Points for Style (Guides)

I am an absolute geek for style guides. I own more than one copy of the Chicago Manual of Style, subscribe to the AP Stylebook online, and enjoy helping companies create and maintain their own style guides (AKA brand style guides or design system manuals).

Photo by Marcus Ganahl on Unsplash

I don’t know if it’s because I like rules, or because I like telling other people what to do, but creating style guides is something I enjoy. I helped create a brand style guide for Pocket Nurse when I was there, and in my current role, I have helped two major clients create design system manuals. (A design system manual, or DSM, is a guide that includes design guidelines, usually for digital products.)

Why Have a Style Guide?

Style guides are important because they are a set of standards for writing, brand style, and design. They prevent rework because they answer questions such as, “What colors do we use for our logo?” “What is our button style?” and “Do we use serial commas?” The creation and use of style guides gives organizations the following advantages:

  • Consistency for users across an experience or product
  • Definition of brand voice, tone, and design
  • One voice across all content types
  • Credibility and reliability
  • Common terminology to use across departments (“one source of truth”)

A brand style guide or design system is used by many departments in an organization, not just people responsible for creating copy. Designers, developers, the marketing team, product managers, content specialists, and even the legal department can use a style guide to bring consistency to their customers.

Brands become recognizable through repetition, and this familiarity provides a sense of security and reliability. When users see the same logo, colors, typefaces, images, and language, they get comfortable. Customers have positive experiences with brands they trust.

If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to a brand.

– Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks

Another thing to keep in mind regarding these kinds of guides is that they are living documents. A brand style evolves with trends in industries.

  • Style guides reflect current issues of accessibility and inclusive language
  • Combining style guides and design manuals simplifies workflows
  • Brand-specific microcopy added to style guides enhances brand voice

While AI tools can generate a base for style guides, copy editors and content designers should be used to build on that base.

I was on a team that created a style guide that would be used to update a web application for an organization. The goal of the application was to take employees through its processes and procedures. The guide in this case was especially important because the application had many authors from across the global community.

Does your organization have a style guide or design system manual? What’s your favorite style guide?

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