How to create a business style guide to boost branding consistency

How to create a business style guide to boost branding consistency

Discover the key elements of a business style guide and learn how to create brand identity guidelines that embody your brand.

How to create a business style guide to boost branding consistency

Discover the key elements of a business style guide and learn how to create brand identity guidelines that embody your brand.

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A business style guide is your company’s north star, orienting your brand’s look and feel.

Effective and consistent style helps users instantly familiarize themselves with a brand — think Spotify’s green hues and Apple’s sleek design language. The same goes for companies like Mercedes-Benz and Starbucks. Each of these businesses is in a different industry, but all four evoke specific emotions and imagery through their branding — Apple and Mercedes-Benz exude luxury with their smooth and minimalist aesthetics, while the earthy green and brown tones of Starbucks suggest the warmth and comfort of coffee.

Like these giants, all companies must build their unique branding from a fundamental business style guide. These playbooks bring together carefully thought-out messaging and well-crafted design to create the foundation of a company’s visual identity.

What’s a business style guide?

A business style guide, or brand guideline, is a document that outlines a company’s specific elements and rules for visual and communicative identity. It tells you how to use logos, color schemes, typography, imagery, and other design components across all channels. The guide also extends to tone and voice, messaging, and greater brand personality.

Consider this brand guideline example from Nike, one of the world’s most successful companies.

The sports apparel giant’s style guide brilliantly captures the company’s dynamic and energetic nature. Nike’s identity — from the iconic swoosh logo to the “Just Do It” tagline — conveys a sense of movement and athleticism, which is precisely what the brand stands for. The company has also used the Futura font for decades, which you can find across marketing materials like advertisements, social media content, and the popular orange or red shoe boxes. This makes their products and content instantly recognizable to consumers.

Among Nike’s many branding lessons, their business style guide is the gold standard for those looking to carve a timeless and distinct identity.

Why is a brand style guide important?

At its core, a style guide defines your brand’s overall aesthetic and persona, making it an essential tool for creating and maintaining a consistent and recognizable identity. Here are a few reasons this benefits companies in the long run:

  • Multichannel consistency. A style guide ensures that your company’s branding and content look and sound consistent across multiple channels, from digital platforms like social media and your website to offline marketing like print materials and merchandise.
  • Credibility. Using consistent visuals and messaging portrays your brand as professional, legitimate, and reliable, encouraging customers to trust your company.
  • Internal guidance. A business style guide is a reference point for internal design and marketing teams. It provides clear instructions on representing your company visually and textually.
  • Streamlined design processes. Having predefined design elements, color palettes, and copywriting styles reduces the development learning curve by providing designers with a clear reference for direction. Helping team members get up to speed quickly saves time spent on training efforts without sacrificing quality of production.
  • Brand protection. A style guide prevents unauthorized representation of your brand and protects its identity and integrity. By establishing guidelines for logo usage, color combinations, and trademarks, you can ensure other organizations can’t falsely masquerade as your company.
  • A competitive edge. To effectively develop a style guide, you’ll need to conduct competitor research and ensure your brand’s aesthetic and identity stands out. A unique business style guide can carve a distinct and memorable image in a competitive market, helping set your company apart and attract customers.

Key elements of a style guide

Brand identity guidelines are highly unique and vary between companies. But the following elements exist in most guides.

Mission statement

A mission statement is often a brand guideline’s first element and clarifies your organization’s purpose and personality for designers and marketing teams. This statement should holistically describe your organization’s core beliefs and objectives. For example, Google’s mission statement is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Clearly defining your mission statement allows you to create a style guide that accurately captures your brand identity. This is a public-facing declaration, but it also helps employees understand the company’s broader vision and their role in achieving it.


A logo is the face of any company and its style guide. This visual symbol, such as an image, graphic, or typeface, represents the brand’s identity.

In your style guide, include a section describing how to use the logo, such as rules for its size, color variations, and the minimum white space required. A recognizable logo is the first thing customers typically see, so a brand guideline must ensure its accurate representation across various contexts and platforms.

Color schemes

Color is a powerful communicator that subtly evokes different emotions and feelings. Warm colors like red, orange, and yellow are associated with energy and happiness. Cooler shades, like blue and green, translate to calmness, stability, and growth.

Style guidelines detail your brand’s primary and secondary color palettes by specifying the exact color codes for digital and print media. Using consistent colors reinforces brand recognition and ensures your company visuals produce the same impact across multiple platforms.


Typography involves structuring letters and text to create readable, legible, and aesthetically pleasing copy. It involves manipulating font styles and appearances to represent your brand and accurately convey your intended messaging.

Brand style guides specify your unique font (or fonts), size, line spacing, and character styles. By choosing a distinct typography, you can bring regular text to life and add a layer of visual appeal to your written identity.

Slack’s style guide, made by Webflow partner Zabal Media, has a dedicated typography section with visual examples of the correct heading, paragraph, and localization styles. It includes mockups showing how text should appear in real-world usage.

Slack’s brand style guide’s typography section.
Source: Slack
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Images and icons

The imagery and iconography sections of a business style guide describe the visual style and content of images and icons associated with your brand, including photos, illustrations, and graphics. With images, you can include guidelines on preferred subjects, image treatments, and overall aesthetic. For example, you may prefer product shots set against a solid background or favor images of people in nature-related settings, like parks and trails.

