Style Guide Series — Step 1: Inspiration and Examples

It’s been three years since The Daily Orange, the independent student-run newspaper of Syracuse University, underwent its last redesign. Spearheaded by a former D.O. Presentation Director Lizzie Hart, the redesign aimed to give the paper a more modern look while at the same time improving specific sections of the paper.

I was a freshman design editor when The D.O. was undergoing this redesign process. I got a firsthand look at what it was like to debate specific typefaces, analyze grids and think critically about content rather than simply go with what looks good.

Three years later, I’m a senior and have just finished my semester as the paper’s Presentation Director. I’m now working on creating The D.O.’s long overdue official style guide: a complete set of rules regarding to the paper’s visual identity, based on the changes made to the redesign three years ago. This includes color swatches, typefaces, headline sizes and weights, photo layout rules and more. Almost like a design bible, you could say.

A look at front page, feature and sports designs of The Daily Orange, post-redesign

Now you might be thinking: What’s the use of creating a style guide? The first thing to remember is that newspapers are more than a publication: they are also a brand. It’s important for a brand to remain memorable and consistent over the years, especially for a college publication where turnover can happen quickly from semester to semester.

My goal is that now and in the future, when D.O. designers are posed with a question or a confusing situation, they can turn to the style guide and find the answers that they are looking for. For the most part, we design with a day-to-day mindset. That means when we are confronted with a similar problem or situation in the future, we forget how it was done in past issues. I’m hoping that a singular style guide can combat that problem and be the main design reference for the paper.

This past summer, I enlisted the help of two former senior design editors — one is now the paper’s current Presentation Director and the other now works on the digital side — to give the style guide project a jump start. We decided that our first step was to search for good examples of style guides from other companies and brands and take inspiration from what they did well.

Here’s a little bit of what we found, and why we think they work.

NASA
Wow. This might as well be the mother of all style guides and brand books. NASA’s clean and sleek look translates to its organization’s identity very well, and the use of thin lines ensures that the illustrations, photos and logos are not overpowered and speak for themselves. This really appealed to me because it’s easy to read and aesthetically pleasing to look at. It also feels very modern, so I’m inspired to make sure that The D.O.’s Style Guide has a tone that matches all its different platforms.

University College London
The UCL visual identity brand book is thoroughly engaging, while at the same time informative. It utilizes visual elements and diagrams in a very smart and efficient way, and its sections, organized by color, are also a great way to organize the brand book. This made me think about the importance of organization and structure for our style guide and how we should be breaking up our content.

Associated Press
What’s great about this example is that, like The D.O., the Associated Press is a media organization. In these brand guidelines, AP lays out exactly how its different platforms should look, including its website and mobile app. Personally, I loved the section at the very beginning that talked about AP’s strategy and its identity. Not only is it a good way to introduce the brand to people who are not familiar with it, but it also makes sure that those who are familiar with the brand truly understand its identity.

Other brand books and style guides we looked at:

McDonald’s
UNICEF
Skype
US Airways
T-Mobile


Follow along with Clare as she creates The D.O.’s style guide with monthly updates.

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