Guidelines Aren't Enough


Companies undergoing major rebranding will often request a long guidelines document as the final project deliverablea so-called "brand bible.”

The inherent challenge is that while guidelines are built and delivered today, they actually need to be used tomorrow and beyond. A set of guidelines may account for existing areas—business units, services, products—but don't always take into account how a business will evolve. Because of this, we often hear that after a year or two, companies are looking to add flexibility and creativity to guidelines that were created by an agency. The best guidelines, however, also provide roadmaps to deal with future situations, initiatives, acquisitions, and growth.

Guidelines are only part of the equation for setting up success. There are three key components to a brand system that will last—templates, tools, and assets.


Templates. Templates are set formats that new content can be flowed into. They are starting points that don’t necessarily require a designer or copywriter to complete. A great example of a key template is a PowerPoint pitch deck. PowerPoint templates are one of the most used documents we deliver and something your entire staff will use. This template, along with business cards, are two of the most important deliverables, as they impact the most individuals in a company. While everyone will have an opinion on the company’s website, business cards are personal and PowerPoint templates affect how people work.


The right templates allow for a high degree of flexibility and variation. Dale Carnegie brand system shown.


Tools. Brand design systems need flexibility. The most effective guidelines offer principles, not just rules. Think of principles as tools. Principles can apply to graphic style, voice, formats, and messaging. They help you make decisions and create brand touchpoints, but they aren’t fully predetermined.

Video is a great example. Companies have many types of video, so we've built video guidelines to help organizations more efficiently create varying video content. The most effective guidelines not only cover the visual aspects but also the formats and storytelling elements. Powerful tools are crucial to empower internal teams and resources.


Sample illustration from video guidelines depicting how depth can be used in animation.


Assets. An asset is a set piece of artwork, language, or motion that can be used in concert with flexible elements that have been laid out in the Tools or Templates.

A JPG of your logo is an asset. A brand pattern is an asset. A 3-second intro animation is an asset. Boilerplate “About Us” copy is an asset. It’s crucial to decide what parts of your brand system won’t and can’t change. No one should be trying to type in your logo.

Assets should be created and organized in libraries. Photography libraries, illustration libraries, iconography libraries, and other libraries help marketers move faster and focus on message and content rather than spending time on design decisions. Asset libraries can be available on your online brand center, on a server, or distributed by request from your marketing team.


Photography library for Credit Suisse.


Templates, tools, and assets will make your new brand system work better and work harder. When beginning a brand project, it is important to discuss your internal resources and how assets are distributed within your team. Sophisticated internal design and marketing teams may need fewer guidelines and more principles. Small teams may need more templates. This will help determine the right approach early on.