10 Tips to Building a Lasting Logo

Today we are bringing you ten tips when it comes to designing your own logo. 

It’s more of a play by play on our process distilled down. I’m not going to tell you your best option is a professional because we understand, sometimes budget doesn’t allow it.

Frankly, if you have 0 budget for a professional, we’re far more happy to see you create your own logo than use a design contest site. This is because nine times out of ten, those designers will not follow anything close to this process that we feel is imperative. 

It is not their fault. It’s just the nature of the beast with crowdsourcing. There’s the also fact that as an international contest they may not know what is going on in the local, Vancouver logo design scene. But I digress, more to come on this next week!

Both of us are big DIY fans when it makes sense…and sometimes when it doesn’t. If you’re going to tackle logo design, we want to make sure you’ve got the leg up you’ll need.

1. Self Reflection

You need to know what your product truly is. We’ve talked about this in Why Sales are Elusive—Get Product Clarity. Sometimes that might take a little lateral thinking to uncover what you are actually selling. You also need to know what your unique selling proposition (USP) is.

Spend some time jotting down the first ten things that come to mind when you think of your business. Keep this as a reference to reflect on later.

2. Do Your Research

There are other restaurants or businesses offering a similar product. Nothing is brand new or exists in a vacuum. The odds are you are not the first to the show. Find out the names and websites of at least the top three competitors you have.

You should become intimately knowledgeable about what they offer as a product that competes with yours. You also want to know how they are positioning themselves in the market. Identify what is making them successful. Go a step further and identify what they can improve on.

3. Application Destinations

Okay—so now you have all this information about your business and heaps of information on your competitors. Take a break from that for a bit.

Where does your logo need to be applied? Print applications have different limitations than web applications. Do you plan to have a handwritten chalk sign or a gobo projecting your logo against a wall?

Where your logo finds a home should be taken into consideration when it comes to final design. Wherever your logo design ends up in Vancouver, be it Gastown or Main Street, you want it to look its best. You can only do that if you think ahead.

Web can be more forgiving than print. Fine details don’t tend to get lost and the RGB colour space offers you a lot more flexibility than ink. Your logo might end up in little tiny social media profile picture. Consider how a more square shape would better fill these spots, or if it would better be applied elsewhere in your profile.

Our rule of thumb is to plan ahead and assume both an online and offline presence and leverage the one that is predominate.

4. Discover Your Target Market

Are you ready to get back into research mode now? Start building an image of the person you want to sell to. Forget the idea of a target audience. You need a target person. In our questionnaire we ask, “What music do they listen to?” We ask that to gain an idea of who we really are talking to.

You want to know how old they are and if they are male or female. What movies do they enjoy? Do they even watch movies? Where do they currently go for the product you sell? If there is a person you know that fits the bill, use them. It might be worth it to run your ideas by them.

We find that often a business says their target audience is everyone. They don’t want to exclude any of the market. I think you will agree that there is a difference when selling to these two very different people.

Person A - Young girl with bright red dyed hair, Person B an older man with lots of wrinkles and a tuque.
Person A vs Person B —Two very different target markets

This doesn’t mean that targeting person A won’t mean a sale for person B. Meet on Main attracts droves of people that aren’t necessarily Vegan or even Vegetarian despite being a Vegan restaurant.

5. Craft a Brand Promise

You now have three key ingredients to hone in on your message. You know what your business is about, who your business is up against, and who you’re selling to.

What is the one message you want your target customer to hear?

The message you want to convey is just as much about how you want this customer to feel as it is about the product you sell. You are a creating a brand promise. How does your restaurant differ from the three competitors you listed in tip two?

Craft a one line message that speaks to your customer and highlights your unique selling proposition. The goal is to find your differences from your competitors, not directly mentioning them. Basing your brand promise on another company will make you subject to their whim. What if they fold or get bad press? “Betsy’s Burrito, the same concept as Chipotle, but we’re local… and now with less e coli!”

6. Reflect and Revise

Give your message some breathing room. Sleep on it. Let it settle for at least a day or two. Now is the time to reflect on the messaging you’ve created. Does it speak to your target customer? If you know this person you’ve got the huge advantage of asking them.

