How to create a Brand Book (for artists)
Updated: Sep 24
Brand books are a common document for designers to prepare when providing a brand identity to their clients. However, no matter how unrelated you think they are to you and your music, this article is still for you.
Way before the personal brand craze people still took care of their looks, how clean they looked, the type of people they surrounded themselves with, the types of books they’d read, the type of music they’d listen to, their go-to restaurant... The compounding of these little preferences end up telling a story. In fact, they tell the story of who you are (and what you value the most) to strangers’ eyes. Nowadays, we present all these subtleties at once and call it a personal brand.
"All of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.
- Tom Peters"
As cheesy as it might sound, this is the reality of our time. We’ve given the opportunity to share, connect and experience everything and everyone at once. Now, the real focus must be on standing out enough for someone to notice you in the insanity of our online social pool. After all, there’s proof that consistent branding produces 23% more revenue on a yearly basis.
But this article is not about how to figure out your personal brand, in this article we’ll explore how to professionally show your personal brand to future collaborators.
Keep on reading to know more about these topics:
What is a Brand Book?
Traditionally, a brand book (or brand guide) is an outline of a brand’s mission, image, and core values. Above everything else, it is the brand’s identity, a DNA blueprint with layers of details, from the more general – such as brand purpose – to the more intricate nuances, such as color palette and fonts. With all of these elements combined, we get a comprehensive brand manual, providing staff and customers with a clear vision of the company and its product.
As an artist you need to see your identity, values, and mission just as relevant as any large corporation does. Creating a document where you lay out who you are and share the specific details of your persona will allow you to get smoother collaborations. When working with photographers, stylists, producers, journalists, etc. they will get a glimpse of who you are upon meeting. Because of your brand book, they will understand how to portray you, and how to make sure their representation of your image is in accordance to the image you've been crafting for yourself.
Basically, the idea here is to establish the ways in which your brand’s visual identity is built and how it should be used by both your team members and external contractors.
What to include in a Brand Book
1. About the brand
First of all, you want to present yourself to whoever is reading the document. Think of it as a place where you can write a short biography: who you are, what do you do, what have you been doing in your career...
You can also use this space to highlight attributes of who you are. Think of adjectives/ words that describe you, as an artist, as well as your music.
2. Moodboard & Direction
In this section you want to include aspects, things you gather inspiration from (music style wise/ fashion style…) and where your brand identity (as a singer) is going. Add elements you feel that represent you.
To make it simple think: what do you want people to feel when they look at you/ your website/ social media/ music?
3. Logos and variations
If you have a defined logo for yourself/ your band then it’s the perfect place to display it and explain how it should be used. If you have logo variations (stacked, horizontal, logomark, etc.) make sure to also include them in this section.
If you don’t have a strong logo, use this space to put inspiration of fonts and logos you like. This will be a helpful starting point for when you get your logo designed.
What fonts do you use for your website, graphic design (merch.), posters & such? Showcase it in this section. If it’s part of your creative process to create different “music eras” in your work, make sure to keep this section updated.
If you don’t have a clear set of fonts chosen for you, and don’t know where to start, use this space to create a visual moodboard of your favorite fonts. If you work with a designer then they can help you choose the best fonts for your brand.
5. Color palette
Display the colors that represent you and your music persona best. Same as with typography, if you’re prone to create different "eras" throughout your career, choose a set colors (up to 3) to keep consistent and 3 colors to play around during each era. This way you can keep a consistent brand while also giving yourself the creative freedom of keeping things fresh and, at the same time, evolve your sound and brand.
We suggest to explain what each color represents (you can use color theory or your own interpretations of each color). This way, the person reading your brand book can get a better feel of how you're showcasing yourself to the public.
6. Brand pattern
If you use a pattern or certain symbols (arrows, skulls, speckles, a certain animal…) in your graphics, this is the place to put it and talk about it. Explain what it represents, why is important to your brand and how you envision it being used (in merch, as an element to put on social media communications, something that will always appear at the end of your music videos…)
If you don’t have a pattern or recurrent elements you can:
dismiss this part
use this as a moodboard space for symbols you’d like to incorporate to your branding (and then ask a designer to do it for you)
take it as a prompt to make your own moodboard and create your own pattern/symbol (make sure it ties together with your logo and color palette) and then put the finished result in this page.
7. Photography style & direction
What type of photography style are you looking for (film? Retro vibe? Futuristic? Modern?), what key points do you want viewers to take when they see your images (strong, creative, etheric…). Use this space to explain what types of backgrounds do you want to work with: only photos in nature, only city backgrounds, only studio, I don’t want to fully show my face, or what sort of combination are you looking for.
If you’re a band, think of the group dynamics in the photography, is there a leader? Do yo want people to easily identify it?
You don’t need to use your own photos here, just examples of what you want yours to look like (focus on the vibe, the postures, composition, the way the photo is edited…) make sure to send your brand book to the next photographer you work with so they can get a feeling of your brand.
8. Styling and make up
Think of your next performance or photoshoot is there a specific look you’re going to wear? Use this space to show key clothing pieces or styles. Think of jackets, shoes, accessories, make up, hair styling… make sure this ties well with the photography aspect (if you want a whimsical feeling to your photography maybe don’t choose a leather jacket as a signature look, unless you want to play with the contrast).
This page will be a useful guide for photographers and stylists you work with. Make sure they understand your vision and needs.
9. Social media feed example
Artists, you can skip this point if you want to. However, if you want to know how it could be beneficial to add it in your brand book.
Here’s some examples of what you can do:
use this space as an exercise to make you think of your social media presence in a way that’s according to your branding goals. You'll be able to see how different type of content will look on your page. See it as a creativity booster.
use this space as a way to showcase your page to future collaborators (screenshot your main social media account). This way they can see what you’ve been doing on social media and understand how your brand works in action.
use this as a place to brainstorm what sort of content you want to do (content moodboard), and get help from collaborators like photographers, graphic designers, videographers or whoever you have in your team that’s helping you curate your social media presence.
Designers, if you’re working on the brand identity for an artist make sure to implement some social media mockups to show them how they can use the attributes you’ve designed for them. They should be able to see their brand in action.
If you’re a content strategist working with an artist, the usage of mockups can be very beneficial for them to see how a certain prompt can be interpreted in real life.
Use this as a place to discuss merchandising (and future merch.) applications. How will your brand look in real life? You can display posters, CD covers, NFT previews, t-shirts, socks… whatever type of merch you’re using.
Ways to make this brand book page work for you:
If you have your merch designed, show it here.
If you don’t have merch but know how you want it to look like, put your merch moodboard here.
If you’re a designer use mockups to show your client how they can use merch using the graphics you’ve designed for them.
Redirect people to where they should contact you (email, for example) and remind them of your social media (using hyperlinks will be a game changer) but you can also just write your social media handle next to the logo of each social media you’re on.
If you want to add a personalized effect to your brand presentation, then directly talk to the person you’re sending this to (is it a photographer, graphic designer, merch distribution, music publication, possible manager?) tell them how excited you’re to work with them and why you’d like to work with them.
But I’m not a good designer and I can’t afford one!
Well, then here’s our gift to you. We’ve asked our in-house graphic designer to create an easy to edit template so you can present your brand!
You'll get direct access to an editable file of the brand book we've been showing you during this post. For free!
This template features all the parts that we’ve covered in the article. If some parts don’t resonate with you, just delete that page! The idea is to have a foundation you can work with, you don’t need to think of decorative elements or how to arrange your photographies. Those decisions are already made for you, you just need to include your graphics, text, and tweak the colors to your liking.
Click the link to get your free template or get it below: