What can make your business truly memorable? A curious look into logo and business card design
I've found myself wondering lately: as a freelancer, do I need to sort out my branding?
And I'm not talking about a personal brand here (I'm all in favour when that question comes up). But I can't tell you how many times people have asked me how to pronounce my name correctly, and that can't be good for branding (let's hire that girl, what's-her-chops).
So, now that I'm thinking about getting a logo designed and perhaps even creating some chick business cards, I took the time to read the Internet's archives on logo and business card design 101 – and here's a neat summary of all my key learnings.
Enjoy (and share your thoughts in the comments)!
How to create a stunning logo that represents your business
You don’t know what you don’t know.
It’s astonishing how narrow of a vision we might have sometimes. Getting fixated on a particular idea is dangerous and often counterproductive -- unless it’s a genius idea, of course. But when it comes to logo design, the inspiration can strike from anywhere at any time, so it’s vital to open our minds and eyes when gathering ideas. Before you start writing a design brief, head to sites like Logo Gala, Logo Moose or Dribble to goggle at marvellous creations of the most talented creatives. Maybe you’ll discover something you didn’t know you liked.
Logo 101 should be taken seriously
An effective logo is like a stamp on a customer’s memory. It needs to be graphic, versatile, memorable, simple in its form but still a transmitter of a company’s mission. There are several design principles that have to be followed.
A logo should be…
Simple. The 'simple is genius' rule applies to logo creation. However, let’s not confuse a simple logo with a logo that’s lacking sophistication or depth. The strength of a versatile, memorable logo often lies in its minimalistic form and clever, unexpected execution.
Memorable. Everyone agrees that a logo must be memorable to help a brand grow, but when it comes to defining a memorable logo, no one has the right answer. A memorable logo is often a simple representation of a complex idea, so a strong graphical execution is key, but it doesn’t always mean the logo has to show what a business does. It needs to be clear and distinctive, and the rest is up to you.
Timeless. When you’re just starting out, it’s hard to imagine your business becoming a multi-million dollar empire 20 years down the line but, who knows? An effective logo is future-proof and can endure the test of time. Aim to be less trend-oriented and more mission-driven when you’re working on your logo.
Flexible. You’ll be using your logo across many different media and applications that can often benefit from different design versions. Make sure your logo is versatile enough to carry the message through no matter the medium.
Appropriate. When creating a logo, think about the audience it’s intended for. This will dictate the choice of typography and colours and will help you choose an appropriate overall look.
Learn from brands that nailed it
The world’s top logo designs share a lot of similarities. This simply means there are practices you can copy to give yourself a better chance at succeeding. Logodesignerblog have published the key findings of a logo design analysis of the world’s 50 best logos that shine some light on design guidelines and tips we can borrow.
The name does not describe the product sold (94%) (i.e., in most cases, a logo is used to identify a company, not describe what it does.)
The by-line tag is not included in the logo (90%)
The font style is clean and clear (84%)
The logo design uses one colour only (74%) (white & black not counted as a colour)
The logo design uses letters only without the symbol (74%)
The logo design is a made-up name or ACRONYM (72%)
The logo design is rectangular in shape (66%)
The logo design is one word only (62%)
The logo design includes the trademark symbol (54%) and is placed in the top right (48%)
The name is 6 letters or less (52%)
The name uses upper and lower case (44%) (excluding ACRONYMS)
The background is filled and solid. (52%)
The pronunciation includes three sounds/syllables (44%)
The predominant colour base is blue (40%)
Avoid the visual clichés
What’s a visual cliché? Think about all the globes used to illustrate “international” and all the lightbulbs visualising “ideas”. These are hardcore visual clichés that are overused, lazy and should be avoided at all costs. Only a few of the top 50 brand logos showcased above use symbols in their designs, so it’s clear that they’re not vital. However, if you decide to add an icon to your logo, steer clear from the visual clichés! Aim for something unexpected, fresh and distinctive that will give your brand an edge.
