Non-Designers Guide to Creating a Good Logo

A logo is so much more than just text with a business name in your favorite font. A logo is a mark of your brand, your business, and you. It immediately can give your business a feeling that can make someone feel emotions. Yes, emotions. Did you know you can connect to your clients just through a logo? A logo is a tiny piece in a big picture known as a brand. (I’ll leave the ‘brand’ topic for another blog post).

If you think about major brands and their logos, some have words, some are just marks. Almost ALL of them have meaning. The fonts they choose, the colors, the sharp edges or curved edges, etc. I’m going to help break down the basics of a logo for the non-designer in this blog. Hopefully it will help you in figuring out what you want your logo to say to your clients.

First…

Let’s take a quick look at some commonly known logo’s in the United States. I’m going to show you just glimpses of a logo, and I want you to write down or say to yourself what that logo is…ready? Here we go…

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What are the 3 logos you see here? They are only parts of a logo, but you shoud be able to recognize them even with just seeing a tiny portion of the marks.

 



The answers:

A = Coca-Cola, B = McDonald’s and C = Disney

Fairly easy right? Well why do we know this? We see them EVERYWHERE. They are consistent and leave their unique mark, and colors on everything they have. Do you know where these marks came from? Some have pretty interesting stories, like Nike’s swoosh that is so common and dosn’t seem to really have any connection to the word “Nike”. But it has SO much meaning. “The Nike logo is meant to suggest movement, because it represents the wings of the Greek goddess of victory, Nike”. Pretty powerful huh? Did you even know thats where the name came from?

Now the logo’s above have their own unique stories too, and I will paraphrase them here:

A – Coca-Cola Logo
This logo was created in 1886. They used a popular font of that era, Spencerian script. Though the meaning of the font then isn’t as powerful as it is now, the font today creates nostalgia for the brand, and the time it was created. Bring a classic feel. The colors were chosen to attrack young adults.

B – McDonald’s Logo
In 1948, the logo was originally a “burger man” with McDonald’s written to the side, that was promoting their “speedee service”. In 1961, the logo was modified to be more of the golden arch logo we recognize today. It came from the sketches of the architechts who were building the new McDonald’s restaurants. The arches were going to be on the side of the new buildings and when the arches were sketched they were close together which resembled the “M” of McDonald’s. This version of the logo also had a line through the center of it that was higher on one side. This was representing the roof of the restaurants. Eventually that line was moved, and the “golden arches” remained.

C – Disney Logo
Did you know, this was Walt Disney’s signature? It was slightly modified a bit over time, but Walt signed his name almost exactly as we see the logo today. Talk about meaning. The man who created the most recognized company in the world literally has his signature on everything.


LOGO EVOLUTION
Now, one thing you may notice in some of these stories, is the adjusting and modifications that have been made over time with each. Some brands change as they grow. Businesses discover their brands while being in business. So it’s very common to not always end up with your original logo. Though you don’t want to re-brand yourself too much, as you can be seen as unreliable, or wishy-washy.

My logo has modified at least 4 times over the last 6 years as I have come to discover myself, and my brand. It always had one thing in common though, the meaning behind it. Where the name came from, what the name means, etc.

So here is MY logo story for Nimbi Creative.

Nimbi is plural for Nimbus, also known as a rain cloud. I was born in Portland, Oregon, and grew up in the Pacific Northwest most of my life. It rains about 9 months out of the year. So, for me the natural act of rain is comforting to me. It also reminds me of how creativity happens. If you know how rain works, the sun heats the water from the ocean, and the water evaporates into the air. The water vapors condense into droplets which forms clouds. If enough water condenses, the drops will become heavy enough to fall to the ground from the clouds either as rain or snow. The runoff from mountains and collection of water in the soul and rivers flows back into the ocean. Creating a cycle.

How does this relate to creativity? Well, how I see it, our brains take ideas that we see in the world (the ocean) and we grab on to these images and experiences and hold them in our brains (the clouds). As we begin to create, we pour our ideas onto paper (rain onto the ground). These new creations help to nourish minds of other creatives, and can help new ideas bloom and grow, while what is left gets circled back into the cycle, and new ideas get formed by new experiences and images.

The “N” in my business name to me is the most important part of my logo. It represents a cloud, rain, and a mountain peak. All which represent everything I mentioned above.

What do you think?

 


HOW CAN YOU CREATE A LOGO THAT IS MEANINGFUL TO YOU?
Don’t expect the idea to come to you over night. It can take time. But there are questions and steps you can take to figure that out, especially if you don’t quite have the budget yet to hire a trained graphic designer to help you.


Answer these questions first:

  1. What is your business name?
  2. What was the idea behind the name of your business?
  3. What is the overall message you want to portray with your brand?
  4. What should people feel when they see or think about your brand?
  5. Summarize your above answer into 5 to 7 descriptive keywords.
  6. If your brand was a __________ what would it be?
    a. Smell?
    b. Taste?
    c. Feeling?
    d. Sound?
  7. Where will your logo be used and seen?
  8. What are YOUR personal preferences?
  9. What product(s) or service(s) does your business provide?
  10. Who is your target audience/market/demographic?
  11. What are your 3-5 business values?
  12. What is your mission?
  13. What is your vision for your business and growth in 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?
  14. Who are your current competitors?
  15. What makes your business unique?
  16. How would you like your future clients to perceive your business when they see your logo, website, marketing materials?

