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The MSP re-branding guide part five: How do I create a logo?

The MSP re-branding guide part five: How do I create a logo?

August 16
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This article is the fifth in a series of six articles coauthored by marketing and advertising master Mark Woffinden. Check out parts onetwo, three, and four.

The next thing tied to your brand is your logo, and this one can be tricky. Right now, I can see at least sixteen logos within my cubicle. By the time I get home, I will have looked at hundreds of company logos on everything from websites to billboards to products themselves. How on earth do you put together a logo that stands out?

Unless you majored in art, you might not be totally qualified to design a great logo, but that’s alright, you can hire a professional to do it for you, or use your in-house designer to handle it, if you’ve got one. There are also websites that let designers compete against each other, allowing you to select the logo you like and reward the winning designer. Do not, however, try to save some money by having a son or daughter design a logo because they can draw well (if they’re a talented designer, then this is ok). Your brand is your most important marketing asset, don’t scrimp on it. Find the right person for the job, but before you find a designer, you’ll want to have some ideas ready so you can guide him or her on a path towards a logo you really like.

As in the other sections, you need to think about the spirit of your organization and the company culture associated with it. If you’re just starting out, it’s useful to think about how you want to look to potential clients and competitors. Are you fun and playful? Serious and all-business? Once again, first think of how you are or want to be as a company.

Remember what I said about long names earlier? If you’ve got a long name it might be tough to create a logo from it. You need to imagine how your logo will look plastered on everything from your website to your business cards to your service vehicles, so if it’s text-based, “compu-global-hyper-meganet” will look ridiculous, but “Five Nines” will look just fine.

Now that you’ve got that settled, you need to think of what type of logo you want. According to another great article on Entrepreneur.com, there are three types of logo, which can be used in any combination: font-based, which is composed of stylized letters; image-based, where the logo illustrates what the company does i.e. an excavation company has a digging machine logo (this might also include text); and finally, abstract images*, where the name of the company becomes synonymous with an abstract image (think Nike’s swoosh logo or Apple’s apple).

*For an MSP, it can be difficult to establish an abstract or image-based logo that’s associated with your brand—especially if you’re small. You may be best steering clear of this option unless you use it along with a font-based logo.

Before we get to specifics, think about size and shape. An interesting thing to think about is the “Law of Shape” from Al and Laura Reis’ book The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding. The law relates to logos and states that,

A logotype is a combination of a trademark, which is a visual symbol of the brand and the name of the brand set in distinctive type. Since the eyes of your customers are mounted side by side, the ideal shape for a logotype is horizontal. Roughly two and one-forth units wide and one unit high. This horizontal shape will provide the maximum impact for your logotype.

The measurements above are useful because you don’t want your logo to be too long. If it is, people may have trouble seeing it, and if you need to send your logo to partners or designers, they may have to reduce the size of the logo, which can result in strange and awkward sizing that might make your logo look horrible. Ultimately, it should be easy to see and read.

Now, back to the types of logo. You can use a combination of any of the logo types above, but you’ll need to decide if your logo will include an IT related image. An image-based logo is useful because you can use it instead of your name in various places (thumbnails, watermarks, stamps, etc.).  Think about an image that summarizes what you do, but also be aware that an image like a mouse or a cloud is likely overused in such a saturated market (this again might not be true in your specific local market). Try hard to think of something unique.

Next, if you’re using text, what font will you use? Explore some fonts in a word-processing program (you can also try fonts on Fonts.com) to get a feel for what you like—it might also be beneficial to do some research on typography to help your understanding. This Design Instruct article lays out the basics quickly and succinctly.

Above all, your font should readable and not overly complicated—you probably don’t want a gothic font for your business, and you may not want something gimmicky like comic sans, but again, if these are things somehow tie into your messaging, it might work for you. If you’ve got a longer name, it might not look great as just text, but you can opt for an image to go along with the name. Play around and write down the ideas you have.

Once you’ve decided on style, think about colors. Most well-known brands use only one or two colors, three is acceptable, but any more can be over-stimulating and expensive when it comes to print costs. Also think about connotations when you choose your colors. Blue might be associated with trust and peace, but it’s also associated with sadness. Red might be bold, but it can also be associated with anger and passion. Hunter orange is annoying always and forever. Use this quick guide to color meanings to help you think about the colors that will best match the personality and message of your brand. Oh, and for the love of Pete, pick colors that match, and be careful when you use two colors that are similar, since they can melt together from a distance. For example, the StorageCraft colors, which look great up close, melt together from a distance, and because they’re darker colors, must be printed in all white if it goes on a dark background. Take careful consideration of what will work best, ultimately you want them to be seen easily, especially from a distance at a tradeshow booth or other industry function.

Another thing you should do before you create your new logo is look at competitors in your space. What do theirs look like? Sadly, like I mentioned in the names section, many MSPs have boring and generic logos. That means you’ve got an excellent opportunity to stand out by creating one that’s not so commonplace. Once you’ve got a feel for the other logos of competitors in your area, it’s useful to think about logos of established brands. Let’s look at the StorageCraft logo and a few others:

SC_LOGO_VERT_4C

 

You can see that our logo is composed of two things: one is font-based—our name in bold block letters. Above it are what our designer Justin Howlett calls the “swoops,” an image associated with our brand—they’re basically abstract versions of spinning disks, as well as an abstract “S” for StorageCraft. We generally don’t use it by itself, but it’s useful to have for situations where we need it (website thumbnails, etc.). The logo is elegant and neat, and features our brand colors, black and blue. While we do love our logo, spinning disks are fairly common in the high-tech world, so again, shoot for originality.

 

The CocaCola Logo

Photo Credit: Bene16 via Wikimedia Commons

 

The Coca-Cola logo is iconic and hasn’t changed at all for a long time. It’s also very simple, featuring only the name in white cursive letters over a red field (or red over white). If you’re familiar with the logo, you’re familiar with Coke and vice versa—instant brand identification. Of course, it’s important to remember that it took time to establish a brand this powerful.

McDonald's logo

Photo credit: McDonald’s via Wikimedia Commons

Next is McDonald’s. Their simple yellow “M” is two things: one is an M for McDonald’s, and also the famous “golden arches,” which you can see at a handful of older McDonald’s restaurants. It’s very simple, and also quite iconic.  This brand is easy to identify, but like with Coke, this brand took time to establish.

What you see from these logos is that they’re simple and usually only have two colors. Yours can be a name, an image, or even both, but it can’t be overly complicated and it must be easy to read, and is best if it’s easily identifiable.

Once you’ve got some ideas, you should sit down with a competent designer and tell her or him exactly what you need. Share your ideas for colors, your thoughts on images or fonts, and be as specific as possible without stifling a designer’s creativity—they’re experts after all. Assuming you’ve hired a quality designer, they’ll have a keen eye that will bring all your ideas to life.

Now, ask the designer to put together four or five basic samples, these will most likely be stripped down versions. Pick the two you like the most and ask for a final draft of those two. Once you’ve got those, pick the one you like the most, offer suggestions about subtle tweaks to the design, and you’ll have a gorgeous new logo in no time.

Once you’ve got your name, slogan, and logo, you’ll have the main pieces of your brand and you’ll be well on your way to ousting competitors and making the big bucks.

Stay tuned for The MSP re-branding guide part six: How do I create a branding guide?

Photo Credit: schnaars via Compfight cc