Beginner's Guide to Brand Books: Free Download

My without-a-doubt-drop-the-mic-hands-down-all-time favorite design project is creating a Brand Book. I often find myself chatting with friends about their start-up ideas and never fail to get flushed-in-the-cheeks-excited while explaining to them why, before anything else, we HAVE TO make them a BRAND BOOK. 

Do they know usually what I’m talking about when I first mention a Brand Book? Never. 

Do they hop on board anyway? Most of the time (thanks, trusting friends). 

Do I selflishly love making them? … Um, maybe. 

But, mostly, it’s because I truly believe in them and have repeatedly seen the inevitable cluster F that occurs when a small business tries to move forward with branding without creating one first. 


When I work with a branding client, there's a series of steps I take to guide them into crafting their perfect brand identity. Generally, it starts with a series of questionnaires and a crap-ton of good old-fashioned brainstorming, then escalates into logomark exploration and the development of additional visual resources. The culmination (and hand-down most fun part) of the branding process is always the unveiling of the BRAND BOOK.

Although clients adore and obsess over their books once they’re completed, they often have a hard time understanding what the heck they are and why they need them in the first place. 

So let’s get started, shall we?

1. What is a brand book?

It is a guidelines document that outlines important visual information and tone guidelines, so that your brand always looks and feels consistent and professional.  Basically, it provides a roadmap to developing a beautiful, cohesive brand universe where everything feels like it’s in the same family. 

2. What does it include?

It varies by project, but the basics are:
• logo
• color palette
• typography
• type hierarchy (how the fonts work together)
• photography (photo styling and any overlays or image treatments)
• secondary visual elements - patterns, icons, etc.
• additional logo styles - like a watermark
• voice and tone (how you talk to your audience)

3. Who's it for?

Generally, it's not public facing – but rather for the client and anyone who works within the company. For example, as a business owner, I would invest in a professionally designed brand identity and brand book that I could then hand off to my marketing team, who would fulfill day-to-day needs (like Facebook posts), adhering to the standards created by the ad agency or original identity designer.

4. Why is it important?

To cover this question, I brought in the big guns – my friend Breana Robinson, VP, Branding Planning Director at FCB Health in NYC. In her words:

“Brandbooks, brand guidelines, brand styleguide…whatever you call them – they’re one of – if not THE most important – part of a brand. The brandbook is the heart of a brand’s body. It’s the source from which everything created for a brand should come.It’s so important today for brands to make a good first impression, and the window of time to do that has become so small with our attention spans getting shorter and shorter. One of the easiest ways to do that, to make that connection, to create that impact, is to make sure, at every step of the way, that whatever piece of communication the brand is putting out there - it’s coming from the same place.”

5. Show me some!

Sometimes they’re technical and buttoned up and sometimes they're totally off-the-wall and absurd – but they should always be a genuine reflection of your brand. 

Check out some of my favorite examples below:

Nike Football
Even Santa has a Brand Book

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What are your thoughts on Brand Books? What has and hasn't worked for you? Sound off in the comments below!


Chris Emmer

Graphic Designer / Branding and Social Media Strategist / Yoga + Meditation Guide / Your New BFF.

West Michigan based, small business + wellness obsessed.