School brand guidelines: Why every private school needs them

by | Dec 14, 2022

Everything you need to know about school brand guidelines

Brand guidelines for consistency. It’s how the world’s most recognizable companies do business. McDonald’s golden arches, Nike’s swish, and Tiffany’s teal color box are perfect examples of mega brands using consistent brand visuals to trigger our memories and emotions. Is it random? Not a chance. Strong branding is definitely strategic, well-designed, and fiercely guarded. It is this protective component we’ll expand on in this blog. We’ll explain why a private school should have clearly defined school brand guidelines, what’s included in them, and how these help your school’s community be consistent in its branding and marketing.

What are school brand guidelines, and why are they needed?

School brand guidelines are a set of rules and standards that a school uses to guide and maintain consistency when marketing. They define how various elements such as logo(s), colors, fonts, photos, words, and phrases are to be used (and not used) in marketing materials.

Without clearly defined rules for your school brand, your staff and vendors will use their creative ideas without consistency. Their intentions are good, but unfortunately, the consequences are not. That next school t-shirt, social post, music performance program, and fundraising event signage will all look a bit different, and as a result, your school brand will begin to lose immediate recognizability.

This is the best-case scenario. In the worst-case scenario, a set of marketing materials which aren’t following any established set of guidelines could potentially damage the image and reputation of your school. This is why a clear set of school brand guidelines is so critical.

Who will use the school brand guidelines?

Internally, the marketing staff, athletic program directors, coaches, and teachers will use your school’s brand guidelines. Externally, it will be any creative agency, freelancer, printer, digital marketer, writer, photographer, videographer, and promotional products company working for your school. Basically, anyone producing your school’s marketing materials will need your brand guidelines.

How do you create school brand standards?

If you have worked with a boutique creative team that is experienced in creating school brand guidelines, then hire them to create yours. They already know your brand and have likely followed (although perhaps not perfectly) a few consistent rules since day one.

If you’ve only worked with a digital agency, printer, or freelance graphic designer, know they are likely to have limited knowledge about creating school brand guidelines. It will be well worth your time and money to hire an experienced branding team. Contact us if you need help creating your school brand guidelines.

However, if you have absolutely no budget for this endeavor, you should at least capture some rules on paper. A clearly organized document or slide show could document your school’s vision, mission, and some do’s and don’ts for visual elements such as logos and fonts. And later, if you’re able to work with an experienced branding team, you’ll have a nice head start.

What is normally included in school brand guidelines for marketing materials? 

Vision statement:
A vision statement is a declaration of your school’s deepest, most heartfelt ambitions. When clearly expressed, it unites teachers, parents, and students under a common set of goals.

Mission statement:
The mission statement declares the reason and purpose for which your school exists. While the vision statement looks to the future, the mission statement clarifies what is in place in the present.

Brand positioning:
Brand positioning defines the space your school fills in the marketplace and how it’s uniquely qualified to meet the needs of its demographic.

The logo will be the most used element in your school’s brand system. Large private schools may also have multiple logos as part of their visual brand, covering everything from its various athletic programs to different academic departments.

Logo usage:
This portion of your brand guidelines states specific rules for using the school’s logo(s).  Among other specifications, logo usage will address the allowable scale, rotation, color scheme(s), and placement of the image in a layout.

Do’s and don’ts:
Do’s and don’ts are not exclusive to logo usage. A strong school branding guideline will outline which words, phrases, color combinations, and other elements always need to be included or avoided at all costs in marketing materials.

Color pallets:
School colors are important for consistency. Every school brand should have a designated set of colors and a combination of colors. Individual colors should also be defined as primary or supporting.

Corporate typefaces:
This set of rules defines approved fonts, styles, and definitions to be used in titles and body copy. These rules should also address web and print mediums individually since not all fonts are equally available in both.

Style and colors for icons can vary significantly from brand to brand and help establish a personality for your school brand. If your school uses icons, consistency will be key.

Image usage:
Images are an important visual to manage closely for a school. Colors, styles, and how the subject matter is captured creates a visual communication that is often more powerful than words.

Tone, voice, and style:
How messages are stated is equally (if not more) important than what they state. The tone, voice, and style of your marketing creates a personality for your school. This shouldn’t be left to chance.

Social media and marketing:
Include examples of design for social media content and all other marketing materials. The goal is for vendors to have guidelines that are clear and simple to follow.

Sponsors will often require school logos to be within a particular proximity to their logo. When multiple logos are placed together, the rules for scale, layout, and other details should be defined.

Athletics brand guidelines:
Traditionally there’s a difference in tone between the athletics department’s marketing and the general school’s marketing. Therefore, specific brand guidelines for the athletics department are often needed.

Graphical usage examples: 
Graphical elements include websites, emails, presentation decks, ads, stationery packages, apparel, uniforms, social posts, and signage. A school may need to create templates of these elements to define their look and feel.

Your school’s Ten Commandments

This title is not far from the truth. Your school’s branding guidelines should be treated with respect and care and must be enforced across all marketing. Only then can your school’s brand be fully established and brand consistency achieved.

Over time your school’s brand guidelines may need to evolve. Be careful. Unless you are re-branding your school, change should be limited. It’s okay to add additional rules to solidify guidelines already in place, but it’s important not to shift dramatically from one set of brand rules to another. Remember, consistency is what you are after.

If you are the Athletics Director at your school and would like to learn more on the subject of school branding, read:

Do you need help creating your school branding guidelines?

Begin by scheduling a free 30-minute call with us! We’re happy to answer further questions and share ideas. Let us help you create strong school branding guidelines to ensure a consistent, recognizable school brand.

Daisho Creative Strategies is headquartered in Miami, Florida, and focuses its work on branding, website design, and website management. We love to build strong school brands that are memorable and consistent. We offer private schools over two decades of branding know-how and school brand guideline experience.