Not all entrepreneurs are crummy artists, but there are certainly those among us who could use an art lesson or two. If you are less-than-gifted in the art department, designing your own company logo can be a daunting task. You can always hire an outside designer to help out, but if you are running low on funds that may not be an option. Most new small business owners are also involved in every step of getting their company off the ground and, like with all other aspects of their new business, they want to be as hands-on as possible. While designing a logo allows you to be creative, you may soon wind up finding yourself stuck trying to choose between colors or shapes. If you think you might be ready to take a crack at making your own logo, here are a few tips to making it memorable and eye-catching.
Choosing a color palette is one of the most fundamental parts of logo design. Avoid bright, flashy colors – there is a reason why you don’t see very many logos that are neon orange and yellow. Typically designers stick with three or four main colors, and assign each main element of the logo its own color. So any textual elements would be one color, any background design would be another, and so on. Color psychology can also be used, but be careful not to fall into the old tropes of ‘blue is calm’ or ‘red is anger’ – the way colors are perceived by someone is heavily dependent on culture, so keep your target audience in mind when making your color choices. And, whatever palette you do choose, just make sure the colors actually match and don’t clash against one another.
There is a definite movement towards minimalism in logo design, which is perfectly fine as long as you’ve already established your logo as the representative graphic of your company. However, most small businesses don’t have the branding power of major corporations like Starbucks or Nike. Incorporating some small textual elements is not a bad idea, as long as they don’t overpower the rest of the logo. Choosing the right font is also important as font can change the impression that your logo gives – mortuaries, for example, probably shouldn’t use Wing Dings.
The tone of your logo is influenced by more than just your font choices. Your logo needs to illicit the same feelings that you want associated with your business. Going back to the fictional mortuary mentioned above, a business like that would probably want a logo that gives an impression of professionalism and decorum, rather than silliness or childlike wonder – please, no confetti and clowns at the funeral home. As you designed the logo, and your opinion is thus slightly tainted, the best way to know what impression your logo gives is to simply survey a few random people – family and friends are typically the guinea pigs of choice. So show it off, ask what impression they get, and go from there.
While you are asking your family and friends about the initial impression they get from your logo, you should also ask them if they know or can tell from the logo what your business actually does. Usually the text gives away your company’s industry, but whatever graphic you use also helps reveal what you actually do. Incorporating the graphic into the riddle of ‘what does my business sell’ will be easier for those companies that actually sell a physical product – just slap a stylized version of said product onto your logo and you’re good to go. Businesses that sell a service, on the other hand, might have to be a bit more creative, or simply fall back on the text and make the graphic more symbolic than explicit.
Your logo is your company’s brand, so why would you invest all of the time and energy necessary to boost the recognizability of that logo if you aren’t going to use it on everything? The color palette you chose can be used to design your website, and the graphic portion can lend itself to a minimalist design if and when you decide to ditch the textual element. Just be consistent – don’t use one logo on your business cards and another for your Facebook profile. While having a fluid logo will let you be a bit more creative, it will not help build brand recognition.
Along with these tips, you’ll of course need some software – a copy of GIMP (which is free) and enough patience to learn the ins and outs of the program are as essential as choosing a good font. But if you’ve never designed anything before, even the best program won’t keep you from making basic beginner mistakes like using a bad color palette or allowing your company’s name to dominate the rest of the logo. Sketch out a few ideas, fire up your computer, and don’t be afraid of testing out your design by showing it to your friends or your family – outside input, especially when its free, is very useful. An open mind and patience goes a long way and, when you design your own logo, you can be sure it will be as much of an expression of your personality as the rest of your business is.
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @deborahsweeney and @mycorporation.
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