How to create an effective logo.

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Recently Charles was asked to contribute to a “good advice” article for BIOLA magazine. Here is an excerpt from the article:

So, you have a great business concept, idea or initiative you want people to know about. You want a quick visual hit so people can see who you are and what you are all about. You probably want a logo. Something to put on a website, business card or T-shirt. But how do you capture everything you want to say in one simple little mark? Where do you start? The following guide is a quick way to begin building a logo. Keep in mind that a logo, while simple, has many elements and layers to make it successful. Often the simplest logos take a while to figure out.

1. KNOW THAT YOUR LOGO IS NOT A BRAND.

(In other words, figure out your brand first.) You should know these three questions regarding your idea: (1) Who are you? (2) What makes you different? (3) Why does that matter? The sooner you know the answers to these questions, the easier it is to know how your idea can stand out from so many competing ideas. Take this idea and boil it down to a simple mission statement. Then think about what concepts represent your idea, such as a big teddy bear for a honey business, a funny name typeset in a clever way (a la Amazon), or the signature of the man representing a company based on imagination (Disney). A good brand and logo should be felt: People should get it and connect with it right away.

2. KNOW WHO YOU ARE TALKING TO.

If your idea is targeted at a certain group of people, you may want to take into consideration how they will respond to your logo when you are not around to talk about it. What symbol or concept best expresses your idea to the people you are trying to reach? How does the logo look big? Small? In black and white? Online? In a magazine? How will it reproduce on multiple platforms? Will people get it and understand what you are trying to say to them?

3. KNOW YOUR STYLE.

Are you serious? Casual? Fun? Figure out your tone, your mood. Study other company logos. What do you like about them? What makes you think they are effective, and why? Keep a Pinterest board or notebook of ideas and see if it makes sense with the ideas you mapped out in steps 1 and 2.

4. CREATE YOUR LOGO.

This should be the easy part, right? Building from the steps above, you can have Uncle Ned, who just learned Photoshop, design something. Or you can crowdsource it to people who will give you a lot of options but really have no idea who you are or what you are about, and you can’t go back and forth or meet in person. Or you can wing it yourself and try to find clip art and some “cool” typeface to get across what you want. Let’s pretend, though, that getting your logo is like fixing a pipe in your house; there may be ways to fix the leak that you learned on You-Tube or from watching a friend a long time ago, but maybe it’s time to think about hiring someone who does this as their profession.

5. HIRE A DESIGNER.

They should have a portfolio of logos with a wide range of styles. They should have good references. Most importantly, though, is that you should connect and feel like they really understand who you are and what you are trying to say visually. By communicating to them all the steps above, they should be able to help you design an effective logo that does exactly what you want and says all the right things when you are not around to explain your idea. For information on finding a designer, visit www.aiga.org/howto-hire-a-designer.

Charles Carpenter (’92) is co-founder of Wigwam Creative Inc. in Denver, Colo. Find him online at wigwamcreative.com.