a style guide is developed, it doesn’t mean you can’t explore more creative designs or avenues. What it offers is a set of building blocks that help instil a sense of cohesion in your business and define the direction and voice you wish to depict in the marketplace. Plus, as design trends change over time, don’t be afraid to update your style guide when things start to feel outdated. The world is continually changing and so too should your voice to reflect the shifting times.