The 20 Minute Logo

Many new business owners want everything to be just right from the word go. It’s understandable to have a strong vision and to want to make that reality.

Maybe this applies to you too. You want to make a splash and stand out.

I think I understand that desire. Years ago, we owned a house and barn conversion in a small village in the north Pennines. A couple of minutes around the corner lived the mother-in-law of superstar DJ Fatboy Slim. Back then he was married to TV and radio celebrity Zoe Ball.

So one beautiful Saturday morning, as we enjoyed the weather in our front garden, I glanced down the road and noticed the DJ and TV celebrity strolling towards us with their toddler son Woody between them. Kate had seen too.

I could almost hear the gears whirring as she quickly assessed how she could architect an encounter.

So, what do you think she did? What brilliant action did she take that meant two A list celebrities stopped and interrupted her to start a conversation?

Well, bloody hell!!

I never thought you’d guess that correctly, but yes.

Yes, you’re absolutely right!

She did indeed pick up an African Pygmy Goat and, while petting it nonchalantly, stared off in a different direction, as if she’d spotted something fascinating on the other bank of the river. An otter playing on its Game Boy perhaps.

Whatever, it mattered not. Her plan came together so well, I half expected her to light up a cigar. For all I know, she may have and offered one to Woody too. I was far too preoccupied chasing the other Pygmy Goat around the garden in the vain hope I could look irresistible as well.

The point I’m trying to make is that when starting up, many business owners want their business to stand out. With little budget, they often end up using a cheap unqualified “graphic designer” to create a logo that could have been the handiwork of a chimpanzee. Or sometimes they wear the designer’s hat themselves and go overboard creating something overly elaborate and completely unfit for purpose as a logo.

When you’re starting out, don’t pick up the goat. It may make you stand out, but not necessarily for the right reasons.

Keep things simple, as your brand will almost certainly develop and grow, probably in response to the audience you acquire. Even if you have the budget to pay for an expensive professional designer straight away, that alone is a good reason to hold off initially.

Over the next few pages, I’m going to take you through a simple process to create your own logo.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not suggesting this as an alternative to paying for a professional Graphic Designer. I’m suggesting this as a stop gap measure. A quick and easy way to present a simple but professional logo. When your profits allow, you can find a Graphic Designer and work with them to develop a full brand that you know will resonate with the audience you’re growing.

First though, a very quick lesson on logos.

Something often overlooked is the fact that a logo may refer to more than one thing.

It could be a logotype, a logomark or a combination of the two. You may see other types described, but they’re generally a twist on one of these.

A logotype, sometimes also referred to as a wordmark, is basically a text logo.

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Using Pinterest as an example, their logotype is the very bold text spelling out their name.

A logomark is a graphic device that represents the company or brand.

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Using Pinterest again as an example, their logomark is the “P” pin device.

One of the reasons for having both a logotype and logomark is the flexibility it offers.

By being able to combine the elements, the logo may be suitable for a wider range of uses. As we’ll consider, logos may need to be used in many different situations.

This combination is sometimes referred to as a signature.

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You can see this combination in emails sent by Pinterest, though interestingly, their logotype is exclusively for their own use. Mere mortals like you and I should only use their logomark, according to their current brand guidelines.

Note that in some cases, a signature may include another element, the tagline. A tagline is a short phrase or description that might be appended to the logo. For example, MacDonald’s use of “I’m lovin’ it” or Kentucky Fried Chicken’s “It’s finger lickin’ good”.

When a brand has both a logotype and logomark, either can be used on its own when necessary. They can also be combined in different ways. For example alongside each other or above and below.

Those permutations alone give four alternative logos that could be used. This starts to form the basis of a logo system.

Check out the brand guidelines of any big corporate business and you’ll discover a logo system.

A logo system is designed both to deliver flexibility and uniformity.

Obviously, those are two opposing qualities, so let’s explain that.

The flexibility is used by the logo system. It will combine some alternative combinations of logotype and logomark that will be better suited for different use cases.

For example, the logomark may be best suited for use at small sizes. In wide and short spaces, the logotype and logomark alongside may work best. In taller and narrower spaces, the logomark positioned above the logotype may work better.

Instead of having just a single element that has to work in every situation, this system provides flexibility without compromising brand recognition.

One other way a logo needs to be flexible is adapting to black and white when the use of color isn’t available. Simply converting a color logo to grayscale in Photoshop or similar may have unexpected consequences.

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That last image is a contrived example, but the right hand graphic is the left hand graphic converted to grayscale. Can you still see the love heart?

The process we’re about to go through is just designed to help you avoid the common pitfalls of logo design and quickly give you something both presentable and flexible in use.

Before we start, if you’ve already got a logo, but you’re not sure how fit for purpose it is, you could run it though Logo Lab (https://logolab.app/home). This is largely designed for checking logomarks, the graphical part of a logo, rather than logotypes. It’s also a far from perfect testing tool, but if it highlights too many things that could perform better, it might be time to consider a change.

5.1 The Process

Here’s a few example logo designs. The kind of thing that you can create following the steps in this guide.

