Logo Design Visually Defines Brand Identity

When working with a potential or new client on their brand identity, they will often ask, “Isn’t a Logo Mark, Logo Type and Logo the same thing?” Well, actually “No.” A logo doesn’t need a logo mark to be complete but a logo mark is incomplete without the logo type, unless it’s part of a well know brand.

What is a logo, really?

If this sounds confusing, it’s really not. Developing a long-term, recognizable brand image involves the use of a number of design elements: font, color, spacing between letters, the relation between all the elements and positive and negative space. A logo does not need to have a graphic element, known at a logo mark, to be successful.

Developing a brand image that concisely and accurately represents a company well over time takes careful consideration and skill.

L.L. Bean, for instance, has no logo mark but is a very recognizable logo. Their design simply uses a distinctive font in their special shade of green. The letters are close together and proportioned in a way that is unique to their brand identity.

If you look closely at other major brands, they rely heavily on their choice and use of fonts and color to capture the essence of their company and to create a unique and recognizable brand image. You could say the font captures the essence of the company while a graphic element complements or completes the message.

What is a logo mark?

A logo mark is a graphic element used in a logo. Brands that have developed strong recognition in their marketplace can, in time, use only their branded graphic in advertising and their customers will recognize the brand immediately.

A case in point would be Nike and their now famous “swoosh.” The “swoosh” is really an updated “check mark” turned into a graphic element and used in the Nike brand image. The “swoosh” is so associated with the Nike brand that customers instantly recognize the graphic as the Nike brand: It’s become interchangeable with company name.

So while a logo doesn’t need a graphic element, a logo mark definitely needs the logo type to be complete. To check out this theory, look at the logo for Panera Bread. Cover up the graphics with your finger, then move your finger over the words (logo type). Which is more recognizable as the Panera brand? The font or the graphic?

By the way, do you remember the logo mark Nike used before the “swoosh?” Neither do I. Nike has done such a great job of promoting their current brand image that most of us remember only the “swoosh!”

Award-winning graphic designer and web professional, Alexandra Heseltine brings a lifetime of experience to any design project. Her eye for design carries into web design where she creates beautiful and high-function websites.

Designing Visually Stimulating Letterhead For Your Business

While letters don’t command nearly the amount of influence in business marketing as they did before the advent of the computer, the letterhead design that your company uses in correspondence and billing is an important part of maintaining your branding and professionalism. Letterhead design may seem like a simple and unimportant bit of trivia to a busy business owner, but in actuality it’s one of many necessary pieces in effectively marketing your company.

Your company logo and colors are part of what is called branding, which lodges your particular product in the mind of potential customers. When the public sees your logo or company colors, they should immediately associate them with the product or services you provide. By including these in your business letterhead design, you are subtly reinforcing your company’s branding in the minds of existing customers and anyone who receives correspondence.

Most word processing programs on the market today can provide you with simple options for creating rudimentary business letterhead that will appear on any documents you print out. For more professional options, you can rely upon a professional graphic design company to print approved letterhead on paper in bulk orders. In this case, it’s important to make sure that the paper itself is inserted into the printer correctly, of course.

When considering business letterhead design, it is important not to overwhelm your customers. Keep your logo tastefully confined to the top of the page in a relatively small format, and include your company name, address and contact information in bold, easily seen text. Additionally, it’s also a good idea to list your company website on any letterhead designs, which is traditionally centered at the bottom of the page below any content.

All About Visual Vocabulary And How It Can Help Your Small Business

Your Visual Vocabulary is an essential tool in your business’s brand identity toolkit. It is made up of all of the graphics that supplement your logo, forming the graphic “face” of your business and anchoring your brand identity.

Think of your logo as the “superhero” of your brand, and the Visual Vocabulary elements as its “sidekicks”; in many design applications and finished materials, your logo won’t appear by itself. It will have the help of all of these Visual Vocabulary elements to accomplish its job of communicating and connecting with your target market.

Your Visual Vocabulary can include design elements such as:

o Font styles: You should have a small collection of typefaces, font weights, and styles that you use regularly in your materials. Consider fonts for both print and web use, and specify styles for headlines, subheads, and body copy in each case, at minimum. For each style, you should specify the font to use, the color it should be, and its paragraph alignment: whether it should be centered, left-aligned, or justified (where the text lines up with both sides of the column).

o Colors: Creating a color palette for your business can add flexibility to your materials and give you an easy resource to go to when choosing colors for illustrations, graphics, or any other part of your Visual Vocabulary. If you keep your colors consistent and limited, then you’ll develop a more focused palette that will be easier for your audience to associate with your business.

o Shapes: The shape that you use for your bullets, callout boxes, color-blocked areas, and even borders in your materials can create a strong visual component that will contribute to your memorability.

o Layout: The layout of a piece is how the different elements are laid out on the page. This covers elements like the number of columns and the placement of all of the other Visual Vocabulary elements.

o Backgrounds: Using background screens or shapes, or even a specially designed watermark, can give your materials an extra bit of flair. You can also develop a special background that will make your materials stand out.

o Photographs: Photos can add a lot of personality to your materials and really help you to make a connection with your target audience. You can purchase stock photography inexpensively these days; buy a few shots that are compelling and really match the rest of your Visual Vocabulary. Make sure that you buy the highest resolution and largest size that you’ll need for materials down the road.

o Special textual treatments: For very special text that you want to highlight, such as your tagline, marketing bullets, sidebars, or bullets that detail your specialties, consider specifying a special face, size, and color to use in all of your materials.

o Paper type: Printing your materials on a special type of paper can make them look even more interesting. Papers come in different colors, textures, and thicknesses that can contribute to your material’s uniqueness.