Get your typography on point
Typography is a central element of any good logo. You can choose to create a custom typeface or search for one that you can adapt to your design. A good rule of thumb to follow with typefaces is that if the words you’re trying to depict are unusual or difficult to pronounce, you should go with a simple, easy-to-read font; if they’re common words that are quite easy to recognise, you can be more creative and experiment with fancier typefaces. Now, this is not a permission to use gimmicky fonts. To avoid becoming a victim of a fallen-out-of-fashion typeface, you should stick with classic, clean fonts that endure the passing of time.
The most important part of choosing a typeface is making sure it matches the qualities of the brand. Whether you’re using it to create an effect of a chic, stylish brand, something a bit edgier, or a more corporate one, the right typeface can accentuate the visual impression and bring that idea forward. A type-only approach (like Microsoft or Canon) can be an exciting solution too if you discover a font that communicates the essence of your brand effectively.
Tip: Don’t use more than two fonts in your logo.
So, you've got your logo... what now?
How to make your business cards the centre of conversation
You’ve just had a promising conversation with some important big shots and it’s getting to a point where you’re meant to exchange contacts. Are you going to take out your smartphone and note down their email address and a phone number? Hopefully not! (Plus, you've already got all that branded stuff done.)
Although business cards have been receiving a bad rap recently, they’re still a secret marketing weapon in every entrepreneur’s arsenal. Too many people are missing out on the opportunity to make a strong first impression by using poorly designed business cards that fail to communicate the uniqueness of their business.
The best business cards are always custom designed. For such a cost-effective marketing tool, the biggest expense is the time that it takes to come up with a brilliant idea. But don’t put off this challenge for too long -- a memorable business card continues to promote your business long after you’re done with your elevator pitch.
Tip #1: Experiment with different shapes
Standard shaped business cards have the advantage of... being standard -- they fit nicely into all business card holders and go down well with a more conservative crowd. However, if your business operates in a more relaxed (yes, it’s just a nicer way to say less corporate) environment, trying oddly shaped cards could turn out to be your way of making waves.
Example: Moxie Tuesday Design Branding by Jana Neil
Tip #2: Add a touch of luxury
One way to get people excited about receiving your business cards is to create a gift-unwrapping experience. Adding some lush elements like card sleeves can truly elevate your cards to another design dimension. If you can make them gasp with joy, you can be sure they’ll remember you and your cards for a long time.
Tip #3: Embrace the fun
Bring a breath of fresh air into the world of flat, boring business cards. Nothing is too crazy if it gives your business a much-needed oomph and doesn’t cross any lines (fun ends where inappropriate begins). Explore design ideas that are relevant to your business but not limited to the cookie-cutter designs.
Tip #4: Show off a hint of your personality
Helping people to connect your face with your business card is a smart way to go. It’s especially relevant to freelancers and one (wo)man bands who need to build strong personal brands to drive their business forward. If you don’t feel comfortable placing your headshot on a business card, get an illustrator to help you develop an authentic identity for your designs.
Example 2: Weburbanist
Example 3: Joe Coleman's taken on a copywriter's business cards.
Tip #5: Get crafting
Adding a personal touch to your business cards can only increase their appeal and show to the recipients that you do go the extra mile where your business is concerned. It’s important that the crafty elements elevate your brand rather than detract from it (don’t get too carried away), so think the concepts through and how they tie in with your business mission in advance.
Example 1: Mylene Poisson Sommeliere
Tip #6: Make your cards interactive
Cool things will never go out of fashion. Supercharge your business cards with interactive elements and you’ll sure create a wow factor that will win people’s hearts over. Taking a fresh approach to design and developing something that is memorable and unique is almost guaranteed to earn you extra exposure. People will feel compelled to show your card to friends and colleagues and sometimes even share pictures of it on social media.
Example 1: Bracket | Business Card
What do you think about this whole freelancer branding dilemma? Let me know in the comments!