“I literally got started just creating fake logos for companies that didn’t exist,” says Fusco, who started his first company at age 15. The business provided filming and editing services for wedding videos. “I knew that I wanted to run my own company, and eventually I just decided that I was pretty good at drawing up logos at a time when a lot of small businesses didn’t have one.”
Fusco founded LogoMojo.com in 1992 and integrated with Deluxe in 2008. Today, Fusco’s still doing what he loves. LogoMojo.com serves entrepreneurs and startup businesses throughout the United States. Not bad for a business that was more or less born from Fusco’s creative eye and some high-level doodles in a high school notebook.
Fusco sat down recently for a Q&A to talk about the elements that make up the best logo designs and discuss some of his favorite corporate trademarks and why he thinks it’s so critical for companies to have a simple, memorable logo.
Big companies like Starbucks, Nike and IBM have spent — and continue to spend — a lot of money developing their logos and integrating them into their corporate branding. How can small businesses with significantly smaller budgets do the same thing?
They don’t have to. And to be honest, most of the best logos didn’t cost a ton of money to create. Twitter used a stock clipart image for theirs (although I don’t recommend that approach generally), and Nike’s swoosh happened almost by accident. Regardless, the key elements that make these logos great are simplicity and specificity to what the business does. As soon as someone sees these logos, he or she knows what that company is all about.
Some of that is due to the money they’ve spent to disseminate market and brand the logos, right?
A big reason those logos are known so well across the globe is because they’re international brands. But small businesses can achieve the same thing on a smaller scale. Not every business is trying to market to the world; sometimes just marketing to your customers is far more effective. And if you create a logo with the same principles as successful big brands, it can accomplish many of the same things that Nike, Starbucks, Twitter and McDonalds do.
What do you think small businesses struggle with most when they start thinking about a new logo?
I think the number one problem is that small businesses try to do too much at the start of the branding process. They try to make it too complex. For example, they might have a bunch of colors, a few different fonts and too many words. The simple fact is that a logo needs to be clean, able to be cheaply reproduced, scalable and unique. You have to be able to put it on everything — products, letterhead, marketing collateral, everything — and know it can make an impact whether it’s on a billboard or an envelope.
What are your basic rules of thumb when it comes to small business logo design?
I try to steer small business owners toward one or two colors and as few words as possible — maybe just the company’s name. A toned-down logo can have big impact, great voice. I think Facebook, Twitter and UPS are good examples. When you see those colors, you almost immediately think of those brands.
One logo that I think a lot of people say is great is Apple, and I agree. A lot of people love Apple as a company, but they’ve fallen in love with the logo as well. Starbucks’ new logo is great, too. The company cut down on the clutter that was in previous logos when it decided to make the icon the new logo. UPS and IKEA are good examples, too, of choosing one or two colors and integrating the company name into the logo.
Why do you think it’s so important for a small business to have a logo?
I’m biased, but I think logo design should be done at the same time an entrepreneur is writing his or her business plan. Logo design and other aspects of branding can be just as important to getting customers in the door as your location and product. A great logo that really connects with customers and identifies your brand from day one makes the job of marketing a business so much easier.
You advise LogoMojo’s customers against DIY logo design. Why is that?
Small business owners spend way too much time and money creating a viable business and building its reputation. Throwing together a haphazard graphic based on a stock piece of clipart that isn’t unique just seems like the wrong way to approach such an important part of the business-building effort. A strong logo needs to be a real reflection of the business. And unless a person has professional graphic design background, developing a cohesive graphic that applies an appropriate font and color scheme and provides the right level of scalability is tough. I think the return on this kind of investment is much higher if you put it in the hands of an expert that will work with you to design something that allows customers to understand and connect with the business.
How much time did you spend designing your company’s logo?
Oh, way too much time. I was obsessed with it for about a month. I went through numerous variations and tweaked it every day. But the funny thing is that I eventually went back to the first logo I drew up. It was simple, I hadn’t overthought it, and I didn’t try to do too much. Just like I advise my clients now, I had to eliminate all the noise and pressure to be perfect, and then boil down the design to the core components and principles that I really wanted.
Are you still involved in the actual design process for LogoMojo’s clients?
I’m more involved in managing and building the business now, but I still look at every single design before it’s sent to a client. I’ll pick certain projects and help with the designs because it’s still what I love to do. To me, it’s really cool to see the evolution and the sense of accomplishment that the end product creates. Ultimately, it’s rewarding to know we’re helping a company owner develop a really important piece of his or her business.