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  • Writer's pictureBrianna Wall

Three Steps to Unifying Your Brand

Updated: Feb 5, 2022

How brand standards can establish credibility

Do you get a feeling some people don't take your organization seriously because of its outdated look or feel? Unifying your brand establishes your credibility as a legitimate place of business both online and in your community. It’s always a good idea to ensure all of your brand’s materials follow a cohesive set of standards across all platforms. This can be especially difficult if you are not the only one responsible for communicating to your brand’s audience or if you depend on others to market your brand for you.

This post will help you create a set of guidelines that ensure your brand is always represented according to the standards you set.

One of my favorite things to do is to take something old, outdated and boring, and turn it into something fresh and cool. Whether it’s something physical like pamphlets and newsletters or digital like logos and infographics, I love making sure a brand has a cohesive, unifying look across all platforms. One that can stand the test of time. One that attracts a feeling of comfort and confidence in the brand.

I get it though. We’re busy. We’re busy enough trying to take care of the day-to-day tasks…who really has time to reimagine an entire brand? Especially an established brand that’s been a key stakeholder in its community for decades? Good news! You don’t have to start big.

If you don’t have the resources to update your entire brand, I want to encourage you to create some brand standards first, then start with small projects. Implementing brand standards will help ensure anything your brand puts on the web, social media, in print, on t-shirts, etc. has a corresponding, cohesive look. Even if you think your brand’s logo is dated and you don’t have the energy to get buy-in for a rebrand, this is something you can do that doesn’t take a ton of time but will improve the impact your brand has.

Ensuring your brand has a unified look and story across all print and digital platforms also eases consumers’ questions of legitimacy. In the days of spam calls and emails, phishing attempts and attacks for information, users feel more confident in a brand if they are seeing consistent messaging everywhere. From billboards to business cards, leave no stone unturned.

Start with a color palette

This part is easy if you are not beginning with a complete rebrand. Simply open your logo file in Photoshop and use the eye-dropper tool to click on the different colors in your logo. Record the CMYK, RGB and Hex # codes. If your logo has three or more colors, pick the dominant color to use as the base for all of your designs moving forward.

Pro Tip: Make sure it’s a color that balances well with both black and white. Design trends are currently more clean, which means graphics either have a predominantly black or white background, or vice versa. If you’re designing a piece with your branded color as the background, you’ll want to be sure both black and white text are easy to read to allow variability in your graphic. If, for example, your brand is a lighter yellow, white text might be difficult to read. However, you might play around with heavier weighted (or bolder) fonts if you’re looking to offset black text with white in your graphic.

Speaking of fonts...

Pick your fonts

This part might already be done for you. Most logos include a font of some kind — the tricky part might be identifying what exactly yours is. If you already know what font your logo is (and even your tagline if it’s a different font), be sure you have it downloaded to your computer along with all variances in weight and style (bold, italicized, thin, etc.). If the font is limiting in its use (i.e. it doesn’t have lowercase letters or symbols you need), be sure to select a secondary font you can use — preferably one that complements your primary one. If the font in your logo is sans serif, select a secondary font that is serif.

Personally, I like to use font suites that have a compressed version, such as Avenir. This comes in especially handy when designing for different social media platforms. For those that default to a landscape preview like Twitter or Facebook, I use wider styles that take up more visual space. But for Instagram stories, for example, it’s sometimes easier to use the condensed font version so you don’t have to worry about hyphenated or split words or phrases.

Hint: Adobe subscribers have access to thousands of fonts. If you must download a font from the web that is free, be sure to purchase the commercial license to avoid legal woes in the future.

Update your materials

Now, the time-consuming part.

The first piece you’ll want to create is your Brand Guide. This is helpful if ad designers or contractors must use your logo or design materials for you. It tells them exactly how and in what circumstances certain logos and colors may and may not be used.

Check out my free Sample Brand Guide you can use as a model from which to create yours. Don’t have the time to create your own Brand Guide? You can purchase this InDesign template or I am happy to design it for you! Check out my solutions and look for Custom Designed Brand Kit, which includes the basic materials your business needs.

Once you have your Brand Guide and standards established, it’s time to look at all your other materials that are out in the world. This could be a pretty lengthy list or it might be pretty short. Either way, grab this free downloadable task list and start listing them. Here are some examples:

  • Social media profile pics

  • Social media cover pics

  • Letterhead and other stationary

  • Website color palette

  • Email color palette

  • Email signature

  • Social media posts

  • Newsletters

  • Bill inserts

  • Sign-up forms

  • Signage

  • Car magnets or wraps

  • Apparel

  • Name tags or badges

  • Pocket folders

  • Brochures and pamphlets

  • Internal communications

If you work at an organization where multiple teams or people create content for your brand, be sure to share your Brand Guide with them.

The goal is for all messaging and identifying factors to be consistent — that is difficult to do when materials are coming from several different places.

Better yet, offer to create or re-create all materials your audience might see. Chances are the person responsible for creating those letters or emails will gladly give you the task.

If you need inspiration, check out famous brands like Coca-Cola or Starbucks. They’ve operated according to their brand standards for decades, and our brains automatically identify their brands as soon as we see that red or green, respectively.

I hope you’ve found some helpful tips here that inspire you to take a few steps toward unifying your brand. Leave any other ideas in the comments below and check out Episode 2 of the Creative Cues Podcast for my chat with marketing guru, Chris Fox, who shares some free resources for our brands!

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