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Start-up Advice

10 Questions to Ask When Designing Your Company’s Logo

Logos are the face of your company, the harbingers of the all-important first impression. Follow these pro tips to hit your first logo out of the park.

Kim Lachance Shandrow

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Apple-logos

Great logos are recognisable in a blink. They also should make a lasting impression.

Target hits the bullseye, Nike goes swoosh, and Apple catches the eye.All three company’s iconic logos are unique, memorable and stand the test of time. They instantly and consistently do what a potent logo should: Identify a brand, make it stand out and, ideally, drive customer interest and sales.

We all know great logos, but we don’t all know that great logos aren’t easy to create. From concept to color to rollout, there’s much to consider when boiling your brand down to a single emblem.

Related: How to Design Your Business Logo

“We have less time and less space to tell our stories in than ever before,” says Alina Wheeler, a Philadelphia-based branding expert and author of Designing Brand Identity (John Wiley and Sons, Inc., fourth edition, 2013). “To rise above the clutter, a symbol or a logo is the fastest communication known to man. It unlocks associations with your brand on sight, so it’s important to get it right the first time around.”

Here are 10 essential questions to ask when designing your company’s first logo:

1. What types of logos are there?

Wheeler separates logos into four categories:

  • Wordmarks are freestanding word or multi-letter abbreviation groupings comprising a logo, a.k.a. logotypes. Companies with wordmark logos include eBay, IBM, CNN, Google, Kleenex, Saks Fifth Avenue and, yes, the publication you’re reading right now,Entrepreneur.
  • Letterform logos are comprised of a single letter. Think Honda, Uber, Unilever, Beats and McDonald’s.
  • Pictorial logos are illustrated symbols of recognisable things. Starbucks, Twitter and Playboy all have pictorial logos.
  • Abstract logos don’t represent anything otherwise recognisable, like abstract art. Perhaps the most famous brand to successfully pull off an abstract logo is Nike.

Related: How important is a company logo when starting up a business?

2. Which type of logo would best suit my company?

Unfortunately, there is no one type of logo that works for everyone, Wheeler says. “Which fits you best depends a lot on your name and what you provide or make.”

For example, if you have a short company name like eBay, a wordmark logotype could work well. Wordmarks and letterform logos generally help consumers remember your name better than abstract logos. If you opt for an abstract symbol, however, be sure it’s straightforward and mirrors the personality of your brand.

3. What are the key points about my business that my logo should convey?

Your logo – from the colour to the shape – should provide an immediate sense of what your company is all about.

“When people look at it, they should get a feel for your brand personality and your distinctive point of view,” Wheeler says. “They should know that you’re different from your competitors, you’re professional, a real business and you’re confident and successful in what you do.”

Amazon’s logo, represented by the company’s name, with an arrow below it pointing from the “a” to the “z,” is an example of a logo that embodies its namesake’s brand identity exceptionally well, according to Wheeler. “The arrow doubles as a smile that conveys friendly customer service and it connects the ‘a’ to the ‘z’ because Amazon offers everything A to Z. It’s all there.”

4. What are the best logo colours?

Color choice is incredibly important. To best differentiate yourself, Wheeler says it’s paramount to choose a colour that your biggest competitors do not use in their logos.

Also consider that different colors pack different psychological punches. For example, the colour red – appropriately used in Red Bull’s logo – is active, intense and even a little alarming. Yellow is happy, energetic and fresh, perhaps a wise choice for a company focused on health and wellness. Meanwhile, blue – the hue of Ford, Samsung and GE’s logos – evokes confidence, calm and reliability.

5. What fonts should I consider?

Fonts, like colors, convey and inspire various emotions. Different fonts work best for different businesses.

For example, a logo for a legal firm – which should convey honourability, strength and justice – might best be represented in a bold, straightforward font free of flourish. Whereas a candy shop might opt for a whimsical font that communicates youth, sweetness and fun.

6. Should I design a logo myself or hire a graphic designer to do it?

Even if you think you’re a decent drawer and even if you’re on a tight budget, Wheeler suggests that you leave designing your logo to a trained graphic designer.

“Working with a skilled graphic designer is really critical. They understand what a good logo is and how it needs to scale and function across different media and marketing channels, like on your website, within an app or on a storefront sign, all key things that shouldn’t be left to chance or guessed at on the fly.”

That said, it’s still a smart move to know which logo colors, shapes and fonts you like and don’t like ahead of meeting with a designer. Communicate your preferences to him or her before any mockups are drafted.

7. How much will it cost?

Professional design firms typically charge anywhere between $4,000 to $15,000 for a logo alone, which might not be in the budget for startups and small businesses.

