3 tips for creating a unit-level brand guide

If you’re looking for inspiration for how to take our campus-wide brand guidelines and customize them for your unit, LAS has recently published a great page of “Guides, materials, and resources for LAS communicators” on their website. Even if your unit is much smaller than LAS, I think there are good ideas you could adapt to your needs. 

1. Make a “Cliff’s Notes” version of our guide for your people

While we encourage everyone on campus to read our brand guide from “cover-to-cover,” we realize that’s a bit of a pipe dream. So we value all the help we can get from people like you. The LAS webpage is very digestible. I like that it includes some of our key language about the Power of I right at the top, while linking to our site in case people want to go deeper. They’ve also summarized some of the most important and commonly requested tools, resources and ideas – linking to both our site and their brand guide. It’s a great strategy: Keep it simple and easy to scan, then provide plenty of links for more information.

2. Take our brand guidelines then tailor examples to your unit

Examples are everything when it comes to helping people grasp a new idea. In the LAS Brand Guide, you’ll see that our all-campus brand messaging strategies have been tailored to LAS goals, strengths, and audiences. (Look for a workshop on this topic in March!) The guide also has LAS-specific examples of on-brand images and graphic treatments, as well as design examples for department newsletter and fliers.

3. Think of your initial product as “version 1.0”

Start by making a list of most frequently asked questions and areas of brand inconsistency in your unit. Choose one or two at the top of your list and start creating your guide there. When I recently talked with Brad Peterson about his team’s process in LAS, he stressed that what they’ve put on their site is phase one. Their guide is definitely thorough, but you don’t have to have a comprehensive, “perfect” guide before you can share it. Brad says he’s encouraged lots of tire-kicking and feedback, and his team will make adjustments and fill in gaps as needed. 

Ultimately, Brad said that his goal is to create more consistency within the college as well as with the rest of the university, while leveraging the templates and tools the SMB office has created (and will continue to). As he pointed out, many colleges don’t have the staff to create custom resources for every entity in their unit – and now they don’t have to. They just need to make it easy for people to find and apply the resources in the SMB brand guidelines.