If you open your brand guideline or company styleguide and start to feel overwhelmed or stifled, you are not alone.
Interpreting and following these standards without comprising creativity can be tricky business. Believe it or not, there are a ton of formally trained graphic designers who were never taught how to properly follow guidelines, which means having to follow a defined framework is not second nature to them.
To the uninitiated, brand guidelines can be decidedly tricky to decipher. Depending on the size of the company, they can be cumbersome and complex documents that can be unclear or contradictory (at least the shitty ones can be). If it is your first time working with guidelines or you just want a refresher, check out our tips for navigating them like a pro.
Cover to Cover
This may seem very simple, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t sit down, get comfy, and read the document like it’s a good book. Sure, it may not be the most engaging thing you will ever read, but having that knowledge stored in the back of your mind somewhere could really save you a ton of work in the future. Reading the guidelines from cover to cover will help to get you in the mindset and keep your head in the game.
People seem to be genetically predisposed against asking questions, but if you are not sure the best thing you can do is ask! Trying to decipher the guidelines on your own will most likely cost you at lots of extra time and energy that could probably be better spent elsewhere. Asking questions right off the bat rather than in the middle of the project could quite literally save you from having to scrap a project and starting from the top.
Guidelines, Not Rules
Like everything good in life, sometimes you need to push back to ensure the best quality, en-point work. Brand guidelines are just that, guidelines not rules. It’s ok to push back against them sometimes, but picking your battles is a smart move. Remember – the brand story of a business is there to keep the brand memorable and immediately recognizable.
Find your optimised workflow or grab some tools that will help keep the styleguide easily accessible and top of mind. Have a printed version to sit on the desk (yes it’s old school), or have screenshots of the most relevant portions easily accessible in a digital format.
The guidelines were invented to help ground your work in the reality of the brand, not to completely stifle your creativity. Don’t fight it, learn to work with the framework and you will see how much easier it can make your life.