DOKK Library

Creative Commons Style Guide 2019

Authors Victoria Heath

License CC-BY-4.0

                  Style Guide | 2019

Photographer: Heather Hazzan; Wardrobe:
Ronald Burton; Props: Campbell Pearson;
Hair: Hide Suzuki; Makeup: Deanna Melluso
at See Management. Shot on location at
One Medical. (CC BY)
Creative Commons Style Guide | 2019
by Victoria Heath

Except where otherwise noted, this document is published under a Creative Commons Attribution
4.0 International license, (CC BY 4.0).

This guide is published under a CC BY 4.0 license which means you can copy and redistribute the
material in any medium or format; and you can remix, transform, and build upon the material
for any purpose, even commercially. Under the following terms: Attribution — You must give
appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so
in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
No additional restrictions — You may not apply legal terms or technological measures that legally
restrict others from doing anything the license permits.
Bulding a Vibrant, Collaborative

Global Commons
Table of Contents —

Introduction								3 - 4
Mood Board								5					
Brand Identity								6 - 9


   Color Palette

   Visual Elements

Publications Style							9 - 14

   Creative Commons’ Specific Language



   Titles and Capitalization




   Referencing and Licensing

   Writing Tips
Introduction —

Crafting, standardizing, and maintaining a consistent style is essential to establishing and
promoting an organization’s brand. As with any organization, Creative Commons’ (CC) brand
should help CC build trust with stakeholders and the broader community, as well as maintain
and grow CC’s reputation, legitimacy, and leadership in the global commons and the open

Although important, this style guide shouldn’t feel restrictive or diminish creative expression.
Instead, it should serve as a useful guide for anyone creating CC-related content. This style guide
should also not be considered final and/or comprehensive, it’s the beginning of a longer process
to flesh out, define, and standardize CC’s style in order to portray CC’s brand more clearly and

Who should use this guide?

This document should be used by any person responsible for creating communication materials
and/ or visual assets for CC, including graphic designers, video editors, developers, and
professional printers. It’s also a useful reference for CC staff, affiliates, community members, and
CC Chapters.

Please take the time to read this guide fully in order to understand and portray the brand
consistently and in a cohesive manner.

    “Your brand is the values that guide you, the roles you play, the relationships and interactions
    you have, and your impact. Your brand is a promise that your actions will always be aligned with
    your values...Design is the process through which we make these brand experiences tangible so
    that they create deeper meaning for audiences. And when driven by well-defined brand strategy,
    consistent design creates cohesive experiences that effectively engage audiences with your
    organization’s mission.”

    Matthew Schwarts | Founder and Executive Director of Constructive

Below is specific language regarding CC’s mission that currently exists on the “What We Do” page of
the website. When creating content for CC, please take into consideration this language, particularly
if discussing CC’s work with audiences who may be unfamiliar. Although this language does not
need to be followed exactly, we strongly encourage you to follow it as closely as possible.

Our Mission

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a globally-accessible public
commons of knowledge and culture. We make it easier for people to share their creative and
academic work, as well as to access and build upon the work of others. By helping people and
organizations share knowledge and creativity, we aim to build a more equitable, accessible, and
innovative world.

Our Work

In order to achieve our mission, we:

•   Provide Creative Commons licenses and public domain tools that give every person and
    organization in the world a free, simple, and standardized way to grant copyright permissions
    for creative and academic works; ensure proper attribution; and allow others to copy, distribute,
    and make use of those works
•   Work closely with major institutions to ensure the correct use and implementation of CC licenses
    and CC-licensed content
•   Support the CC Global Network, a community initiative working to increase the volume, breadth,
    and quality of openly-available knowledge worldwide
•   Develop technology like CC Search that makes openly-licensed material easier to discover and
•   Offer the Creative Commons Certificate, an in-depth course for people interested in becoming
    experts in creating and engaging with openly-licensed works
•   Produce CC Summit, an annual event that brings together an international group of educators,
    artists, technologists, legal experts, and activists to promote the power of open licensing and
    global access

Our Brand Tagline

Building a vibrant, collaborative global commons

Mood Board —
CC is vibrant, creative, collaborative, innovative, and global.