For a more affordable option, Evenson Design Group founder Stan Evanson suggests contracting a freelance designer who charges between $35 and $150 per hour, depending on his or her level of experience. “But don’t hire someone because of their bargain price. Find a designer who’s familiar with your field and your competition,” Evenson says.

There are also several web-based professional logo design providers, like Logoworks, that provide logo concept, design and revisions packages for as low as $299 to $599, depending on the number of logo designs delivered.

8. Where should I display my logo?

A better question would be “Where shouldn’t you display it?” because you’ll want to show it off “pretty much everywhere,” Wheeler says. Online, weave your logo into your website, digital ad campaigns and on social-media sites where you have company accounts, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Offline, put your logo on your front door, business card, product packaging, uniform and on company stationary and contracts.

9. What are some mistakes to avoid?

The worst mistake of all, Wheeler says, is settling on a logo before seriously considering your key competitors’ logos. If your logo ends up similar to theirs, even in the slightest, customers might not be able to tell you apart and you could lose business.

Wheeler also cautions against sizing up your logo on a piece of paper only, as opposed to envisioning it across several diverse marketing places and spaces, like as an app icon, on a website, a billboard, or on a T-shirt or the side of a truck.

10. Is it too soon to worry about how my logo will look in 10 years?

Most logos, Wheeler says, need some touching up after a decade’s time or so anyway, to avoid growing stale. The key is to get it right from the start, then fine tune as needed over time.

“Think of it, the Michelin Man has undergone Botox and minor surgery a bunch of times in the last 100 years,” she says. “But the core idea is still the same as the first Michelin Man.”

Related: How to Create a Logo

Kim Lachance Shandrow is a Los Angeles-based tech journalist who specializes in writing about iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android phones, as well as social media marketing, startups, streaming TV, apps and green technology. Her work has appeared on NBC’s The Today Show, MSNBC.com, NBC.com, and in The Los Angeles Times and The International Business Times. She also consults for Ameba, a Canadian multiplatform children’s streaming TV startup.

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Start-up Advice

Put On Your Wellies: It’s Time To Wade Into Risk

Entrepreneurs aren’t all leaping into the unknown like lemmings off a cliff, but they do need to consider it…

Chris Ogden

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You’ve had a great idea. You’ve looked into its development. You’ve recognised that it has potential beyond just what Auntie Mabel and Mike From The Grocer think. And you’ve clearly nailed a pain point that can make money. Now it is time to take the risk of running with it.

Every big idea comes with risk. You can’t step out into the world of entrepreneurial thinking and business development without it. Your idea may fail. It will also be time consuming, demanding, hungry for money, and hard work. It is unrealistic to expect that your project will leap out into the world and be an unmitigated success.

It is also unrealistic to assume that it isn’t worth taking this risk.

There are steps that you can follow to ensure that your risk is managed so you aren’t blindly leaping off that cliff…

Step 01: Do your research

No, canvassing your neighbours, friends and family is not doing research. You need to know that your idea will appeal to a broad market and that it will have significant legs. This may sound like daft advice, but you would be surprised how many people think an idea will take off just because Susan in Accounting said so.

Step 02: Understand the costs

Projects are hungry for money and investment. Realistically work out your budgets and how much it will cost to take your project off the ground and then stick to it.

A calculated risk is a far better bet than one that shoots from the hip and hopes for the best. You can also use this as an opportunity to draw a clear line under where you will stop investing and end the project. If it keeps eating money and isn’t getting anywhere with results you need to be able to walk away.

Step 03: Know when to walk away

As mentioned before, this can be defined by a line you’ve drawn in the proverbial sand (and budget) but no matter where you draw this line, you have to stick to it. Often, when time, money and energy have been poured into a project it can be incredibly hard to walk away.

You think ‘but I have put so much into this, just one more’ and then it gets to a point where the ‘just one more’ has taken you so far down the line that walking away feels impossible. Leave. Learn the lessons. Apply them to your next project.

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Start-up Advice

Mind The Gap

The entrepreneur’s guide to finding the gaps and building the right solutions.

Chris Ogden

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entrepreneurship-gap

Innovation may very well be the key to business success but finding the gap into which your innovative thinking can fit is often a lot harder than people realise. Some may be struck by inspiration in the shower, others by that moment of blinding insight in a meeting, however, for most people finding that big idea isn’t that simple. They want to be an entrepreneur and start their own high-growth business, but they need some ideas on how to find that big idea.

Here are five…

1. Network

It sounds trite but networking is actually an excellent way of picking up on patterns and trends in conversation and business problems. The trick is to note them down and pay attention. Soon, you will find patterns emerging and ideas forming.

