Delivering the Goods: The Brand Guide

Please give a warm welcome to Robert and Stacia Guzzo, founders of Handcrafted HoneyBee. This energetic #ahasmember business team has generously offered to share their recent, dramatic rebranding journey with our community. Here is Part 5, as told by Robert Guzzo, Co-Founder of Handcrafted HoneyBee.

The entire series can be found here:
read the prologue here
Part 1 (where they talk about their need to change) here

Part 2 (why it takes awhile to get a rebrand right)
Part 3 (what it's like finding a designer)

Part 4 (creating compelling content)
Part 5 (creating and using your brand guide)

Part 6 (creating compelling packaging)
Part 7 (juggling two brands at once)

Part 8 (building a homepage)
Part 9 (launching their new site)
Epilogue (why going through a rebrand helps you love your brand more)
AND read their designer's advice on getting better with graphic design here

One of the side benefits of working with a designer from Western Australia is the time difference. Since she was working while we slept, there were often messages waiting for us as soon as we woke up. It was fun, and something that Stacia and I both started to anticipate with excitement.

But the morning that she sent our Brand Identity Guide, we both felt like 6-year-olds at Christmas!

Why were we so excited? These weren’t the final hi-res designs (those would come later). So what’s so great about a “guide”?

The Power of Consistency

Every part of your brand tells a story. To be more precise, your customers hear a story every time they encounter your brand. If you want to successfully sell to those customers, then it’s up to you to tell a good story.

There are certain elements to good storytelling: a protagonist, a compelling conflict & a coherent plot line that brings the conflict to a satisfying conclusion.

So let me say this again, with emphasis:

Every part of your brand tells a story.

Not just your written words. Not just your website. Not just your logo. Not just your letterhead. Everything.

Think of every single element of your brand as a character in the epic story you are trying to tell. And I’m talking about everything from color to text to context. Each of those characters has a different role and purpose, but all of them need to consistently contribute to the telling of the story.

The Brand Guide helps to keep it all straight.


The Mother of All Deliverables

You’ve probably heard it before, but it bears repeating. Design is a tool to help you solve a problem.

So remember the #1 Rule of Being a Good Design Client:

It doesn’t matter whether or not you like the way the design looks. It only matters if the design is able to help you achieve your stated goals.

Nobody looks at a hammer and says: “You know, I don’t like the way this hammer looks!” As long as the hammer can drive a nail, then you’re likely going to use it if you need to nail two boards together.

But brand is a much more complex thing, requiring a much more complex solution. You can expect that the tool is going to be much more complex too.

And complex tools usually come with an owner’s manual.

If design is the tool, then the Brand Guide is the manual that shows you how to use that tool to best effect.

For example, our Brand Identity Guide from Aeolidia listed:

  • logo
  • secondary logo (each with two background options)
  • brand marks
  • color palette
  • typography (for both print and web)
  • background textures
  • graphic elements

Sarah, our designer, also developed several custom illustrations for us to use as “brand extensions” (for stickers, temporary tattoos, etc). Those were covered in the Brand Guide too.

There were “Best Use” guidelines on each page below the designs, to help us to understand how best to employ each one. Those directions helped us to use our design package to solve each problem as it was intended.

We employ our Brand Guide as the go-to reference whenever we are creating something new for the business: invoices, thank you notes, the color palette of our Instagram posts…even our production studio has been painted in “on-brand” colors so we can use it for photo & video shoots!

And here’s the craziest thing. Our designer was surprised when she saw how much we were actually using it. In a recent correspondence she wrote, “Rarely do my clients take their style guide and really run with it! I think of all my clients, you are only one in a small handful who has.”

Have you ever read a case study for a rebrand and fallen in love with the design, only to go to the company’s site and see that things have changed in seemingly arbitrary ways? That’s a client who decided to disregard his Brand Guide. It’s the equivalent of tossing the owner’s manual and using your coffee maker to steam dumplings.

(PS - In case you can't tell from the way I'm gushing about them, we loved everything that Aeolidia did for addition to those designs helping us to achieve our goals!)

Tell Me Why…With a Good Case Study

With a coherent, solutions-focused design and a clearly written Brand Guide, we would have been just fine. We had the tools and we knew how to use them.

But Sarah gave us more.

Every deliverable we received from our designer also came with a case study. She explained every design decision in great detail, providing context and motivation. She demonstrated to us that she had fully considered each of our business goals. Those explanations gave us confidence that her solution could help us achieve those goals.

And I mean every deliverable. Sarah designed tons of print collateral, packaging, the instruction booklets for our kits, a newsletter template, a series of sticker designs, character illustrations, and so much more.

Each and every one of them came with a detailed explanation of why the design worked for its intended purpose, as well as how each design element worked in concert with every other design element!

This was truly game-changing for us.

For one, it showed us that we had made the right choice by investing in a great designer. It also fueled our imaginations for follow-up design work with Aeolidia, so much so that we are signing them up for new work even as they continue to deliver on our original project!

But the greatest gift we received from the combination of the Brand Guide and the case studies?

It helped to validate the vision that we had for our brand.

As we received the design deliverables and read the case studies, it was like seeing our vision brought into being and made tangible. It helped to sharpen our focus even more and dream even bigger.

Next Time: We put those beautiful designs to work, on every single aspect of our physical product. We needed a design that could sell itself on retail shelves & our website, when the thing we were selling was inside a box! This is how we did it.

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