13 magically meticulous design style guides

This is heading directly into geek territory. But we are self-confessed geeks, particularly when it comes to logo design and typography. And that leads us to the meticulously regulated world of brand style manuals...

A style manual, or style guide, is a set of standards for the design of documents, signage, and any other form of other brand identifier. The reason for their existence is to ensure complete uniformity in style and formatting wherever the brand is used.

We've gathered 13 of the best to inspire you when you create your own brand style guide...

01. Urban Outfitters

Urban Outfitters changes its logo often but has strict rules about its display

The average branch might look as though a bunch of squatters decided to hold a jumble sale in a derelict factory, but hipster bazaar Urban Outfitters takes its visual identity very seriously, as a quick flick through its brandbook will reveal.

The 42-page guide covers everything from Urban Outfitters' history and philosophy through to logo usage, typography, photography methodology and guidelines on the tone of voice to be used in communications.

02. I Love New York

We're sure Milton Glaser approves of these cute treatments

Milton Glaser's I Love New York logo is a wonderfully simple and iconic piece of design, so you might not expect there to be a 50-page set of brand guidelines attached to it. However there's more to I Love New York than Milton Glaser's logo; that's just the most memorable aspect of a campaign launched in 1977 and refreshed in 2008. 

The scrupulously detailed brand guidelines cover all the bases for a campaign that represents the whole state of New York and not just New York City; there's a mission statement and brand pyramid, consistency and typography guidelines, plus a whole load of thematic logo treatments and logo usage guidelines to follow.

03. NASA 

style guides

This beautiful reissue is available to buy now

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Graphics Standards Manual was created by Danne & Blackburn in 1974 when NASA changed from its original crest-based logo to the 'worm' logotype that we are now familar with.

The manual has recently been revived thanks to a Kickstarter campaign to fund its reissue. Jesse Reed and Hamish Smyth's glorious new 220-page version of the case-bound NASA document comes with 'static shielding' packaging and can be purchased over at standardsmanual.com.

04. British Rail 

The British Rail style guide dates back to the 1960s

Certain members of the Creative Bloq team have spent hours poring over the British Rail corporate identity manual (okay, it's me) and it is easy to see why. Epic levels of obsessive behaviour abound in the guide, which dates back to 1965, and some of the pictograms are a delight. Want to own your own copy? You're in luck; after a successful Kickstarter campaign, designer Wallace Henning has created a high-specification recreation of the original manual that you can order now; find out more here.

05. Channel 4 

The Channel 4 style guide is simple, clean and uncluttered for ease of use

Channel 4's comprehensive style guide leaves no room for confusion on how its brand is used. The guide is 46 pages long, each of which is clean and clear, stating a single guideline per page, often accompanied by a graphic for visual reference.

06. Skype 

The Skype style guide lets illustration do all the talking

The Skype style guide is brilliant for many reasons - its pages of cool illustrations being one of them. The communication network hasn't filled its guide with pages of industry jargon, it simply employs easy-to-understand explanations and graphics to get its point across.

07. Apple 

The Apple style guide is made up of 48 pages detailing exactly how the company's branding is to be used

One of the biggest companies in the world, Apple has a comprehensive style guide detailing how its branding is to be used. Clean, clear and concise, this 48-page guide explains exactly how to use Apple assets - even where to apply stickers to your Smart car.

08. Adobe 

Adobe's style guide goes into great detail about how you can use the branding, with some strict rules

Adobe is one of the design industry's strongest brands, and protecting that cast-iron integrity is this style document. So beware - do not use the red tag logo, it is for Adobe use only. (We do love it when you're forceful, Adobe!)

09. New York City Transit Authority 

The images of the New York City underground standards manual are a frustrating joy

We love this collection of photos of the New York City Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual, designed by Massimo Vignelli of Unimark International, which feature a font that looks very much like Helvetica and some great pictograms. 

10. Barbican 

The Barbican has ultra-specific instructions for the use of its circle logo

The Barbican theatre's identity "is not just a logo. It is a design scheme composed of a number of core elements that come together to create a distinctive look and feel that makes the Barbican brand instantly recognisable". Which is why this guide is so important.

Having said that, the Barbican allows a degree of creative flexibility for designers tasked with using its identity, and takes you through exactly how to achieve that. Which is nice.

11. Firefox 

The Mozilla Foundation's Firefox style guide will keep your fox facing the right way

Mozilla has this handy description of an erroneously utilised Firefox logo: "Think of these as the equivalent of wearing your shoes on the wrong feet: they’re still shoes, they’re basically where they’re supposed to be, but it just feels wrong." This style guide will ensure you know your left from your right.

12. Macmillan 

Macmillan's document focuses on the charity's brand values as well as style

Cancer charity Macmillan's 67-page document is comprehensive, containing identity design rules for everything from signage to infographics, plus how to use the brand's familiar green colours and which photos are best used as the image silhouettes you'll find in the charity's marketing material.

13. Boy Scouts of America 

No surprise that the Boy Scouts of America style document has strict guidelines for badge design

Dib dib dib! The quickest way to achieve your logo design badge is to follow the Boy Scouts of America's mildly militaristic manual. Just don't think of writing the scouts' tagline "Prepared. For. Life." without those all-important full-stops...

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