The difference between a Brand Guide and a Style Guide

The Brand Guide and the Style Guide are two Branding deliverables that are confused all the time. Lots of startups step into the branding process not knowing the difference or which they need. Let's set the record straight.

A brand guide defines the different elements of a brand.

You can read more about our process here, but in general, the brand guide is the main deliverable you get when you get a branding job done. It defines the following:

  1. Brand Name (if one doesn't exist already)
  2. Core Values
  3. Brand Message
  4. Brand Voice
  5. Brand Positioning
  6. Visual Identity

This guide can be used internally and also to help third parties understand the brand on a high level. Read this blog post to learn more about the main elements that go into forming a brand.

A style guide is created to apply the brand to a specific medium or product.

For instance, say you just went through the branding process and now have your brand guide completed. Now you want to create a website. A style guide can help everyone working on the project know how to execute the brand with very specific detail. Usually a digital product like a website or an app will have a design team and a dev team. If there's no documentation specifying the visual styling of different elements, it's easy for the UI to become very inconsistent looking. Examples of a few things you'd find in a style guide for a website would be:

  • What does each level of headline look like
  • How much space should be below and above each level of headline
  • What does a link look like
  • What does a link look like when it's hovered over or pressed
  • What do buttons look like on different background colors
  • What colors from the brand will be used in the UI
  • Show examples of some common widgets like a search box
  • etc...

You can and often do have multiple style guides for the same brand, but only will ever (hopefully) need one brand guide for your brand.

Brand Guides & Style Guide FAQs

Question: Can you just make me a style guide, I don't need a full brand guide.

Answer: This is a question we get asked by people that don't yet understand the difference between the two yet, (which you now do). So you know that, of course you DO need a brand guide before making a style guide.

Question: Do you need a style guide to build a website

Answer: Not always, if you have a simple website being built by a small team, you can go straight into making a site without creating a style guide. Not having a guide becomes a problem when you don't have tight communication between the creatives working on a project. When there's no guide for everyone to reference, things quickly go off the rails.

Question: Do you need a style guide to build a phone app

Answer: Still not always, but since apps are usually very UI intensive I'd say 90% of them do need a style guide, where maybe only 75% of websites do.