Using a Style Guide to Speed Up the Graphic Design Process
In the last blog post, I shared five SIMPLE ideas for marketing your studio to take advantage of the spike in students searching for lessons around the new year. Maybe you’ve already implemented some of the ideas (way to go, you!), or maybe you’re a perfectionist, like me, and you’re still trying to get that “perfect” graphic to share on Facebook and you’re getting nowhere.
Today I’m going to tell you about a little tool I use to curb perfectionism and speed up the design process tremendously.
Behold, the Style Guide.
What is a Style Guide?
A Style Guide is a set of design rules used for graphic design work. It help keep a consistent image through all marketing materials and reduces the decisions (about colors, fonts, etc.), making it much easier to whip out a great graphic that still reinforces your studio brand. It’s basically a way of making design decisions once, in advance, instead of reinventing the wheel every time.
All the major brands have Style Guides (sometimes they’re called Visual Guidelines or Design Guidelines) and they publish them in these beautifully prepared documents that look like publishable design magazines. For example, Target has an entire document dedicated just to its gift card branding.
But let’s get practical. If we all had teams of graphic designers at our disposal to put together lengthy style guides, we wouldn’t be discussing how to speed up our personal design process in the first place. Here’s what I include in my simple, just-what-I-need, business style guide:
Studio Style Guide
I have three variations of my logo: one with the business name, one without the name, and one that’s just a white outline for watermarks. I also have color and black/white versions of each. They’re all in .png format with a transparent background so they can be used in any setting. I keep all of these logos together in one folder on my computer.
I limit myself to two colors (plus black/gray and white) for all my business marketing materials. For Music Studio Startup, the colors are Turquoise and Watermelon. My style guide has the HEX and RGB codes for each of the colors, so I can always use exactly the same shades.
Like colors, fonts are easier to work with when you have limited options. I have three fonts: one for headings, one for body text, and one accent font (handwritten) for examples and other elements that need something different.
Occasionally I need an additional font for a special project, but every design starts from these standards.
Note: Fonts can be tricky when you’re working across platforms. Google has its set of fonts and Canva has another and both of those are different than the font libraries that come default on computer. I favor Google Fonts because I can use them on my website and also download them to work with desktop software. The premium version of Canva allows you to upload fonts, but I haven’t taken that plunge yet. For now, my Style Guide lists my chosen Google Fonts and the most closely matching fonts I could find in Canva. 🙂
Creating a Style Guide
I keep all my design guidelines in Google Doc. It’s easy to update and share with freelancers if I need to outsource any graphic design work.
Using a Style Guide
I use the Style Guide to inspire all of my graphic design: business cards, website, social media images, recital programs, t-shirts (someday!), studio decor, etc.
Consistency is Key
One parting reminder: a nicely-designed graphic is important, but consistency in design is more important. Using the same color scheme and fonts through all your marketing materials will do more to reinforce your studio brand than using a bunch of professional-designed materials that don’t have anything in common.
Don’t stress about having the “perfect” design (I’m talking to myself here 😉 ), just follow your style guide to keep a consistent feel and everything will be fine.