The importance of a good brand logo is not lost on anyone. No matter the line of work you’re in, this powerful symbol enables you to stand out from the crowd in a way that no other business attribute is capable of doing.
It is a critical element of business that tells the world what you are all about; your identity as a business. And what you stand for. And what you offer. A visual symbol that helps build trust with your customers, existing and potential. And invokes imagery, and with it, association. Of quality products; or service dispensation. Of goodwill. Of a business built upon the tenets of customer satisfaction. A business conscious of the environment. And uplifting the livelihoods of its community. One of the few things a customer will remember long after they are done doing business with you.
It is a powerful little thing, a logo, small as it may be.
And there are no limits to where it can be printed. On the physical sign outside your business. On your website. Branded on your products. On business cards. Letterheads. Brochures and line sheets. Personalized items like pens, t-shirts, umbrellas, flash drives…Creativity is your only limit.
The Originality of a Logo
When it comes to brand logos, originality is key.
And not just because looking like everyone else will see you drown in the sea of brands out there, no. A well-designed, professional looking logo is more effective than you could imagine, with a tremendous impact on your bottom line.
Refrain from copying designs from renowned companies or creating a design similar to another brand’s in the hope that you stand better chance of being noticed. This will only backfire on you.
As well, how you design your logo speaks volumes. If it comes out like it was done in Microsoft Word, few people will ever take you seriously. Because they will question your ability to deliver on your core business offerings.
Avoid cutting corners in the name of saving a few dollars. For the success of your business may just hinge upon the look of your logo.
This guide aims to walk you through the various things you need to keep in mind when creating your small business brand logo.
Types of Logos you need to know about
At their most basic, logos are all either words (typography) or images, or a combination of both. They are often grouped into different categories, the most common of which include:
- Lettermarks – These are typography-based logos made up of a couple of letters, often the initials of a company. They are mostly used by brands with rather lengthy names that have adopted their initials with the purpose of brand identification. Think HBO, CNN, HP, IBM or NASA.
- Wordmarks – Wordmarks don’t differ much from lettermarks in the sense that both are font-based logos. The difference comes in the fact that with wordmarks, the focus is on a company’s name, often catchy and memorable, rather than its initials.
It is then combined with strong typography, the result of which is a really unforgettable logo. Think VISA, Coca Cola or Google.
- Pictorial marks – This type of logo is based on an icon or graphic design. This is probably the image that springs to mind whenever you hear “logo”. Think Apple, Twitter or Target (the store).
Because it is just a simple image, this logo can be a tricky one for many upstarts, unless you’re willing to bet your brand will stir strong recognition.
- Abstract logo mark – This is a type of pictorial logo leaning more towards an abstract geometric form than a recognizable image such as Apple’s bit fruit or Twitter’s super-cute bird.
Similarly though, this type of logo packages your brand into a single image. It does not confine you to a recognizable picture per se, but rather, something really unique to represent your brand. Think Pepsi, Adidas or BP.
- Mascots – These are logos that use illustrated characters to represent a brand. Often cartoonish, mascot logos could appeal to a brand that intends to come out as fun and personable, particularly to young kids and families. Famous examples include KFC’s Colonel Sanders, Mr. Peanut of Planters and the Kool-Aid Man.
- Combination marks – Another common type of logo comprising a blend of lettermark and either a pictorial mark, mascot or abstract mark, the overall result of which is a pretty distinct image. The text and symbol combo makes this a powerful type of logo because of the direct association of brand name and image, soon as consumers spot it.
If you’re looking to trademark your brand logo, this is a far much easier option given its uniqueness.
- Emblem – These logos have a symbol or icon with font inside of them. Yes, just like crests, badges and seals. Their traditional appearance makes them a favorite for institutions such as schools, organizations or government agencies.
Please note that these are but generic frameworks from which logos are built. As far as design itself is concerned, you’ll find that the trend changes with the times: depending on the logo you had, what was fashionable in 2002 may not be the in-thing in 2018. This is why you find even large corporations rebranding to appear au courant following decades of using the same logo.
Coca Cola has done it multiple times, so has Pepsi, Nike, Renault is one short of a dozen logo remakes, MasterCard more recently, Subway, Pizza Hut, Olive Garden, as well as new entrants such as Airbnb, Uber and Instagram – it is all a common occurrence.
What Makes a Good Logo?
For every business looking to get their logo done (or redone), there are certain aspects to consider before moving ahead with the project.
