The Function of a Style Guide
Having a style guide for a brand identity is nothing new, but it's more commonly used by medium and larger brands while smaller brands run by artisans and makers simply wing it. This isn't always by choice; maybe the designer didn't offer a style guide as part of the project specs when creating the identity. Or maybe it was seen as an unnecessary expense in a tight launch budget.
If you haven't seen or used a brand style guide, let me give you a brief introduction.
A style guide should capture design decisions that were made during the process of your brand creation so the designers vision can be carried on by anyone who uses the logo or brand elements in the future. What does that include?
Instead of being based on your personal tastes, the color palette for your brand should be selected for the ideas, emotions and associations they represent within your industry and audience.
It's important to document the exact color specifications so they can be referenced for future use, but even more critical to include the arguments for those colors so future iterations of your identity can evolve but remain connected to the original vision.
Maintaining a consistent look across the various mediums your brand is experienced can be a challenge if this detail is overlooked. The font on your website should match the font on your business card, your retail signage, and so on. This legitimizes your business in the consumer mind and subconsciously makes it easier to recognize content from your brand.
Specifying the font sizes and weights for various headings and body styles are the minimum, but line spacing, column layouts and page margins are also helpful details. Again, it isn't simply enough to include specifications; your style guide should also include a written argument for the font choices that were made in the design process.
Icon and Logo Application
When the new logo is being applied in all the appropriate applications, it helps to have a reference that will tell you things like minimum sizes the logo should be used at, or how much space should surround the logo in use. Should the social media icon contain the entire logo or just the icon? The style guide should contain those guidelines and more.
More Details to Consider
If a website is part of the identity design project scope, some elements of the web layout could be specified.
If your brand communicates with your audience in written form, having a well documented writing style will be critical for your copywriters.
When the style guide is followed by everyone involved, the brand identity reaches a level of consistency in application that will make it much easier to be recognized by the customers or clients of your brand.