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Branding kits—what they are and why you really, really do need one

July 27, 2021


What is it, why is it important, and how to do it—in this article we cover everything you need to know about using visual consistency effectively for a successful and unified brand. It’s easy to do, but more important than you may think!

So, for starters, what is a branding kit, branding package, or style guide?

These are all pretty much the same thing—a visual roadmap for your brand and what it looks like. Some people will tell you they’re different, but they all do the same thing: branding kits, branding packages, and style guides are documents that very clearly explain how the elements of your brand’s identity, like the logo and colors, should and shouldn’t be used when things are designed for that business, blog, platform, or person. They are used by the owner of the brand, within creative teams, and/or shared with freelance and contract designers to help keep everything on brand. Depending on the brand and the size of the business they can be super simple one-page documents or crazy complex multi-page packets.

I’ve included an image here of my own style guide that I designed for the Goldfish Girl Creative brand to give you an example. Because I run a small business and I don’t need to share my guidelines with many people, my branding kit is on the simpler side, but remains a crucial part of my system.

example of goldfish girl creative branding kit with logo, color palette, photos, and graphics

That’s nice and all, but why are these documents so important?

First and foremost, they keep your brand consistent (if you have read any of my other articles you know this is one of my favorite topics!!). Whether it’s your product packaging, website, content, marketing materials, promotional graphics, social media posts, etc. branding kits make sure everything remains cohesive and effectively shares your brand’s message and voice. This cohesion in turn helps to keep your brand looking professional and builds trust with your audience, which is rather important. Let’s be real, if your brand doesn’t come off as trustworthy to your target audience you’re not going to be selling anything.

An added bonus of using a branding kit: it will save you time and we could all use a little more of that in our lives. It’s the equivalent of driving with Google maps telling you where to go vs. not having any service and trying to figure it out based on road signs and streets you think you remember. You can still get to where you’re going, but you may take a few wrong turns first and it’s going to take longer. Avoid the added challenge and use the visual google maps. Plus, if you hire a creative team or a freelance designer down the road you’re going to need one so that they know exactly what you need your brand to look like.

Designer tip: I personally copy and paste right from my branding kit when I need my logo, colors, etc. Everything is on one, perfectly organized document so I don’t need to take the time to hunt everything down when I am designing content or marketing materials.

Know that you know you need one, what goes into it?

To being with, you are going to want your logo front and center, usually at the top. It is one of the most important parts of your brand, a defining element in your identity, so it should take center stage. If you have logo alternatives, like simplified versions of the logo or versions that are meant for dark backgrounds (see my example above), you’ll want to include those too.

Next is usually your color palette. This could be anywhere between two and ten colors, although I don’t recommend anymore than six. If you know the pantones or makeup of your colors those can be helpful to include too, but definitely not a big deal if you don’t.

After your color palette would be the fonts used by your brand. It’s important to include the major fonts you use for things like headers, titles, and such that you use to represent your brand (sometimes these are the fonts used in the logo), but the typefaces you use for smaller content can also be useful. I like to include the font’s name and then example text like the alphabet in my kits.

If you have any graphics, icons, photos, imagery, patterns, or textures that are reoccurring or a key part of your identity include those too! In my own kit I include graphics that I use throughout my identity that represent an illustrative style I use for my brand as well as photos that are central to the message my brand shares.

Some brands, usually of large companies, will also include do’s and don’ts for how the different elements of their brands should be used. Things like the smallest size the logo can be used at, what color backgrounds the logo can and cannot be used on, where certain patterns and graphics should and shouldn’t be placed, etc. If there are a lot of elements to a brand and or a lot of people handling it, this helps to make sure that the brand isn’t misrepresented and misused in the process.

Here are some things to remember:

  • Your branding kit is a tool to help YOU. If there is anything I haven’t listed that would be helpful for you to include, put it in there! I’ve just included the basics to help get you started.
  • Organization and structure are key. If you can, use a grid or guides to keep things aligned and organized. Or, better yet, use a template!
  • Be as clear and precise as you can be. This will help prevent confusing and misuse later.
  • If you have a simple brand that is totally fine! No need to go overboard!

Now, the part you’ve been waiting for, how to build a branding kit if you are going the DIY design route.

As usual, I always recommend hiring a designer to help you build a professional and effective branding it, but I also know that’s not always in the budget and some of you just prefer to do the design work yourself, which is the whole reason I write these articles! So, if you don’t hire a designer I really, really, really recommend that you spend a few dollars, anywhere between $5.00 and $15.00, and buy yourself a template. This will make your life so much easier, trust me. They provide you with the structure you need and all you need to do is plug in your brand. On that same note, look for one that is editable in Canva so that you don’t need to work about paying for any fancy designer programs to use it.

Speaking of, if you are a Canva user they have a built in tool where you can plug in your own brand kit ( in the side directory on your main page under “shared with you”) or several brand kits for that matter. It is very simple and only includes spots for logos, colors, and fonts so I wouldn’t recommend using it as your main branding kit, but it’s still useful.

What I don’t recommend: if you are just starting out and don’t yet have a brand DO NOT buy a fully developed premade brand/branding package on Etsy. Trust me on this one. It’s cool to find a template to fill in, but don’t buy a brand. They may look really nice and it may be tempting, but you could end up sharing the exact same brand with someone else. Not to mention, the premade brands were not designed specifically to share your message, have your voice, attract your target audience, and fit your needs. If you are a woman who takes her brand and message seriously do not go the premade brand route.

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