This is a Guest Post written by Erika Lancaster. Check out the bio at the end of the post to learn more about Erika!
When a blogger is just starting out, it can be very difficult to decide what will require investing in right away, what can wait a bit longer, and what we’ll be attempting to do ourselves. These decisions will be different for all of us, depending on our personal wants and needs, as well as our initial budget.
In this blog post, I will be explaining why a logo design is such an important element for a business to have, the top characteristics that make a logo effective, as well as my top ten tips to make your logo and brand identity look professional.
This post includes a free downloadable checklist so you’re able to create your business Brand Book once you have finalized your logo. (See the bottom of the post for access to the checklist!)
As bloggers, we have to be practical and strategic when choosing where to invest our resources and, in the beginning, paying a designer to create our logo and overall branding may be way too expensive. However, as creative entrepreneurs starting an online business, we KNOW how important image is and how it is ESSENTIAL to stand out from our competition.
Because I have a background in Graphic Design and Advertising, I’ve been able to fully create my own business identity, website, and marketing strategies. Nonetheless, it took me MONTHS to finally decide what my specific niche and business goals would be. I had always been a full-time employee or freelancer designing for someone else’s business, but never my own!
When you are starting a business, you should NEVER jump into creating your brand’s identity without knowing what exactly it is you will be offering and to whom. It is imperative that you figure out what sets you aside from your competition and what your personal values are. This will be the foundation for everything else.
Your logo and overall branding should not only look professional but should also transmit what your business stands for. It will most likely be the first thing that your clients and/or customers will see when they learn about you.
What exactly IS a logo and why is it SO important?
A logo is, basically, a visual representation of your company’s values, beliefs, and goals. It is a very important tool that will help transmit your brand’s identity throughout all types of media you will be producing.
And yes, you ARE a brand, even if you are only one person!
There are different types of logos:
- a) Symbol/icon: A small design specifically created for the brand that is made up of shapes and/or lines and has no letters or words
- b) Word mark: Typographic arrangement of the company’s name
- c) Letter mark: Letters arranged in a specific manner (usually the company’s initials or the first letter of its name)
- d) Combination of typographic elements and a symbol
Which type of logo you create is up to you. It will depend on the type of marketing your planning for your business, as well as the products and services you offer.
It is important for you to understand that a logo is just ONE of the many parts that make up a brand’s overall identity. When we speak of a brand’s overall identity, we’re talking about ALL visual aspects that make up a brand’s look and feel (logo, colors, used fonts, style of photographs/imagery used, etc.).
Characteristics of an Effective Logo
It is simple
Most often, the best logos are simple. They are legible, clear and don’t include unnecessary elements. You want to get your message through efficiently and immediately.
It is relevant
Are your chosen colors, fonts and symbols appropriate for your niche? Is your logo meaningful and does it connect with your target audience?
It is memorable
Is there anything you can change or add to your logo so that it can stick out in your potential customer’s mind amongst your competition? If you can’t think of a specific thing to change in your logo, think of it in terms of your brand’s overall identity.
It is timeless
To ensure that your logo will be able to stand the test of time, stay away from visual trends. Refrain from using imagery, fonts or colors that are specific of any one time period, unless this is specifically what your business is going for (vintage products, etc.). You want your logo to last for a long time!
It is versatile
Your logo design has to work on all types of media you will be creating. It has to be easy to use and legible at its smallest size.
It is unique
Is your logo aesthetically pleasing and easily identifiable? Does your play of color, shape, and style set you apart from your competition in some way?
10 Tips to Make Your Logo Look Professional
Build off a solid foundation.
Define your ideal audience, your business objectives (both short and long-term), as well as your values. This, in itself, requires a lot of thought and vast research about your competition.
Before you start designing, write down three words that describe your brand’s personality/attitude and have these in mind throughout the entire process.
Use references but NEVER, EVER copy them!
Designers use references of all types both to get inspired AND to ensure they don’t use an idea that has already been put out there by someone else.
