Are pattern libraries the new brand guidelines?

In an ever-growing digital age, Brands are finding themselves with presences online and in applications just as much, if not more often, than in print or other mediums.


Bluegg branding for Seren Group

Traditionally, once you create a brand identity, you set up brand guidelines; A physical Book that documents the brand identity, styles, logo uses etc. The purpose of brand guidelines is to help establish the brand and ensure a consistent aesthetic. This allows companies to grow and brands to expand into new territories crossing borders nationally and internationally. Why is this important? Because whether you’re in Texas or Thailand, A Coca-Cola still looks like a Coca-Cola and McDonald’s still looks like McDonald’s. Consistency and solidarity in design is what makes a brand strong, provides them with longevity.


Yelp pattern library

Enter the digital age were so many brands and companies only truly exist online or an application form. For them they rely on developer resources and pattern libraries in order to ensure consistency of style, branding, and code. Big companies like Mail Chimp, Yahoo, and Starbucks rely on these pattern libraries for just that reason. In a digital world a PDF or physical document explaining the look and feel of a brand is nearly useless. Tangible documentation that allows for modular code and easy access to resources for both designers and developers alike is what’s truly valuable.

Mail Chimp pattern library

Mail Chimp pattern library (mobile view)


For business purposes I understand the need to continue the creation of brand guidelines in a document form, however I believe that nowadays pattern libraries are a much more robust, in-depth, and practical application of the brand.  It becomes  a digital document that can be used by internal employees, vendors, and contract workers across the globe to ensure a strong, solid, consistent brand.