Logo Basics

Crafting a logo that will set you apart from your competition

green zebra logo

John McWade, founder and creative director of Before & After magazine says "design looks easier than it is, and it’s more important than it looks." This is especially true for your store’s logo. 

While most people think they know the elements of a good logo, the process of creating that logo is more mysterious. Here are some tips to help you arrive at a logo that can be used in any application, whether you are creating your logo for the first time or giving your old logo a face-lift.

Finding a designer: A good designer is worth his or her weight in gold. The right designer will not only guide you through the process, but also will research what your competitions’ logos look like and how they use them in their marketing, so you get a logo is truly unique. (See the additional article on how to find the right designer.)

Never do a logo design contest: Not everyone can afford to pay a design firm. That’s OK, but avoid design contests—especially ones where you have to choose a winner. You will have to live with your logo for a long time, so working with a good designer ensures you get exactly what you want and that the end product is fully usable.

Avoid those "$500 for Five Versions" logo websites: Most websites that offer "x" number of logos to choose from for a fee will use stock designs and adapt them for their clients. If you are looking for something creative that really reflects what your store is about, then invest in your logo. Some designers don’t charge more than these sites and may even do the project for a working-member discount.

Keep your committee small, but take input from all: Ideally your committee of decision-makers for your logo will be made up of no more than two or three people who really understand the issues around good logo development. They should know the store well and be able to envision where it is going and how it will grow. 

Maybe it’s because each of us sees so much advertising every day, but most folks consider themselves experts when it comes to marketing. Effective marketing and branding decisions should be made by the people who will use the logo on a daily basis and who understand the power it can wield for a business. That is not to say you should not involve others. Getting input from as many people as possible, both employees and shoppers of varying levels of experience with the store, will help the committee make an informed decision. Talking about the feelings the logo evokes, what it makes them think of, and their overall impression will help the committee gain insight into how the public will view their new brand icon.

Do your research: While your designer should research what your competition is doing, it is always advisable to take a look for yourself so that you don’t push your designer into making a mistake.

Typefaces: Your logo typeface should be easy to read and have some personality. When choosing one, a good rule of thumb is if it came with your computer, you should look for something else. Choose a typeface or two typefaces from different categories (oldstyle, modern, serif, slab serif, sans serif, script, handwritten, distressed…) that fit your store’s style but have characteristics that make them special. Also, consider that different styles lend different character traits to your brand. For more information check out The Non-Designer’s Type Book.

Color: In theory, you can have as many colors as you want for just about any application, thanks to the increasing popularity of digital printing in professional print shops. But don’t. K.I.S.S. really is important when it comes to your logo. Limit your color palette to no more than three, including shadow. This will ensure you are ready to print on anything and that the printing costs will be affordable. Having your designer develop one- and two-color versions of your logo as well will help you control costs for print jobs regardless of the printing process. When the final versions are delivered you should receive different files (vector, .jpg, and .png, file types at least) with color charts showing your CMYK, Pantone, RGB equivalents.

Identify potential issues early

  • Your designer should anticipate a lot of the issues for you, but knowing what some of them are will help. Here are sources of common mistakes, with illustrations shown:
  • Ask for your final logo concepts to be presented as color, gray scale, and black and white.
  • This will give you a chance to see each logo’s strengths and weaknesses in different contexts.
  • Logos should not have fine details that will get lost or look like ants when they are scaled down. Ask to see logo samples as small as 1 inch.
  • Typefaces that have long ascenders or descen- ders can be problematic.
  • They can bang into  each other and make it hard to use the logo  in tight spaces.
  • Make sure your logo is designed as a vector and  not a bitmap.
  • Vectors are mathematically based  drawing, so they can be scaled up to any size  without loss of quality—very important for  signage uses!
  • Don’t use too many fonts, fonts that don’t go  together, or crazy fonts.
  • Avoid bad or suggestive color, shape and/or  type combinations. ν
See other articles from this issue: #156 September - October - 2011
Files: