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When designing a logo for your business it is important to take some time and not just pick something off the shelf. Your logo should convey who you are and what you do, in a simple but imaginative and memorable way.
What is a Logo?
In the popular imagination, a logo is simply a sign or badge used by a business to distinguish itself from its competitors. But in an increasingly competitive commercial world, your logo needs to do much more than merely identify your business. In addition to saying who you are and what you do, modern marketing wisdom suggests that a logo could convey the following to potential customers:
- A positive and memorable impression of your business
- Your competitive advantage or unique proposition (USP)
- A ‘guarantee’ of the quality of your goods or services
- Your business status and professional integrity
- Your business ambitions
All these elements can be contained in a single motif by imaginative use of text, images, design and colour – even if your logo is a simple monogram of your initials.
Before starting the logo design process you should decide exactly what sort of message you want to send out and the type of image that best suits your needs.
How does the design process for a logo work?
Once you have settled on the image you want your logo to portray, the next thing is to decide is which style of logo is best for your business. There are three basic types:
- Illustrative – A logo that clearly shows your company’s function. This type of logo is particularly popular with self-employed tradesmen such as plumbers, mechanics and carpenters.
- Graphic – A logo that uses a more abstract image to highlight your firm’s chief function. For example, a landscape gardener might use a stylised leaf.
- Text-based – These logos use your business name or initials as the basis of the design.
After you have decided on the style of logo, you will want to consider the different elements that make up the whole design. These elements are divided into three categories:
- The Logical Focus Point – This is the element of your logo that should clearly identify your business core products or services.
- The Logical Artistic Impression – This is how the focus point will be expressed in words or images.
- The Mechanics – The specific details, such as colours and fonts of how the logical focus and artistic impression will be displayed.
What should you look for in a good logo design?
You should consider how the three basic elements relate to each other to create the desired image for your business. Your logo should be:
- Complex enough to create a memorising and lasting impression
- Simple enough for customers to remember it easily
- Imaginative enough to be readily distinguishable from your competitors
- Clear enough to be reproduced to any size and scale from a business card to a sign for your premises.
To design a successful logo you should consider how it relates to your customers. A great deal has been written on the psychology of logos and their use of colours and images. Here are a few simple rules to follow:
- Curved lines are synonymous with soft and caring emotions and are ideally suited to a business providing a supportive service
- Straight lines signify dynamism and energy and would suit a rapidly expanding engineering business
- Mixtures of curved and straight lines offer a good balance, but you should be careful not to create a confused or muddled logo as this will suggest indecision.
- Sharp contrasts between light and dark areas create a sense of drama associated with taking risks. This is ideal for a mineral prospecting firm, but not so advisable for a firm of accountants.
- Bright colours can both attract and repel customers; a pillar-box red catches the eye but also may signify danger.
- Choose colours wisely as in some cultures and countries different colours signify different things. An example would be in China, where red is associated with money.
In addition to the psychology behind the different elements of your logo, you should also consider what sort of customer you want to attract to your business. For example:
- Geography – Emphasising that you are a national or local business can be important. Local businesses are often associated with high levels of personal service, while national companies are associated with lower prices and reliability.
- Age – Your logo should resonate with the typical age of your target market. A business selling fashion clothing for the teen market should avoid the use of old fashioned fonts or muted colours as they could then be associated with a more mature market.
- Sex – Male and female consumers relate differently to the same signs and symbols.
- Fashion – Avoid colours and designs that will date quickly. Certain colours can be associated with specific periods in time, trends such as black and white stripes being irredeemably associated with the 1960’s.
What size, color and format should your finished logo take?
You will rarely find a well-known brand using more than two colors in its logo. Too many colors can clutter the image you are trying to portray and also raise the cost of its reproduction.
With the use of websites being an essential part of modern business, it is sometimes wrongly assumed that your logo just needs to look good on the screen. This can be a grave mistake as your logo is going to appear everywhere. On your business stationery, advertisements, staff uniforms, vehicles, packaging and promotional literature. It is essential that your logo is designed to be reproduced in print first. Once you have achieved this goal you can begin adapting it for use on your company website.
Note that design on the computer screen can look very different when it returns on paper from the printer. You should consider the following in order to minimise the risk of variation:
- Printers prefer high-resolution graphics in order to ensure faithful reproduction – 300dpi (dots per inch) is the industry standard.
- Most computer screens display graphics files in RGB (Red, Green, Blue), but files should be presented to the printer in CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) spot color or Pantone.
- Logos with several elements are often created in Encapsulated PostScript format (EPS), containing comments and a screen image.
- Your logo should still be recognisable when reduced to a size of 25mm otherwise it might not be suitable for use on business cards, fax machines or web page graphics.
What are the legal restrictions on using logos?
The rules for designing and using your logo are similar to those that apply when choosing your business name. In other words your logo should not:
- Be in use by another business
- Be capable of being confused with that of another business
- Conflict with an existing registered trademark
- Be offensive
- Mislead the public
- Constitute a criminal offence. Some designs are protected by law (the royal ER cipher, the Olympic rings, etc)
Unless you have permission from the Secretary of State and can satisfy specific legal requirements, you must not use certain words and phrases in your logo. These include:
- The word Limited
- Words suggesting national pre-eminence, for example British, Scottish, Welsh
- Words suggesting a specific status, for example Society, Group, Association
- Words suggesting an authoritative status, for example Board, Authority, League
- Words suggesting an object or function for example Registered, Co-operative
- Words suggesting a profession, for example Doctor, Dentist, Architect
Remember that a logo is not automatically a trademark. You can use your logo as a trademark within the US provided that you have registered it with the US Intellectual Property Office and added the letters TM somewhere on the design.