our Logo: Much More Than a Decoration
 by: Greg RS Kihlstrom

What are the company logos that you remember the most? As you are about to design your corporate identity, take a look around and notice the logos that are all around us. Most of the time, they are very simple icons. Sometimes they graphically represent exactly what the company does, but others are a simple mark that makes an impression. Here are some tips to help you get a memorable corporate identity of your own:

1) Find a Designer You Can Trust

First of all, you need to find someone that truly understands the importance of the creation and implementation of a company’s identity. Beware of a designer that says “Yeah, I do logo design.” A logo is only part of the package. In order for the logo to work, it needs a color scheme, fonts that complement it, and a complete ‘look and feel’ that ties all your communications together.

Take a look at the designer’s portfolio and make sure that they have designed memorable, striking logos, but also make sure that you take a look at how those logos were applied to different types of items such as business cards, brochures, Web sites and even 1-color giveaway items like pens and magnets. In every occasion, the logo and surrounding design elements should work as a cohesive whole. If they do not work, the designer does not understand the true idea of corporate identity design.

Make sure that the designer can answer tough questions about their design choices. There should be a reason behind everything that was done. Remember, your identity is going to be with you for a (hopefully) very long time.

There are now many cheap, fast logo creation services online. Many people are satisfied with these services, and they seem to do a decent job of creating a logo. But corporate identity design is a whole other matter, and these logo design Web sites don’t fully address this more complex issue.

2) Think Simple

Once you find a designer, make sure to explain to them everything that your company does. Make sure that you can articulate your company’s philosophy of doing business and what sets you apart. The corporate identity process depends on conceptualizing all of these abstract ideas.

Remember, though, that some times the simplest expressions are the most memorable. If your company manufactures widgets, trims them on a machine and then delivers them to a store, don’t expect to be able to show that entire process with one small icon. Instead, concentrate on what sets you apart. Maybe it’s your personal touch, your strong foothold in the marketplace or your innovative ideas. Don’t be afraid to simplify.

3) It’s All In a Name

Sometimes your corporate identity design might simply be your company’s name. Take Sony®, for instance. No need for a fancy icon beside the name. They have made their name speak for itself. Now, you might be thinking that your 2-person company in a small town will never be competing with a large multi-national corporation, and you might be right. You can still make a striking impression with everyone that sees your company’s name, though.

Also, remember that different types of fonts say different things about you and your company’s identity. A serif font, or one with small decorative lines, such as Times Roman, can say that you are a little more traditional, established and conservative. A sans-serif font, or one without the small decorative embellishments such as Arial or Helvetica, looks more modern and clean. Either one has its place.

Some times I use a combination of font types to create a refreshing contrast, or create a clean, modern logo and use a serif typeface to create a balance between traditional and modern. The best part is that there are no hard and fast rules.

4) It Helps to Squint

As you are finalizing your corporate identity design, make sure that you continue to imagine it being placed in any possible situation or surface. A trick I use some times is to put the logo and company name on my screen or print it out and hang it on the wall. I back as far away as I can and squint. If the resulting image is still pleasing to the eye, then it works on an aesthetic level, even without reading the text or knowing exactly what the logo design might be. Make sure that the colors represent your company correctly.

Your identity designer should be able to explain their color and font choices to you without trouble. Don’t let them tell you that they just “thought it looked good.” There needs to be a meaning behind your corporate identity design, even if it is abstracted.

The corporate identity process can take a few weeks or it can take a few months. It might seem like it takes forever sometimes, but remember that once the process is over, you’ll have a lasting look and creative direction for your company for years to come.


About The Author

Greg RS Kihlstrom is creative director for Carousel30 - His corporate identity work has won international awards and been published in books, magazines and design Web sites.

This article was posted on April 15, 2006