Module 2, Step 4:
Creating a great logo and slogan
If you’ve read any of my articles on logos, than you know I believe your logo is the first impression of your company and it’s hard to overcome a bad first impression.
Your logo is an important part of your brand identity creation process as it will (or should) establish the fonts and colors used in the rest of your branding materials, so it should be taken very seriously. But, also taken into consideration are our budgets and our personalities. First, I’m going to assume that you already have a logo, for better or worse, so we’re going to take some time to assess it, and consider redesigning, if this seems appropriate.
First, let’s discuss what elements make up a good logo, and what makes a bad logo. Then, I’ll take you through redesign options from a complete DIY (Do-It-Yourself) approach through outsourcing on the cheap.
Logo basics: Qualities that make up a good logo
- A stamp-like weight: I don’t want my logo to get lost in the gray sea of text. I want the eye to be able to pick it out quickly as if it were rubber stamped onto that paper or screen. This means – don’t get caught up in loose letter-spacing.
- Simplified concept: I put my logos through many fazes of “stripping away”, so that I convey my concept with the most simple form possible. This is incredibly difficult to do while maintaining aesthetics.
- Maintain aesthetics: The other end of things is to have a concept-heavy logo that ignores professional aesthetics. These are usually “art directed” by committees. There’s a local hospital that fits perfectly into this category (I only assume that a committee was responsible for it).
- LEGIBILITY: Yes, this deserves all caps. A logo first and foremost should read clearly. Stay away from “fad” fonts.
- Optical illusions: Not a must for any logo, but I like to make a viewer work a bit for the concept. Its a very rewarding feeling for the viewer to finally “get it” and feel as if he’s on the inside of the concept. (I’m referring to the icons that I typically create to accompany the text).
- Colors: The color scheme is extremely important to the entire future branding of the company. Colors that clash and vibrate (complementary colors) should be avoided. I also highly recommend, if sticking to a 2-color solution, to use a very dense color with a not-so-dense color for clarity.
- Composition: I almost always create an icon that can be set above or beside my verbiage, giving me the ability to create a horizontal or vertical composition depending on the situation.
Hopefully the above criteria can help you evaluate your own logo. It’s very important to get the look and colors as they will also define our business cards, websites, social media banners… everything people will see of our online brand.
You have 3 logo options from here: keep your existing logo, redesign it yourself, outsource it
If you love your current logo, you may want to jump ahead to the next Module. If not, we’re going to cover your DIY and outsourcing options.
With any approach you choose, I have a very important warning:
Beware of stealing clipart. Be even MORE aware that you may (or probably) will receive third party clipart if you purchase outsourced design from another country. The onus will be on you to prove that you have purchased the right to use it. Seriously, there are many legal outfits out there hiring interns to scan the interwebs looking for these situations.
It’s ok to receive inspiration from someone else’s artwork as long as you recreate it with your own twist. But quite often, you can simply pay $5 or so for the artwork (Vecteezy.com, BigStock.com) and simply use it as is forever more… with no concerns. So keep this in mind.
I’ll also note that if you’re in a professional services field (accountant, business consultant, psychologist), you typically don’t need an icon, just a nice, tasteful and consistent type solution will be perfectly acceptable.
Designing your own logo
If you want a very detailed 6-step tutorial on how I design logos, see this post. But, for our purposes, I’m going to give a more simplified approach for the sake of keeping you on track and not losing your attention to the shiny objects (design). Using the KISS method (Keep It Simple, Stupid) will give you a better chance of a professional design than flexing design muscles that you may not have.
What you need:
You need this logo in vector and raster formats — vector means that it’s not resolution-dependent (it’s “computer art”), so you can use it on a billboard some day and it will still look perfect. Raster versions (jpg, png, gif…) are for digital use and are typically very small. If you enlarge them, they look terrible. So, if you’re going to design your own you should use a software that supports both formats. I use Adobe Illustrator myself. But, you can also use the FREE, online solution, inkscape. It’s a professional quality vector graphics software which runs on Linux, Mac OS X and Windows desktop computers.
Getting started: inspiration
Explore Google Images and Vecteezy.com for logos (or icons) in your industry.
I hate to tell the masses this as I don’t want to risk being misunderstood and have someone plagiarize. I can’t stress this enough: If you don’t have enough innate skill to create a proper icon, then pay a few bucks for it on BigStock.com or Vecteezy.com, or have someone qualified do it for you.
I also use Images to give me inspiration for the shape of the icon that I’ll experiment with. I usually find 8-10 that I like, and copy/paste them into a Photoshop file that I use to look at from time to time as I experiment with my unique icon design. Note that GIMP is available as a free cross-platform image editing application.
I also browse images to find combinations of colors that I think are appropriate to my situation, and inspiring fonts.
Choosing your logo fonts
Stick with fonts that look fairly traditional. Note, I said “fairly”. I think a font that looks very much like a traditional font such as Helvetica, but perhaps has some weight fluctuation, can be really catchy (it’s also EASY… and that’s key here). This ACME example shows the boring Helvetica example, contrasted by the slightly unique Myanmar font.
I recommend avoiding Times Roman altogether. Traditional serif fonts don’t work all that well outside the professional services realm, but using Times is almost like waving a red flag and saying, “I just used what was on my Commodore 64”.
I suggest that if you’re inclined toward serif fonts, use one that isn’t THAT serif-y. I’ve always been very partial to Goudy as I think it’s very elegant, but professional and clean.
