Growing up, most people probably heard they should always put their best foot forward. Your parents wanted you to dress appropriately, be polite, intelligent, and be modest. A style guide is your company’s way of putting its best foot forward to you clients, customers, and partners.
A style guide is the DNA of your company's brand. It refers to your language composition and visual composition. A style guide ensures consistency across your online and print presence. It is the guideline for how your brand is presented to the world. It manages not only your mission, vision, and value—but your logo, brand vocabulary, font, color palette, typography, layout, icons, and imagery. All style guides should provide descriptions and definitions and present examples of what your brand looks like in various media (print and online).
What Should Be in Your Style Guide
Company Logo: Your logo is one of your most valuable assets. It's your identifying mark—and how most people will remember your company. Make sure your style guide provides logo variations and always clarify minimum sizes.
Color Palettes: Color palettes are linked to your logo and define sections of your business. Your color palette should identify what certain colors are used for. It is also important to specify primary and secondary colors; as well as when and where to use them.
Font and Typography: Fonts are important in providing consistency. Be clear on what typefaces to use, sizes, line height, spacing before and after, and colors, as well as headline versus body font.
There are, of course, many more visual aspects of your brand composition, but those tend to fall in the top three.
Why You Must Have Style Guide
If you have a style guide, it is easier to hand over projects to other people. You will know they have your brand vision on hand and will do it justice. It also means when you subcontract out to others, you can have them look at the style guide if they are producing results that aren’t in your company’s best interest. Style guides (just like that silly get up your parents made you wear) will show your customers, clients, and partners you are professional and care how they view you. You put time and thought into the appearance of your company, and how other people would see it, all in hopes of success. The style guide forces you to hone your style and brand. This cohesion allows customers, clients, and partners to read a unified marketing message, which not only makes you easier to find across multiple platforms but tells them they can count on you. Consistency makes people feel at ease.
As your company changes and grows, you can always rework your style guide. But keep in mind where you started. You have people that count on your consistency and brand.