For image credits and licensing information, please see page 15.   5
Brand Identity —


Creative Commons has one primary logo:

However, the following derivatives of CC’s primary logo can also be used when appropriate:

The above logos can be used in any of the colors found in the color palette. However, in order to
ensure that the logos are clearly displayed, we recommend using the colors tomato (#ed592f), dark
slate gray (#333333), black, or white. You can download these logos on our website, here.

Things to avoid:

•   Do not reproduce the logo in any other colors outside of the brand’s primary colors, except for
    black and white (when necessary)
•   Do not use multiple colors for a single logo, choose one
•   Do not add additional graphic elements: drop shadows, glow, dimension, outlines, etc.
•   Do not re-proportion the logo
•   Do not tint the logo

If you’re a part of the CC Global Network and are looking for guidance on using or adapting CC’s
logo, please refer to our detailed “Policies” page—which also includes our trademark policy.

Learn more about the history and inspiration behind CC’s logo in “A Masterwork in Simplicity: The Story
of the CC Logo.”

Primary Font: Source Sans Pro

Source Sans Pro | Source Sans Pro | Source Sans Pro

“Source Sans Pro is an open-source grotesque typeface designed by Paul D. Hunt for Adobe
Systems...The slightly condensed letterforms of Source Sans Pro make it ideal for user interfaces
where space is a concern. It’s available in a full set of six weights with corresponding italics.”

This font is particularly easy to read, both on the web and in print. Therefore, it should be used as
the primary font for correspondence and communications.

Source: Source Sans Pro. (2019). Retrieved from

Secondary Font: Roboto

Roboto | Roboto | Roboto

“Roboto is an open-source, grotesque sans-serif typeface designed by Christian Robertson in 2011
and released through renders crisply on screens and is very legible, even at smaller sizes.
Roboto is the default font used in Google Maps and Google+.”

Similar to Source Sans Pro, Roboto is also easy to read. Therefore, it can be used for correspondence
and communications when desired.

Source: Roboto. (2019). Retrieved from

Secondary Font: CC Accidenz Commons

CC Accidenz Commons

CC Accidenz Commons is an open-licensed font designed specifically for Creative Commons and
can be used and/or remixed by anyone. It  was designed in 2018 by Archetypo, a research and type
design collective based in Germany and Chile to replace Akzidenz Grotesk—the original font in CC’s
logo. You can download the font from our “Downloads” page.

Learn more about this font in “Introducing CC Accidenz Commons: An Open Licensed Font.”

Color Palette

Creative Commons’ color palette reflects the vibrant nature of the digital space in which we
operate, and the diverse community we engage with. These colors should be used—in various
pairings—across branding and communication materials (particularly the website, social media
posts, marketing materials, fundraising brochures, etc.). However, it’s important to keep in mind
accessibility requirements and design best practices, particularly with such bold, primary colors.
For a guide on how to pair different colors together, including contrast requirements, read “Effective
Use of Color” by the University of Washington.

                 Tomato                                              Dark Slate Gray
                 Hex: #ed592f                                        Hex: #333333
                 RGB: 237 89 47                                      RGB: 51 51 51
                 HSL: 13 84 55                                       HSL: 0 0 20
                 CMYK: 0 58 75 7                                     CMYK: 0 0 0 80

                 Gold                                                Orange
                 Hex: #efbe00                                        Hex: #fb7729
                 RGB: 239 190 0                                      RGB: 251 119 41
                 HSL: 47 100 46                                      HSL: 22 96 57
                 CMYK: 0 19 94 6                                     CMYK: 0 52 82 2

                 Forest Green                                        Dark Turquoise
                 Hex: #04a635                                        Hex: #05b5da
                 RGB: 4 166 53                                       RGB: 5 181 218
                 HSL: 138 95 33                                      HSL: 190 95 43
                 CMYK: 64 0 44 35                                    CMYK: 84 15 0 15

                 Dark Slate Blue
                 Hex: #3c5c99                      Please note: Any colors reproduced in print may
                 RGB: 60 92 153                    not be accurate, therefore in order to achieve the best
                                                   possible results in printing, use CMYK and consult
                 HSL: 219 43 41
                                                   with the printer.
                 CMYK: 36 24 0 40


Creative Commons’ (CC) visuals, including graphic design elements, should reflect the diversity,
vibrancy, and creativity of the global commons.


