Creating a Design and Style Guide


Please find some links and notes from the 2 Regular Guys Podcast. We bring Joe Ortinau of Ortinau Art to the show to share his experience rebranding his small business after an inspirational education session with friend of the show Jay Buselle. Joe talks about how the simple questions and concepts helped him define his purpose, describe the way he interacts with customers, and express his core attitudes toward quality to create a solid foundation for his branding efforts, leading up to the step that far too many start with, logo design. Get personal insight and experience from a decorator going through the process and get great branding and design insights.

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Creating a Design and Style Guide

Erich: I can’t wait to dig in to this topic; I’m a big proponent of style guides; that said it seems you were actually inspired by some education at an event with a good friend of the show; Why don’t you tell us a little about the event that started you on your personal journey with your own style guide and rebranding?

Jay outlined a 6-step process in his Style Guide. 

Aaron: Talk to us about the order of events that you should take if you are looking to re-brand your shop.

  1.     Identify your story, message and values.

Jay has a list of questions that you answer to help you identify this.  The ones that resonated the most with me were what do you love most about your business, what do you stand for and what is the single most important idea that you want customers and community to know?

  1.     Identify your style and mood.

This section has a list of two words options that you number 1 to 10 with the way that your shop identifies with them.  1 being the strongest with the first word and 10 the strongest for the second word. An example would be Simple & Uncomplicated or Complex & Intricate.  Another is Angry & Irate or Happy and Satisfied. These are the two that I had the strongest identity with so I rated a 1 for simple & uncomplicated and then a 10 for happy & satisfied. 

  1.     Create the guidelines for your logo.

Notice that this is not actually the creation of the logo.  That should take place after all of these other topics have been established.  Creating the logo was the last step for me. It was much easier to complete that task too because I had identified everything that needed to be included in the graphic ahead of time.  Here you go through a list of questions again to help identify aspects of your logo such as the colors and typefaces that are in it. There is also a lot of good questions to help you understand more intricate aspects of good logo design such as keeping the graphic visually balanced.  A recommendation I would make here also would be to research the meaning of your colors and type of fonts to make sure they coincide with your style and mood that you have already identified. For me, I choose blues with my first logo design because it is my favorite color so I had to look them up to see the meaning to make sure that these colors would work with the new story and mood.  Ironically blue has the meaning of trust and peace and can suggest loyalty which are basically all of the points that I want to hit with the design and style guide. I answered the question, what do you stand for, from section one as always being honest so that hits the trust note that the blue colors represent. I also feel like the tagline that I came up with “we print shirts that deserve hangers” speaks to the loyalty aspect of the color blue.  One more thing that I want to mention about choosing your colors. Please make sure that you select specific pantone colors. This will ensure that no matter who is printing your logo down the road, the colors will be represented accurately. 

  1.     Create a Theme with the use of Iconography & Symbols

My original logo really didn’t identify at all that we decorate apparel at my shop so the use of an icon in the logo was going to be my main focus to get that point across.  The icon that I selected was a t-shirt because Jay’s moto with logos is that the brand that people choose is typically the one that they can figure out the quickest. I felt that incorporating the t-shirt would help people immediately realize that we print t-shirts. 

  1.     Establish your voice or tone.

This section asks questions to really help you hit home the way that you would like everyone at your shop to interact with customers from every aspect that they might be interacting with them.  It really could end up being a section of your standard operating procedures if you have taken the time to create those. It will help you set guidelines for the timeframe with when you should get back to people via email, how to answer the phone, and what tone of voice and the type of language that should be used. 

  1.     Mistakes to AVOID!

This is just golden advice all around straight from Jay.  The biggest one for me was avoiding listing out products or services on your business cards.  I used to have that list on the back side of my card. Now it is clean and simple and sticks with the style guide. 

Erich: One of the clear messages is that branding is about a great deal more than creating a logo, but the logo is still a big part of the equation; can you tell our listeners a little about the process of creating your own new logo?

I have always been a huge fan of logos that have a hidden or subliminal message in them, or the graphic can be viewed two ways.  Two examples of this that I know of off the top of my head are the FedEx logo and Spartan Golf’s logo. The FedEx logo has a subliminal message in it with an arrow being between the letters E and x.  Obviously, everyone knows that they do shipping but the arrow, that most people don’t even consciously recognize, backs up the idea that they move things from one place to another for you. The second logo, Spartan Golf, is honestly one of my all-time favorite logos that I have seen.  The fact that the graphic can be seen as both a spartan head and a golfer swinging a club is just amazing in my opinion. So, this is the type of identification that I wanted to include in my own logo. I already identified the type of icon that I wanted to be immediately recognizable from step 4 of the process as a t-shirt.  That part was pretty easy given the name of my company, Ortinau Art. Make the opening of the center of the O a t-shirt instead of a circle, boom, done! I wanted to include something else that really drove home the idea of what we do here every day. Thanks to my own studies on my business, I know that 85% of the garments we produce are screen printed.  I thought that I should incorporate another graphic that relates to screen printing. The most common it that I could think of would be a squeegee. So in the logo, if you cover up the left side and center stroke of the A, the O and right side stroke of the A actually resemble a squeegee. 

Aaron: It all comes back to creating the Design and Style guide document for your shop. Tell us about that process.

With my background being in graphic design, I have seen quite a few of company design and style guides in the past.  My recommendation and what I did, was use one of my customer’s guide as a template. Then you just basically change out their information with yours and make it look visually appealing with your own colors.  If you haven’t ever seen a design and style guide, I would probably recommend googling the first large company that you can think of along with the words design and style guide. Many times, they have it posted somewhere on their website.  Easy targets for this would be Facebook or other social media outlets honestly. People are more then welcome to use my guide as their template as well if they would like to.

Before opening the doors at Ortinau Art in July of 2015, Joe was a graphic designer for about 10 years. In those 10 years, Joe has been a graphic designer at a trade show exhibit manufacturer, was the dedicated graphic designer for an entire school district in Charleston, SC, and worked as a graphic designer for a printer that produces primary paper products when before moving to Ohio. The last position was where he was introduced to screen printing for the first time and the connection between his love of design and random t-shirt collection was finally made. Once Joe found his true design passion with decorated apparel, the business took off quickly. After only a few months of owning his first machine (DTG), while printing out of our home at night, and working full time during the day, Joe was able to quit his full-time employment, and focus on building Ortinau Art.

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