What is a Style Guide?
My first introduction to a style guide was when I worked for Texas Instruments. I was a business analyst and a department email went out with a guide on how all the logos, typefaces, and presentations should look. The logo could only be shown in three colors, black, white and red. The presentations should also use this color scheme and some templates were sent out with the guide. We were also told to only use Helvetica font and the size of headers and sub headers should be 46pt and 26pt respectively. Here is Wikipedia’s definition:
A style guide (or manual of style) is a set of standards for the writing and design of documents, either for general use or for a specific publication, organization, or fiel
d. (It is often called a style sheet, though that term has other meanings.) A style guide establishes and enforces style to improve communication.
At the time I was scratching my head. Why these guidelines? They seemed so restrictive to someone who loved to have a very “dynamic” presentation filled with lots of photos and graphics that would inspire and delight any teen audience. However, it was during this time that I started to understand the importance of a brand and how a brand was more than just a logo. A brand permeates everything you do and without a style guide then your designers, or your employees, won’t know how to make everything look cohesive. When a style guide is done well then when people see your products and services they should be able to recognize it as your brand.
A friend of mine works as a creative director for AT&T and he has told me all about how AT&T has a specific look to their photos. If you look at Apple, their photos also have a very distinct art direction. It is almost as if they have said, “We will use this Instagram filter on all of our photos” when in reality they have just processed them all the same and taken them with specific lighting to achieve a similar look and feel.
Another example of a style guideline might be that a marketing brochure or a catalog can only contain a half page of text and the other page must use a photo. Other guidelines might state that all icons and illustrations be three colors and that only a line icon style can be used.
Style guides can also be used by programmers using CSS and in all areas where their needs to be a uniform style. The rules aren’t set in stone for what you do with a style guide, but the style guide is what sets your style in place.
Here are some resources for creating a guide of your own:
http://byregina.com/creating-a-style-guide-for-your-blog/ – Includes a downloadable template