You’re not asking them if it is a good brand promise or the right message. You are asking them what it says to them. Keep in mind a brand promise literally says one thing, but your overall message might be more nuanced than that. The words you chose could specifically be chosen to have them feel a specific way.

Lastly, does this brand promise make sense in the market? Refer back to your market research and see how it fits in the market. Does it seem out in left field, replicating the competition, or walking that fine balance of uniqueness?

7. Conceptualize

Let the sketching begin! Your brand promise and research should help conjure some visuals in your mind. We often create a mind map at this stage to see how ideas are connected in our brains. Because you have so much information to work with you might find certain ideas start reoccurring.

Don’t filter anything. The thoughts that come could be the nuggets of gold you need to polish later. At some point you will feel you have exhausted all of your ideas. Feel free to take another break and come back to it later.

Logo design is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. A better analogy is that it is more like chess than it is checkers. Every move is calculated and weighed.

8. Pull Out the Gems

Refer back to your brand promise and market research. Ditch all of the concepts that do not communicate your message. No holds barred, pare them down to three concepts.

There will be three that stand out more than the others. These three will say more about your message than any of the others. Use this as your filter to be cutthroat with the ideas that will not work.

If possible, take your personal opinion out of the equation and base your choices on the merit of their ability to communicate your carefully crafted brand promise.

9. Make the Tough Call

Get even more strict. You now have three concepts that could potentially work but there is a winner amongst them. Deciding which is the winner might be difficult. Look at them one by one and rate them out of ten for three factors: does it communicate your brand promise; how well does it fit the market; and how unique is it compared to your competitors?

Some strengths are translatable. You may be able to combine facets of one concept with another. What you want to avoid is the “everything but the kitchen sink” scenario. Too many ideas in one concept will be difficult for your customers to comprehend. This is a step of refinement.

Keep working the concept such that you have one strong idea coming through that relates to your brand promise. Don’t worry about your drawing ability, just get it to the point that the idea shines.

When you have the concept that is the stand out winner, continue onto tip ten.

10. Vectorizing Your Work

Scan your sketch into the computer. Bring it into Adobe Illustrator or the free program InkScape. Both of these programs are vector based. That is to say, you can scale what you create infinitely large or small. This will be very important to maintain brand consistency.

You don’t want a blurry logo on your business card or a pixelated Facebook profile. The vector format solves that. It will always be crisp when you save it out at the different sizes you need. It’s extremely flexible and often the first format someone requests for anything print, including advertisements and signage.

Once you’re in your program of choice you can have at it creating your logo from your sketch. If you are new to these programs I suggest a good place to learn is Lynda.com

If you just need to brush up, here’s a fun little game we recently found to practice the pen tool.

If you need a bit more instruction, Spoon Graphics has a great tutorial on the two methods he uses.

Create your design in black and white. Colour tends to throw off balance. You also want to ensure that your final design works well when it has to be a single colour. These are the most effective designs. Even if your logo will never be used as black and white, the strongest designs are always those that work in single colour first.

Once you have that pièce de résistance, move on to choosing the right colours and treatment. We recently wrote on how to Get More Bites Using Colour. I highly recommend starting there.

11. Bonus Bit

You probably noticed we didn’t tackle one very important element to many logos; and not all logos have to have this, but when it comes restaurants, type is often found. Choosing the right typeface or creating the write type treatment is just as important as the logo itself. The two must pair nicely either complementing on contrasting each other effectively.

As of yet, we haven’t had a chance to write our own guide to typography and typeface choice. Fortunately, many before us have! Until we can expound on that topic ourselves, this infographic on the Daily Egg will set you in the right direction.

The Psychology Behind Type Choices Infographic
Source: The Daily Egg
September 29, 2016
Posted on 
Author photo in a circle
Kyle Lincoln

Kyle is a logo crafter, avid reader, and writer. His experience expands across a wide spectrum of clients such as Nandos, Shaw Business, and Destination Canada. Growing up, it didn’t take him long to go from doodles to design. Kyle’s previous work in identities for conferences and events left him longing for something more enduring. He’s got a vested interest in helping businesses thrive and an eye for brand incongruences. In Vancouver he can be found scoping out his client’s location and/or the nearest gelateria and is always up to discuss your project or favourite flavour.

