The icon you choose to represent your business shouldn’t be an afterthought; it should define your whole brand.

Starting or growing a business is an exciting, frustrating, rewarding and arduous experience. It involves many considerations and a careful use of precious resources. In today’s marketplace, establishing a powerful and memorable brand is essential for any company’s success. While most experts agree what branding is, few give the logo its due respect.

In my experience, a logo sets the stage for all of your strategic messaging. A logo is not just an equal part of a brand, like most experts would indicate. Like a bicycle wheel, your branding spokes need to be connected to one central hub. Think of your logo as the hub for your brand and all other iterations of that logo as your spokes.

A great logo conveys expertise, establishes a brand promise, and creates an expectation for quality. While many business owners wouldn’t give a second thought to buying an inexpensive $99 logo, there are some major points you would do well to consider first.

1. Don’t be generic

First, make sure the logo is clear and easy to interpret, because you don’t have the luxury of years of brand recognition to get people to associate your name with your product or service. Likewise, you don’t have the large advertising budget required to brand generic icons that don’t help consumers understand the nature of your business.

2. Pick typography that reflects what you stand for

The vast majority of small business brands are built upon two primary elements: the typographic elements and the graphic or iconic element. Together, they form the basic structure for most logo designs.

Next to the graphical element or icon, the typography used in your logo design is the most critical choice a designer makes in representing your small business brand. Typography communicates much about your brand—whether it’s whimsical, elegant, dated, common, fresh or futuristic. It should be in harmony and balance with the graphic or icon in order to optimize the audience’s impression.

3. Consider what you want to stand out

When your company name has two words (say, “Johnston Electrical”), there are two schools of thought when considering which part should receive priority in the logo. Each method has its place, and the strategy you deploy depends upon a number of circumstances. Obviously, the brand should work together cohesively to communicate what the business does. But, when do you want to (figuratively) scream “Johnson!” and whisper “Electrical,” versus the other way around?

On one side, the name may be the most dominant part of the logo, while what the company does is secondary. This works well for well-established companies that enjoy good name recognition and are associated with the service or product they provide. In a local market, this is often the case for service businesses, contractors, and the like.

For example, people have seen the trucks around town, and everyone knows the Dombey Plumbing does plumbing, even though “Plumbing” is the secondary logo component. He’s been around for years, and most people have heard the name. For scenarios similar to this, it’s usually safe to reinforce the name as the main logo component. The vast majority of our brands treat the company name as the dominant copy, and the service as secondary.

4. Think about how it will be used

Whenever possible, avoid using a logo that requires a lot of explanation. If your small business relies on outdoor media, such as signs or vehicles, a memorable icon is especially important. It should link the viewer to the message, quickly and efficiently.

In fact, when making decisions about how you want your logo designed, it’s vitally important to think about the big picture. How is it going to look in the various executions of the brand? Will it thrive in one format, but suffer in another? Or are there certain marketing channels we might start using in the future, wherein the logo will need to work well? Take a minute to think about how those future projects will pan out before finalizing your logo design. Some areas to consider include:

  • Business cards and stationery. Your business card is oftentimes a prospect’s first impression. Think of how your logo will appear on your card. Make it count and think differently. (Some ideas include two-sided cards, rounded corners, and unique paper stocks.)
  • Signage (for retail enterprises). While it can be costly, it’s important to have your signage match your brand. Use the space as effectively as possible, but don’t modify the logo, and resist the urge to modify your logo’s proportions to fit the available space. Website addresses and phone numbers are less important since the viewer is actually on-site.
  • Vehicles. When designed properly, vehicle design provides a unique way to get your new brand in front of a lot of people. Make the most of the canvas, and make sure your trucks are designed to stand out rather than fit in, with a clear, indelible logo front and centre.
  • Uniforms. Employees are your brand ambassadors, so make sure they are dressed neatly and professionally—and that all brand colors are integrated. Avoid including things like phone numbers and website addresses on uniforms; just the logo will do.
  • Web design. Ideally your new logo should be integrated into your website, and should live within the brand architecture the moment you launch your new look and feel. This is really where the brand should shine, and where your brand promise should be relayed.
  • Social media. This is an easy change to make when launching a new brand vis-a-vis a logo. Likewise, an announcement of the new change should definitely be made through your social media channels.

Still unsure of a logo’s importance? Look no further than Disney to understand the value of a memorable logo. It’s iconic, clear and immediately recognizable.

Determining the feelings or emotions you wish to communicate when interacting with your audience is the first step to building a successful roadmap for your brand. Once you’re armed with this research, my suggestion is to tackle the logo design first—and build all other branding touch points around what your logo, the hub of your branding wheel, communicates.

 

The content in this article originally appeared on Profit Guide, Canada’s leading media brand dedicated to entrepreneurial business and providing their audience with all of the information they need to be successful in the fast-changing business world.