5 Examples of Style Guides to Help Shape Your Branding
by Ben Kulakofsky
For many companies, written messaging — the building blocks for internal and external brand perception — is not tightly controlled in the way that visual assets are.
You’d be hard pressed to find a designer who doesn’t know where to find the correct hex codes and SVG files for their brand. So why do companies post on social media or send out sales emails without knowing and using consistent vocabulary to describe their offerings?
This is what a style guide is for. As a content marketer, communications professional, or someone else who works closely with your company’s brand, creating and using a style guide for your messaging is paramount.
A style guide provides the language, unique tone of voice, and various other rules associated with your brand. It is a reference for you as a writer to stay consistent, and a tool to help you ensure your entire organization speaks with a unified voice.
But creating one can seem daunting.
Below, we've compiled 5 great examples of public brand style guides for you to draw on for inspiration.
Awesome style guide examples you should copy
While the following guides are perfect for gathering ideas and gaining an understanding of what a style guide should contain, keep in mind that each is specific to the brand they support — and you must find your own unique style.
Don't forget to check out the social media accounts for these brands and observe how the guidelines found in these style guides are applied to brand messaging across different platforms.
1. Instant Magazine
We’d be remiss to not include our own style guide in this list! In addition to addressing questions of grammar and vocabulary, we include a couple other elements in our style guide worth pointing out like our core messaging, our brand story, and our company values.
MailChimp’s style guide is one of the best references on this list, as you’d expect from a company whose business is communication.
This style guide is very thorough, including sections on how to write for many different media. They cover social media, email, technical and legal writing, translation, and more. Plus, the sidebar index makes it easy to find any relevant topic.
Shopify is another great guide worth looking through, alongside MailChimp. They have the same great user experience, with their index sidebar. However, whereas MailChimp emphasizes verbal branding, Shopify emphasizes visual.
Shopify’s visual guidelines are as thorough as MailChimp’s verbal guidelines. They cover topics such as typography, illustrations, sounds, data visualizations, and more.
The APA style guide is one of the golden standards for English language style guides, alongside MLA, Chicago, Turabian, and others. These style guides are probably familiar to you from school, where you likely had to reference them when citing your sources in a paper or essay.
These differ slightly from brand style guides. Because they aren’t specific to any company or brand, they don’t take into account values or a mission statement. That does make these academic style guides slightly less relevant to the instructions above. However, they have a far broader scope than any brand style guide when it comes to grammar and usage. That makes them a valuable reference for any grammatical questions you’re not able to answer with the brand style guides posted here.
No one said building your style guide shouldn’t be fun. The final example on our list, BPR, is an example of how creative you can get with your format. BPR’s gorgeously designed style guide comes in the form of one long poster.
Style guides influence the internal and external perception of your company and products more than you may realize. That's why tightening control over how people write about your company is so important. Remember, even if you know exactly what vocabulary to use, your colleagues might not.
Luckily, the example style guides above should give you plenty of inspiration to get started with creating your own.
To learn more about writing for your brand, check out some of our other blog posts:
Ben Kulakofsky is a content writer for Instant Magazine. His past work has been featured in the Guardian and Al Jazeera. When not buried in his notebook, Ben can be found catching midnight showings of his favorite classic horror movies.
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