Today we are bringing you ten tips when it comes to designing your own logo. 

It’s more of a play by play on our process distilled down. I’m not going to tell you your best option is a professional because we understand, sometimes budget doesn’t allow it.

Frankly, if you have 0 budget for a professional, we’re far more happy to see you create your own logo than use a design contest site. This is because nine times out of ten, those designers will not follow anything close to this process that we feel is imperative. 

It is not their fault. It’s just the nature of the beast with crowdsourcing. There’s the also fact that as an international contest they may not know what is going on in the local, Vancouver logo design scene. But I digress, more to come on this next week!

Both of us are big DIY fans when it makes sense…and sometimes when it doesn’t. If you’re going to tackle logo design, we want to make sure you’ve got the leg up you’ll need.

1. Self Reflection

You need to know what your product truly is. We’ve talked about this in Why Sales are Elusive—Get Product Clarity. Sometimes that might take a little lateral thinking to uncover what you are actually selling. You also need to know what your unique selling proposition (USP) is.

Spend some time jotting down the first ten things that come to mind when you think of your business. Keep this as a reference to reflect on later.

2. Do Your Research

There are other restaurants or businesses offering a similar product. Nothing is brand new or exists in a vacuum. The odds are you are not the first to the show. Find out the names and websites of at least the top three competitors you have.

You should become intimately knowledgeable about what they offer as a product that competes with yours. You also want to know how they are positioning themselves in the market. Identify what is making them successful. Go a step further and identify what they can improve on.

3. Application Destinations

Okay—so now you have all this information about your business and heaps of information on your competitors. Take a break from that for a bit.

Where does your logo need to be applied? Print applications have different limitations than web applications. Do you plan to have a handwritten chalk sign or a gobo projecting your logo against a wall?

Where your logo finds a home should be taken into consideration when it comes to final design. Wherever your logo design ends up in Vancouver, be it Gastown or Main Street, you want it to look its best. You can only do that if you think ahead.

Web can be more forgiving than print. Fine details don’t tend to get lost and the RGB colour space offers you a lot more flexibility than ink. Your logo might end up in little tiny social media profile picture. Consider how a more square shape would better fill these spots, or if it would better be applied elsewhere in your profile.

Our rule of thumb is to plan ahead and assume both an online and offline presence and leverage the one that is predominate.

4. Discover Your Target Market

Are you ready to get back into research mode now? Start building an image of the person you want to sell to. Forget the idea of a target audience. You need a target person. In our questionnaire we ask, “What music do they listen to?” We ask that to gain an idea of who we really are talking to.

You want to know how old they are and if they are male or female. What movies do they enjoy? Do they even watch movies? Where do they currently go for the product you sell? If there is a person you know that fits the bill, use them. It might be worth it to run your ideas by them.

We find that often a business says their target audience is everyone. They don’t want to exclude any of the market. I think you will agree that there is a difference when selling to these two very different people.

Person A - Young girl with bright red dyed hair, Person B an older man with lots of wrinkles and a tuque.
Person A vs Person B —Two very different target markets

This doesn’t mean that targeting person A won’t mean a sale for person B. Meet on Main attracts droves of people that aren’t necessarily Vegan or even Vegetarian despite being a Vegan restaurant.

5. Craft a Brand Promise

You now have three key ingredients to hone in on your message. You know what your business is about, who your business is up against, and who you’re selling to.

What is the one message you want your target customer to hear?

The message you want to convey is just as much about how you want this customer to feel as it is about the product you sell. You are a creating a brand promise. How does your restaurant differ from the three competitors you listed in tip two?

Craft a one line message that speaks to your customer and highlights your unique selling proposition. The goal is to find your differences from your competitors, not directly mentioning them. Basing your brand promise on another company will make you subject to their whim. What if they fold or get bad press? “Betsy’s Burrito, the same concept as Chipotle, but we’re local… and now with less e coli!”

6. Reflect and Revise

Give your message some breathing room. Sleep on it. Let it settle for at least a day or two. Now is the time to reflect on the messaging you’ve created. Does it speak to your target customer? If you know this person you’ve got the huge advantage of asking them.

