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25 Inspiring Branding Guidelines You Can Learn from Today

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Written by Flying Saucer Studio

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Branding. A term that strikes both fear and passion in the hearts of creatives everywhere  – and such exacting work! But alas, it must be done: branding influences some of the most basic daily decisions you make as a company and can be one of the most influential documents in a startup’s growth arsenal. So without further ado, let’s look at 25 brands that have absolutely nailed their branding guidelines!

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1. Uber

If we were Harvey Specter and we could afford to hire our own black Lincoln driver, we totally, totally would. Turns out though, it’s rather cost prohibitive for most of us mere mortals. Enter these guys, who originally branded themselves as a “black car” limo service that you could share with your friends at taxi prices. While their positioning has evolved with time, their branding guidelines still reflect that convenient luxury; black and white, simple, streamlined. Their font style is slick, well spaced and you guessed it… black.

Catching the consistency Uber is putting down here, folks?

 

2. Lyft

Trying to carve a space for themselves in the Uber-dominated market, these guys nailed their brand by being everything that Uber isn’t: hot pink, and full of panache and flair. They opted for a relatable brand identity, and their style guidelines reflect that. Their color palette is bright and colorful, their chosen font has bounce and fun, and their loading graphic is a car driving around in circles. If that isn’t relatable content, I don’t know what is.

 

3. Airbnb

While the Airbnb experience now seems obvious and ubiquitous, it’s important to remember that these people managed the impressive feat of taking an idea that seemed unpalatable and risky, and focus on what makes it practical. They aptly tuned in to a generation that makes less money, and – if even possible – is shaped by a wanderlust even more intense than generations previous. You can see their commitment to exotic travel made attainable in every photo and location choice. Their guidelines serve as a great reminder that branding isn’t all about color and font choice. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words has become a cliché for a reason.

 

4. Slack

As Entrepreneur points out, Slack is trying to kill email, and they’re doing it by providing a workplace solution that toes the tricky line between being relatable and professional. Check these babies out, and feast your eyes on the kind of balletic skill you can employ to build client trust all the while maintaining your street cred as the ultimate professional.

 

5. Android

These guidelines read more like an ethos, and you find yourself being drawn in one interesting graphic at a time as they take you through their brand foundation, color, shape, motion… It’s like a cute boy at the bar that lures you in with a great smile, but has the shiny personality, love of comic books and epic dance moves to match.

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6. LinkedIn

In a market already dominated by Facebook, Twitter and a host of other social media platforms, LinkedIn swung for the fences and hit a branding home run by establishing themselves as a social media platform for professional networking. On top of that, they provide digital downloads of their brand assets, which is a great way to ensure compliance and consistency. As a brand, it has the functionality of it’s more casual peers, but wears a pantsuit and tie – forgoing the sneakers and jeans motif that the Zuck has practically trademarked over at Facebook.

 

7. Instagram

Similarly to LinkedIn, Instagram launched itself into a largely captivated market, but distinguished itself by focusing on visual content like pictures, short videos etc. So – in a surprise to no one – their brand guidelines focus heavily on how to pictorially represent the company, their user interface, as well as using their logo. Say cheese!

 

8.  Kickstarter

These guys crushed their branding guidelines by distilling them like a finely aged whiskey into three golden rules for how to use their brand. They cut to the chase, provided clear cut directions, and on top of it, provided easy access to their brand assets. ‘Nuff said.

 

9. eBay

The folks at eBay did a great job of integrating their branding guidelines with their technical compatibility ones. Not only are they helping people use their product more efficiently, but they’re helping them to do it in the most brand compliant way possible. Everyone wins!

 

10. PayPal

These guys are responsible for some of the most comprehensive branding guidelines we’ve come across including personality, tone of voice, color palette, co-branding opportunities  – the works! We’ll let you dive right in, as they truly speak for themselves.

 

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11. Shopify

As a company that helps the average Joe set up their own branded online shop, it only makes sense that they would have well-developed brand guidelines of their own. We love these guidelines as a simple, clear-cut example of the do’s and don’ts.

 

12. Wayfair

As an online retailer for all things home, Wayfair’s branding guidelines focus mostly on the same attention to detail and aesthetic they bring to their curated product selection; outlining color palettes and how various styles, colors, and tastes all come together in one place. That careful design is everything that Wayfair hopes and promises to be – and we think they deliver. See what we did there? Because….they deliver?

