Brand Guidelines for Small Businesses

I hosted a social media training session for small businesses today, and we talked about the importance of consistency in posts. Consistency is not just important for social media though, your brand consistency across all your channels including your website, instore point of sale, printed material and packaging supports how your brand is represented and remembered. By selecting the design elements that you most like from your existing material, and by answering some simple questions, you can create your own brand guidelines.


Consider how you use your logo. Do you have different versions and if so, which one do you apply when?

Think about where your logo appears in artwork, for example, top left corner. Test whether you can apply this consistently across all media – on social media posts, digital and printed adverts, packaging, bags, receipts, anything your logo appears on. You may need to specify a different position for some applications, but again, with your guidelines in place, you can start to apply it the same way each time when working within that medium.

Look at the sizing of your logo too – is it discretely tucked away, or is it a large proportion of the finished artwork? Is it always the same size within a particular setting?


Selecting a colour palette can deliver consistency that has high impact on your brand perception. Choose your primary and secondary colours, and where you use them, plus any other complimentary colours. Think about colours in your background, artwork and fonts.


If you’re using applications such as Canva to create artwork, the font is often pre-selected, but you can change the font to your choice. Again, have a primary font you use most of the time, and know which secondary fonts you use when, and what colours you use. You could even outline if and when you use bold and italics and when you use capital letters.


Along with colour, you can create consistency with where you position things. You could have different layouts for different types of messages, as long as you are consistent with your application. For example, campaign messages may be made of a montage of four pictures with a central message like below, whereas tips and advice might be delivered differently.


The style of your artwork is more intuitive. Think about whether you like clean lines, lots of detail, simple images. Do you use drawings, photography or icons? Also think about the overall impact your material has – does the style match your brand ethos – friendly, authoritative, luxurious, or whatever your brand stands for?

Tone of Voice

Some of your tone of voice will come from the layout, font and images but much comes from your copy, and if you’ve got several people creating your posts, adverts, website banners and content, consider giving a few guidelines around tone of voice. Are you serious or fun, a friendly or an expert voice, informal or formal? Is your copy long, or short and succinct? Do you use emoji’s and if so, to what extent?


You can bring consistency to your content through a few guidelines around photography. Do you always use the same backdrop? Do you use close ups or wider shots? Do you shoot always at an angle, or square on? Do your photo’s have a border? Are your photo’s informal capturing action as it happens, or more posed?


If you use music in videos or stories, think about whether you want to apply some of your own rules here. Do you always want the same music piece playing or music from a particular playlist or genre?

A Simple Framework for You to Use

My logo always goes here…..
My colours are……
My fonts are…..
My layout looks like…..
My photo’s look like…..
My tone of voice is…..
My style is….
My music sounds like….
My brand guidelines

Help from Agencies

Marketing agencies and designers can pull together a detailed brand guidelines document for you, using their expertise on design and style. However, if that is outside your scope, you can create some simple guidelines that you can apply to every piece of material you create using the table above. However short or detailed those guidelines are, they will still help deliver a visual impact that will add credibility to your brand…as long as you apply them consistently.


You don’t have to create all your guidelines in one go. Start with the basics, of colour, fonts and ;ayout and then build up your guidelines over time. Review brands you admire and take notes on what you like. Look at some of your favourite posts, banners and adverts, and again, note down what you like. From there, you can frame some rules to apply to your own work. Use this checklist to create your own rules.

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