How to build a branding board
What defines the brands you love? Any given brand is defined not simply by its logo, products, or general design aesthetic, but by a combination of all three, plus many other differentiating factors. Together, every factor works together to create a brand experience and brand identity.
Designers, copywriters, and other creatives do the legwork of building the individual assets that make up a brand, but someone needs to unite them and steer the greater vision. That person usually has a title like Director of Brand or Brand Manager. They steer the ship. Ask one of those brand strategists how they ensure their team produces consistently aligned work and one of the first things they’ll mention is their branding board.
What is a branding board?
A branding board, or simply brand board, is the core component of a set of brand guidelines. It’s a brief, easy-to-understand document that defines all the visual elements of a given brand. It should include the main logo, specific colors, specific fonts, and every other key design element related to the brand, plus crucial variations like alternate logos. A branding board is a brand’s Rosetta Stone — a single source of truth for internal and external collaborators designing brand assets and marketing materials. It’s a one-page visual style guide.
Branding board vs. mood board
A branding board is not a mood board. The first is a brief document or collection of files containing internal design information; the latter is a compilation of external information. If you’re making a branding board from scratch, you’ll probably make a mood board first. A mood board is just a collection of inspirational images, writings, fonts, documents — any elements created by other people that you admire and want to somehow emulate or use as inspiration when creating original content.
Designers and strategists frequently create mood boards before beginning any given project, whether it’s a branding board, an entire marketing campaign, or a new logo. Just remember that “branding board” equals original content and “mood board” equals other people’s content.
What goes on a brand board
Different brands will need to have slightly different items on their individual branding boards, but everyone will have a few specific items. Below is a list of some of those items, meant to be a brief guide for anyone building or revamping a brand board.
This is very important! Every brand needs a great, recognizable logo. This should be at the top of your branding board. If you haven’t yet created one, and lack graphic design skills or connections to good graphic designers, just hire a freelance graphic designer who specializes in logo design.
Your primary logo likely won’t be appropriate for every purpose. Let’s say you need a profile picture for a specific social media profile. The template for these tends to be a small circle — if your logo includes your whole brand name, which is probably more than a few characters long, it won’t make sense as a profile picture. That’s why you need a submark.
A submark is just an alternative to your main logo. It’s more compact, or a lighter color — something that retains the key graphic elements of your primary logo but with a smaller footprint. These are usually small and circular, like a little stamp for your brand. If your brand creates original content that you need to protect, you might use the submark as a watermark on that content so people can’t copy it without giving you credit.
Another logo variation you’ll want is a favicon. That’s the little graphic next to the webpage title on a browser tab. The one you should be seeing for this page is a bright “A” on a darker background.
Typography and brand fonts
Maybe you have the budget to hire a type designer to create a custom typeface or two for your brand. Awesome! Even if not, you absolutely need to pick a few typefaces to use in graphics, on your website, on official documents, etc. It’s simply another part of defining a consistent brand identity — maybe your brand is represented better by sans serif fonts than serif fonts. The latter genre is generally thought of as less clean and modern; it’s not as popular among current brands. Make the decision and put it on your branding board!
Unsure on the difference between fonts and typefaces? The typeface is the parent, like Helvetica or Times New Roman. A font is the specific version of a typeface, like Helvetica Regular 9 point — font is about size, format, weight, etc.
The last crucial piece on every branding board is a color palette. You should have primary brand colors (likely represented in your logo) but also a variety of other colors and shades for different purposes.
You’ll want to have both the actual colors themselves as well as the relevant numerical color codes. RGB and hex codes are the numbers used to display colors on screens; PMS and CMYK codes are the numbers used to select colors for printing. These numbers tell computers exactly what color you’re using and help designers stay consistent.
How to create a brand board
So you know what needs to go on a brand board, but maybe you’re unsure where to start on actually creating one. If you need some initial inspiration, check out Air’s Brand Guidelines Guide. The Air team has also generously shared a number of Notion templates, including a few around brand.
New brands without much content creation or design needs should start small. Pick a very tight selection of all the different branding board needs (Logos, colors, typefaces) and use creation tools like Canva or Adobe Photoshop to make a brief, one-page document. If you don’t have or can’t afford Photoshop, Canva is the tool to use, since it’s free. It’s got straightforward creation and editing capabilities; compiling a single-page document with all your crucial brand elements should be very easy.
If you really don’t know where to start, just google “free brand board template” (or use our handy Air board template) and you’ll find a wide selection; pick one that resonates with you.
Making your first branding board shouldn’t be too hard. Figuring out your brand design and visual identity poses a challenge of its own, but compiling your finalized branding elements into a single document is easy. It only starts to get challenging once you need to define different guidelines for different types of content and platforms.
Using Air to manage branding boards
Air was built to make work easier for creatives, marketers, and brand managers alike. Anyone who has a hand in the creation and distribution of marketing materials, from social media graphics to business cards, can optimize their workflow using Air. Digital asset management is of crucial importance to any modern brand with a content creation process. It’s hard to stay organized without the right tools!
Remember that the reason you need a branding board is to keep everyone involved in building and distributing brand assets and content on the same page. Just like a branding board is a single source of truth for brand design, Air provides a single source of truth for your entire brand.
Air’s core features include cloud storage, feedback tools, flexible organizational structures, and smart search — all in your browser. So let’s say you’ve built your first branding board and want to put it in an easily accessible place so anyone who needs to reference it can do so without you having to email it to them.
Create a board within Air (incidentally, Air folders are called boards) and upload your branding board. You can then set permissions on that board — is it fully public or is it private? Can people with the share link only view, can they comment, can they upload, can they download? Permissions are fully customizable. You’ll probably want to password-protect that folder and set it to “View only” so only the people who you actually need to view your brand board have access.
Once your business needs grow and you need to create separate branding boards for, say, physical advertisements, website design, and social media graphics, you can easily do so. There’s no limit to the amount of organizational boards you can create in Air.
For example: one master branding board folder that includes sub-boards like “Web design.” In that sub-board, you should place both the specific branding board as well as any of the actual assets within it — logo .png files, font files, every actual asset a designer might need to do their job.
The way you create your file structure in Air is fully up to you. Custom fields, tags, and views allow you to alter your workspace to best fit your specific workflow. Remember that since you can set share permissions on the individual asset or board level, you can easily create one master branding board folder to give all your internal and external collaborators easy access to the files they need to do their work.
Air is the best way to manage your brand’s assets and maintain a consistent and rewarding brand experience. Sign up for free today to give it a try!