If you are considering getting a new logo for your business, you may be in for quite an education. Logo design can be an insightful exercise in discovering your company's inner identity. Sometimes it's a little scary. What if the designer doesn't come up with anything you like?
Choosing a Logo Designer
It's important to find a logo designer whose work you like. Not every graphic artist can create a logo that's right for your business. Look at a lot of portfolios, and choose someone that has designed several logos you like and can relate to.
Once you find the perfect designer, be ready for an intense process as together, you create the perfect logo. It's almost a psychological experience.
After a lengthy interview, a designer will usually produce several sample, perhaps unfinished, logos. These are not the final versions - they are intended to help you narrow down your preferences. Don't worry too much if you don't like the samples - trust that the designer will take your input and produce something you like in the end.
Spend a few days "living" with the samples. Some you may love at first, but then you may get tired of them. Remember, the logo represents the essence of your company's identity. You need to be proud of it in order to sell your products or services.
Choose 2 or 3 of the samples that are closest to what you have in mind for your logo. The designer will refine your choices into several more versions. One of these may be your final logo. Or, depending on your budget, you may repeat the process and go through more "rounds".
Elements of a Logo
In the branding business, a logo is often referred to as a "signature." When you think about it, a "signature" is a stamp of authenticity. It marks a document, product or promotional item as being authorized by your company. That's why many companies are very protective with the use of their logo.
A logo usually consists of a logotype and an optional logomark. The logotype is the name of the company or brand. The logomark is a graphic that is positioned next to the logotype, or integrated with the logotype. Many corporations use a logotype only - they do not use a logomark.
A well designed logo will usually follow the guidelines below. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. If you are working with a trained, professional logo designer, they know when it's OK to break the rules. However, if you follow these guidelines, it's more likely that your logo will stand the test of time and be respected in the business community.
Logo Do's and Don'ts
- Keep it simple. Don't over-design the logo. It is an accent graphic that needs to co-exists with other elements of your marketing materials, including any photos and other graphics that you may want to present.
- Make the logotype legible. Unless you have a well-known brand, people need to be able to read your company's name.
- Make the logomark meaningful (if you use a logomark). There should be some aspect of its design that communicates something about your business. Even if the logomark is a simple square, circle or sweep, there is an element of meaning in those shapes (for example, structure, completeness, or energy).
- Make the logo unique. It doesn't have to be fancy, but it should not look like someone else's logo.
- Make it timeless. If you are investing in a logo, and all the marketing materials that display it, you'll want to use it for several years. Simplicity is key to making a logo timeless. See the "Don'ts" below to avoid being a "logo trend victim".
- Use a heavier font so that your logo will show well and evenly alongside other company's logos when you are doing joint advertising, for example, when you are sponsoring an event.
- Have a shorter version of your logotype (name) available if the name is long. This can be an acronym or a portion of the name, for example, "IBM" is an alternative to "International Business Machines"; "iMarks" is an alternative to "iMarks Web Solutions."
- Make the logo scalable. It should look just as good on a large sign as it does on your business card.
- If you are partnering or co-branding heavily with other companies, make sure your logo design and colors work well with your partners' logos.
- Have both a horizontal version of the logo and a stacked version. A horizontal, or wide version, of the logo is useful for letterhead and web site banners. A stacked, or tall version, may fit better on a business card, and alongside other company's logos in advertising.
- Have both a positive version of the logo and a reverse version. A positive version is a darker-colored logo on a light background, and a reverse version is a lighter-colored logo on a dark background.
- Have a one-color (black-only) version with no gradients or shading. Some print applications, for example, promotional items such as a water bottle, do not allow shades of ink. If you are planning to register a national trademark, this version may be required.
- Don't use thin fonts. It may look modern, but when your logo is alongside other logos, or integrated into marketing materials, it will tend to disappear.
- Don't use all capital letters for long names. A combination of upper and lower case is easier to read.
- Don't use light colors. Your logo won't show up.
- Don't use a lot of texture or detail. This will detract from the other elements in your marketing materials, and your logo will look out of place if it is a work of art in itself.
- Don't use a lot of graphic elements. The logo won't scale well, so it won't be legible when small.
- Don't use small graphic elements. They will disappear when the logo is small.
- Don't make your logomark (graphic) larger than your logotype (name). When scaled down, the name will be too small to read. Unless you have a well-known brand, the name is more important than the graphic.
- Don't copy someone else's logo. Your company will lose credibility when people recognize it. You could also be sued for trademark infringement, especially if the logo was copied from a brand in the same industry as yours.
Use with caution...
- Swooshes that wrap around the name. These were way overused in the 1990s and have become cliche.
- Trendy Fonts. Unless you have a trendy product, most people will get tired of seeing these. They will look outdated over time.
- Script Fonts. These tend to be harder to read, especially if the name is long.
- Drop shadows. These are generally considered an amateur's solution to making a design more interesting.
- 3D effects. Again, this is a technique used by amateurs. These can also make the logo more expensive to print. A 3D design may be OK as an enhancement to a logo that works well without the 3D effect.
- Clip art. Many people might recognize it from a popular clip art library. The logo may not be unique. If the clip art is a cartoon, it could be restrictive in attracting certain markets.
- More than two colors. This can be expensive to print.
- Shading or gradients. These don't work on many promotional items, and may not be allowed in some ads or in trademark registration.
- Unusual colors or color combinations. If your marketing materials contain photos, the logo's colors may need to be neutral enough to work with those photos.