2. Look for pain

Just as networking can reveal trends in the market, so can spending time reading. The latter will also help you find common business pain points. These are the touchpoints that frustrate people, annoy business owners, affect productivity, or impact employee engagement.

Be the Panado that fixes these pains.

3. Luck

luck

This is probably the most annoying of the ideas, but it is unfortunately (or fortunately) very true. Luck does play a role in helping you capture that big idea. However, luck isn’t just standing around and random people offering you opportunities. Luck is found at networking events, it is found in research and it is found in conversations with other entrepreneurs.

4. Luck needs courage

You may have found the big idea through your network, a pain point or pure blind luck, but if you don’t have the courage to take it and run with it, you will lose it to someone else.

Being bold in business is highly underrated because most people assume that everyone is bold and prepared to take big leaps into the unknown. However, not all brilliant entrepreneurs were ready to throw their family funds to the wind and leap into an idea – they were courageous enough to figure out a way of harnessing their ideas realistically.

5. Pay attention

This is probably one of the most vital ways of finding a gap in the market. Often, people are so busy that they don’t really pay attention to that niggling issue that always bothers them on a commute, or in a mall, or at a meeting. This niggling issue could very well be the next big business opportunity. Pay attention to it and find out if that issue can be solved with your innovative thinking.

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Start-up Advice

5 Things To Know About Your “Toddler” Business

As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind.

Catherine Black

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small-business-start-up

Ah, toddlers. Those irresistible bundles of joy bring a huge amount of energy, curiosity and fun to any family – but there’s also frustration and worry that comes with their unpredictability, as they grow and start to become more independent. If you own a business and it’s successfully past its “infancy” of the first year or so, it’s likely it will also go through a toddler stage of its lifecycle.

Pete Hammond, founder of luxury safari company SafariScapes, agrees with this. “Our business is now three and a half years old, and we’ve found that we’re not yet big enough to justify employing a large team of people to handle the day-to-day admin tasks, yet we still need to grow the business as well,” he says. “As a result, our main challenge is finding the time to step back and see the bigger picture. Kind of like when you are raising a busy toddler and you spend most of your time running after them!”

As you navigate this new toddler phase of your business, here are five things to bear in mind:

1. This too shall pass

Everything in life is temporary – and that goes for both the good and the bad. It’s as helpful to remember this when you’re facing the might of a toddler temper tantrum, as it is when you’re facing throws of uncertainty in your business. If your new(ish) venture is going through a rough patch in its first few years, it can be easy to think about giving up – but don’t. As long as you have an overall big idea that you believe can add value to your customers, keep pushing through the rough parts until you come out the other side.

2. Appreciate what this phase brings

The toddler years mean that the initial newborn joy is officially behind you. But these small humans also bring their own kinds of joy, as you watch them learn new skills, say funny things, and give affection back to you. While your two-year-old business may not hold the same exhilaration for you as it did during those first few months, there are now different things to appreciate about it: Maybe you’re expanding your product range, or employing new people who can take the workload off you.

3. Establish boundaries

Toddlers thrive on boundary and routine – and your toddler business will too. As it grows into a new phase, try and establish limits in terms of the type of clients you want to work with and the type of work you’ll do. It’s also a good idea to make a decision about the hours you’ll work and when you’ll switch off, which will help you establish a good work-life balance.

4. Take a break

Every parent with a toddler needs a break every now and then, even if that means a walk around the block (on your own!), a dinner out with friends, or even a few days away. The same is true for a demanding small business: every so often, remember to take time out to rest properly, where you switch off your laptop and completely unplug. You’ll return much more inspired and resilient to deal with the everyday uncertainty that it brings.

5. Give it space to make mistakes

While the unpredictability of a young business can be stressful and tiring, it’s also a time for trying new things without the risk of huge consequences if they don’t quite work. After all, it’s much simpler to change your USP if you’re a small business employing a few people, rather than a big company where 50 people are relying on you for their salary, or where you’ve received a huge amount of investment capital. While you may fail in some of the things you try with your business (in fact, this is almost guaranteed), see it as a toddler that’s resilient enough to pick itself up, dust its knees and keep moving forward.

During this phase of business growth it’s also essential to have the right type of medical aid cover. There are medical schemes such as Fedhealth which has a number of medical aid options and value-added benefits to ensure that your health and wellness is taken care of too. After all, the healthier you and your staff are, the more productive your business will be – during the toddler (business) stage and beyond.

While this phase can be frustrating, it’s a sign that your business is growing and adapting, rather than remaining in its infancy, and that can only be a good thing! So embrace the difficulties, learn from them, and watch as your business strides forward confidently into the next exciting phase.

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