The logo type aside, other things to pay attention to include:
It comes as no surprise to know color is one of the most important aspects of logo design. After all, it has been shown to influence everything from moods to buying choices. There is a reason many law firms employ black and white on their logos, you know, and food companies fancy red.
“It’s choosing a color, what could possibly be stressful about that?!”
As simple as it may sound, color theory is a complex subject even to a good deal of designers out there.
Familiarizing yourself with the art of appealing to moods and feelings is important. For example, blue is a color associated with strength, calmness and security. Green is known for freshness, peace and nurturing. There are more than enough resources on this subject, so feel free to dig through two or three to get the basics.
Don’t forget that color perception is also heavily influenced by culture. So when choosing your colors, definitely keep your audience in mind to avoid portraying the wrong message with just a simple brush stroke.
A good logo is one that looks good on a wide range of marketing and communication materials – signage, line sheets, brochures, business cards, letterheads, stickers, magnets etcetera. If your business logo looks great on physical signage but horrendous on coffee mugs, your brand will find it hard to get traction.
Not only that, a good logo should also look great in black and white, or when set in colors that veer from its original or actual design. If it slave to a color scheme, it cannot be bunched into the list of good logos.
For this reason, it is always recommended to work in black initially. While no amount of embellishments will compensate for a poorly designed logo, you are also likely to focus on the idea better by leaving color out of the design process at first.
If there is one thing that all effective logos have in common, it is simplicity of design. In fact, some of the most successful logos have been the simplest. We will resist the great urge to list them and just…let you look around.
A strong logo should feature just a handful of elements, each central to the message you’re trying to convey, and easily identifiable too. It should have the flexibility to maintain quality regardless of size, whether it’s as a simple icon on your website or on a giant billboard in your local town.
Cluttered and “full” logos don’t help the cause when you’re trying to pique the attention of potential clients and keep yourself in the minds of existing ones. Aim for minimalism, not just to look trendy, but also because it’s likely to be timeless without the need for change every two years. A classic that immediately springs to mind is the Mercedes Benz logo. It’s simple. It’s timeless. It speaks volumes.
When designing, you’ll often find yourself starting with a busy design that you end up stripping bare. Good, it just means you are on the right track.
Speaking of identifiable…
The one thing that a logo does is give potential customers the first impression of what you, as a brand, are all about. It should convey your brand identity.
Resist the urge to get up one morning and start designing out of the blue. While you may be one of those who subscribe to this formula to summon your creative juices, let your brand values be the key pillar that props your logo.
Ask yourself the message you want the logo to communicate. Is it fun? Is it mindful health? Is it business values guided by integrity? Your values as a business should be central to the message you want to drive.
This point probably should have come first because it is here that you start forming the basis of what you want your logo to look like, informed by the attributes you would like your brand to be associated with. These are the building blocks of a good logo.
While you are busy trying to project your brand values, something else that should factor in your logo design is the style. Style has a lot to do with trends (and type of logo) for it dictates how you want the overall design to come out.
As with most of the other aspects on this list, the logo design style too ought to be informed by your company’s background story.
For example, many tech-related firms have been using the Web 2.0 style which involves 3D-looking logos with, for lack of a better word, “bubbly” gradients, graphics and drop shadows. For example, Skype, Flickr, Technorati, Picture Cloud, Diigo and more.
There are a plethora of styles to choose from – black and white like Sony; ombre like Instagram; hand-drawn like Meetup and Pizza Hut; circles like Asana; negative space like NBC and FedEx; geometric lines like Adidas and Waves; vintage like Harley-Davidson and so on.
Aim for a style that easily weaves into the line of work you are in. It is here that you breathe personality into your logo. And that personality may very well be present by simply going easy on all the filters and effects that you find in design tools such as Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Freehand and other graphic design software.
Point here is, you don’t need to overdo things. A silent design may as well do the trick.
Look at the bespoke typography employed by Cadbury, for instance. Or Coca-Cola. The famous swoosh by you know who. Logos have come and gone. But these have stood the test of time.
Simplicity is key.
No business owner worth their salt wants their logo to be mistaken for a competitor’s. Aim to differentiate yourself by keeping things original, or creative if you rather.
As well, avoid falling into the common “me too” booby-trap where you design a logo that is simply a parody of the next. No one is saying looking for ideas from other brands is a bad thing. By all means, do your research and do it deep. Just don’t come up with something that imitates the other logos on the market.
