It’s somewhat surprising that a simple image and a couple of words can be such a big deal, but studies show a well-designed logo can significantly impact how customers perceive your brand.
Company logos that work to express a brand’s symbolic function or sensory benefits boost customer commitment to that brand and further revenues, says research by MIT Sloan Management Review.
Multiple factors are involved in that cause and effect, including the human brain’s increased responsiveness to (and better memory of) visual images over text. That means you come out ahead when your target audience can absorb positive connotations about your company in one glance at your graphic symbol. As such, the goal for your logo is to condense your key attributes in an understandable and memorable way that stands out from the competition, using elements that work well in different sizes and mediums. The best logos have instant impact and make their point quickly while they’re in a consumer’s sightline.
Because that can be a tall order, small businesses often fall short with less-than-professional designs that incorporate conflicting images or colors, overly creative fonts, too much clip art, a lack of originality, or an over reliance on trends. In certain memorable examples, rookies have even accidentally incorporated inappropriate elements into their logos.
“Surprisingly few companies trade upon the opportunity that logos represent,” the MIT research notes. “Most logos fall short in visually expressing a brand’s values and principles. (And) it is surprising how unappealing many logos are.”
Conversely Deluxe’s talented logo designers, who have completed logos for more than 95,000 clients since 1992, can customize professional graphics for your company that start with a very simple step-by-step process online. The six action items you initiate in the process are as follows:
1. Choosing your style
In general, most logo styles fit into one of the following categories, with examples added: fun (i.e. Kidology to Go); vintage (The Black Denim Co.); text only (Pinterest); illustration (Mr. Clean); emblem (Starbucks); negative space (USA Network); simple (Nike), or modern (Inspirus).
In narrowing down your preference you might start by creating a file of existing logos that appeal to you (check out the tons of examples online), then identifying common denominators. Is it the fonts you like? The colors? The use of white space? The appearance of movement? The simplicity? Pick out a few defining characteristics. You may have an immediate gut reaction as to your likes and dislikes, or you may need to take some time. Be sure to observe out what other organizations of your size and business category are trying to achieve through logos.
After that, brainstorm exactly what you imagine when you think about your brand. What words and images come to mind? To help you nail down your target audience, consider creating customer personas, or fictional characters that represent different demographic types likely to be using your brand. Other questions to ask yourself include:
- What do I want the design to say about my product or business? What specific attribute(s) do I want to convey — innovation, intelligence, joy, trustworthiness or something else? Can I narrow down my company focus into two words, instead of trying to cram in its entire history?
- What styles work effectively with the colors and imagery I have in mind?
- Do I have a preference regarding shape? Cutting-edge firms and tech companies, for example, often use angular logos to convey speed, while service-oriented firms tend to use rounded logos to denote service and trust.
- Will this style be relevant to my business five or 10 years from now? Switching logos after a firm expands can lead to consumer confusion.
2. Choosing your color scheme
The five most common options are warm, cool, modern, bold, monochrome or earthy. Certain colors have been found to influence how we think and feel, though that’s all subject to personal, cultural and situational factors. Unless your brand is particularly whimsical, it’s best to incorporate only one or two colors in the interest of crisp, clean design that doesn’t overwhelm the viewer. Remember you’re not creating a work of art for a gallery, but aiming for an easy-to-identify logo. Some common color connotations include:
- Red: Associated with the intensity of blood and fire, as in the Red Bull and YouTube logos. Think active, emotional, passionate, trust, love and aggressiveness.
- Blue: Associated with depth and stability, as with the Samsung and Ford logos. Earth and sky, comfort, faith, conservative, understanding, clarity, confident, calm and trust.
- Yellow: Associated with energy, joy and sunshine, as with the McDonald’s logo. Alive, energetic, fresh.
- Green: Associated with the harmony of nature, as with the Starbucks logo. Relaxed, trust, peaceful, hopeful.
- Purple: Associated with the luxury of royalty, as with Yahoo or FedEx. Glamour, power, nostalgia, romantic, introspective.
- Orange: Associated with happiness, sunshine and the tropics, as with the Fanta or Internet Explorer logos. Enthusiastic, creative, determined, stimulation of mental activity.
- Black: Associated with mystery or formality, as with the Blackberry or Tiffany & Co. logos. Bold, serious, luxurious.
- Pink: Associated with feminine traits, as with the Barbie logo. Love, sweet, warmth, sexuality, nurtured.
- Brown: Associated with nurturing and Mother Earth, as with UPS or M&Ms. Reliability, support, dependability.
3. Deciding on images
Some clients come to the table with a certain image they want incorporated, while others need suggestions. Again, brainstorm what images come to mind when you think about what your brand represents. You don’t necessarily have to be literal. In fact, the vast majority of logos don’t indicate what the company actually does; the Nike logo doesn’t involve a shoe, the Apple logo doesn’t involve a computer and the McDonald’s logo has nothing to do with food. Your final choice should be as original as possible while still saying what you want it to say.
Some companies choose to incorporate metaphors into their designs. For example, the closeness of the letters in the eBay logo denotes its users are all interconnected; the secondary-instead-of-primary color of the “l” in the Google logo hints the company doesn’t follow the rules; a hidden arrow in the FedEx logo suggests movement, and the six peacock feathers in the NBC logo stand for the company’s six divisions. That kind of symbolism can be effective, but leave it out if it distracts from the simplicity of the design. Not everything in your logo has to mean something.
4. Considering where you’ll place your logo
Understanding how the design will need to be scaled helps your designer guide you toward images and text that will look great no matter where they’re positioned.
Media possibilities include your
- Business cards
- Your business website
- Social media
- Retail packaging
- Printed marketing material
- Banners and signage
- Checks and forms
- Company vehicles
Consider whether your logo will look good printed in one color, which is cheaper, if it should be printed in reverse, or if it will look as good on a postage stamp-sized ad as it will on a billboard?
5. Summary of your company or organization
A brief overview of your company will help designers understand the scope of what you’re trying to accomplish. How old is your company? What are your products and services? What makes you different from your competition? What adjectives best describe your firm? What are your long-term goals, and how are you trying to position yourself? Do you operate globally, or do you focus more on a local market?
The answers could affect strategy ranging from typeface to the balance of text and images. For example, script-like typefaces imply a personal touch, while symmetrical and block-like letters suggest strength and professionalism. As a general rule, however, it’s best to choose a logo typeface that aligns with those most common in your industry.
Firms with long names are often better served with a logo built around just the first two or three letters, while large companies often choose a single image instead of text, making an impression without a single word. Conversely, smaller firms, especially new firms, may get better exposure via a “wordmark” logo that focuses all the attention on their name.
6. Providing contact information
Wrap up your six-step introduction to logo design by providing Deluxe with contact information so a designer can start collaborating on your project.
In summary, the right logo can function as an ambassador for your brand at large, helping consumers recognize and automatically (sometimes subconsciously) draw certain conclusions about who you are.
Deluxe makes it easy by walking you through the process and helping you choose elements that will enable you to make a strong first impression. As Will Rodgers once said, you only get one chance to make that happen.
“Overall, logos are the most crucial visual synthesizers of a brand that consumers turn to on a daily basis,” concludes the MIT study. “We strongly encourage managers to rethink their use of brand logos to help them strengthen customers’ commitment to a brand, facilitate new brand extensions and thus trade upon new business opportunities in the future.”