Photo courtesy Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library

Every time I see a misaligned pink square on top of blue and white plaid, my heart skips a beat.

I realize that may be the weirdest sentence I’ve ever posted to this blog but hear me out.

I am a die-hard fan of Bath and Body Works.

The bath gels, the body lotions, the candles, the hand soap. There is a scent for every season, every mood, every situation.

No, they did not pay me to say this. (But if anyone from Bath and Body Works ever reads this blog, I am willing to work as an influencer.😊)

Bath and Body Works has a strong, recognizable brand. They don’t want you to just buy their products one time. They want you to come back, again and again. They know a strong brand style that is recognizable across all platforms is key to creating a relationship with their customers.

You want that for your library. You want your community to recognize the promotional materials you make. When someone sees a sign or a social media post or a video, you want them to know that it comes from your library without having to see your library’s name or logo anywhere in the brand.

Building a library brand takes consistency. And to remain consistent when multiple departments and staff members create graphics, social media posts, posters, and other promotional materials, your library needs to create a brand style guide.

A brand style guide will clearly define the look and tone of marketing materials. It saves staff time. It will be used by staff when creating graphics and writing text. Most importantly, it will ensure your library’s marketing is recognizable.

Here’s a step-by-step guide for creating your library’s brand style guide. Scroll to the bottom of this post for examples of library brand style guidelines.

Grounding statements

Begin your document by centering your library’s brand on the guiding principles of your organization. Remind your staff of your core mission. You want to explain the importance of this work and create buy-in for your style guide.

  • Set the tone with your mission, vision, and values statement.
  • Include a sentence or two that positions your library’s strategy, personality, and customer service principles.
  • Define your library’s personality. Do you want people to think of you as authoritative and resilient? Whimsical and conversation? Warm and welcoming?
  • List the perceptions your library is trying to avoid, like boring, traditional, formal, or pretentious.

Logo use

Emphasize the proper use of your logo across all platforms, including print and digital.

  • Define space rules, including the use of white space in relation to the logo.
  • Set the acceptable color variations for your logo.
  • List the minimum logo sizes, including pixels, print proportions, and aspect ratios.

Colors

Your color palette is the tangible component of your brand that people notice first. Color increases brand recognition up to 80 percent. Your colors also play a significant role in how your library’s brand is perceived.

  • Include the RGB, CMYK, Hex Code, and Pantone versions of your color palette.
  • List the shades of your color palette which are acceptable for use, including those variations required for accessibility on digital screens.
  • Include color contrast requirements for print and digital screens, keeping accessibility in mind.

Typography

Like color, the fonts your library chooses are a visual cue about your brand. Your fonts should tie all communications together, from your website to print promotions. It’s important to set clear guidelines for the use of fonts.

  • List the styles, sizes, and weights that can be used. Be sure to include instructions on acceptable fonts for headers, copy, and footers or fine print.
  • Include acceptable variations on fonts, if the font is unavailable in a particular piece of creative software.
  • Set guidelines concerning spacing to maintain a consistent style when font size changes.

Tone and text

This section is important to maintain a consistent brand through all the text written for your library promotions. These guidelines will ensure people recognize the copy is coming from your library, no matter who is doing the writing.

  • Outline your preferred word and sentence length. Shorter words and sentences are easier to read and will speed up the tempo of your message. Longer words and sentences will require your audience to do more in-depth thinking but may also be more nuanced.
  • List the jargon or library terms that staff members should use. This includes terminology for how you will refer to patrons, non-cardholders, staff, branches, and your branded names for services.
  • Determine the acceptable terminology for equity, diversity, and inclusion. Set guidelines for the use of gendered pronouns, ability, and references to racial and ethnic groups within your community.
  • Set your grammar guidelines. Will you use contractions? Will you allow prepositions? What grammar rules will you keep sacred, and which can be broken?

Images

In this section, you’ll give anyone creating promotional materials for your library the rules they need to find graphics, photos, and artwork that represent your library.

  • Set standards for the proper size, style, and composition of images for social media, email, digital signs, print, video, and your library’s website.
  • List approved image sources, including a list of websites that provide free stock photos and images. Here are ten websites to help build out your list.
  • Include clear guidelines on diversity representation to ensure staff use images that accurately represent your community.
  • Incorporate guidance on the use of graphics, GIFs, and memes.

Library Brand Style Guide Examples

Does your library have a brand style guide that you’re willing to share? Email ahursh@ebsco.com and I’ll add yours to the list.


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