In their book Start Your Own Business, the staff of Entrepreneur Media Inc. guides you through the critical steps to starting your business, then supports you in surviving the first three years as a business owner. In this edited excerpt, the authors offer tips to help you create a logo that truly represents what your company stands for.
Before you start designing a business card or picking colors for the letterhead of your new business, you need a logo. Featuring your company name, embellished with a little color and perhaps a few graphic touches, your logo is the most important design element because it’s the basis for all your other materials: stationery, packaging, promotional materials and signage.
Through the use of color and graphics, your logo should reflect the overall image you want your company to convey. It should give people a feel for what your company’s all about.
For example, say your product is an organic facial cream you’ll be marketing to health-conscious consumers. Your logo should represent your product’s best benefits—being all-natural and environmentally sound. Creating a simple, no-nonsense logo using earth tones and a plain typeface will give the impression of a product that’s “back to basics,” which is exactly what you want to achieve. Take that same product, and give it a slick, high-tech look with neon colors, however, and people won’t associate your logo with the down-to-earth product you’re selling.
The best logos have several things in common. Here are five keys to a successful logo:
“A good way to think about simplicity is how many moving pieces there are in the logo,” says Jonah Berger, author of Contagious: Why Thing Catch On. For instance, the old Apple logo was rainbow-colored, while the current one is rendered in solid black or simple grayscale. That newfound simplicity makes the logo easy to look at, which customers appreciate. “The easier it is to process things, the more we like those things,” Berger says. For that reason, most brands want to present a simple aesthetic that’s easy for consumers to digest.
2. Brand consistency.
Your logo will communicate things to consumers about your brand, so you need to ensure that its design fits your company’s overall message. Consider the Apple logo again. Whereas Apple’s old logo connoted the free spirit of an upstart that was taking on staid tech giants, its current position as one of the most valuable corporations in the world calls for the sleek, futuristic logo it has now. “That’s consistent with the message that Apple wants to suggest: We are technology, but we’re friendly technology, we’re easy-to-use technology,” Berger says. If you’re starting a new company, Berger says, you should put some serious thought into your brand’s key characteristics and how you want to convey them in your logo.
Memorability is the quality that makes your logo easy for customers to recall, which leads to repeat customers and word-of-mouth, says Berger. Your logo should help them remember that you exist and what you stand for.
The remarkability of a logo is what makes it “worthy of remark,” cutting through the clutter of your industry to reach customers, Berger says. TalentBin’s logo exemplifies this quality. The logo for the search engine that helps companies with talent acquisition consists of a cartoonish purple squirrel riding a unicorn. While it may seem ridiculous, it has a specific meaning. “In the recruiting industry, a ‘purple squirrel’ is a type of person who’s really hard to find,” Berger says. “It’s a way for them to show they’re insiders, that they know the culture. If you’re an established brand, you may not want a remarkable logo. But if you’re a startup, you need to take a little more risk.”
5. Market testing.
Don’t just trust your gut when designing a logo, Berger says. Do market research. One way to test various logo designs is to put out a survey on a service such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. “We could throw up a quick study for an entrepreneur for $10 and, within a day, get a lot of feedback from different people about how heavy or light, fast or slow a logo would be,” Berger says. Get some independent feedback about whether your logo is saying everything you want it to say.
Logos come in two basic forms: abstract symbols (like the apple in Apple Computer) or logotypes, a stylized rendition of your company’s name. You can also use a combination of both. Alan Siegel, former chairman of Siegel+Gale, a design firm specializing in corporate identity, warns that promoting an abstract symbol can prove very costly for a small business on a budget. In addition, he says, such logos are harder to remember. “A logotype or word mark is much easier to recall,” says Siegel. “If you use an abstract symbol, always use it in connection with your business name.”
Trying to create a logo on your own may seem like the best way to avoid the high costs of going to a professional design firm, which will charge thousands for a logo alone. However, be aware that there are a lot of independent designers who charge much less. According to Stan Evenson, founder of Evenson Design Group, “Entrepreneurs on a tight budget should shop around for a designer, but don’t hire someone because of their bargain price. Find a designer who’s familiar with your field and your competition. If the cost still seems exorbitant, remember that a good logo should last at least ten years. If you look at the amortization of that cost over a ten-year period, it doesn’t seem so bad.”
Even if you have a good eye for color and a sense of what you want your logo to look like, you should still consult a professional designer. They know whether or not a logo design will transfer easily into print or onto a sign, while you might come up with a beautiful design that can’t be transferred or would cost too much to be printed. Your logo is the foundation for all your promotional materials, so this is one area where spending a little more now really pays off later.