There are probably thousands of online self-publishing websites - but why any Medium blog is so easy to recognize, differentiate, and easy to tell, despite the same format of publishing?

When Evan Williams launched Medium in 2012, the goal was simple - to elicit a confident, premium, timeless, modern publishing tool.

Result? A rather iconic website used by nearly 100 million users. In 2023, Medium was valued at a whopping $600 million, and while not full, a lot of credit is due to its bulletproof brand standards.

Source: Medium

What are brand standards?

Brand standards, also known as brand guidelines or style guides are a set of rules that dictate how a brand is presented visually, and verbally across all communication channels. These standards keep the band together and ensure consistency along with cohesion in how the audience perceives a brand.

Brand standards typically include guidelines for:

  • Brand identity - The unique values and characteristics of a brand that distinguish a brand from its competitors.
  • Logo usage - The guidelines steering the team towards the right and consistent usage of the brand logo.
  • Typography - The specifications for the selection, arrangement, and usage of typeface to maintain consistency in brand communication.
  • Color palette - A pre-established selection of colors that represent a brand, ensuring visual consistency and recognition.
  • Imagery - Brand image, illustration, photos, or graphics, all that convey the brand’s personality, values, and messaging are visual elements.
  • Tone of voice - The literal voice, style, attitude and manner of communication used by a brand to convey its personality and connection with its audience.
  • Messaging - An output of tone of voice, messaging is the strategic content and language of the brand communication to convey key propositions.
  • Visual identity - A brand's overall look and feel, encompassing the logo, visual and design elements.
  • Brand application - The implementation of branded elements across all branded touchpoints and mediums.
  • Usage permission - How to use the branded logo? What are brand colors? These are branded guidelines or restrictions outlining who can use branded material under what circumstances, protecting the brand's integrity and legal rights.
  • Collateral and templates - Pre-designed materials and documents maintain the authenticity of the brand.
  • Brand management protocols - Protocols overseeing the integrity of the brand, including creation, asset management, approval, and evaluation.  

When a brand builds its standards and adheres to them, it strengthens its brand identity, and recognition, and fosters trust with its customers.

Why do brands need brand standards?

Amid the sea of competitors, a cohesive brand identity is what makes it easier for customers to recognize and remember the brand. Brand standards ensure that the use of logos, colors, typography, and imagery remains the same across all touchpoints, reinforcing the brand's identity and values.

In a crowded marketplace, strong brand standards set a brand apart from its competitors by its unique value proposition, personality, and positioning. Brand standards ensure that marketing teams do not lose sight of what’s important at the moment while chasing the long-term goal.

Example: Take Coca-Cola and Pepsi, despite both being the world’s most iconic soda brands, they have kept their identities separate by building different brand identities, marketing strategies, and target audiences.

Customer experience
When brand standards streamline design and bring out a cohesive image of the brand - customers develop a positive image. It helps businesses create a similar experience across all touchpoints - from awareness to post-purchase support. This leads to customers feeling assured and confident in their interactions with the brand, leading to higher satisfaction.

According to a McKinsey report, employees spend 1.8 hours every day—9.3 hours per week, on average—searching and gathering information. A couple of other hours go into streamlining the process, aligning the design and ensuring the brand guidelines are followed.

Pro tip: A digital asset management tool (DAM) can solve all the efficiency-related challenges in a few clicks. It’s a tool that efficiently and securely stores organizes, manages, and shares digital files and assets across teams in organizations of all sizes.

Brands around the globe, big or small have now deployed a DAM system for marketing and brand teams to streamline flows, and manage their branded assets with ease.

Brand equity
The outcome of building a solid brand is brand equity - the intangible value associated with a brand's reputation, customer loyalty, and market position. Brands must strive for strong brand equity because it results in better financial growth and resilience against competition.

How do you create invincible brand standard style guide?

