Logos 101

If your business needs a logo, take it slow. You’ll be married to and living with that logo for a long time. So, as Mama said, “You better shop around.”

An amazing number of company logos we encountered in the television production businesses were, quite simply, ugly when rendered in video — no matter what we did. We had no choice but to use those logos, and they looked awful on otherwise effective spots. Later, when I invested in a retail franchise, I found myself working with a franchisor-provided (read: mandatory) logo that had similar issues. Several stunning websites were unusable when combined with the gaudy logo. Now, I have clients who, due to expensive signage, logo-embossed materials, etc., are “stuck” with design-restrictive symbols they wish they could change.

I hope the folks who designed these graphics weren’t billing themselves as “logo designers.” I’ve seen a number of otherwise competent graphic artists claim they offered “logo design,” when they had no real concept or experience with the wide variety of spaces in which a logo might reside.

If you’re a start-up or if you have the luxury of updating your logo, my best advice is to hire a seasoned logo-design specialist. They’ll understand what needs to be done.

To help you understand what’s involved — and to help you screen potential designers — here are a few items for consideration.

  • The logo must work effectively in full color, gray-scale, and in single color, e.g., as black ink on a white background. The designer should provide screen or line-art for each case.
  • Any wording or typography must be legible even if the logo is reasonably small (as on a TV screen or on a small web ad).
  • The aspect ratio of the logo (length:width) is best if not extreme.
  • Imagery or symbolism must be evident in all versions when the logo is displayed very small.
  • Logo color scheme should allow the logo to work well in a variety of complementary or contrasting color surroundings.

Think about how your logo will appear on letterhead, on a store sign, on a golf shirt, on a large billboard, on a coffee mug, in 3-D animation for a video presentation, on an email newsletter — the possibilities are extensive. Pay attention to other company logos, bad and good. Note how most major companies have clean, legible, quickly-recognized marks. Then find a designer.

Your industry, your business, and the attitude you want to convey should match the “look and feel” of your logo.

For more on the design process, this article from Logotalks.com offers some interesting insights into the thinking and effort that result in the final logo product.

A clear, clean, flexible logo will make it much easier for you to create great looking marketing materials for years to come. A poor design will have marketers struggling to “make it work” for as long as you can stand to hang onto it.

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