You’re not asking them if it is a good brand promise or the right message. You are asking them what it says to them. Keep in mind a brand promise literally says one thing, but your overall message might be more nuanced than that. The words you chose could specifically be chosen to have them feel a specific way.

Lastly, does this brand promise make sense in the market? Refer back to your market research and see how it fits in the market. Does it seem out in left field, replicating the competition, or walking that fine balance of uniqueness?

7. Conceptualize

Let the sketching begin! Your brand promise and research should help conjure some visuals in your mind. We often create a mind map at this stage to see how ideas are connected in our brains. Because you have so much information to work with you might find certain ideas start reoccurring.

Don’t filter anything. The thoughts that come could be the nuggets of gold you need to polish later. At some point you will feel you have exhausted all of your ideas. Feel free to take another break and come back to it later.

Logo design is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. A better analogy is that it is more like chess than it is checkers. Every move is calculated and weighed.

8. Pull Out the Gems

Refer back to your brand promise and market research. Ditch all of the concepts that do not communicate your message. No holds barred, pare them down to three concepts.

There will be three that stand out more than the others. These three will say more about your message than any of the others. Use this as your filter to be cutthroat with the ideas that will not work.

If possible, take your personal opinion out of the equation and base your choices on the merit of their ability to communicate your carefully crafted brand promise.

9. Make the Tough Call

Get even more strict. You now have three concepts that could potentially work but there is a winner amongst them. Deciding which is the winner might be difficult. Look at them one by one and rate them out of ten for three factors: does it communicate your brand promise; how well does it fit the market; and how unique is it compared to your competitors?

Some strengths are translatable. You may be able to combine facets of one concept with another. What you want to avoid is the “everything but the kitchen sink” scenario. Too many ideas in one concept will be difficult for your customers to comprehend. This is a step of refinement.

Keep working the concept such that you have one strong idea coming through that relates to your brand promise. Don’t worry about your drawing ability, just get it to the point that the idea shines.

When you have the concept that is the stand out winner, continue onto tip ten.

10. Vectorizing Your Work

Scan your sketch into the computer. Bring it into Adobe Illustrator or the free program InkScape. Both of these programs are vector based. That is to say, you can scale what you create infinitely large or small. This will be very important to maintain brand consistency.

You don’t want a blurry logo on your business card or a pixelated Facebook profile. The vector format solves that. It will always be crisp when you save it out at the different sizes you need. It’s extremely flexible and often the first format someone requests for anything print, including advertisements and signage.

Once you’re in your program of choice you can have at it creating your logo from your sketch. If you are new to these programs I suggest a good place to learn is Lynda.com

If you just need to brush up, here’s a fun little game we recently found to practice the pen tool.

If you need a bit more instruction, Spoon Graphics has a great tutorial on the two methods he uses.

Create your design in black and white. Colour tends to throw off balance. You also want to ensure that your final design works well when it has to be a single colour. These are the most effective designs. Even if your logo will never be used as black and white, the strongest designs are always those that work in single colour first.

Once you have that pièce de résistance, move on to choosing the right colours and treatment. We recently wrote on how to Get More Bites Using Colour. I highly recommend starting there.

11. Bonus Bit

You probably noticed we didn’t tackle one very important element to many logos; and not all logos have to have this, but when it comes restaurants, type is often found. Choosing the right typeface or creating the write type treatment is just as important as the logo itself. The two must pair nicely either complementing on contrasting each other effectively.

As of yet, we haven’t had a chance to write our own guide to typography and typeface choice. Fortunately, many before us have! Until we can expound on that topic ourselves, this infographic on the Daily Egg will set you in the right direction.

The Psychology Behind Type Choices Infographic
Source: The Daily Egg
September 29, 2016
Posted on 
Author photo in a circle
Kyle Lincoln

Kyle is a logo crafter, avid reader, and writer. His experience expands across a wide spectrum of clients such as Nandos, Shaw Business, and Destination Canada. Growing up, it didn’t take him long to go from doodles to design. Kyle’s previous work in identities for conferences and events left him longing for something more enduring. He’s got a vested interest in helping businesses thrive and an eye for brand incongruences. In Vancouver he can be found scoping out his client’s location and/or the nearest gelateria and is always up to discuss your project or favourite flavour.

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