All You Need to Know About Designing an Awesome Logo | Clarke Inc. Creative Marketing & Print Communication
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All You Need to Know About Designing an Awesome Logo

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By Andrew Osborne – Clarke, Inc. is the world’s largest purveyor of epic marketing truth for small business.  Our clients crush their competition using our practical common sense ideas.  If you want the pretty boys we’re not it.

We make purchases based on emotion and justify them with logic. How well is your company’s brand helping prospects to think positive thoughts about it?

Brand identity is the foundation of your company’s marketing. Your logo, colors, fonts, phrasing, etc. It’s not just visual, but every aspect of the business that’s shared publicly including social media activities, blog posts by employees, and t-shirts handed out at an event.

Does your brand portray the business as a source of fun, family-friendly, and good-times for all like an amusement park? Is it confident like a law firm? Is it serious yet compassionate like a funeral home? Your brand identity reaches the emotional side of the buyer’s brain.

For those who feel their brand could use some improvement, this post outlines the most important guidelines to consider for your business’s identity.  We have also created the

QUICK GUIDE: CREATE YOUR SMALL BUSINESS BRAND STYLE.

How to Ensure a Brand Works

Individuality. Intentionality. Consistency. These help you build trust with customers, so they are never in doubt about what your company does, who it’s for, and why. Your brand presence, however, doesn’t come together organically. You need guidelines, or what we call a brand style guide, which documents how to correctly use the brand’s foundational elements.

A style guide is very helpful when you are the only marketer (saves your brain from trying to remember stuff), and it’s crucial if you outsource any design work or development of marketing assets. The guide shows the designer exactly how to position their work to support your brand.

Without the guide, his results can be hit or miss, and there’s no way to judge definitively. Also, a style guide saves everyone time, which translates into money. Marketing gets done faster and better than working without the style guide.

Consistency in your brand’s identity communicates reliability in the minds of your customers. If a business takes the time to care about how it “looks” to the smallest detail, then how much more will it care for its customers? The professional appearance implies competency and trustworthiness. Plus it differentiates you from competitors or imitators. Something a lot of small businesses struggle doing.

An excellent brand presents something called an earworm. Have you ever had a song stuck in your head? A pop song or commercial? That’s an earworm, though the concept applies to more than music. For example how often have you heard someone say they need a Kleenex when they meant a tissue. Or when someone says ice cream sundae, you think of Dairy Queen.

Earworms aren’t just for big brands. It’s merely repeated exposure of a simple yet memorable event. Consider signage in front of your store that people drive by every day, or what a subscriber to your blog sees each time they read an article.

The goal is to be memorable, and delivering a good earworm requires some out-of-the-box creativity. It also means you need a style guide to present it consistently throughout your marketing.

What is a brand identity?

It’s best summarized as the overall feel or style of the business. This “feel” may seem nebulous at first, but 90% of our brain’s operations are unconscious. Our “gut feelings” drive an extraordinary amount of our decision-making and we don’t even realize it.

Planning or refining the brand’s identity starts with deciding how you want people to feel when exposed to it. Is it happy, fun, edgy, practical, creative? The list of adjectives to consider is almost endless. Document the most important ones that apply to your business.

Of course, the “feeling” you are going after has to be relatable to your ideal customers. Don’t stay within the confines of the industry but think about your buyers first. For example, a men’s clothier can be viewed as elitist, hip, or established. Three different brands for a typical business that will attract rather different customers for virtually the same clothes.

If you can’t put your finger on the feeling, or your team can’t get on the same page, use an inspiration board. Go to dribbble.com or a similar site and browse designs. Post on the board what you like. Look for a theme upon which to build.

brandidentity-quickguide-cta

 

Side note: Don’t directly copy elements that you see, it could violate a copyright, and it won’t help you create a unique brand. Just view other people’s brands for inspiration.

Logo

Now that you know your overall feel/style of the brand, you’re ready to assess your logo. Does your existing logo fit the words and images you selected? If so, great. If not, it may be time to update it.A good logo is simple yet memorable. Complicated stuff is not necessarily more memorable. Companies like Starbucks Coffee gets away with it, but that’s the exception. Other well-known brands like FedEx or Nike have very well designed but uncomplicated logos.

If your logo is the company name in standard fonts like Papyrus or Comic Sans, you don’t have a logo. While it’s simple, it’s not unique. There are many design fonts that you can draw from if you can’t go as far as an entirely hand drawn logo.