Choosing your logo colors
As I just mentioned, I do browse logos in Google Images to find color combinations that I find intriguing, but please refer back to my note about colors above – don’t marry two dense colors together. Keep it simple; perhaps one intriguing color (you can always pair it with a nice gray on your business card/website later.
Here’s an excellent chart that shows the different colors that some very different, high profile brands are using. Click on it to enlarge.
Remember that the prominent color you choose will become very dominant on all of your future materials, so make sure that its relatable to you.
Refine your logo, and refine again
If you are inclined to design your own logo, I will tell you that my #1 secret is refining over and over again. Simplify. Then try to simplify some more while maintaining an aesthetically-pleasing logo. And when I mean simple, can you stitch the logo onto a hat? If not — keep refining.
And FINALLY… market testing
Sounds really nerdy, huh? Nothing to worry about… a simply Facebook account will suffice. People LOVE to voice their opinions on artwork. I mean — LOVE IT. I usually whittle my concepts down to about 5 that I can’t choose between — that’s when I hit Facebook and ask my friends to vote on their favorite (don’t forget to number them!). The results usually astound me, to be honest. I expect people to zig and most will zag every time!
I can’t stress enough how important this market testing has been to some of my designs. Don’t skip this stage.
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All this a little too much for you, let’s explore a cheap, easy way to outsource your logo…
Outsourcing your logo
I wish I could tell you that this is as easy as everyone (that hasn’t done it yet) thinks that it is.
There are many avenues to “outsource” online, but the motivation and result are all the same:
Motivation for outsourcing online – Super cheap. The result is that you’re getting a slapped together logo with little or no concept because time is still money. People that work for $10/hr still need to eat, so they must take your money and get rid of you asap. You’ll usually get what you pay for.
Fiverr and Upwork are popular sites for accomplishing outsourcing to real humans real cheap. I just hired a really good voiceover guy on Fiverr for $25 for a promotional video I scripted and produced – that was a great experience. But, I also hired a company on Fiverr a couple years ago to produce an animation for me for $200… and I couldn’t even show the client because it was so bad. What a waste of time and money.
You may also want to try some automated logo design sites such as Brandmark or FreeLogoDesign. It won’t give you a vector (w/o paying), but it may be what you’re looking for to get started quickly and for free.
Know that you play an important role in these methods – and that is art director. You’ll be selecting your outsourced partner yourself based on their profiles and portfolios and critiquing the proofs. What you end up with relies very much on your talent assessment prowess.
UPSIDE: Very cheap (Brandmark and FreeLogoDesign are free without the vector file). Upwork or Fiverr is typically $20 – $200 (depending on who you choose. You’ll usually get a lot of choices that you’ll need to narrow down. You’ll often get unlimited revisions. Also stipulate that you need the vector file.
DOWNSIDE: Takes a ton of time to sift through profiles to narrow down your freelancer. Automated sites like Brandmark make getting your logo done quick and free, but the designs are pretty lame and you’ll eventually need someone to make the vector file for you. With overseas freelancers your icon will usually be simple clip art (make sure you have rights to use it). This process also requires you to play art director and the end result will be a reflection of your talents as such.
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Assessing the slogan situation
Do you need a slogan?
If your company name, logo and/or domain name doesn’t communicate what you do — you should use a slogan. Even if one or more of these items tells the prospect what you do, you may still want to use a slogan that sets you apart from your competitors. After all, we just went through a ton of effort to identify our best Value Propositions, niche and Mission Statement. Why not use these to clarify who we serve and how we rock at it?
Every time we’re going to do a creative exercise, I’m going to remind you to strictly adhere to the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!) rule. I’m going to give you basic criteria to strive for, then my proprietary technique. It will be up to you to come up with a few slogans. Run them past people you trust. Make a decision, then move on.
- Keep your slogan as short, simple and direct as possible. Avoid buzzwords.
- If you can reflect your most important Value Proposition – bonus points!
- If you can infer who your niche is – bonus points!
- Above all else, make sure it solves the problem of your name and logo not being descriptive of what you offer.
- With your Value Propositions, niche and Mission Statement in mind, pull out 5-10 key words that you want your slogan to communicate – focus on extreme outcomes. Example: When I created BCH Electrical Safety Training’s slogan I knew that I could stir emotions of fear while offering the solution. The final slogan:
Get compliant • Save lives • Protect your assets
- Go to Thesaurus.com and find synonyms that appeal to you for each of your keywords. This exercise should get your creative juices flowing. We typically use the same trite words over and over. Finding a few new twists will likely provide you with some immediate ideas for your slogan.
- Quickly jot down combinations of your now extensive list of keywords. Try to make the shortest, most meaningful phrase you can from them.
- Note if you come up with several meaningful keywords that start with the same same letter — these can be impactful for the right situation. Perhaps the personal accountant would like something like:
Efficient • Ethical • Earnest
- After you’ve created three or four variations, create a Facebook post and ask your friends to vote on their favorite. You’ll be shocked by the feedback! People love being asked their opinions on anything creative. Not only will they give you excellent feedback on your potential slogans, but many people will come up with really good new suggestions for you!
Take your logo and slogan very seriously as they are laying the groundwork for the rest of your brand. If you have the budget, I’d first and foremost recommend using a proven professional for this. But, if you simply don’t have $500 – $1000 to put towards it, then I recommend doing it yourself using inkscape.com and purchasing your icon from Bigstock.com or Vecteezy.com.
NONE! Your Facebook friends should provide all the feedback you need!