Any photo used to market CC materials or communicate key messages should be inclusive and
reflect the real lives of CC’s community members. In other words, traditional “stock” photos are not
welcome! Finally, CC-licensed photos should be prioritized—particularly photos taken during CC
events, like Global Summit. Check out CC-licensed photos on Flickr, here.

Graphic Design

Design elements used in CC’s communication and marketing materials, as well as on its platforms,
should be simple and clear, yet fun and creative. Making use of buttons, emojis, animation,
geometric designs, and the brand colors is encouraged.

Below are some examples of how all of these elements can be combined for a single information

Please note: When uploading images to Wordpress, be sure to add a unique title, so the image is easily
searchable; alternative text describing the image, for accessibility; and a caption that includes the CC license
the image is published under (including a hyperlink), as well as the name of the photographer and/or
graphic designer.

For image credits and licensing information, please see page 15.                                             9
Publications Style —


Creative Commons’ tone should be clear, informed, and professional, yet witty and relatable—
reflecting CC’s staff and broader community.

All communication materials, particularly blog posts, should reflect this tone but also embody the
unique qualities of the specific author’s writing style. These materials should also use language
that is easy-to-understand and clear, particularly if targeted towards an audience that may not
be aware of the language, concepts, and theories behind CC’s work (e.g., global commons, public
domain, open culture, etc.). The audience’s knowledge and experience should always be taken into

Creative Commons’ Specific Language

Creative Commons’ possessive

When using Creative Commons as a possessive noun, the apostrophe should appear as Creative
Commons’ rather than Creative Commons’s.

The Creative Commons’ Global Summit

For consistency and clarity, referring to the “CC Global Summit” or the “CC Summit” are preferred
over the “Summit” or the “Global Summit,” as these terms could be confusing for people who do
not know what the CC Global Summit is.

Finally, there should always be a “the” before the noun, e.g., “The CC Global Summit will be held in
Lisbon, Portugal...” or “Members loved attending the CC Summit last year.”

The Creative Commons Global Network

Similar to the CC Global Summit, consistency is important. Therefore, referring to the “CC Global
Network” and the “CC Network” are preferred over the “Network.”

Finally, there should always be a “the” before the noun, e.g., “The CC Global Network consists of
over 400 members...” or “We encourage anyone to join the CC Network, it’s free!”

CC Licenses

CC licenses should be displayed consistently, therefore please keep in mind the following:

•   License abbreviations should be in all caps
•   Individual clauses (e.g., BY, NC, etc.) should be strung together with a hyphen.
       For example: CC BY-NC-ND
•   Modifiers (e.g. CC) should not be followed by a hyphen.
       For example: CC BY

For more guidance, follow the examples displayed at the top of each license’s webpage.

Academic degrees

Do not use periods for education degrees; therefore, use PhD, BA, BSc, MBA


Do not use periods in title abbreviations that appear in upper case
E.g., CEO
Use periods in title abbreviations that appear in upper and lower case
E.g., Dr.


Do not use st, nd, rd, or th to follow a number in a date
E.g., 3 May 2012 instead of 3rd May 2012


Use periods in abbreviation a.m. and p.m.
E.g., 4:00 p.m. instead of 4pm; or 4:00–5:30 p.m.


Use the international standard with the year in front of the month, followed by the day
E.g., 2019-10-22 or 2019 Oct 22


With first instances, always spell out the entire name followed by the acronym in parenthesis.
The acronym alone may be used in all other instances.

E.g., “Creative Commons (CC) is a nonprofit...”

In general, headings should not include acronyms. However, when they are used in a heading, it
is not necessary to spell them out and list the acronym. Instead, spell out the acronym in the first
paragraph or wherever the heading first appears in the piece.

Titles and Capitalization

General Rules

Capitalize all proper names, trade names, government departments, and agencies of
government, as well as names of associations, companies, clubs, religions, languages, nations,
races, places, and addresses.

CC also follows “title case,” which is a capitalization style that has been traditionally used for a range
of works, from books and movies to academic research papers.

To help you capitalize titles correctly, check out the “Title Case Converter” tool.


Always spell out the numbers 0-9 in full, and use numerals for numbers 10 or greater, unless the
number starts a sentence.


