Design manuals or guides are valuable for increasing design team output and assuring a consistent brand identity. A good design manual is a work of art in its own right, and has practical use in typical design work. Also, a design guideline should have elements of design, message, and even code together in a way that’s effortless, functional, and easy to apprehend.
The design manual that you can get from a professional design agency nowadays can include many different elements based on your most important user touchpoints. These manuals help you maintain your visual identity and create a unified brand profile across different channels.
In this article we give a quick overview of the foundations of layout design (which needs to be properly set up in order to have a functional design manual) and give you a list of 4 things we believe your design manual should include.
So, let´s start with the layout design. If you want a designer to make a design manual for your brand identity, then it is crucial that there are certain unifying elements that are used through out your channels.
Here are some of the layout design principles to consider while designing your project.
Arrangement of the different design elements concerning one another falls under alignment. For instance, while using the text, designers can select between edged alignment (aligns text along the left or right margins) or centered alignment (aligns text along the center line of the design).
2. Visual Hierarchy
Pleasing design visually contains a hierarchy of details that have the highest priority on the most crucial point in the image. A visual hierarchy can successively direct your viewers via the conscious view of your image. You can use dimensions, color, contrast, etc., to emphasize the order of crucial elements within your design.
Contrast and alignment walk side by side in harmony to make the design look distinctive and eye-catching. Coupling contrasting components such as colors or typographic details helps combine various styles to create an original, unique design layout.
Proximity defines how close or far the layout components should be from one another. This way, it helps the designer make links between various visual design components. For instance, designers can select a grid to create layout designs to arrange the many visual components of an image.
Now that we got the basics down, here is our list of what your design manual should contain:
1. Brand Identity
Your design must showcase your brand identity in a visually attractive manner.
This includes using the same color palette, shapes and logo, as well as using filters on images and other visual effect and animations on your entire website and across your main channels.
You can easily find real-case examples on the web that demonstrate how the biggest companies use their brand identity to get their message out and improve their visibility.
Your brand identity is the most important part of the design manual and following it will help you achieve a high level of recognizability among your user base.
2. Visual Guidelines
Whatever you use, from color scheme to typography style and design elements, add clear guidelines for them. For instance, what is this design for, and why does it function in this way? What is the meaning behind it?
Clarifying this allows users to utilize the design style more properly and unfailingly across platforms. In website design, it is better to add components that may be distinct from print branding replicas and how they will link. Like, many designers choose from a range of possibilities for separate typography palettes that mimic printed branding to maximize the use of Google Fonts.
Also, make sure to add in your guidelines for typefaces that are substitutions if designing an unusual layout. And do not forget to add design guidelines for specific components like H1 tags (always 88 points), thumbnail images (generally 200 by 200 px), etc. However, don´t write every single detail that is not necessary. Show this guideline to your team and ask for feedback; is there anything that needs to be added?
3. Design and Element Styles
It is crucial to have guides for all potential uses. Do you only have an online presence or also a brick and mortar store that needs printed materials? Do you need brochures or letterheads ? All of these need to be thought through and your logos, color palettes, and other elements need to be adjusted accordingly.
And if you want to be accessible to your users, make a design and element style guide in an online space so that users can quickly copy and paste components.
4. Code Snippets
The next thing you should include in your design guide is code snippets used in the design, like buttons, small animations, slider effects, etc. These codes remove the hard work of manually entering specifications with every new element and add valuable time to your daily workflow.
It works for almost everything from blog posts to more elaborate UI effects. Add a code snippet for images that users can copy & paste for the size and crop. If you are not providing the entire code snippets library, remember to add some base details like where to use H1 through H4 on pages within the design and how to style buttons and font.