Creating branding guidelines for a business unit

Table of Contents

Case Study Overview

The client in a business unit. This project was about consolidating the team’s branding and aligning it with a slightly new image.

There were a couple problems here:

  • The ‘slightly new image’ had not been defined - though a few team members had their own ideas of what this meant
  • The client was happy to have me take complete control over the process, provided a number of team members gave their informal blessings

Target audience

The target audience was a digital strategy team that consisted of a variety of people…

  • Those who were experienced in branding/marketing; those who had limited experience in branding, but felt strongly about visual aesthetics; and those who were a lot less concerned.
  • A mixture of people who had professional visual design experience (so likely to have stronger opinions), and those who didn’t

Because of the mixture of design fluency, there was inconsistency in the material being used. Some were professionally designed, some were not.

Objectives and constraints

I had a couple of objectives to keep in mind, I had to ensure

  1. The branding properly represented the entire team’s vision; and
  2. The new brand was in line with the greater parent brand

With all this in mind, I structured the process with a couple of goals in mind:

  1. The branding needed to be in line with the vision of the team,
  2. And also be in line with the actual team, for the team to feel like the branding really represented them.
  3. And lastly to ensure that the right documentation and guides were made to define a level of expectations between the design experts in the team, and guide the ones who had no visual design experience.


A high level overview of the process went like this (following the Double Diamond): Discover

Refining the messaging

  • Refine vision/mission
  • Refine the purpose/services Understand the team needs
  • Moodboards of brands people admired
  • How team members felt about the team


  • Synthesise findings
  • Better understanding our constraints Develop
  • Feedback on messaging & applications
  • Refine
  • Feedback on brand guidelines
  • Documentation
  • Feedback on instructions and documentation Deliver
  • Present
  • Roll out


Refine the messaging Refining the vision statement and service offerings was an imperative, as it’s the goal that all activities by the team should work towards. These were the few components of the exercise that had already been defined, but needed some refining.

This part was just documenting things like ideal type of clients and project work to ensure we had the foundations of the team set.

Understand the team needs

Mood boards of brands people admired A mood board template was sent to all team members to construct a visual representation of brands they look up to. The idea behind this exercise was to better understand what stands out in brands to the team members, but also to see what was most important to them.

How team members felt about the team The visual mood boards were supplemented by a questionnaire to dive deeper into the background of the board, and give more opportunities to explain what they wanted to see more of.

The questions were:

  • What are 3 words you would associate with brands in your mood board that would you like our clients to associate with us?​
  • What does an ideal workday look like?​
  • What is something that makes working in this team enjoyable to you?​
  • Give an example of something that makes working in this team challenging (can be positive challenging or negative).​
  • What would you be proud to share with friends about working in this team?​


Synthesise findings I put together all the inputs from the team to define the overarching themes of our brand. This included both the visual/emotional elements from the mood boards, and the brand personality from the questionnaire.

Better understanding our constraints Going back to one of the constraints, I had to make sure we were still in line with the parent brand - so I had to research and learn all the existing guidelines to see what we could supplement, and what was not negotiable.


Taking all that I’ve learned at this point, I defined an approach to the expected outcomes.

  • The outputs expected would be first and foremost, would be guidelines to consolidate our brand,
  • Documentation to provide instructions and expectations of how they would be used
  • The ‘branding’ that would be created would not be a separate brand, but rather within the constraints provided by the parent brand, provide
  • Supplementary material that was not available by the parent brand, but needed by the team e.g. standard selection images to use
  • A slight twist on the brand, again within the constraints provided

There were many elements that we could use verbatim, and could still fit into the ‘refreshed’ brand identity that was being aimed for. And this was ideal, as the purpose of the exercise was not to recreate assets that already existed.

Challenge streams I expected the following outputs: Branding

  • The branding guidelines that explained the messaging, colours, tone and purpose of the team
  • Readings and links that would supplement the team-specific branding Assets
  • The actual assets that could be used, for example: PowerPoint templates, logo files, icon files, images, etc. Documentation
  • On how to use each asset
  • But also an overarching guide that went step-by-step, guiding the user through the assets, readings and tasks to align themselves to the ‘new brand’


In the Develop stage, I went through 3 feedback loops. The idea was that since branding is anchored in such visual material, I had to be even more agile in my approach. Ensuring that I am getting feedback on the assets, but also asking for input on new items each time.

First I got feedback and refined the messaging and application of the brand. This was reviewing the synthesised overarching themes, to see whether the interpretation was in line with the expectations of the team members.

I went through some expected templates I would create, and got the first-pass feedback on any other material that should be added.

At the second stage, I had an almost complete branding guideline slide deck and got feedback from a larger portion of the team. This time, the feedback looked at the full picture of the branding, how it would fit into the ways of working and explaining how the main objective was to supplement the existing branding, rather than recreating it.

The feedback consisted of more example templates needed, and the scenarios that called for them.

In this last stage, I created the documentation for each asset, and the overarching guide to implementing the branding. I got feedback about wording, detail and instructions written.


After a final pass by the main clientele, the Deliver stage was about:

  • Notifying the team of the branding and why it was being refreshed
  • Directing them to what actions needed to be taken
  • Following up with an implementation plan

As the team was time poor, I made sure to strongly focus on clearly defining actions needed and providing as much self-serve material as possible.


I was able to create a number of assets for the client’s execution of the branding refresh. Going back to our key challenges:

  • Consolidating the brand
  • Aligning the brand to the slightly new image

The guidelines provide the foundation and structure for consolidation, and through the interviews and research, I was also able to align the new brand to both the ‘new image’ and the parent brand.