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The Logo Guide
Mike de Sousa, Director, AbleStable

A company logo is used to assert a company's identity. Branding (coherent logo, text style, and visual style) helps to create a sense of confidence in a company, and also ensures that users recognise a company from simple visual cues.  This article presents some of the important issues surrounding logo creation.

Be Realistic

Defining your company's visual identity is a significant step in generating confidence and loyalty. Many companies, large and small, spend too few resources and time on designing their logo, and yet a well designed logo will quickly express many positive attributes of your business.

It is however very easy to overestimate the impact that visual identity has in contributing to a company's perception as a credible, solid, and professional outfit. The bottom line is that the quality and value of a company's services and/or products, and their associated support will sell the company. Logos do not sell products, they do however play a significant role in solidifying the customers loyalty to the company and can help position the company in the marketplace.

Logo Styles

Logos come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Many logos are text-based like those of Sony and IBM. In these scenarios, the logos may have a distinctive text treatment like the colour and shading:

IBM logo

Representational logos seek to sum up the nature of the company's business graphically. These are often simplified pictorial logos like the BMW logo below. Note how BMW support their pictorial element with text:

BMW logo

Purely abstract graphical symbols like Nike's swoosh rely heavily on public recognition of their logo as it contains no visual clues as to what the nature of the business is, nor the name of the business.

Nike Logo

In general, an effective logo is often built from simple graphical 'gestures' or geometric shapes: lines, circles, squares, and triangles.

The First Step


As well as delivering AbleStable, I'm also a Director of 2BrightSparks and recently redesigned the company logo. One of the first things I had to be very clear about was to articulate the essential message I wanted the logo to convey. That message would be that the user was central to the software we deliver.

2 Bright Sparks logo

In the case of 2BrightSparks it was important the logo was designed to work well at a very small size as we provide software products and the 16x16 icon is a default size in Windows. The challenge therefore was to create a distinct and recognizable logo, while at the same time making it sophisticated enough to work at larger scales and in black and white.

Below the Surface

The design of the 2BrightSparks logo uses three elements: the lower triangular shaped section of the figure; rounded squares; and circles. The smooth lines provide a sense of calm that offsets the angle of the figure. Angles in graphic design can convey a sense of tension.

2 Bright Sparks logo with explanations

There's also a subtle psychological message that might go unnoticed on a conscious level, but may be why people feel positive when viewing the logo. Look at the 'user' element in the centre and you'll notice there's an arc that's formed immediately below the head of the figure (technically referred to as 'negative space' in graphic circles). This arc is in the shape of a smile. This together with what is a welcoming gesture from the figure, sets off unconscious positive reactions to the logo in the mind of the viewer.

2 Bright Sparks 16x16  2 Bright Sparks 24x24  2 Bright Sparks 32x32  2 Bright Sparks 48x48  2 Bright Sparks 92x92  2 Bright Sparks greytone  2 Bright Sparks black and white

There are additional subconscious associations certain shapes also convey, but a word of warning here: different cultures have different interpretations of symbols. In the West the following applies:

• The circle is protective or infinite
• The square denotes stability, equality, and honesty
• The triangle suggests action

For all this, the logo also has to look attractive...

General Principles

It's important to keep a logo design very simple as it needs to function well in a variety of contexts: a website; business cards; stationary; office signage etc. A good logo should be scalable, easy to reproduce, memorable and distinctive. Logos may also need to be reproduced in black and white so they can be faxed, photocopied or used in a black-and-white advertisement.

Another important guideline is not to introduce too many colours into logos as that will incur additional printing costs. You may also wish to trademark your logo to protect it from use by other companies.

The Logo Developer

Commissioning a designer to produce a logo can cost as little as $100 to as much as $20,000. If you pay peanuts, don't expect too much. Whatever you end up paying, try to ensure you, and as many people as possible, get the opportunity of viewing some drafts of the logo with the purpose of providing feedback about them. Be mindful that if the designer doesn't get a real feel for your business, they'll not be able to express what your business does graphically.

It's advisable to find a designer with a track record of logo design as the skills to make an effective logo are very different than for many other graphic design projects. You should also be aware of the scope and length of the logo usage (see 'Rights Issues' below).

At AbleStable we've a special page in our directory of creative professionals under Logo Design and Branding where you'll find some specialists.

File Types

Ask your logo designer what file types are included in their price. The most common file types needed are IA (Illustrator) and EPS for most professional print jobs. These are vector format files. These files should be in a CMYK colour format. Printers will often also accept PDF files but you'll need to check this with your own printer. For some print jobs TIFF and BMP files are also appropriate. These are bitmap files and should have a DPI (dots per inch) of at least 300 dpi, but preferably 600dpi.

The last file types you'll need are PNG, JPEG, and GIF. These are pixel files and are used primarily for web design. They should be in RGB colour format. Be aware that not all colours translate well on the Internet, especially GIF files. Ask if the logo designer used web safe colours, and review the results in an HTML page.

Rights Issues

You should also receive all rights (copyrights) to your logo for the life of the logo. Ask for this in writing if you have any doubts when you sign the contract with the logo designer. Some designers might negotiate fewer rights or usage's to your logo to help save you money. You should ensure you may renegotiate all rights and usage's at a later date should you be able to financially afford it.

Conclusion

Whether you're an individual designer or a multinational corporation, a logo is a crucial tool for encouraging a sense of credibility and professionalism in the minds of your existing clients and potential customers. Effective logos are a lot easier to remember than a new name. You may have the expertise to develop your own logo, but you'll find it's a lot harder than you anticipate. It's often the simplest of things that take the most time...


     
       
 
Authors background
Mike de Sousa is the Director of AbleStable®. Mike has been commissioned as an artist, music composer, photographer, print and web site designer, and author.

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