Volume 4, Issue 2

Developing Brand Guidelines

Created in Sonia Arellano's ENG 3836 Professional Lives & Literacy Practices

This research uses brand guidelines as an example of writing in the field of technical communication. This is done through both the explicit description of how to develop brand guidelines and in the use of the stated guidelines in the actual creation of the infographic. The CRAP principles of design and color theory were used when making the infographic, as well as consistency of font, sizing, spacing, and other elements of design. This project was created with a few different audiences in mind. As an infographic, it has the overt purpose of informing readers about how to create brand guidelines. However, it also has the covert purpose of showing readers how much thought goes into the presentation of a brand and how marketing tactics are used to entice consumers into parasocial relationships with brands. Additionally, this project serves to demonstrate that technical writing is about creating bland user manuals and terms and conditions pages. It's an exciting, multi-faceted, audience-centered field that has a variety of applications.

Click here to view Infographic

When considering the field of technical communication people often think about user manuals, terms and conditions, and other less-than-interesting documents that tend to be ignored unless absolutely needed. However, this is not all that technical writing consists of. The Society for Technical Communication defines technical communication as any form of communication with one of the three following characteristics:

  • Communicating about technical or specialized topics, such as computer applications, medical procedures, or environmental regulations.
  • Communicating by using technology, such as web pages, help files, or social media sites.
  • Providing instructions regardless of the means or medium, or the technicality of the described task. ("Defining Technical Communication")

The last two aspects of this definition stood out to me the most when researching the technical writing field. As someone with an interest in digital literacies, I was drawn to exploring how communication via social media sites falls under the umbrella of technical communication. However, the instructional aspect drew me in the most. I'm the kind of person who appreciates explicit instructions when given a task that I'm unfamiliar with. While I enjoy creative freedom, I also like to have the less-obvious constraints of the situation well-defined and codified so I can know what is expected of me. With these two characteristics in mind, the aspect of technical writing that appealed to me most was brand guidelines. Specifically, I chose to explore the field of technical writing by doing a case study of two internal brand guides for major brands: Xbox and Snapchat.

In today's world, brands are everywhere, from the eerily specific ads you get when online to viral tweets on your Twitter feed. Many students are even encouraged to brand themselves to better market themselves to employers (Hyder). The audience of the infographic I created as part of this research was two-fold. On the surface, these guidelines are for students looking to develop a brand, whether for themselves, for a club they're a part of, or for a business they're starting. By following the advice laid out in the infographic anyone can put together a professional-looking marketing campaign for the content they're looking to advertise. Additionally, these guidelines also have a more meta-purpose of informing students about the thought and detail that goes into the creation of a brand to remind them that brands are not people. As I alluded to before, it's somewhat startling how pervasive brands are in our lives. Many of us tend to form parasocial relationships with brands, believing we have a strong tie with a brand because of their social media presence (Rheingold; Labrecque 135). With this infographic, I also wanted to call attention to the ways brands tailor their content to their target audiences. Brands put a lot of thought into what they want to convey to their audience, and it is important for users to recognize when they are being marketed to and the tactics brands use.

In the creation of the infographic itself, I mainly drew inspiration from what I had learned from studying the internal brand guidelines from Xbox and Snapchat, along with the CRAP (Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, Proximity) principles of design (Whybrow). While the infographic explicitly states how to develop brand guidelines, I also demonstrated to viewers how one could enact the rules within the text by following my own advice in the creation of the graphic. I took great care to ensure consistency of font, sizing, spacing, and other elements of design. I kept the infographic fairly minimalistic, following the proximity element of the CRAP principles. This minimalism keeps the reader's attention on the information, rather than distracting them with huge blocks of text or unnecessary pictures (Whybrow). Additionally, there are only two colors, baby blue and lavender, that when used in text along with black and white provide contrast with the background, another of the CRAP principles, making the graphic easier to read (Whybrow). Also, these two colors are both associated with soothing, light-hearted emotions (Gremillion). As my purpose was to be informational, I chose calming colors rather than bright, exciting colors to reduce the emotional charge of the content.

In doing this research and creating this infographic, I not only got to learn about the field of technical communication, but I also got to take on the role of a technical writer. In completing this project, I found myself considering the audience of the piece much more frequently than I do in other writing, and I feel this is an aspect of technical communication that writers would benefit from transferring to other types of communication. Understandability is a major aspect of good writing, and it's easy to consider the reader when you're creating concrete instructions for your audience. I hope this infographic conveys not only how to develop brand guidelines but also that technical writing is an exciting and multifaceted career field. It's an important aspect of our lives, and there's much we can learn from this audience-centered field that we can apply to other types of writing.

"Defining Technical Communication." Society for Technical Communication, https://www.stc.org/about-stc/defining-technical-communication/.

Gremillion, Allison S. "How Color Impacts Emotions and Behaviors." 99designs, 99designs, 30 June 2020, https://99designs.com/blog/tips/how-color-impacts-emotions-and-behaviors/.

Hyder, Shama. "7 Things You Can Do to Build an Awesome Personal Brand." Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 23 Aug. 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/shamahyder/2014/08/18/7-things-you-can-do-to-build-an-awesome-personal-brand/?sh=14bd32cb3c3a.

Labrecque, Lauren I. "Fostering Consumer-Brand Relationships in Social Media Environments: The Role of Parasocial Interaction." Journal of Interactive Marketing, vol. 28, no. 2, May 2014, pp. 134-148., https://doi.org/10.1016/j.intmar.2013.12.003.

Rheingold, Howard. Net Smart: How to Thrive Online. MIT Press, 2012, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7ztdvb.

Whybrow, Li. "Using C.R.A.P Web Design for ELearning." ELearning Industry, 12 May 2021, https://elearningindustry.com/using-crap-web-design-for-elearning.

Lindsey Wright is a senior at the University of Central Florida majoring in Writing and Rhetoric and minoring in Linguistics and Political Science. She is a peer tutor in the University Writing Center and an assistant editor for Stylus: A Journal of First-Year Writing. Her work has been previously published in Convergence/Rhetoric and IMPRINT; she also served as an editor for IMPRINT ’s 19th issue. After graduating in Spring 2022, Lindsey plans to attend graduate school for either Linguistics or Rhetoric and Composition. In her free time, she loves to sing, read, and spend time with her dog, Zero.