Create a “reference” folder for yourself and include 3-5 logos that you like. Pinpoint what it is, exactly, that you like about them. Is it the color, the font style, the placement? Try to apply these points you like things in your own new way.
Look at what your competition is doing and think of ways that you can be different from them. Don’t ever design a logo with a particular style just because it’s what all the popular business owners in your niche seem to be doing!
Try to stay as original as possible to YOU, and don’t allow yourself to be influenced by trends. This will help you attract the audience you want.
Make sure your fonts complement each other.
If you’re using different fonts within your logo, make sure they play well together. Usually, fonts that pair well have a good amount of contrast between them but are also similar in some ways.
For example, a font that is highly stylized and handwritten could pair up with a font that is very simple and mechanical. Or perhaps one word is a thick sans serif font and the other is a thin serif.
However, just because two fonts are very different from each other, doesn’t necessarily mean that they will pair up well. There also has to be SOMETHING similar between them, which can be the kerning, proportions, etc.
Pairing fonts can be difficult for someone with an untrained eye. If you’re unsure, stick to fonts from the same family or simply use one.
Ensure legibility, over all things.
Stay away from fonts that are illegible. No matter how beautiful a font may be initially if it isn’t legible when you use it to type out your company’s name, it won’t work!
Think about the smallest size you will be using your logo in. Will you be able to read it? Are there any letters that could be misunderstood by your public?
If you use a symbol or any type of imagery, make sure it’s simple and clean.
If you decide to add any symbols or icons to your logo, make them simple. Use, at most, 2-3 different colors and stay away from gradients/effects.
When creating your symbols or icons, use grids and geometric shapes to ensure accurate curves and angles. This will ensure a clean effect and that it will work at its minimum size.
Make sure you use fonts and elements you have permission to use.
Always, ALWAYS, make sure you buy your fonts and any elements you will be including in your logo (or make them yourself). Also, make sure that the font and license you buy includes the use you will be giving to it. The last thing you want is to get in trouble for using something in a way you shouldn’t be!
Flip your logo upside down.
This is a trick used by the pros! By turning your logo upside down, your brain will see only shapes instead of specific letters and/or symbols. It’s a great way to make sure your logo doesn’t contain any imperfections or shapes that you may not have intended to create!
Don’t finish your logo in one sitting.
Designing a logo is a process and you want to end up with something you will use for years to come. Don’t rush! Take at least a month from the moment you start brainstorming to the moment you finish your brand book (more about this in a moment).
Just because you feel you’ve come up with something nice one day, doesn’t mean you’ll like it next week! I recommend working on it off an on throughout several weeks. This will ensure that the design is something that you’ll like for a long time.
Also, I highly recommend getting feedback from others before making your final call. Getting other people’s perspective is extremely valuable!
Above all, keep things simple.
Remember your logo is going to be used in combination with many other visual elements that will be making up your overall brand identity (colors, photos, etc.). You do not want to over-saturate and overwhelm your audience. Keep it simple, classy and professional.
Create at least a simple brand book
Brand books are important because they keep a company’s image coherent and consistent throughout all marketing efforts as well as products sold. They are especially useful when a business starts growing, as they make sure a brand’s image guidelines are respected and enforced.
A brand book is not difficult to create. Once you have arrived at your logo, have defined the fonts, colors and photo style you’ll be using throughout your website/blog, I highly recommend making one!
Fill out the form below to get access to the brand book checklist!
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To finish up, I want to say that creating your logo and brand identity is totally doable. Yes, it requires research and effort, and you would definitely benefit from getting feedback from a professional designer. However, you shouldn’t let your lack of resources keep you from getting started!
Erika Lancaster spends most of her waking hours using traditional art media to create both commercial illustration work and decorative fine art. When she’s not in her studio, she’s likely to be teaching about art and encouraging others to pursue their own creative paths. After having obtained her BA in Graphic Design, Erika gained experience working as both in-house designer for companies as well as advertising agencies. Years later, she left her last full-time design position to become a teaching artist. Throughout her years working in the field of art education, she has continued designing for select clients and is currently applying her branding and advertising expertise to grow her own creative business.