Create Your Logo in Six Steps
At some point in the life of your business you will need to approve a logo to represent your enterprise. The first time may be when you order your business cards and stationery. A year later you may want a more professional look. After 5 or 10 years your business may have evolved so much that the original logo no longer “works.”
Professional logo design can run from several hundred dollars to many thousands. So whether you do it yourself or hire it out, you’re looking at a serious project. This article will offer a few ideas to get you started. At the end I have some recommended books to take you further.
STEP ONE: Stay away from the computer
My first suggestion is to stay off the computer in the beginning stages. It’s so easy to make a poor design look cool with some of the graphics software available today.
Take some time to consider that this mark will represent your business in a single glance. Answer the following questions before you begin drawing and you will be far more focused. What words do you use to describe your business? (progressive, friendly, professional, fast, inexpensive, leaders in the field) Who are you targeting? (18-24 year old male snowboarders? couples nearing retirement? families with small kids? dog owners?)
STEP TWO: Fill pages with your ideas
After that exercise you’re ready to pick up your pencil. Depending on your past experience with drawing, it may be intimidating to look at that blank sheet of paper. Jump right in and mark up the page with any lines that come out. Figure you’ll cover several pages and you won’t be so concerned about the first few attempts. You’ll probably find you have several different types of logos started: pure letter forms, symbols that represent your business, and combinations of both. Choose three or four to work on at the computer.
STEP THREE: Computer time!
Once you get a few logos ready for further refinement, turn on that computer. The ideal tool for the next job is a professional illustration program like Adobe Illustrator or Macromedia Freehand. These programs create “vector” drawings, which are made from mathematical formulas instead of clumps of pixels.
The advantage to vector drawings is that they can be enlarged or reduced any amount without losing quality or detail. They’re just as sharp on the side of a building as they are on your business card. When bitmap images, which are made of pixels, are enlarged you see the “jaggies.”
STEP FOUR: Hold the color!
Your first drawing on the computer should be done in black and white for several reasons. Your logo will be stripped of color and some detail by most copy machines and faxes, and most newspaper ads will be in black and white as well. Therefore, your logo must communicate effectively even without color.
Also, the trademark office requires a pure black and white sample of your logo. They won’t even accept a grayscale rendering, so all your shading is gone as well as the color. Finally, at some point, budget decisions may call for a one-color version of the mark.
STEP FIVE: Where will you put it?
As you design your logo in black and white of course you’ll be thinking ahead to the colored version as well. You also need to consider all the ways it might be displayed in the next five years. Don’t make the design so complex it won’t work well in all the places you might use it.
Besides your business cards and stationery, you may embroider hats or shirts, put it on a web site, animate it, use it on banners, billboards, trucks and packaging materials, emboss it on metal or sculpt it in 3D. A well-designed logo is flexible!
STEP SIX: Recommended Reading
So where can you find good inspiration, instruction and insight? I have a couple of books to recommend, with links to their pages at Amazon.com so you can find out more before you buy. Did you know Amazon.com posts reader reviews of its books so you can see what current owners have to say?
The first one is How to Design Logos, Symbols & Icons by Gregory Thomas. (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0891349154/zebramoonwebd-20) The book opens with short but valuable sections on the history of logos, design elements and ten criteria for development.
The body of the book is made up of 24 chapters, each detailing the processes top design teams have used to create some very well-known logos. Each chapter covers The Project, The Briefing, The Process and The Solution. I especially liked seeing lots of sketches that lead up to the final design. It might make you feel better in your attempts to know that the pros go down lots of blind alleys too!
The other book is mostly for fun, as well as inspiration. Big Book of Logos by David E. Carter (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0823005380/zebramoonwebd-2 is just that: a collection of over 2,800 logos. That should be enough to give you lots of ideas!
Your logo is a critical part of the image you project to your current and future customers or clients. Spend some time working on it and it will serve you well for years. Good luck!
Please forward this to a friend!
Les Goss is President of ZebraMoon Design, Inc.
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