The Small Business Guide to Creating a Perfect Logo

08/26/2015 10:40 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Your logo is not just a picture; it's your brand's identity. Used in virtually all marketing materials, from your website and business cards to advertisements and social media, it plays a prominent role not only in people remembering your brand, but how they perceive the value of it.

If you want to establish yourself as a credible and authoritative source in your industry, you need to have a
that:
  • Represents your brand/business
  • Reflects quality services
  • Engages and evokes emotion from consumers
  • Is recognizable and memorable
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Your logo should reflect your brand's identity and purpose, not just your personal taste and preferences. Relatively speaking, you have a limited space to work with, so each element and attribute -- from the colors to the shape to the text -- needs to serve a specific purpose.

Anatomy of a logo

There are three main types of logos -- logotype/wordmark, iconic and combination mark -- each with their respective benefits and limitations. Logotypes or wordmarks use the company's name, but in a unique design or custom-font (Disney, Coca-Cola, Ray Ban). Iconic logos use simple graphics or symbols that can have a literal or abstract association (Apple, Nike, Mercedes). Combination marks incorporate both text and graphic, often allowing the two to be integrated or stand-alone (Starbucks, McDonalds, Adidas).

To choose the best logo for your brand, it's important to first understand the different elements involved and how they influence consumer decisions.

Color. The colors you choose to incorporate into your logo is often the hardest -- yet most important -- decision. The color will be the first thing consumers notice about your logo. In fact, researchers have found that as much as 90% of consumers' judgments are based on colors alone. To explore what colors are associated with which emotions, check out this infographic from Designhill:

Shape. Using a recognizable shape can be a useful tool in creating a logo people remember. Keep in mind that it should translate well across various platforms, and will often be used in different sizes.

Font. If you do decide to have text in your logo, the type of font you choose is important. Comic Sans doesn't necessarily illicit a professional tone.

While they should be examined and explored individually, ultimately all the elements of your brand are relative and interconnected. Nothing is isolated, which is why it is essential to hire a logo design company who understands, appreciates and applies the psychology involved in marketing.

Tips for logo design

Make a statement. You want to engage and interest your audience, without overwhelming or confusing them. They shouldn't have to wonder what it is they are looking at.

Ask yourself how your design measures against competition. How do you want it to stand out from your competitors? What artistic elements do favor in other logos? Is it too similar another company's? See what else is out there and what successful brands are using, but don't mimic them. If people view your logo as a "knock-off", chances are they will assume your product/services are cheap. If you want to stand out against your competition, you need to be different.

Don't be afraid to think outside the box. Sometimes it isn't what you decide to add to the logo as much as what you decide to leave out. The man who originally drew the Apple logo, Rob Janoff, said he drew the apple with a bite taken out of it so it wouldn't be mistaken for a cherry, only to later learn "bytes" are fundamental units in computing.

Know your target audience. To create a logo your target audience will respond to, you need to understand who they are so you can get an idea for the perspective they have.

Choosing the right logo design company

Be wary of companies who promise to have a logo to you within hours, especially if the price is alarmingly inexpensive. Being skilled in graphic design does not necessarily equate to being well-versed in marketing and advertising tactics. You aren't hiring them to just create a graphic you -- you are hiring them to help build your brand's identity.

When it comes to branding and logo design, crowd sourcing marketplaces are generally where you will get biggest bang for your buck. For example, with Designhill, after you choose a package, a worldwide competition is launched where designers compete to create a logo you'll love.

Regardless of the type of designer or company you choose, there are a few important questions to cover before hiring them:

Do they offer a 100% money-back guarantee? If not, keep looking. A person or company offering to design your logo without the option of a full refund doesn't care about your brand. If they have a full-refund policy, on the other hand, it shows they are committed to providing you with a design you're happy with.

Will you be able to contact them directly? It is helpful if you are able to give the designer as much as information as possible to work with so they have a thorough understanding of what you are trying to achieve. While design may be their specialty, mind-reading is not. Being able to provide comments and feedback throughout the process is a win-win.

What kind of businesses have they designed for in the past? Check their portfolio. If they haven't worked with businesses similar to yours, make sure -- at the very least -- they done a good job at representing other companies.

If you are having trouble deciding on a logo, or choosing between different designs, enlist the help of others. Ask people what they think the logo represents, or what type of company is behind the brand. (Obviously this is most effective when the opinions come from strangers, not family and friends.)

The most famous and established brands didn't get where they are today solely because of their logo. But while the success of your company hinges on the quality of services/products you provide, the important role your logo plays in influencing the perception, engagement and interest of consumers can't be understated or overlooked.