Setting Brand Standards

The importance of branding guidelines

Brand standards manuals are internal publications that recommend typefaces, colors, symbols, and layout options that pertain to an overall identity for an organization. These style guidelines provide a base for building a brand look and feel and ensure that all materials produced within this system will work in harmony. A manual will also outline specific things that cannot be done within brand pieces. Overall, branding guidelines explain and present fundamental design concepts and their use within various production materials.

Origins of brand standards

In 1977, the National Endowment for the Arts published Design Standards Manuals, a book by designer Brue Blackburn, which outlined the importance of style guidelines, making points about design that hold true to this day.

As stated by Blackburn, a standards manual:

  • Promotes continuity and shows consistency throughout. Publications created with a systematic approach will be completed faster and look much better than if started from scratch each time.
  • Effects greater retention by audiences. Through similar identification, audiences come to view the appearance as a form of visual shorthand.
  • Centralizes and coordinates design efforts. Designers get the big picture—allowing them to solve a problem within the context of a greater style.

Information on logo design and layout, along with other basic specifications, usually appear at the beginning of a standards manual. The rules presented for foundational elements are often more fixed and inflexible in comparison to parameters defined for other pieces, such as collateral or web page components.

A guide—not a problem-solver

Referencing a style guide is highly beneficial when planning your marketing strategy because it gives your creative team something to work with that already has the look and feel of your organization. However, it cannot entirely replace creative design. For each piece, designers must work around unique problems while remaining in compliance with the overall brand identity. A branding guide will indicate a direction to follow, but cannot provide solutions for every individual production issue or execution.


TDC has created established brand standards for many organizations. Here are style guide manuals TDC has developed for Lowell School and Wright Manufacturing.