If we look far, far back into the human history, we can note that there have always been certain patterns in human language, behavior, labor and organization. Through oral tradition, various production processes were carried forward to new generations and we now see them as pieces of heritage. Human activity always performed within patterns, because it saved time and effort—and, in that aspect, not much has changed since.

What are design guidelines?

In theory, design guidelines represent a set of rules by which the system should work. They shape design’s future decisions. Large scale companies have well-built frameworks not only for design, but also for development—a good example being Twitter Bootstrap. The aim of various types of guidelines within a company lies within the sustainability and flexibility of the system.

Have you ever wondered how it is possible for you to always recognize certain products in a second, no matter if you are using your PC, tablet or a smartphone?

When it comes to design guidelines and their correlation with brands, the best possible example that we can provide is most certainly Google and its remarkable design of digital products. The answer to the previous question is as simple as Google’s Design Guidelines, which were recently published, under the name Visual Assets Guidelines (Part 1 and Part 2), on the Behance profile of Google’s senior designer, Roger Oddone.

Who are they for–companies or end users?

Design guidelines are very useful when we are talking about large-scale companies because they enable teams to communicate ideas faster. Employees from different sectors can use the same resources without consultation. Once guidelines are established, there is no doubt as to how they should be utilized. The previously mentioned Twitter Bootstrap tool was constructed internally and what it did was revolutionary. It integrated all front-end elements of Twitter and, to top it all off, Twitter made it open source!

Along with the helpfulness of design guidelines within a company, an interesting part is the guidelines’ effects on end users—they appear to be more connected with the brand. Why is that, you ask? By simply using one of Google’s products on different devices and platforms, you will notice that you have the same user experience, interactions and effects. You do not have to explore the ways you can use the Gmail or Google+ apps on iPhone or Android because they are inherently designed to minimize your efforts. Google is making it easy for you—that is just what they do and they are the best at it.

A little bit of history

If we look a few years back, both small- and large-scale companies were primarily working on user experience and only afterwards considering what the product would look like, but starting with Apple (and followed by Twitter, Microsoft and Google), that has all changed with the heightened focus on design guidelines.

Back in 2009, Google’s Marissa Mayer tested 40 shades of blue in order to figure out which one will bring more clicks and, based on those results, chose the shade that you see on Google today. Back then, everything was about the data, but today, Google is all about users; its interfaces are straightforward and the user is always aware of the interaction. It is quite the opposite with Apple. Its interfaces are minimal and users need to explore in order to discover the capabilities of apps and programs. However, the user becomes more attached that way. “Think different,” Apple says!

In conclusion, it is important that a company’s ecosystem be founded upon guidelines; this way, users notice interconnectivity amongst products and relate with them. Building trust across platforms is key for brand promotion, and one way of doing that for digital product brands is by defining the guidelines.