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SMALL BUSINESS BRANDING - Simple Tips for Logo Design

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Branding is important for your small business, not just for large corporations with consumer products.

This series on small business branding deals with three elements of your brand: Picture, Promise and REALITY. We're looking at the visual aspects along with the real-life impressions that live in the minds of the people who can make or break you - customers.

This post relates to Logo Design, one of the Picture (visual) elements of branding.

Designing a new logo doesn't have to be painful, or even terribly expensive. It's often one of the first things people see. It will leave an impression, whether good or bad. Small business owners sometimes fail to give their logo the attention it deserves. They might have a friend or relative make one for them for little or no cost... and it shows.

Time and effort are required to create a quality logo. The artistic process can be fuzzy and a little awkward for people who prefer facts and figures. Here are some helpful tips to bring some logic to the process.

TIME IT WELL: Rework your logo before you launch a new web site. If you're putting your best foot forward with your website, don't detract from it with a lower quality logo. The same holds true when you order new product literature. You don't want your old logo on expensive printed material - especially if those materials will be around for a few years. If you're planning a big campaign, do your best to have only the new version seen in all places.

CONCEPT: Ideally your logo should convey a key element of your business. Think about what you want to communicate. Who do you want to attract or even filter out? A design professional might use these and other considerations to develop a creative brief in the process:

Company Size: Small vs. Large
Tone: Playful vs. Serious
Style: Traditional vs. Contemporary

Consider BP, Formerly British Petroleum, they are now an “energy company” with more diverse interests. Their logo represents the greener sentiments they want to convey (especially since the spill). Other logos can communicate the ideas of "fun" or "reliable". 

KEEP IT SIMPLE: It should be easy on the eyes. Avoid excessive detail.  The brain shouldn't have to do gymnastics to figure it out. Shell's logo is a great example of simplicity. Nike and Pepsi are two more examples of simple logos enjoying worldwide recognition. The Starbucks logo history shows a progression toward simplicity.

SHAPE/PROPORTION: Relatively equal high/wide proportions are best. A logo that fits in a circle or a relatively square space can be more universally applied. The more oblong the proportions are, the harder it is to fit in some places.

IT MUST REDUCE WELL: Your logo needs to be clear in both large and small scale. A great example is General Motors, whose logo is even clearly recognizable in their FAVICON, the tiny image to the left of the URL in your browser. There are creative options, however. OfficeMax uses a ball of rubber bands for their favicon.

SAY IT IN BLACK: Color printing is becoming more affordable, even at home. But you still need to make sure that your logo looks good in black and white. Ask the designer to provide a version in black and white in addition to the color original.

CHOOSE A PROFESSIONAL: You don't have to spend big bucks with a large agency, but getting a logo on the cheap will rarely serve you well. It's not easy to create a profoundly simple yet original image that puts you in the best light. Interview several professional designers. Ask to see a portfolio of their work. Compare their work with the logos of other respectable companies.

VERSIONS and RIGHTS: Make sure that you truly own the work. Get versions in both the original file format, and in formats you can use on your own.


More Branding related articles:

Old Shoe Branding
How Branding Contributes to Your Success
Small Business Branding - Making and Keeping Your Promise
Small Business Branding - Visual Continuity
Small Business Branding - Simple Tips for Logo Design
Branding From Three Perspectives


Steve Smart works with busy entrepreneurs who want to improve their marketing efforts.



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