A style guide is an essential tool for unifying your church's website, social media presence, and email campaigns. It establishes all the small pieces of your church brand. It not only helps you understand everything your have, it informs all future web projects. You can even use it for design elements in your physical spaces!
What is a Style Guide
Style guides are a tool that codifies the styles of all elements of your church's brand into one document. It is basically a component library, but focused on design rather than usage. They cover the colors, fonts, spacing, and image styles used in various design elements. Style guides can live as a single document with a hierarchical listing of items. Some companies turned their style guide into a wiki, or a series of connected website pages. Choose whatever format makes sense for your church, because you will need to maintain it.
How You Make a Style Guide
The first way is impractical for most churches. That is to perform an inventory of all design elements on your digital platforms. This includes all the pages on your website, as well as your social media outlets. Take stock of your physical assets as well. Examine your interior and exterior signs, logos, and letterheads. The second method is to inventory the elements present on each project. If you are updating one page, capture the styles for just that page. Then build up your guide with each successive project.
Regardless of your method, you must capture all the characteristics of each element. Make special note of inconsistencies and take steps to remove them. As you gather your items, you will see how certain things can be grouped for better organization. Some common groupings are:
- Imagery such as logos, icons, and photography
- Text elements like headers, sub-headers, paragraph text and links
- Form elements including text fields & areas, radio buttons, and checkboxes
- Calls to action which are primarily links, images, and buttons
For each grouping, describe characteristics mentioned before: fonts, colors, sizes, spacing, and stylizations. For instance, you may want to use photographs on your staff listing. As I mentioned in my staff listing article, you will want to re-use the same elements for each list item. What background is in the photo? What is the margin around their photo? What size font for the header? What symbol is used at the start of the bullet list? Describe in detail the answers to all these questions in your style guide.
How Can I Use a Style Guide?
A style guide helps you unify your church's brand. This means all your digital properties have the same look and feel. Users are not confused or left wondering if they are still reading about the same church. As mentioned before, this applies to your physical properties as well. Interior and exterior signs, letterheads, and even your paint color can and should coincide with your church's brand. A style guide will take the guess work out of your future projects. You already have the styles defined, so it is just a matter of how to implement them. Do you want to connect with your youth via Instagram? You already have the images needed to create your avatar. Do you need to replace the banner you display outside for vacation Bible school? You have all the fonts, colors, and logos required to design it.
Why You Should Share It
Share your style guide. This may seem like a document for internal use only. So why do this? First, you can serve as a model for helping other churches design their style guide. Showcase your hard work and help others get their designs in alignment. Second, if you make it available to everyone, anyone at your church can access it. This allows staff and volunteers to work whenever and wherever they are. Remember, you are not in competition with other churches. We are in competition with the world. Let the world see how organized you are, and let them be afraid!
If you do not have a style guide for your church, consider starting one. Remember that this is not a one and done project. This is an ongoing project that requires regular updates. You can take a large chunk of time to create your style guide. This is actually a good idea if you are at the beginning or end of a major update. It will either set the tone for your upcoming project, or give you plenty of small follow-on updates to make. Updating your physical items may be more problematic, as that will cost more money. Just keep your style guide in mind next time you order more branded supplies. Lastly, share your work so other churches benefit. In no time you will see the branding message of your church shine through everything you do!