Brand Bible: How To Develop Your Fashion Style Manual

Consistency. That’s just one element successful fashion brands have in common. Seasons and trends come and go, but you can still identify a Gucci, Burberry or Alexander McQueen on site. One of the most vital documents that makes this possible is one that every enterprise should own, but many don’t. This is a brand style guide; also, known as the brand bible.

[Image: Lagos Fashion and Design Week 2016 / MaXhosa by Laduma]

Style Guide Defined

Start Up Fashion defines it as, “a document that provides guidelines, or even rules, and best practices for your brand’s visual identity and language styles.” It looks at the nitty gritty of your brand, such as the basic design elements and the language you choose to use, to improve your overall communication. These elements create consistency that will be used across the board; from marketing and branding decisions to the types of font you use and spacing requirements. your current customer base can easily recognize it whilst attracting new audiences who can relate or identify with the brand.

Having this information written down can ensure that all departments are always on the same page on where you want your brand to be. However, if you’re a one-person show, these documents still come in handy; especially if your contracting outside skills such as photography or styling and when embarking on collaborations with other brands. As you begin to expand, it will be a useful integration tool for the new employee rather than having to explain it to every new employee.

Basic Categories

As mentioned above, the Style Guide elements typically fall into two categories: Language and Visual Styles. The Former refers to the tone and attitude your brand communicates to the world with. This would tackle everything from words and phrases you can and can’t use, to how the brand’s information can be used on different media channels. The latter refers to what people will see about the brand. That includes, but not limited to, colour palettes and logos.

[Image: David Alford / Accra Fashion Week]

Style Guide Elements

Colour

A big part of your mood board will be made up by your colour story. That is what hues will become synonymous with your fashion entity, because it’ll be seen on all your marketing materials. Website and Logo included; Think Facebook and Navy blue. You can start by identifying the three main colours of your brand and perhaps what supporting colours will you work with. And finding the exact shade of the colour has been made simpler thanks to trend and colour forecasting site, Pantone. With each colour swatch categorised under specific letters and numbers, no wonder they’re the industry standard for classifying colours.

Colour Story Pantone Marsala [Image: thinkmakeshareblog]

Logo

This is an integral part of your brand and hence your guide should dictate clearly how the logo can be used. This includes details such as minimum and maximum sizes,  colours, and the recommended space around the logo. Take this a step further and indicate how the logo shouldn’t look and how not to utilize the logo. If you have multiple logos, ensure that you dedicate a section or page to each logo. Nothing should get lost in translation.

[Image: David Tlale / Abryanz Style and Fashion Awards]

Typography

Yes, even the way the letters and numbers look on your marketing material will help to define your style and hence push your brand’s visibility. That includes categorising the preferred kerning (spaces between words and letters), leading (distance between text on the page) and sizing. You’ll probably have to decide on different typefaces for different purposes, yet there must be some consistency for the final picture to be professional. Thus, your style guide will identify where each typeface should go and how it should be used. For example, select one display font for your posters and headers that looks great with large sizes. Select another font for the longer paragraphs of information that suite small sizes such as 8-10pt. Both however should easily be legible. Once you’ve decided you will only use these fonts!

[Image: Illustrations for Ogojiii magazine by Russell Abrahams]

Tone and Lingo

Your target audience will greatly influence your brand voice, after all it must appeal to them. Here’s where you decide if your tone will be conversational or formal. It’s also where you highlight acceptable and unacceptable phrases as well as words you can use. Even more details are required on what your house style is; this refers to rules that would apply to spelling, capitalisation, punctuation, usable emojis, etc.

[Image: Lalesso / Big Sky Productions]

Photography

You’ll probably have a formal shoot for every collection you release and follow up with casual phone-snapped images you’ll run on social media. Every shoot will have a different theme or feel, but constancy still needs to strongly come across. The aim is for anyone to quickly identify your brand even before reading the descriptive article or text. The types of moods, locations, lighting, colour palettes, models, makeup and hair guidelines, and even social media filters you choose should be in line with your brand aesthetic. Remember that photographers are visual so in line with the parameter text, have an image example of what you’re aiming for.

[Image: Mille Collines]

Packaging

It’s the first of your physical product and thus will help to  create the perception of your work. In particular, online stores utilize packaging to entice purchases and encourage them the consumers to share your product with their social media community. It also compensates for the lack of instant gratification that a shopper would get from immediately walking out a of store with the item. As opposed to waiting three to 10 days for it to arrive at their residence.  Some of the wrapping aspects to consider include, the sustainability and eco-friendliness of the material used, what the customer sees when they open the packaging – the product or branded tissue/ ribbons/strings, how much of your branding will be on the packaging, and will you use normal tape or order custom made tape?

[Image: Adele Dejak / Fashion Speak]

It can’t be reiterated enough that consistency is key and thus it should be all documented. Granted, as your brands continues to grow, the style guide will experience some evolution. All opportunities and additional media channels will need to be categorised too. But they probably will not be so drastic that it appears that your brand is heading in a totally different direction. If that is the case, it may be time to start over with some good-old rebranding. The above were just some of the basic elements. Because each brand has diverse needs and information to dispense, determine what is necessary for you and start from there.

 

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