Depending on your brand’s visual themes, you can also specify icon styles, sizes, and context. If you adopt a minimalist design language, you might use flat icons and avoid 3D textures.

Establishing the correct specifications ensures icons seamlessly integrate into various design elements, like mobile apps and packaging, and this consistency strengthens your brand’s identity and presence across online and offline channels.

Tone and voice

Tone and voice define how your brand conveys meaning and intention through language. So your brand tone might be formal or casual depending on the platform, but you always maintain a professional and knowledgeable voice.

Language is a powerful tool for expressing a brand’s personality. This brand guidelines section ensures a consistent communication style across various channels, be it offline billboards or targeted email campaigns.

How to create a style guide for your brand: 8 tips

From massive brands like Nike to the popular local coffee shop on the street corner, successful businesses create cohesive and consistent brand rules for their team. These guides express their unique style and offer tips on practical use.

Here are eight tips to follow when building your business style guide.

1. Create a mission statement

Start your guide by outlining your company’s mission statement, core values, and overarching long-term goals. This section sets the tone for the rest of the brand style guide by providing a clear understanding of your brand identity.

If you own an eco-friendly fashion label, your mission statement could be, “Empowering customers to make sustainable lifestyle choices for a cleaner, greener future.”

2. Add target audience information

The end goal of creating a brand guide is to build a company reputation that attracts customers and improves your bottom line. To accomplish this, you need to identify and appeal to the right audience. The target audience section provides insights into your ideal customer base, including demographics (age range, gender, location), preferences, and pain points. You then explain how your content, product, or service addresses these consumer needs.

Understanding your target audience is crucial to tailor your messaging and design language to resonate with their demands and interests. A gym company targeting millennials might highlight how its target audience values convenience and personalized fitness solutions to accommodate their hectic schedules.

3. Specify logo guidelines

Here, you should specify branding standards for the proper and uniform application of your logo. Include variations, brand colors, minimum dimensions, and white space requirements. It’s best to provide visual examples and mockups to illustrate correct and incorrect usage in real-world and digital environments.

For example, Mural’s brand assets, designed by Zabal Media, show how the logo appears as a wordmark or symbol. The guidelines also provide product image mockups showing how the logo exists within Mural’s ecosystem.

A screenshot of Mural’s style guide’s logo page.
Source: Mural’s brand assets and guidelines

4. Define tone and voice

Determine the desired tone and voice that people should use for brand communication. A good question is: If your brand were a person, what would they sound like? Whether it’s firm or friendly, choose a tone that aligns with your company’s personality, and add examples to demonstrate.

If your brand voice is purposeful, warm, and welcoming, mention that emails and social media copy should be conversational and avoid overly formal language with technical jargon. Then, provide some contexts, like marketing materials, social media, and customer support, to show how to use the tone and voice in various situations.

5. Talk about typography

For your brand to have a voice, you need a typeface to go with it. There are many free and paid fonts available, or you can use a custom font created specifically for your brand. Either way, try not to use more than three fonts, which creates confusion and dilutes the brand identity.

In this section of your style guide, define the fonts, styles, and sizes for headlines and body text. Then, establish a typographic hierarchy to ensure intuitive readability and legibility. You might use a bold font for headings, with a thinner, more compact font for paragraphs.

6. Determine an editorial style guide

Establish your brand’s editorial rules for consistent grammar, word usage, and formatting. You can also use external style guide templates like the AP Stylebook or the Chicago Manual of Style for specific writing conventions.

Adhering to these widely recognized writing standards ensures familiarity for readers and gives your brand a professional and consistent voice, especially for publications and external communications like blogs and whitepapers. For example, you can choose to use the Oxford comma (“one, two, and three” versus “one, two and three”) for your written content or omit it, depending on your preferences.

7. Identify your core brand colors

Choose the primary, secondary, and tertiary (if applicable) color palettes, along with their corresponding color codes. For example, #FF0000 is the hex code for red. These codes are binary values that allow web developers to understand colors and add them to HTML documents while coding. They also help with offline branding, such as food packaging and T-shirt prints.

For instance, Discord’s style guide provides a color palette showing the company’s seven usable colors. Each has a visual reference block with hex codes for easy copying and pasting.

A screenshot of Discord’s style guide’s color section.
Source: Discord’s style guide

Selecting precise colors is essential to creating a visually cohesive brand identity across multiple channels. If you have various colors, use this section of your guide to show examples of using them together. Avoid clashing colors — complementary shades work best for legibility and visual appeal.

8. Include images and icons

Outline the rules for capturing or choosing images and creating icons. A tech company might choose images that highlight sleek, modern design features and minimalist icons. A food company, on the other hand, may prefer vibrant imagery with maximalist icons to convey energy and excitement.

Remember to consider your established color palette when selecting images to ensure visual cohesion and avoid unappealing clashes. And define the spacing rules between icons and pictures so the placement and layout appear logical and visually appealing.

Build a unique brand story with Webflow

A business style guide is only as impactful as a company’s online presence. Webflow’s blog teaches you all about design, while Webflow Enterprise gives you the platform you need to bring those ideas to life.

Our guides also cover best practices to increase brand recognition, establish marketing goals, and implement strategies to set your company apart and scale effectively.

Start learning and building with Webflow to grow your business today.

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Last Updated
March 28, 2024
Build with Webflow

Webflow Enterprise gives your teams the power to build, ship, and manage sites collaboratively at scale.

Contact sales
Contact sales