How to Build a Brand Style Guide with Content Guidelines

When most people hear “style guide” they think of pixels, colors, and logos. These are all valuable assets for a visual designer or front-end developer, but it neglects the content creators, editors, curators, and publishers. They too need to understand the brand style, though they’re not looking for pixel guidelines.

A true style guide should include not only the visual brand elements, but the content guidelines. In the same way that visual guidelines ensure new designers will maintain the brand integrity, content guidelines will guarantee that future copywriters write in a consistent brand voice. The voice represents the brand at least as much (if not more) than the visual elements, and as such, content guidelines are a key component to any style guide.

What Goes into Content Guidelines?

Much like visual guidelines, the content needs may vary from one brand to the next. Here are some of the elements we incorporate into content guidelines at Mad*Pow.

  • Personas: both content creators and visual designers should always have an idea in mind of who they’re creating for. With this in mind, every style guide should include an overview of the key personas.
  • Message: one of the main things a copywriter needs to know is the message. Regardless of what they’re writing about, the message is the big picture idea they are trying to get across. This might be something broad, like “we’re always there for you” or specific, like “we are the #1 place to go when you need antique furniture.”
  • Voice: SitePoint recently wrote an article on style guide, in which they make a point of calling out the voice guidelines. The voice is how you say the things you say. This might mean using specific vocabulary, or how you make use of contractions. It will help your brand come across as casual, formal, friendly, parental, etc.
  • Best Practices: While most of the items included in a style guide are specific to an organization, best practices are also helpful to include. There are so many best practices for writing on the web, it will help copywriters (and designers who add in bits of copy here and there!) to know the top 5-10 best practices that your organization deems most important.

What do you think should go into a style guide?

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