style guides

5 Reasons You Should Have a Style Guide

As a creative agency, we not only follow our clients’ language and design guidelines (and often design an identity guide for them), but we must abide by our own standards as well. We recently revisited Orange Element’s internal style guide, which includes brand colors, fonts, and writing rules. If you’re on the fence about creating one for your organization, or don’t believe it’s worthwhile, here are 5 reasons you should reconsider:

1. Clear the air regarding punctuation use (or lack thereof). Who knew the Oxford comma would be such a hot topic in our office? After producing internal marketing documents with quick turnarounds, we thought it was time to decide once and for all: should we use the Oxford comma or not? Issues as minor as this one can cause hiccups in production—that’s why providing punctuation, grammar, and other direction in your style guide can streamline your internal processes. (By the way, we decided to use the Oxford comma; it clears up an otherwise convoluted sentence).

2. Establish your boundaries. Orange Element is founded on hard work, authentic relationships, and a client-first mentality. To protect that philosophy, there are a few situations in which we choose to remain neutral, such as religion and politics. While this is Orange Element’s professional stance, your organization may have different views—and that’s okay! It all depends on your brand’s values and tenets, and how you wish the world to view you. This is also something to include in your style guide so your internal team understands what’s appropriate to share with external audiences, and what’s not.

3. Access design and identity guidelines quickly. Have you ever had to whip up a quick marketing brochure, presentation, or email template? If so, chances were you needed to follow some sort of color palette, typography, and other design guidelines. A style guide can be more than just language—it’s a way to establish a set of design “ground rules” to simplify and organize a cohesive brand feel so you can get your time-sensitive materials out the door.

Remember: the more you include in your style guide, the less confusion arises from the rest of your team.

4. Organize your content purposes across channels. While your brand may have one overall identity, different platforms may require—and benefit from—different tones and voices. Our presence on social media, for example, is more casual than our website, and is used for cultural updates rather than educational long-form posts like our blogs. You can even go so far as to include specific social media specs like word count and image sizes. Remember: the more you include in your style guide, the less confusion arises from the rest of your team.

5. Address questions on the spot. If I had a dollar every time a coworker asked me how to capitalize, punctuate, or spell a word, I’d have…my paycheck. While developing content (and being grammatically correct) is my job, sometimes I don’t have the answer for everything. However, our updated style guide includes obscure punctuation examples, picks a stance on “conflicts” like towards versus toward, and addresses other common lingual issues so I can always refer to something concrete.

Interested in developing a brand guide for your organization? Find some examples. An existing style guide can help spark some inspiration about what to include and how to organize it all. Try the AP Stylebook, or take a look at our inspiration, MailChimp.

For a bigger lift, you can also reach out to our team for help on your organization’s corporate identity—from brand messaging, communication strategy, look and feel, and more. While it may seem like a daunting task, the upfront time and energy can simplify your team’s efforts in the long run.