How to write brand guidelines – the basic inclusions and the extras!

by | Dec 7, 2022 | Branding

We all have those *facepalm* moments when it comes to working with design clients.

Top of the list for me?

When I pour my blood, sweat and tears into a brand design, only to pop onto social media the day after launch to see the client has created their own post. You know the one I’m talking about… They’ve added in an extra font or two, guessed (or completely disregarded) their brand colours and somehow warped their logo. Urgh. It can be devastating to see our designs fall apart, anxiety-inducing trying to manage our clients through it, and ultimately frustrating to see the damage it does to a brand.

Which is why it’s important to educate clients on how to use their brand after the designing is done. Afterall, they don’t know what they don’t know, and they have hired you for a reason. There are many ways you can provide ‘brand training’ to your clients, including templates, videos, workshops, or my personal go-to… brand guidelines!

You can call it style guide, brand guidelines or brand book, but they all basically refer to the set of rules that a business follows when using their brand. As designers, they’re also an opportunity to add additional value to a client and another service we can charge extra for. And once you have some solid templates in place, they become easy peasy to throw together at the end of a brand project.

I am going to share the three different levels of brand guidelines that you can use to sell and wow your design clients. I’m also including real-life examples of guidelines I’ve created and what I would charge for each level.

So, if you’re just starting out and don’t have a template in place, or you’re a seasoned designer who wants to level up your offering, writing brand guidelines is about to get SO much easier!

OPTION ONE: One-page style guide

The one-page style guide is a short and sweet document that gives clients an overview of their brand elements and style. It is whittled down to just the essentials, but when their business grows can easily be expanded on.

What to include

  • Logos and submarks
  • Brand colours with colour break downs
  • Fonts
  • Design elements (patterns, embellishments etc.)

Who this is for

This is included in my entry-level branding package and (as far as I’m concerned) is the minimum you need to provide to clients so they understand how to use their branding. It’s ideal for new start-ups and small businesses on a tight budget.

What I would charge

This might only take you thirty minutes to pull together (particularly once you have a solid template in place), but it’s super handy (read: valuable) for the client. I would charge an extra AUS$300 – $500 in an entry-level brand project.

Inside scoop – My entry level branding package is A$2495.

An example

Here’s an example of a one-page style guide I’ve created.

OPTION TWO: Brand Guidelines

A lot of designers may already be providing the one-pager to their clients. Well, this next option takes the basic brand foundations and dives deeper! It establishes your client’s visual identity to ensure that no matter what content they create (or who creates it), their brand is cohesive, looks professional and their brand personality shines through.

What to include

  • Guidelines of how and where to use each logo type
  • Do’s and don’ts for logo use
  • Logo clearspace and minimum size rules
  • Colour breakdowns and how and where to use them
  • Font selection and how and where to use them

Who this is for

This is included in my mid-level brand pack. They are a must for business owners who want to rollout their brand across multiple touchpoints and marketing channels as they make it so much easier to nail consistency!

What I would charge

I would add A$750 – $1000 to your logo package to include these guidelines or charge this as a freestanding item.

Inside scoop – My mid level branding package is A$4695.

OPTION THREE: All the bells and whistles

So, this is where you can really increase your value. The ‘bells and whistles’ is the beefed up set of brand guidelines that covers off pretty much everything when it comes to your client’s brand. It will become your client’s brand bible and act as a guiding star in all of their branding decisions and efforts.

What to include

  • Everything in option two, plus…
  • Introduction to the guidelines and how to use them
  • Introduction to the brand and its values
  • Photography guidelines
  • Examples showing the brand in action
  • Copywriting and tone of voice guidelines
  • Brand ambassador details (ask the client to appoint a brand ambassador to act as the gatekeeper to their brand)
  • An external version of the brand guidelines (this is a pared-down version for clients who work with external suppliers)

Who this is for

This is included in my top-level brand package and is ideal for clients who have larger teams, work with external suppliers and have a marketing budget.

What I would charge

I would charge at least A$1500 for this as a free-standing item. It’s super valuable!

Inside scoop – My top-level branding package is A$5995.

An example

Here’s an example of a bells and whistles brand guidelines I’ve created.

Sometimes clients may not know what a brand guide is or what its benefits are, so be prepared to explain it to them. My quick tips for selling them to clients are;

  1. Having a spiel written down about what brand guidelines are and their value so you can cover it off in your discovery call. Just be careful to use language the client will understand so you don’t overwhelm or confuse them.
  2. Include these three levels of brand guideline packages in every proposal as an optional add-on and even send them your template so the client knows exactly what they’ll get. Even better, include them in your standard pricing as a non-negotiable.

The good news is most clients are rational human beings and don’t want to butcher their branding after spending a bunch of money having it professionally designed. They want it to look consistent and professional, and detailed guidelines make this so much easier. Don’t underestimate the value of offering your client full brand guidelines (option two or three). They are incredibly valuable and in my experience clients are generally happy to pay for them. Plus, it’s a quick revenue boost for you.

Brand Guidelines mockup

It’s time to show off your design skills and take your biz up a notch!

My Brand Guidelines Template is the exact template I used working with big-name clients. And let me tell you, it’s been one heck of a journey mastering them! Why create your own brand guidelines when you can get one with proven success?

Sarah Linklater

Hello! I’m a graphic designer from Melbourne, Australia, and I’ve been operating a graphic and web design business called Slinky Did It for the past 10 years. I started Designer Admin because I noticed that while there is a whole lotta very talented designers in our industry, the admin side of the business isn’t everyone’s forte. After all, we didn’t become designers because we were good at writing invoices and managing clients! I strongly believe that if you have strong business foundations in place, your projects will run more smoothly and you will have more time and headspace to focus on the creative side of your business. So... let's admin!