I collect fonts the way other women collect shoes or bags. I love playing around with color combinations and am always on the lookout for a new look for my website and business brand.
This passion for design is both a blessing and a curse. I am forever wanting to change the look and feel of my creative business projects.
Over the years I’ve changed The BOM’s colors and look a couple of different times. And each time I would have to update not just my website, but all my social media headings, my newsletter graphics and my printables. I spent so much time on this busy work that I was never able to focus on the important aspects of my business - growing my audience and making money.
So in an effort to stay focused and not waste any more I created a style guide for myself in the form of a Brand Board. Check it out:
This brand board serves as my style guide for The BOM. I printed it and hung it in my home office and whenever I am creating a new printable or other product, I know exactly what shades of color to use and which fonts to use. The results have been awesome. My traffic on Pinterest nearly tripled once I started using a consistent color and style for my content:
A Style Guide Provides Brand Consistency
Large organizations use style guides to ensure consistency across departments and locations. Imagine if every Target store used a different shade or red or a different font? Or if McDonald’s golden arches was just a suggestion and each franchise had a different color?
Even though your business may only be a one woman show at this point, having a style guide is a good idea. because it provides a quick reference for the colors, fonts and image styles that represent your brand. Your style guide tells you the exact color codes to use and prevents you from creating graphics that are varying shades of one color. Ditto for fonts.
A style guide also limits your creativity (in a good way) if you are like me and like to change brand colors like you change clothes.
A style guide for your business ensures that no matter where your audience finds you - it could be on your website, Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter, the images, colors, logos and fonts are streamlined, making your business easy to identify.
To ensure brand consistency throughout your website and social media platforms, think of every photo, color and font choice as an advertisement for the same product - your business! Your brand colors, logo and fonts should all to help people to recognize your business no matter where they see it.
A style guide covers three main areas of your business brand: Color, Fonts and Images
Brand Color Best Practices
The colors you select for your brand will be the first introduction to your customers. Choose wisely. Colors can convey just as much meanings as words or images. Shades of pastels whisper, while neon colors shout.
To simplify your creative process, a basic rule to follow when it comes to choosing colors is to select flat flat colors (otherwise known as solid colors). They are clean and offer better contrast with typography than colors with gradiation.
Brand colors can be as few as one or as many as five or six. When in doubt, go with the rule of three: a main color and two complimentary colors. Colors have natural complementary partners that work well together, like these:
Design Seeds is a great place to find color inspiration and various color palettes. I also like to use Image Color Pickr, which allows you to upload a photograph and pull the RGB and Hex codes from it. I did this when creating my brand board from the BOM, which was based on this image:
Things to avoid when choosing brand colors:
Variegated backgrounds or patterns. They are distracting.
Lighter text on a dark background. White text on a dark color is hard to read. So if you want to use a dark color as one of your brand colors, opt with a white background for your website and graphics.
Too many colors. If you love design it can be tempting to want to use lots of colors in your designs. This makes the whole design process that much longer because you hem and haw over which colors to use. Limiting yourself to a main color and couple of complimentary colors just makes everything easier and quicker. You can always add in more colors later on. And remember, no one is coming to your website or interested in your business just because of the color. It is only one part of you whole business.
Preferred Brand Font
Just like with color, there are unlimited fonts available. That does not mean we have unlimited choices. Fonts aren’t shoes.
Two fonts are all you really need for branding your digital business. The trick is to find a combination that works for your brand and helps you stand out, while at the same time is easy to read.
For the bulk of your website, your font choice should be large, dark, and clean looking. Remember, your audience could be reading it on a large desktop monitor or smart phone screen.
The font you choose should be responsive - that is it should look good now matter how big or small the screen is. Even though Times New Roman is the default font of the print publishing world, I recently switched to Quicksand because I felt it was easier to read on a mobile device, which is where a bulk of my traffic comes from.
I also like Aileron, of the sans serif family; it’s the little black dress of fonts. It looks good with everything.
Things to Avoid When Choosing Fonts
Hard to read font - this means most handwritten script and cursive script. It’s okay to use these types of fonts for accents to your brand - like in the logo or tagline, don’t go crazy with them.
Cutesy or seasonal fonts - You know the type, any font that includes built in curlicues, hearts or flowers. They are okay for greeting cards or birthday invitations, but lack a professional polish that your digital business deserves.
Light font on a dark background. It is too hard to read for any length of time. Stick to a white background with black font for the bulk of your website content.
Image Best Practices
I like to include three to six images in my style guide / brand board as a reminder of the look and feel of my website and my brand.
You have a three options when selecting images for your brand: you can take them yourself, buy them through a stock photo company, such as Shutterstock, or use free images that are licensed for commercial use.
Do not simply google a term and copy paste whatever image catches your fancy. Read one bloggers $7500 cautionary tale about unintended copyright infringement and why it is super important to only use commercially licensed photos for your business.
Certain businesses models require you to provide your own photos. If you are a retailer or food service or other services, it makes the most sense to use photos that showcase your actual work.
If you are providing a service, like coaching, or marketing or other B2B services, you can save a lot of time and use stock photos rather taking your own. I opt for a mix of free and paid stock photos, which I have curated over the past few years into library on my computer.
Where to Find Good Quality Stock Photos and Images
My favorites photo and graphic sites include:
Pixabay - lots of free images and some free graphics
Canva (sie note, Pixabay and Canva often have the same images)
Ivory Mix - Kayla over at Ivory Mix give away free photos every month to her subscribers. You can also purchase membership and have access to hundreds of beautifully styled photos. I used many of her photos for The BOM and love the result!
Creative Market - also gives away freebies each Monday. You can also find hundreds of low cost photo bundles that come with a standard commercial license.
Pop around The BOM website as well as my social media profiles and you’ll see that all of my images coordinate, without being too matchy-match. They have similar styles and shades that help give my brand a clean, uniform look.
Once you’ve decided on all the elements you want to include in your style guide, you can create one easily over at Canva. You can also use a simple word or google doc to create your guide.
Your Turn - What other questions or thoughts do you have about creating a style guide or selecting brand colors, fonts or images for your digital business?
You can check out all the brand board inspiration I use on Pinterest, as well.