The first rule of your brand sheet is USE IT.
This may seem obvious, I mean you did go through the hassle of either making the guides yourself or maybe even paying someone like us to do it. But more often than not we see clients straying away from their brand sheet a few months after the project is complete.
So what does using your brand sheet actually look like?
The first stop is always fonts. In your brand sheet, you should have at minimum a HEADER font (with weight) and a BODY font (with weight). This means that no matter what you are designing, whether it’s a social media post, business cards, a new website page, brochure, or whatever, those are ALWAYS the fonts you use.
Question: What do you mean by font weight?
Font weight is going to be the thickness of the font. This will often either be light, semi-light, thin, regular, medium, semi-bold, bold, extra-bold, or black, or some fonts have actual numbers such as 200, 300, 400, 900, etc. Be sure when you’re using the font, you’re not only using the font type but the font weight as it will make a huge difference.
Question: What if I’m using a tool that doesn’t have my exact font?
First, I would check to see if you can upload your own font. Tools like Wix, Squarespace, Webflor, Canva Pro, and Adobe make it easy to upload your exact font. If that’s not possible, choose a font that is as close as possible in both style and weight.
Second, be sure you are using your exact HEX codes for digital designs or RGB color value for print from your color palette rather than approximations. This also means do not add new colors to your designs unless you are adding them to your brand.
The second rule is to make sure anyone who is creating assets or designs has access to the brand sheet.
This might be designers you are hiring or your social media manager, make sure they also can access your guide so they are using the right colors, fonts, and other brand elements properly.
We recommend saving your document as a PDF in a shared drive so it’s easy for anyone who needs to use the guide to copy the HEX codes directly. With that, it’s also a good idea to have your brand fonts in that same saved drive so whoever needs to download them can use them.
Note for your fonts: Be extra careful when choosing your font to ensure that you can use it commercially without limits on the number of users.
All Google Fonts are fair game but if you downloaded a font from a website such as Fondesk, be sure you check out the licensing agreement. And finally, a note with Adobe Fonts. You can not download Adobe Fonts without Adobe, so take that into consideration when choosing a font.
And finally, make a few templates that you can use as base designs.
When we say templates, we mean both drag & drop templates (such as what you find in Canva) as well as assets that you use as a personal guide for inspiration.
Drag & Drop templates are great but require a bit of upfront work. For social media, you want to ensure variety within your designs but having a few templates that you can simply swap out some colors, copy, and photos is a great way to save time and add extra layers of consistency. This is also great for presentations or documentation that requires standardized formatting. Once you have your template, you can focus on the content rather than the format.
We created a template for social media to promote our monthly newsletter
Guide templates are meant to help eliminate the stress of staring at a blank page to start. With this, you are essentially dissecting an asset or document that is already made, and adding some of those elements to whatever you are working on. For instance, if you need to create a pitch deck, you could use design elements or formatting from your homepage as your guide. We do this often whenever we’re creating a new internal document whether that’s a proposal, strategy presentation, or RFP.
Once we created the 'Research + Analysis Presentation' we used this format for all our documents.
A lot of people get tripped up because they want to add variation to their designs. This is the wrong instinct to follow. Strong branding comes from establishing consistency and then being intentional about how you stray.
So create your guide, stick to it, share it with your team, and create a few templates to make your life easier.
In need of a brand sheet or visual identity? Schedule a complimentary discovery meeting to learn more or contact UnderBelly Creative at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About The Author
Olivia Wisden is the Founder + CEO of UnderBelly Creative. She has worked with dozens of brands over the years ranging from city initiatives to product launches and beyond. When she’s not fan-girling over the design team’s illustrations she can probably be found reading a novel or attending a boxing class.