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Columns by Linda  Formichelli:

Self-Promotion with Emotion

Obedience School

Momma Always Said

Sweet Talk



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Too lazy to read my entire column? Well, I'll let you off easy this time. Here are the main criteria of a good logo, according to designer Jeff Fisher:

  • Readability

  • Memorability

  • Uniqueness

  • Appropriateness to the business in question

  • Ability to convey professionalism and stability of the business

  • Ability to successfully convey the necessary message in any size and any medium


Coming to Terms with Logos

If you do get yourself a designer, it may help to speak their language. Here are a few terms and definitions.

Logo: The term "logo" was originally just short for logotype but has become somewhat all-inclusive. It can be a graphic symbol, a type treatment, or a combination of both. The lines between the different terms have become somewhat blurred over the years.

Logotype: A logotype is a type treatment of a company's name with few, if any, added graphic elements.

Mark: A mark is basically a pictorial icon that is somehow representative of what a person or business does. A mark can be representational (Colonel Sanders) or abstract (Nike's famous swoosh). Marks evolved from the symbols used by ancient potters to identify themselves.

Logo à Gogo

You see the golden arches and think, "Hey, there's McDonalds. And come to think of it, I am aching to Supersize® an Extra-Value Meal®." You see the almost-but-not-quite peace symbol and think, "Ah, a Mercedes-Benz. Alas, a poor IP like me will never possess such a fine machine."

As an IP, that's what you want. No, not the Mercedes-Benz -- but a symbol that people will see and think, "I recognize that logo and know what it stands for. I'm feeling sleepy, sleeeeepy. Oh, IP master, what is your bidding?" That's what a logo is all about. "It gives you an image of substance and stability and, most important for an IP, gives you a brand or identity," says freelance PR consultant Bill Bucy. "It also shows you are serious about what you do… a logo helps show a commitment to an identity."

Design It Like You Mean It

Unfortunately, there's more to choosing a logo design than pasting some cheesy clip art onto your letterhead. Your logo must subtly tell potential clients what kind of a business you run. "An accountant needs to project professionalism and solidity and to inspire trust, so his logo would need to be conservative and almost stately, with no garish colors," says Colin Delany, an IP Web designer. "A personal trainer would want a more vibrant logo, to project vitality and strength, and could go with sweeping shapes and brighter colors."

Take Kay Johnson, an IP who creates keynote presentations and workshops with original music for conference and convention audiences. Johnson's logo incorporates her name, the company name, a microphone, and a fish.

Whoa, back up. A fish?

Yeah, that's right, I said fish. Kay's key song is called "Breathe and Look at the Fish" -- a story of overcoming fear while learning to scuba dive. When potential clients see her logo, they know something unusual is going on because of the fish, and this gives Johnson a chance to talk about her unique service.

One Size Fits All

Okay, so you decide on a three-color logo incorporating a duck-billed platypus playing croquet. You go all out and spend several thousand dollars getting some big-shot designer to draw it up for you. And the first time you fax a client, that beautiful, expensive logo ends up looking like a Rorschach blot.

That's why you need to make extra sure that the logo you go with works in black and white and in all different sizes. The solution: Keep it simple. "I think the most common mistake made by anyone designing a logo is creating a symbol that is much too complicated and difficult to read -- especially in smaller sizes," says Jeff Fisher of Jeff Fisher LogoMotives. "It's not necessary to answer all the questions about your business within your logo design. You almost want to tease the potential customer into asking more about your business."

Get Webified

You may have a logo that's so incredible, potential clients fall to their knees and gasp when they see it. But it won't do you any good online if it makes your Web site take three full minutes (that's 6.4 years in Internet time) to download. To head off this snafu, ask your designer to save the logo for you in file formats and sizes suitable for the Web, desktop publishing, and any other type of program you may want to use the logo in. For instance, Gwendolynn Gawlick, IP and owner of the book publicity firm prdiva.com, chose a simple but clever two-color logo that transfers easily to print and to Web, and will transfer to other materials as well.

Pinch Your Pennies

"What's all this talk of hiring designers?" you ask. "I don't have $37 million to spend on a logo. What do you think I am, Coca-Cola?"

Sorry -- unless you have graphic design experience, a logo must be done professionally (unless you want to look like the kind of IP who takes a client's money and spends the time he should be working stuffing it into a stripper's G-string). "A professionally designed logo may cost several hundred to several thousand dollars," says Fisher. "To put this into perspective for the independent business person, major corporations often spend hundreds of thousands of dollars -- even millions -- in the creation of their corporate identities."

Luckily, besides being unrich, we IPs are a clever lot. Iyna Caruso, IP writer and owner of ILineMedia, sent out a "designer wanted" notice to art and design schools, specifying that she wanted to pay $350 for layout and design of all her materials. "I was pleased with the design skills of the artist I selected, though her business skills weren't quite up to her creative talents," says Caruso. "My favorite excuse was when she told me she had been rushed to the hospital after falling off her platform shoes. In the end, though, I think it was a good way to go."

Bill Bucy posted a request for bids on one of the several sites where IPs can bid on projects. He set a maximum price of $500 and the winning IP came in with a bid of $450. A real bargain when you consider that the Graphic Artist Guild Pricing and Ethical Guidelines suggest charging $3,000 to $20,000 to companies with annual revenues of less than $1 million.

To keep the budget IP-sized, Fisher also suggests doing some rough concept drawings yourself and hiring a designer to do the finished product, or bartering your product or service for designing.

So loosen those purse strings a bit and get yourself a cool logo -- and your potential clients will no longer confuse you with that IP partying down on the client's dime. Says Bucy of his logo, "The best comment I got was from a client who said, 'I guess this means you're serious.'"

We'd love to hear your feedback about this column, or put you in touch with Linda Formichelli if you like. You may also like to see her biography.

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