Build your brand identity: Clearly outline your brand’s core values, mission, vision, and target audience, ensuring consistency across all communications. For example, ‘ Our brand identity centres around sustainability, innovation, and empowering young professionals.

Establish visual elements: Most brands park this exercise for later when the team is bigger and they have more resources, but we feel this is an absolute must for the initial run. Pick up your logo, color palette, typography, and imagery guidelines to create a recognisable brand presence.

Pro tip: Once done, store all your creatives in a DAM software to efficiently and securely store, organize, manage, and share digital files and assets.

Build your brand messaging: Establish a distinct tone of voice and messaging that resonates with your brand image and your customers while reflecting your brand’s true personality.

For example, Spotify’s voice is funny, direct, and concise and it reflects so across all the channels.

Source: Bizjournals

Document brand guidelines: We will see below how major brands have documented their brand standards and made them available to the public. The idea is to make a comprehensive style guide document accessible to all stakeholders.

There are two ways to do it - small to medium-sized brands often opt for DAM software to manage their assets, while larger organizations typically choose to develop their systems over time.

Ensure accessibility: Make brand guidelines easily accessible to all stakeholders through a centralized location or digital platform. For instance, you can upload it on an internal server and make it available to all the stakeholders.

Typically, organizations use Dropbox or Google Drive, but both come with their limitations. Again, a DAM system can prove to be highly agile, and easy to work with.

Educate stakeholders: Provide training and resources to educate stakeholders on the importance of adhering to brand guidelines for consistent brand representation. For example, you can conduct brand training sessions for new employees to familiarize them with our brand identity and guidelines.

Powerful examples of brand standards

YouTube’s brand guidelines or as YouTube calls them, brand resources are the epitome of simple, straightforward, and to-the-point brand directions. The guideline touches upon the usage of logos, icons, brand colors and the do’s and don’ts.

If you’re just getting started, this is a great example of a solid brand standard style book that’s basic, minimalistic, and to the point.

Source: Youtube

Dropbox’s brand guide offers clear instructions on utilising the logotype, brandmark, and additional brand assets. It encompasses seven key elements - logo, color, typography, writing, visuals, UI, and motion.

Of note, users can find inspiration by examining the Dropbox logo files when creating their own resources folder.

Source: Dropbox

Probably one of the most comprehensive brand guidelines/ style guides or brand standards you will ever see, Audi outshines in the realm of interface, communication media, corporate sound, motion pictures, and more.

The style guide is packed with examples, and detailed instructions, explained visually to find both the essential and inspiration for creative ideas.

Source: Audi

In their own words, a ‘Brandland’, Zendesk attempts to go beyond just standard systems by outlining realms such as copywriting, filmmaking, animation, sound, photography, and even interior design.

Each section is further broken down into subsections, providing detailed insights into every aspect of the brand.

Notes: If you’ll notice, Zendesk’s brand style guide link is a ‘DAM’ source. Not all brands have the bandwidth or resources to build their own DAM, which is why they deploy DAM software that comes with a full tech stack minus the hustle.

ImageKit helps 2000+ businesses across 80+ countries with their digital assets.

Source: Zendesk


We’ve got two words for this brand standard book - minimal and to the point.  

It has talked about all the basics like primary logos, alternate logos, spacing and colors and makes it convenient for designers and marketers alike to use it.

Source: Discord

Wrapping up
Creating a memorable and recognizable brand begins with establishing robust brand standards. These standards, outlined in brand guidelines or brand style guides serve as essential references and become the holy grail for marketers, designers, product teams, and stakeholders.

As a brand, it's crucial to develop thorough guidelines, meticulously document them, and ensure they are readily accessible to all involved parties.

Imagekit helps hundreds of brands around the globe safeguard their branded assets, store them, and share them with relevant stakeholders. Our agile software eases asset organization, simplifies workflows, and aligns teams.

Curious to take your brand to new heights with world-class DAM software?

Try ImageKit for Free today.
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