Logos can also be a compilation of clip art which is fine, as long as you know what you are getting and how original it is. Look at the brands in your geographical area and make sure yours doesn’t look similar (same fonts or pieces of art).

Leave the work of producing the logo up to your designer. However, it’s your responsibility to communicate the desired feeling and style. Ideally with your starting pieces to the style guide.

Also, the logo shouldn’t meet your personal preference (an easy trap to fall into) but be relevant to your ideal customer. What I’m saying is don’t take any design personally. Step back and view it 100% through your customer’s eyes.

Typography

Typography. What kind of long winded, fancy-pants word is that? Well, the Wikipedia definition reads that “Typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language legible, readable, and appealing when displayed.”

So in layman’s terms, it’s picking a font. Why such a fancy word for such a simple and seemingly unimportant task? Because choosing a font, done right, is not as simple nor as trivial as it seems.

Why does it matter? Why should you care? Typography communicates a strong yet subtle message. You may not think the difference between Arial and Georgia, or even Times New Roman and Minion matters, but they do.

By way of example, Arial is seen as simple, but clean and modern. Georgia is a “serif” face, therefore more sophisticated and dignified, but simplified as well for use on computer displays, not appropriate for print purposes.

Times New Roman is an entirely valid font, except it is used by virtually everyone to the point it’s so overdone most designers make a policy to never, EVER use it. Now it has connotations of being plain boring. Minion, on the other hand, is newer, fresher, more professional looking.

Like logos, it’s best to have a professional guide you in pairing the fonts (like wine and dinner) for your business brand. It may be helpful to know that fonts are classified into four groups: San Serif, Serif, script fonts, and display fonts.

Never pick more than one font from the same group. It is rarely a good idea to have two different Serif fonts or two separate Sans-serif fonts on the same page. Use one font for headers, and one for body text.

Finally, always come back to your overall style. Be especially careful selecting “display” fonts. They can set a feeling and a style very quickly so use with great restraint. Even simpler fonts like Sans-serif and Serif fonts can evoke certain emotions or communicate a sense about your company’s brand.

Colors

It could be argued that “colors” should be the second thing to consider after style. Color is infused into everything you create including the logo and text you write. It’s inescapable. Every color affects what someone thinks and feels. Even as common a color as black.

A good place to get ideas for colors is from the images on your inspiration board. You only need two or three at the most. Here is a fun place to explore the colors associated with the adjectives you’ve created for the brand.

Every color has positive and negative connotations with it, and this varies by culture. If you’re marketing to a culture other than your own, I recommend hiring an expert. However, if not, you can probably get by with a list of the most common associations.

Colors don’t always work with each other. Most people know not to wear certain clothes with others because of clashing colors. Marketing is no different. We could go into all the various methods for picking colors that work well together – analogous, monochromatic, triad, complementary, compound, etc. – but that’s your designer’s job. However, Adobe has a helpful page where you can play around to get some ideas.

Voice

Even though design is the foundation of your brand, the words carry the brand message to our conscience mind. Sloppy copy is a weak brand.

A brand’s message is established from the company’s values and mission. It’s voice, the feel of the words comes from the brand’s descriptive adjectives. The level of formality and use of industry terms are the biggest components to its voice.

Brands have a standard set of statements. These are typically the company’s tagline, value and positioning statements. Even the somewhat legally scripted items like satisfaction or money back guarantees apply. These statements should be carefully crafted and then placed in the style guide, so the verbiage remains consistent no matter their use.

Strong brands define specific words they like to use consistently and those they avoid. It considers how people search for them online. Defining the key terms for the business helps make the brand more unique and better targeted to the desired audience.

As you review the current voice of your company’s brand, consider the text on your website, does it match or compliment what you read in the brochure or direct mail piece. How about what’s posted on social media or written on the blog? Does it all feel like the same company and does it support the brand and imagery you’ve redefined so far?

What successes and pitfalls did you experience when you designed your logo?  Post your thoughts in the comments box so we can share them with our readers.

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Andrew Osborne
andrew@bebetterdomore.com

Andrew works as our Preflight Engineer, Graphic Designer, Web Designer, and all-around computer guru. He has won several academic and design awards during his career. Print, Web Design, and Tablet applications are his specialties and he knows how to make effective designs that call out to customers.

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