 

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13. Ikea

A minimalist brand doesn’t mean minimalistic guidelines, and these guys are the perfect example. Faithful to its simplistic roots, Ikea has a great knack for emphasizing consistency through detailed guidelines, and none of the fluff.

 

14. FedEx

We like these guidelines for the TL;DR page at the beginning: short, concise, and completely on-brand as FedEx focuses on not wasting anyone’s time. They provide clear and comprehensive guidelines, without any frills. The World On Time, indeed. Kudos!

 

15. Medium

For a startup with the tagline “where words matter”, it may seem on the nose to make a branding guideline that focuses on typography, but no one can deny that it has really worked for them. Anyone who’s spent any amount of time surfing content on Medium can recognize their characteristic font from a mile away – which is a major win in our branding books.

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16. Spotify

These branding guidelines are achingly simple and keep the focus on the music – exactly where Spotify needs to be. They have the standard, “don’t smoosh our logo” and “don’t muck about with our color scheme” guidelines, which is fairly standard in a branding guideline, but they also zero-in on the use of cover art and artist meta-data, which makes these guidelines something to behold.

 

 

17. WhatsApp

The folks at WhatsApp did a great job of introducing an FAQ section in their guidelines, which is an effective and reader-friendly way to ensure brand consistency. It lets people surf through the content to find what they’re really after, as opposed to making them read the entire book. That, it turns out, can be really handy if you’re a bit like us, and you tend to wax poetic with a Shakespeare monologue’s worth of information to share!

 

18. Kate Spade

Luxury brands have brand guidelines just like startups do, and if you’re looking to position yourself in a luxury market, guidelines that strike a diva pose can be an important part of the brand itself. Kate Spade is a great example: a bold guideline that mimics the line itself in terms of color, and fabric. In fact, it even spells out the type and weight of paper you should use! Couture Guidelines if we’ve ever seen them.

 

19. Canadian Olympic Team

It may seem like a weird inclusion, but the Canadian Olympic Team branding guidelines provide a great example of how to tailor your branding guidelines to your target audience. In Canada, that means being bilingual. Bilingual copywriting can be a bit of a tough nut to crack, but these guidelines nail it. And as a Canadian myself, I can’t help but be a little proud.

 

20. Jamie Oliver

Speaking of weird inclusions, Jamie Oliver may seem like an odd guy to have his own brand, but given his many product lines and his career as a tv personality, it actually makes incredibly good business sense, which is why he’s used in several examples of good branding guidelines. We love the simple focus on his values and personality, so consider us one of the crowd on this one.

 

21. Skype

The branding guidelines for Skype are a perfect example of how to get your point across without actually beating people over the head with it, or making them fall asleep in the process. Their illustrated, comic-book approach is clever, clear, and concise – just how we love it.

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22. Mailchimp

Beyond the fact that we’re in love with their adorable multi-faceted mascot Freddie, this is a great example of a company that uses a conversational tone in everything they do, and are truly connected to their everyday consumer. The use of the navigation bar down the left, including the handy-dandy TL;DR link that gives you the boiled-down content, are a great addition. Plus, their sense of humor throughout the guide makes this anything but a dull read. Full points for style!

 

23. Starbucks

As you can imagine, as one of the most widely recognized brands on the market, Starbucks has some hefty brand guidelines for the use of their logo, images, and company name. What we like about these guidelines though is that they also incorporate their business promise and what you can expect from being a brand partner with them. In a unique show of corporate compassion, they even thank you for taking the time to give branding compliance a shot, acknowledging that their guidelines are extensive, but that they’re willing to help you every step of the way. That’s a great way to ensure loyalty and consistency!

 

24. Tim Horton’s

Aha – another iconic Canadian brand! This time though, we’d like to use this brand as a bit of a cautionary tale. Before the sale of Tim Horton’s to Restaurant Brands International (RBI), the Tim Horton’s brand seemed untouchable. Since then, there’s been a rapid updating of branding guidelines, including a fresh new update for the physical locations – and it seems they may have strayed too far from the path. According to a recent article in MacLean’s magazine, their standings in terms of brand trust have fallen from #1 as recently as 2015, to a painful #203.

 

25. Best Buy

Here’s a brand that’s not only colorful but really well written. They provide plenty of grids and pictures to flesh out all of those details Type A people (shudder) love to go on about. Simply put – their branding kung fu is strong.


So there you have it, some of the strongest brands in popular memory and some concrete examples to Mr. Miagi you right into your own Karate Kid moment  – designing your own branding guidelines that will absolutely slay.

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