The idea is to create something different from what’s out there. And you do that by ditching the herd mentality. You do that by getting bold and creative. You do that by breaking a few rules of design. That’s how you stand head and shoulders above the pack. The whole point is to build brand recognition, remember?
One of the upsides of creating unique logo designs is that it saves you the embarrassment and headache of someone filing legal proceedings against you on the grounds of copyright infringement. Logos too can be protected by trademark, and herein lies a golden opportunity for you.
Provided you have successfully managed to pull off a creative logo that ticks all the design aspects, a logo that projects your identity as a brand, you might as well trademark it.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office requires that logos be first used in commerce before they can be trademarked. If you are in the service industry, the logo must be used when advertising your offering. If you move goods, the logo needs to be on your product packaging as well as any form of advertising.
While trademarking may not be enough to deter every copycat out there, it goes a long way in protecting your creative work. Over time, it will become a positive and recognizable symbol of your service or product.
How to get your Logo Designed
If you are like most business owners, chances are you will try to outsource the logo design process as opposed to doing the whole design job yourself. But if you boast some design skills, more power to you!
There are many ways you can have your logo designed, from free online resources to premium designers.
Let’s look at a few options.
- Logo design contests
This is a type of crowdsourcing that involves posting a brief on a platform to allow multiple graphic designers to submit their designs. Once that is done, you go through the submissions to determine which you like best.
Designs can range from $200 to packages that go up to $1299.
Logo design contests are advantageous in that you have multiple designs to pick from. Designs are also considerably cheaper than hiring a custom designer, and the turnaround time is super-fast.
On the flipside, you may have multiple designs to choose from but still fail to find one that inspires you because mostly they tend to be generic without any close relation to your brand. It’s also easy to compromise on quality with small mistakes going unnoticed.
And if the high fees on these platforms are not enough of a deterrent (some are as high as 40%!), the small matter of enforcing legal agreements is not easy.
Fiverr is best known as the five-dollar marketplace because their offerings, mostly graphic design, fetch for a paltry $5.
If you’ve got a small budget and are not looking for anything spectacular, this is just the go-to place. Design work doesn’t get any cheaper than this, and the turnaround is remarkable.
At such a price, however, you don’t need to be told it will be hard to find the kind of logo you envision as that is exactly what this platform is: a hit and miss. For this reason, you need to purchase different designs (say 5 or even 10) from different freelancers. This way, you stand better chance of landing something a little close to “Okay”.
There are other freelancing platforms you can get better designs from, most notable being People Per Hour. Some of the designers here are professionals and so the cost is a little steep.
Behance is a great platform to find good logo designers for your brand. It is teeming with experienced creatives and all you have to do is go through the portfolios of a few that catch your eye, message them and discuss the cost and specifics.
The benefit of Behance is you can be certain to find some exceptional work. However, it too is prone to unreliability and you could end up wasting lots of time especially if it’s a small job you need to get done. Overall, however, you are sure to find a match.
- Custom logo design
Custom logo design involves working with a professional logo design agency.
This is by far the best way to get your logo designed to your ultimate satisfaction, provided of course, you do your research on some good, reputable agencies out there that you might end up working with.
Custom logo design is typically expensive and could end up costing you the proverbial arm and a leg. This can be off-putting for many small business owners, and understandably so because there are more pocket-friendly options capable of converting your out-of-this-world ideas into reality.
Print shops with an in-house designer are also a good place to look. They provide the custom design service of professional agencies, albeit at a lower price.
Too much to think about when creating something so small, we know…
However, the thing with logo design is that it pays to be unique, that’s the whole essence of it: to think outside the box and conjure the mold of uniqueness out of everyday objects or things. And to be honest, this is the true test of your creative abilities.
Otherwise you risk becoming “just another one”, and with that reputation, lost opportunities. A landmark survey by the MIT Sloan Management Review (sign up or subscription required) sometime back revealed that a lame brand logo does indeed hurt business. And small and medium sized businesses stand to lose out the most.
Look, as an SME owner, your business logo is probably not the first thing you think about in the morning or the last thing you mull over when you get to bed. Which is totally fine because unless you got a great offering, whether service or product, your customers are not going to be swayed with clever branding ploys.
By and large though, the brand logo is increasingly growing in prominence as the modern consumer gets more discerning.
Good logo design is a form of art and it is fair to say a few online tutorials will not get you to the promised land. But they will go some way in helping you grasp the subtle difference between a good logo and a bad one. Just as we hope this guide will help you achieve.
It’s a world of fine lines, logo design.