CC officially uses American English—please refer to the “British and American spelling” guide by
Oxford Dictionaries for help.



Use a colon, rather than a comma, to introduce a direct quotation that is longer than a short
sentence. Capitalize the first word of a quoted sentence.

Semicolon in a list

A list that is separated by semi-olons rather than commas will be introduced by a colon and will
not use a comma after “and” in the final listing.


Use commas between the elements of a series, and the Oxford comma before the last “and/or”
in a list of items.


Appears as a longer dash (— not -), and does not include spaces.

E.g. “To compensate for this lack of data, researchers must often rely on data collected by non-
government entities—which are typically kept behind expensive paywalls.”

Referencing and Licensing

For printed documents, CC follows the American Psychological Association (APA) style, and utilizes
footnotes or endnotes instead of in-text citations. For more information on APA, please see this link
to Chegg’s EasyBib’s website.

For digital content, references should be directly linked via hyperlinks, when possible.

Finally, any content created and/or published by CC should also clearly indicate (and link to)
whichever CC license it is published under, and follow the attribution requirements under that
license.  All CC licenses can be found via “Share Your License.”

Writing Tips

“To be”

Avoid overusing the verb “to be.” Instead, utilize the active tense.

E.g., “It is important that net neutrality survives.” Instead say, “Net neutrality should survive.”
For more examples, check out “Avoid Unecessary ‘To Be’ verbs,” by Writing Commons.

Keep it Short and Concise

Keep sentences short and to the point, particularly when explaining complex topics. Be wary of
long paragraphs, particulary for articles or blog posts published online—adding spaces between 2-4
sentence paragraphs helps with accessibility and engagement.

Avoid Jargon

Avoid industry (or academic) jargon or terminology, particularly when writing for non-academic
and/or industry-specific audiences. Remember to write with your audience in mind, and explain any
potentially confusing terms, acronyms, or references.

Embrace Lists

Use bullet points or numbers to convey lengthy information. More specifically, use numbered lists if
there is a sequence to the information.

Non-English Words

Words from a language other than English should appear in italics unless they are commonly
used in English.

E.g. Millions of Muslims travel to Mecca for hajj (or pilgrimage) each year.
E.g. Advocates for net neutrality arrived en masse at Capitol Hill.

Do not italicize words written in a different alphabet. Include an italicized transliterated version of
the word in parentheses or in a footnote.

Creative Commons Style Guide | 2019
by Victoria Heath

2019, by Creative Commons.
Except where otherwise noted, this document is published under a Creative Commons
Attribution 4.0 International license, (CC BY 4.0).

Image Credits:

Front Cover

Hazzan, Heather. (2019, August). Young Woman Waiting in Doctor’s Office. SELF Magazine. Retrieved from:
photos/selfmagazine/48546126237/in/album-72157710332198661/. Licensed under CC BY.

Page Five

Top: Pombeiro, João. (2019, May). Creative Commons Global Summit Logo 2019. Retrieved from:
content/uploads/2019/08/2019_CC_GlobalSummit_logo.jpg. Licensed under CC BY.
Middle-left: Pearce, Andrea. (2019, March). Creative Commons Mosaic. Retrieved from:
uploads/2019/10/55517442_10156985356362777_2465421492599390208_o.jpg. Licensed under CC BY.
Middle-right-top: (2018, May 08). State of the Commons 2017. Retrieved from: under CC
Middle-right-bottom: Burg, Sebastiaan ter. (2019, May 09). CC Global Summit 2019. Retrieved from:
creativecommons/47959635406/in/album-72157708726481004/ Licensed under CC BY.
Bottom-left: (2018, May 08). State of the Commons 2017. Retrieved from: under CC BY.
Bottom-middle: Burg, Sebastiaan ter. (2019, May 09). CC Global Summit 2019. Retrieved from:
creativecommons/47959548163/in/album-72157708726481004/ Licensed under CC BY.
Bottom-right: Burg, Sebastiaan ter. (2019, May 09). CC Global Summit 2019. Retrieved from:
creativecommons/47959607413/in/album-72157708726481004/ Licensed under CC BY.

Page Nine

Left, Middle, and Right: Heath, Victoria. (2019, September 29). An Explanation of Creative Commons. Retrieved
campaign=designshare&utm_medium=link&utm_source=viewer. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.