We’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but when it comes to running a business – how your customers or blog readers perceive your brand or website is key. You can have the most put-together product, service, or content, but if your branding & website give off a unprofessional vibe – your potential customers are going to have a harder time putting their trust in your business or blog.
And in business (especially online), more trust = more sales, a more loyal readership, and more clients. Having a solid logo unique to you and your business mission is essential to creating a professional and viable brand image. But if you’re a business owner or blogger, you probably already know that. Y
ou just might not know how to get there. Every so often, a email will land in my inbox asking about my design process and like most creatives, the design process is such a unique process for each designer that what works for one may not work for another. So today, I’m sharing with you my 5 secrets to a successful logo design, as well as a peek into my process for past branding client Sweets & Treats (whom I adore x 100!).
My goal is to share with you some ways you can rewire your brain to think more out of the box, give you a look into my logo design & thought process to show that branding is so much more than creating a “pretty design”, and give you some tips to think about when hiring a designer so you can make an informed decision about what (and who!) is best for your brand!
So let’s begin! The first thing to remember when creating a logo or hiring a Graphic Designer to take the reigns is that creating a memorable and viable logo goes much further than slapping on a pretty font. In a sea of entrepreneurs and bloggers all doing similar things, having a professionally designed logo unique to you (and only you) is one big way to set yourself apart.
Think about your audience and who want to attract. What are they drawn to? What is their style? Is that pretty font you’ve been obsessed with for a few months going to speak to your audience the way you need it to (ie. does the vibe match the mission?) or would it be better used as a secondary font?
As hard as it may be to envision, having branding that mixes your own personal style with your brand’s missions is possible. It just takes a little internal digging to ask yourself some of those hard questions about who your brand is.
Tip #1: Set the Past Free
Often times, I hear from clients that they are afraid to change the font of their logo, imagery, or site’s color scheme because they are afraid it will stray too far away from the image they have already created. And while I do think it’s important to carefully craft changes, don’t be afraid to switch things up. If you feel as though your website isn’t as professional as you would like, take a step back and ask yourself why that may be?
Are the fonts that you are attached to maybe bringing down the professionalism of the site? If so, it may be time to move on and let a designer get in there and even things out. You may be surprised how much the use of typography (i.e. too big of fonts, unprofessional fonts, wonky spacing) can affect the professionalism of your site.
A few of the early icon options for Sweets & Treats. See the “S” & “T” hidden in there?
Tip #2: All About That Base (Sorry, I Had To)
Whenever I design a client logo, the first thing I will do is spend several hours sketching concepts (super important to allow your own creative juices to flow without the computer!) followed by presenting the logo options in black and white. It doesn’t matter whether the logo will only be used on a client’s blog or if they plan to use it as a watermark on all of their product packaging, but having a logo that translates well in both black & white and color is important when creating a viable & versatile logo.
This may require working with negative space to effectively portray the imagery no matter what color it is in. Designing first in black and white also allows you to focus on the structure, without jumping the gun and being persuaded by color. It’s easy to want to add color right away, but just like building a house, the goal is to first build a solid foundation and then paint the walls. By painting the walls too soon, you can risk flaws in the foundation causing you to have to backtrack and reopen the walls to fix the cracks.
Tip #3: Adapt, Adapt, Adapt!
If I told you how many hundreds of pages of fonts I’ve looked through while trying to find the perfect font or letterform for a project, only to end up creating my own – you would question my sanity. Not all fonts are created equal and taking into account how different fonts (i.e. serif vs. sans serif vs. script) evoke certain feelings is important to consider when creating a logo. If you’ve ever tried to create a logo and found that you didn’t like certain letters in the font (that just so happened to be in your business name), you’ve probably found yourself frustrated.
Don’t be afraid to adapt the letterforms to better fit your vision. Working with a designer and don’t like the “g” in the word? Don’t be afraid to ask your designer if they can fix it or try some alternatives. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve altered or recreated a certain letter in a logo to make it flow better and make it more unique. Use font letters as a base, but don’t be afraid to break their barriers and make them your own if the situation calls for it.
On the contrary, don’t go crazy changing parts of a logo just because. There needs to be a underlying reason for the changes and adaptations to ensure that they support the logo and do not detract from it. In terms of the Sweets & Treats logo above, these adaptations meant altering some of the ascenders and descenders of the letters to allow for more fluidity with the spacing of the letterforms.
Photo by Annie McGuire Photography
Tip #4: Research Color
When choosing color, try and take a step back and think about if that neon orange color that you’ve loved so dearly since you were little is going to give off the vibe you want. Your favorite colors may not always be what are best for your brand. Don’t be afraid of color, but do use it wisely. Different colors evoke different feelings & emotions to the viewer. Just like it wouldn’t make sense for me to design my branding and website in black and neutral colors, think about what colors feel like you while still keeping in mind how those colors can make people feel.
My clients often come to me wanting there to be some kind of color in their branding because they know that color is my specialty (and addiction). Does that mean I can’t design in black & white? Of course not. It just means that most of the clients that come to me for a blog redesign like color, so that is what is most prominent in my portfolio. Whereas a designer whose portfolio mainly utilizes black and white will attract a different clientele.
Tip #5: Keep It Simple
In a online world where we tend to think that “more is more” it’s easy to get caught up in adding frills to a logo in an effort to make it more unique. Remember that simplicity is not always boring or uncreative. While there were certainly ways we could have added in tons of illustrations of cupcakes in Sweets & Treat’s branding, keeping it simple was our goal throughout the project.
Shannon wanted to incorporate hints cupcake or party supplies if they fit in, without them being the focus so that she could keep the brand open to expansion in the future. If you’re a blogger, think about things that represent you. What is on your desk? What are some things you couldn’t live without? If you’re a shop owner, is there a specific product you want people to think about front & center when they see your logo?
As with the example of Sweets & Treats, Shannon sells other products like paper straws & goodie bags but greaseproof cupcake liners are what the shop is known for. So the challenge throughout the branding process was to zone in on whether we should play that up and make the liners the star, or keep the branding more versatile so people could see that she sells things other than greaseproof cupcake liners. In this case, the solution was to create one primarily typographic logo that could be more versatile, while also creating a secondary icon and monogram to complement.
And that’s all she wrote! My personal list of the top 5 secrets to a successful logo design. If you already have a logo that you’re not 100% in love with, I hope these tips inspire you to take a deep look into what your current logo may be saying to your customers/readership and gets you thinking about ways to make it even stronger.
And if you don’t yet have a solid logo for your business or blog and feel like customers or brands aren’t taking you & your awesome self as seriously as you would like, I hope this post inspires you to think about what branding could do for your business.
So my question for all of you business owners & bloggers today is what is the biggest thing you struggle with in terms of your logo or brand? Or for those of you who already went through through the branding process (whether it years back or just last month), what results have you seen since then? Leave your questions & experiences in the comments below!
Looking to take your branding or blog design to the next level but not sure where to start? I currently have limited openings for May, June, and July 2015 projects and would love to chat with you more about your vision! Packages & more information can be found at my studio website, Melissa Rose Design.