Okay ya'll, grab your favorite beverage and let's get to work on creating a totally awesome style guide for your blog!!!
But first, what the sam hill IS a style guide, you might be wondering?
Well. It's a document that contains all of the exact colors, fonts, design elements, rules and guidelines for your brand/blog. This insures that not only will your brand's style look awesome and fit with your ideal reader, but that it will also remain consistent throughout everything. It will make sure that you are using the same colors, fonts, design elements, etc throughout ALL the aspects of your business. Without one, it's easy for your brand to be inconsistent and sloppy and just sort of slosh out all over the place like soup sloshing out of a bowl. Get my drift?
I was inspired by the post that Elle & Co did on her brand style guide creation process, so I decided to expand upon her points by sharing the process that I used to create my own!
It might seem overwhelming at first, but this process is actually really fun and we're gonna go through it step by step. Think of this blog post as one detailed to-do list and follow it in order! And that's an order. Hehe. Okay, let's get started!
1. Identify your ideal audience.
This step is often overlooked by people in the style guide creating process but is super important and should be the very first thing that you do! Why? Because if you don't know exactly WHO you're writing for (or who you'd LIKE to write for) then how can you create a strong brand with content that serves the right person? Well ... ya can't. The awesome thing about knowing your ideal reader first is that it will allow you to build your style in a way that fits the ideal audience that you'd like to reach! Check out this post for a step by step guide on how to find your ideal reader, it's actually kinda fun. ;) Once you've done that, then come on back and continue down this list!
2. Pick 3 words to describe your brand.
In preparation for creating your mood board (which will inspire your style guide!) pick out THREE words to describe your brand. These should be the words that describe how you want your ideal reader to feel when they think about your brand or blog. Also, avoid coming up with words that are similar or that basically mean the same thing because ... well ... that would be a bit repetitive wouldn't it? Why yes, yes it would. So go on, pick 3 words and write'm down! After doing this you'll be able to use these 3 words as a filter for all your color/font/design elements moving forward.
3. Create a mood board that will serve as inspiration for your style guide.
This part is SO much fun! Yes, it's probably my favorite step of all. I already explained how to create your mood board in steps 4 and 5 in this post. So check it out, create your mood board and then come back to this list when you're done!
4. Edit your mood board.
If you didn't already do this as a part of the last step, time to do it now! You want your mood board to be nice and cohesive, not overwhelming and all over the place. So take a nice, hard look at the mood board that you created and look for themes in color, font, style etc. Your final mood board should visualize a cohesive color story and include sample photography, fonts and patterns in 30 images or less!
5. Create a new document to put all your design elements in.
Alright, you've done all the preparation work and now it's time to create your actual style guide! Yay! You can use Photoshop, Google Docs or Microsoft Word for this, whatever floats your boat really. Canva also works and now has a "Canva for Work" option where you can share all your design templates, elements, etc. with a team of people to make sure everyone's on the same page! (It's pretty nifty- I used the trial version but discontinued it simply because the only person on my team is ... well ... ME.) Anyway! This document is where you're going to put all the elements that you select for your blog, (colors, fonts, etc.) It shall be used as a reference going forward to keep your blog and brand consistent, which is SUPER IMPORTANT for a kick-ass brand!!!! (Sorry I know I sound like a broken record when I talk about brand consistency, ha!) Ehem. Alright, did you create your new document? Good. It's time to select the following elements!
6. Pick your colors.
Try to pick just 2-5 colors to reflect your brand. You're gonna be using these colors throughout your brand and blog for text, graphics, etc. consistently so make sure that you love 'em! Instead of using the color picker to get your color, be sure to write down the EXACT color Hex Code for each color so that they will be EXACTY the same every time. A few sites that are awesome for color pallet picking are this one and this one, and you can see beautiful, already made color pallets over at this one. Once you've chosen your colors, write down the color Hex Codes in your style guide so you can be damn sure that you're using the EXACT same color each time!
7. Pick your fonts.
Alright you little devil! (Sorry I have no idea where that came from.) Time to choose 2-4 fonts for your blog/brand! These fonts will be used for your blog headings, subheadings, main body, sidebar and any other areas where text will be. Make sure that you choose fonts that fit your brand, and remember to filter them against those three words that you chose in step 3! You can find tons of free fonts on this site, this site and this site. Once you've chosen your fonts, record them in your style guide and also note any special specifications, like if there will be any custom character spacing for easier readability or whether your selected fonts can also be used italicized or in bold.
8. Think about your graphic elements and icons.
When choosing these (things like graphics for your sidebar, boarders, social media icons, patterns etc.), once again, make sure that they reflect the FEEL of your brand by measuring them against the 3 brand words that you chose earlier! Pop these into your style guide and be sure to note any specifics like when and on what these elements can be used, any guidelines for header and footer content and rules on any templates that you might create.
9. Logo variation.
Alright, how are you doing? Good? Good!!! You're almost there, just a few more things to choose and add to your style guide! In regards to your logo, many brands will have a main logo as well as 1-2 alternate logos to use on different materials when the orientation and/or dimensions of the main logo don't work well. In your style guide, you'll want to include your logo(s) as well as set some parameters for the use of your logo.
10. Define your photo style.
Let's not forget about the pictures that you use! Photos play a big role in how people view your blog. Decide (and write down in your style guide) what style your photos will be. Bright and colorful? Dark and moody? Extra crappy? (Just kidding on that last one!) Things to take note of include any specific Photoshop actions or Lightroom presets that you might use on a regular basis and whether or not you can put text on your photos (and what font you will use!) Along these same lines, you'll also wanna take note of what style of photos you use across all your social media like Instagram, Facebook etc. Will you use the same iPhone filter for your Instagram photos? If so, write it down! Lastly, write down the types of images that you WON'T use. You want to know what your brand ISN'T as much as you know what it IS!
11. Decide on your blog's tone.
What vibe do you want your blog to give off? Do you want it to be funny? Sarcastic? Serious? Playful? Record a few adjectives that will describe your blog's tone and how you will write. Make sure that you stay consistent with your tone throughout other things such as e-mails, social media interactions and captions, any digital products that you create, etc. You want people to know that it's YOU when they read all of those things! If you've got a completely different writing style across different platforms then it might look like you have multiple personalities! Which ... you know ... is fine and everything but might be a tad confusing to your readers.
12. Write down blog post specifics.
YOU'RE ALMOST DONE, WOO HOO!!!! The last thing that you wanna do is write down any guidelines that you have for your blog posts. You will want to consider questions such as, do you have any rules for your post titles? Is there a minimum/maximum number of photos that you'd like to include in each post? What size font will your text be? Will you always want to include links? Do you have any specific guidelines for writing about affiliate stuff?
13. Save your document and keep it on your desktop.
Yes, don't forget the final step which is saving your document and keeping it in a handy place for easy reference! I keep mine on my desktop and also a printed version in my business binder. Use your style guide when you are designing your blog, writing posts, creating any business related content, etc.
You did it!!! You are officially a rock star.