I taught business card classes for many years for Bozeman Adult Education. The obvious question that always came up was how to design the new company logo. In the Bozeman High School marketing room, where I taught the class, is a huge section of wall covered in logos. There is no question that many famous companies have created very distinctive logos both in text and graphic symbols.

Famous Logos:

  • Coke: Probably the most recognizable logo on the planet. Whether it’s the full name, Coca Cola, written in the distinctive calligraphy style. Or just the simple Coke name. Either way people know Coke regardless of language, culture or location.
  • Nike: Everyone is familiar with the famous Nike “swoosh.” The little checkmark graphic with or without the name is a highly recognizable marketing icon.
  • McDonald's: We’ve all dined under the “Golden Arches” at one time or another. This is another graphic image that doesn’t need the company name to communicate with its customers.
  • Word Logos: Microsoft, Dell, Johnson & Johnson, all used their business name without the use of an accompanying graphic.

Where to start:

The biggest mistake I see in logo design it to make it way too complicated. When it comes to graphic design simple is better. A cluttered, busy, overpowering graphic will usually confuse the customer more than enhance the image of the company. Think about the companies listed above. None have a complicated logo. McDonald's took the “M” and made it into the familiar “golden arches” graphic.

Design Tips:

Keep in mind that your logo has to be usable in various sizes. It might look great on a 50’ billboard but be unreadable when reduced to fit a 2”x3” business card. If you are using very specific colors in your logo, keep in mind that newspaper inks many not be able to reproduce your color to exact specifications.

When designing a business card add the logo last. Your name, company name, address, web site, email, phone and cell numbers are going to take up a lot of room. What really has to be on the card? Experiment with sizes. The name of the person should be slightly larger than the rest of the information. If you expect the customer to call then the phone numbers should be bold or larger. If you are expecting them to visit the web site then make that larger or bold.

Don’t forget the back of the card for some of this information. For example, more and more businesses are using Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Putting all that information on one side of the card would make the print so small you might need a magnifying glass to decipher the needed information.

Graphics & Colors:

I don’t see a hamburger anywhere in the McDonald's logo. I don’t see a laptop in the Dell or Apple logo. No shoes anywhere near Nike. I realize that for a new business there is the compulsion to use the logo to clue the customer in as to what you do. If that’s not clear without a picture, perhaps a re-think of the business name might be in order.  There are cold colors and warm colors. There are also “buying” colors. Many studies confirm that color can aid a customer in their buying decision. McDonald's, Wendy’s, Burger King, all use red and yellow. Warm friendly colors.

Some Final Thoughts:

I know it might be hard, but try to picture your business in the future. Rather than where it is, or was, the day you opened. If you have ten locations in the future, with thousands of customers, will this logo still work? Will it still represent your business in a professional manner?

Rather than reinvent the wheel, look at competing companies. Look at companies you respect. How much impact does their logo have on the respect you have for them?

A logo can present you with one small problem. No one new what Microsoft meant when it was introduced. Apple came out after everyone new that Apple was the Beatles record company. Amazon hardly meant books to anyone. You may have to budget some cash into marketing and advertising to solidify your name and company with your customers. Your logo will tell people who you are. It’s your job to build the respect it deserves in the marketplace.

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