This can seem like a lot, but it’s so worth answering these questions. Knowing the answers will help you stay consistent and throughout your branding process, not just in creating a logo.



TYPES OF LOGOS

There are 3 basic types of logos: 1. Text Logo (Google, Disney, KitchenAid); 2. Text + Mark Logo (HGTV, Ford, Adidas); 3. Mark Logo (Nike Swoosh, Apple, Instagram).

Many companies (including the one’s listed above) have variations of there logo. It’s always good to have a few different branded variations that you can work with. This is a big reason I personally am a fan of a Text + Mark logo. If your mark is strong enough it can be used on its own, and the same with the text. It allows your logo to be easily used in multiple ways easily. You typically don’t want to use just a Mark, especially if you are a small business or just starting out, because you want people to learn your name. If it’s never visible, they won’t know what to look up, or potentially, even what you do.



STEP 1 – GET STARTED WITH PINTEREST
I think the best thing to do, especially if you don’t know what you want or how you want your brand to look exactly, is to go onto pinterest and type out some key words with the word ‘logo’ or ‘brand’ attached. Even try to use ‘color palletes’ as a search term. Create a private board in your Pinterest account that is for your business brand. Then find styles and inspiration in objects, other logos, fonts, calligraphy, shapes, colors, nature, etc. and pin those to your board. You can also use google and copy and paste a URL into Pinterest if you want to search outside the Pinterest box. What you will see forming is your style. What appeals to you. You may see a mix of styles, or you may see some consistency in what you pick out. Either way you’re on the right track.



STEP 2 – SKETCH IT OUT

You don’t need to have any drawing skills to sketch out a logo. It can be lines and just text. Its more like scribbling or doodling. The idea is to get something on paper. Trace if you need to. But obviously don’t copy others work. You can take inspiration from others logos and use that inspiration to help fuel ideas in your own (remember the rain clouds?). These can be rough, and can help get the creative process going. Here is a Google search I’ve done for you that can help you see what I mean by sketching: See SKETCH EXAMPLES



STEP 3 – REFINE
Now this MAY be the part you might want a designers help with, if you are really uncomfortable with the computer, or dont know how to get your ideas from paper to a refined vector. But I will tell you one thing right now. If you go to a designer and you have come this far, with answering the above questions, having a board set up on pinterest and have some even basic of basic sketch ideas down to give them. You will BLOW their minds! A big part of branding and logo design that can take designers a long time is trying to get their clients to figure out their own brand. SO, if you do this you’re one step ahead of the game, and it can get the designer started early on your actual designs. They may have some other questions or requirement they will need from you, depending on their working style.

IF you want to try to tackle this yourself, and maybe hire a professional down the road when your business has made enough income to afford help for a more professional refined logo, then here is what I suggest you do:

For pretty inexpensive you can get pre-designed marks and designs on Creative Market. Some of these files will require Adobe software, like Illustrator or Photoshop. But you can get a trial version of the software for 30 Days for FREE, and you can also get the new Creative Cloud service and only pay monthly for the programs you need. Which is great if you need a couple months of the software. If you go this method, I would try to use elements from marks, and not an entire design with your name inserted. You run the risk of duplications of marks and not being true to YOUR brand.

For fonts there are lots of free online sources if you are wanting to keep it inexpensive. I recommend sites like DaFont.com, or FontSquirrel, and FontSpace. You can also use Creative Market for fonts, and can find some for pretty inexpensive. This will help you find styles you like that you can play around with to fit your style.



STEP 4 – Putting it all together
You will want to save your files in a way that you can easily use them in multiple platforms. I always recommend saving files larger in dimensions because its easier to scale down an image, and not exactly possible to scale up. Save files for web in programs like Adobe Illustrator and save them as a PNG with a transparent background. This will allow you to put your logo on something with out having a box behind it.

Adobe Illustrator – FILE >> SAVE FOR WEB

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Go to File>> SAVE FOR WEB to turn a vector into a image.

 

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Choose the Save As PNG, and be sure to check the “Transparency” box to on so that you are only save the vector with NO background.

When you are in the “save for web” view in Illustrator you can enlarge a image here using the “image size” window above. I typically adjust the percentage only to keep the graphic consistent in size. If you know a width or height you need to have your mark at, you can adjust that here just adjust one of the two, and make sure that the link is pressed so the proportions not get messed up.


There is A LOT to a brand, and creating a logo. I always recommend hiring someone first, especially if you can budget for it. You will get the best mark and most memorable design and all the file formats you need by hiring someone, and independent designers prices range from $200 – $5000 for a logo. You just need to find the right person that will do what you need and in your budget and timeline.

A few suggested resources for finding a designer (besides myself obviously 🙂 ):

The Rising Tide Society – Facebook Group (requires acceptance to the group, but if your a small creative business you might want to connect with other businesses for input and advice in your industry).

Instagram/Facebook/Google – #logodesigner, #smallbusinessbranding, etc. – Do a hashtag search, you don’t need to find a designer in the same place as you either, most designers work remotely and can do everything over the internet!

Until next time Rain Drops! (<—now you know where that comes from!)

XOXO, Devan Nichole

  1. Tonya

    August 26th, 2016 at 1:56 PM

    Great Post, and beyond informative! Not to mention I swear I read this in John’s voice lol but seriously great information and some very strong points on why your logo is so important and should be taken seriously when starting a business.

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