A logo, short for logotype, is a visual representation of your company used to promote instant public recognition. They are important. IBM, NBC, CocaCola, Red Cross, and Motorola, to name a few, have logos that are *instantly* identified – you don’t even have to think about them. Imagine that you are at a trade show or festival event and your booth is in a sea of other vendor booths. A sign with your logo is visible from a long distance away, and so your customers have an easier time finding you. A logo gives you an easily recognizable identity. It is the symbol or mark of your company, your brand, your values, your goals.
You can create your own logo if you have the software. If you don’t have the software or are not used to creating logos, it is one of the things I recommend that you hire someone to do for you. It is worth the price and again, just like your business name, it is something that you don’t ever want to change once you put it out in public view. Your logo is one of the hardest working assets of your business. Your logo will pay for itself in the first year. A professional logo doesn’t have to be expensive; you can get one made for around $200-$500, maybe less: from Wikipedia: When Phil Knight started Nike, he was hoping to find a mark as recognizable as the Adidas stripes, which also provided reinforcement to the shoe. He hired a young student (Carolyn Davidson) to design his logo, paying her $35 for what has become one of the best known marks in the world (she was later compensated again by the company).
There are a few rules about logos that are important to understand whether you create your own logo or hire someone to do it for you. You want to be sure you get a good product.
- Logos should be simple and timeless. They should be beautiful and represent your business, but they should be simple in design and easy to reproduce. You will use your logo in a variety of ways both in print and visual media – like your web site. It will be blown up large on signs, tiny on business cards. For this reason, you do not want to use a photo in or for your logo, or photo types of files (jpg, gif, png). (However, you will need a copy of your logo in one of those file types to put on the web). Vector files (drawings) create the best logo because they re are easy to change and keep in proportion, and always print crisp and clear. Look at the logos for the companies above (you’ll find them online) – many of them are simply text that is in a unique font and manipulated. You can use a small drawing with the text – Patternworks’ logo comes to mind – it is a font with character and the “o” is replaced by a ball of yarn.
- Don’t use clip art. You want your logo to be unique and represent YOUR business. Clip art is meant to be general and usable by anyone – your logo must be specific to you. Clip art is used by a lot of people in a variety of ways – it is not unique or meaningful enough to be a logo.
- Your logo must look good and print well in color or in black and white. You’ll be using it in a variety of ways. You want to keep your black & white options open so you can save money on some print jobs (like receipts). Again, ask for a vector file such as an Adobe Illustrator (.ai) or Encapsulated Post Script file (.eps). A good graphic designer will know this and should offer one to you. Even if you can’t open the vector file with your software, printers will be able to do so with no problem. If you don’t have the software to open your vector file, ask for a high resolution pdf version of your logo as well. It is a very simple thing to save a copy of a vector file in a pdf format, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise or charge you extra for it.
- Identify your business. While it isn’t necessary to use your business name in your logo, it is a good idea. A lone red cross works for Red Cross because they have been around a long time and they are international. Their logo needs to be understood across languages and around the world. A smaller company, and especially a new business, should identify the name of their business in their logo.
Surf the web to get some ideas for your logo. Look at a variety of companies. Pay special attention to businesses that are similar to yours. Again, it may be tempting to do a logo like theirs – resist that temptation. In fact, do a very different logo. You want your business to be unique in your field of endeavor. Don’t try to look like your competition. Logos are the symbols of your business and values, if your competitor has developed customer service issues or other poor practices, even if they seem to be very successful, you don’t want to be confused with them. And if they are successful and perfect in every way, you still don’t want to be confused with them. Again, you are putting yourself in the position of disappointing their customers, who may be your customers as well one day. Your business, and you, deserve better.
If you plan to do your own logo, there are also a lot of graphic design books dedicated to logotypes. They are generally rather expensive, but you can get many of them at local libraries.
In the next article I’ll illustrate logo design by dissecting the logo for the Midwest Fiber & Folk Art Fair, which I created myself with Adobe Illustrator. I did change my logo after the first year, and for good reason. We’ll talk about when to break the rules, too.