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There’s nothing award winning there in terms of design, but there’s nothing that looks like a hideous mess either. Despite only taking a couple of minutes each, they all look presentable and professional enough that they’re not going to put potential customers off.

You’ve probably noticed they all follow the same pattern. A shape combined with one or more letters to give a clear logomark that will be recognizable when used as a social media icon. That’s combined with a simple logotype for the name of the business. With these two elements, there’s flexibility in using them together or separately.

Let’s get started and remember, the idea is to create something clean and simple as quickly as possible. Don’t waste too much time on this as there are many other things you could be working on that will offer more value to your business.

Pay a visit to https://thelogocompany.net/blog/infographics/psychology-color-logo-design/ where you’ll find an infographic explaining color associations. It gives super quick explanations of the emotions colors evoke and presents it in a handy visual way with a load of example logos. This should help you decide on what should be the primary color of your brand.

Now head to https://www.canva.com. If you’re new to Canva, register for a free account, otherwise log in. Click the Create a Design button and set your size to 1000px X 1000px through the Use custom dimensions option. That should be large enough for most uses.

Click the ELEMENTS menu item and then Shapes.

Ideally, pick one of the shapes that measures the same for its width and height. The reason I suggest those shapes is because they will all fit reasonably well within a circle. If you’re going to use your logo on an Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest account as the profile image, it will be displayed within a circle.

If you have a rectangular shaped logo, it will be shrunk significantly to fit in a circle. It will also be shrunk to appear as the profile image of a Facebook page, as those are displayed in square shapes.

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For my example logo, I’ve selected the rounded corner and slightly skewed square shape.

It doesn’t fit as well in a circle as a circular logo would, but it should still display fine even at smaller sizes.

At this point, just work in black, we’ll worry about color later.

You’re going to add the initials of your business name to your chosen shape next. If you use your own name, you might choose to use just your first name initial.

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Look through the fonts and select one that you feel suits your brand.

If you’re using more than one initial, you may need to look for more condensed fonts. These have narrower letters and will take up less horizontal space for the same letter height.

This now gives you a logomark that you can use on its own or combined with a logotype, also called a wordmark.

Your first job with your logotype is to select a font or possibly two depending on your business name.

The quality of fonts on Canva is a bit variable. I’d recommend you tend towards picking plainer fonts rather than more decorative and gimmicky ones. It tends to be the gimmicky fonts that look a bit more cheap and nasty.

Different font types tend to be suitable for different types of brands.

  • Sans Serif
    These have a cleaner and more contemporary feel. They convey a practical, no nonsense feeling. Some of the lighter styles, such as Raleway Thin, particularly with increased letter spacing, can appear surprisingly feminine.
  • Serif
    Serif faces have a more traditional and classic feel. They can be used to put across the feeling of something solid and dependable. They may be well suited to more sophisticated and expensive offerings.
  • Slab Serif
    There’s an underlying strength to slab serif font faces. They feel more dynamic than a serif font and have more character than many sans serif faces.
  • Script
    The script fonts tend to appear elegant and feminine. They offer a sense of luxury and may work well if you use your own name for your business name. Beware of legibility issues which may make some words difficult to read.
  • Didone
    The strong contrast between the vertical strokes and hairline serifs make didone faces very striking. They have an elegant feel that makes them well suited to upmarket offerings.
  • Hand Drawn
    As with script faces, hand drawn fonts may work well if you use your own name for your business name. The same warning about some words being difficult to read also applies here.

If you’re a bit lost for which font to choose, I’ve created a subset of the fonts on Canva in the following image, so I suggest you pick from these. These should give you a range to pick from, though some have been selected for being the least bad options for a specific font style rather than standing out as great font examples.

Feel free to select from outside that list, particularly if you know you have a good eye for design. Just don’t spend too much time overthinking it. A big aim of this exercise is to get an acceptable result as quickly as possible.

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For my example, I’ve used 2 font choices, Open Sans Light and Decalotype Black. If you use a couple of fonts, try to pick two that offer some contrast. Obviously, it’s easier to select a single font, so take that route if you find yourself fussing about this too much.

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Now that you’ve got your logomark and logotype, you can also look at combining them in a vertical and horizontal format. This will mean that you will have a total of 4 different logo permutations that should mean you have something suitable for most use cases. The actual logo you choose can vary depending on the space available for the logo.

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Something that is often overlooked in logo design by non-designers is the need for a logo to work on a dark background too. Another great thing about following this simple technique is that it should be as simple as changing the black color of your logomark and logotype to white.

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You can now copy your logos and add color. If you don’t have much of a designer’s eye, I suggest only adding your primary color and applying it to the logomark only.

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You can download your logo now. Firstly add enough pages so that you can add each permutation of your logo to its own page. If you’ve followed this guide exactly, that should be 10 pages. In each case, make the logo as large as possible on the page. If you placed a dark background behind your white versions, ensure you delete the background before downloading.

You need to download a PNG with a transparent background. You can’t do this with a free Canva account, so you will need a Canva Pro account. At the time of writing, Canva offer a free 30 day trial of Canva Pro, so you can sign up for that first if you don’t already have such an account.

With a transparent background, you can apply your logo to any background. You cannot do this with a JPEG file as they cannot contain any transparency.