To create a Visual Vocabulary for your business, you should create a set of specifications for the types of design elements you will use in all of your marketing materials. Once you have laid out the set of “rules” for your Visual Vocabulary, use the same elements consistently throughout your materials. When trends change, or when your business grows or your materials become stale, you can simply change some or all of these elements to create a new, fresh look.

Specifying the qualities of these design elements and using them consistently throughout your marketing materials will have many benefits, including:

o Increasing your brand’s memorability: A Visual Vocabulary gives your marketing materials more designed visuals. Adding more visuals makes your materials, and your company, more memorable.

o Making your brand designs more flexible: A Visual Vocabulary can provide you with a set of visuals that are more loosely tied to your business than your logo, which means that you can exchange and recombine those visuals for different campaigns, service offerings, or products. You can also redesign your Visual Vocabulary elements during the lifecycle of your business, updating and refreshing your materials as necessary, while still backing them with a solid logo and brand identity base.

o Adding to the consistency of your marketing materials: When you use your Visual Vocabulary across all of your marketing materials, the repeated elements add to your visual consistency.

o Making your business’s materials stand out from the competition: Your Visual Vocabulary can add a lot of personality to your materials, differentiating them from your competition’s marketing pieces. It can also add visual information to your materials, to help tell your business’s story.

o Making a small business look larger: By expanding your brand design with more surrounding graphics, you’ll expand your designs and make your small business look like a bigger business.

A Visual Vocabulary provides a powerful key to your target market, helping it to better understand your business: what you offer and how you work. It also contributes to your business’s memorability.

Erin Ferree is a brand identity and marketing design strategist who creates big visibility for small businesses. Through her customized marketing and brand identity packages, Erin helps her clients discover their brand differentiators, then designs logos, business cards, and other marketing materials and websites to reflect that differentiation, as well as to increase credibility and memorability.

Visual Communications Training Online

Almost everyone will stop and look at an image flashing while they are online or turn a page in a magazine and glance at an advertisement for new cologne. In our society almost everyone and everything is visually driven to get people to support a cause or buy a product. These images and ideas that are presented in all forms of media come from professionals trained in the field of visual communications. Today, many accredited colleges and universities are now offering online degrees in the visual communications field.

The visual communications field is very broad leaving numerous degree options for prospective students to choose from. An individual no matter what interest or passion they have will find a degree program that suites their goals. In this field students will be a part of a business or organization that require designs for a multitude of reasons. The career options range from advertising design to web design. Each specific facet of the industry needs dedicated individuals who have learned through training how to incorporate visual elements with words to create an engaging image that grabs a person’s attention. Online training can prepare prospective students in a variety of ways to successfully step into the industry.

In general most professionals who obtain an education in visual communications do so by earning a bachelor’s degree. This is the new trend because most jobs in today’s visual communications industry require an individual to have at least a bachelor’s degree in the field. Therefore, bachelor degree graduates are able to successfully compete for jobs. A bachelor’s degree is highly sought after because of the courses and topics covered. Students not only learn practical knowledge but also principles and concepts that will further their ability to do their job. Courses include image design, visual theory, graphic design, photography, computer graphics, visual persuasion, copy writing, media layout, animation, and much more. Upon completion students are able to create visual design components successfully in their chosen field.

The degree choices for prospective students include advertising design, game design, graphic design, digital design, wed design, and more. Advertising design instructs students in a variety of ways to design, create, and implement successful advertising campaigns. Students in this type of program will also work with design elements to create marketing designs for products or businesses. Advertising design courses will focus on graphic, photographic, typographic and video elements of advertising and copy. Students will learn the roles of e-commerce, branding, management, media planning, and consumer behavior as they relate to advertising. A graphic design program will prepare students to become graphic designers, junior art directors, and media designers. Topics covered through coursework include page layout, digital graphics, editorial design, branding, environmental graphics, interactive media design, theory, and more. A graphic design program will challenge students to examine and apply all the functions learned to a business and their design in multiple ways.

Graphic Designer Services – The Graphic Design Process

So you want to hire a graphic designer? For any clients out there i just want to let you know that every graphic design project is unique. It might sound confusing at first but it is difficult to perfectly predict how the process will unravel. While many projects out there will go through a similar process to reach the final result, the truth is that every project will develop uniquely, and may take varying amounts of time and work to complete. This is a walk through of the graphic design process that i used when creating a design for one of my clients. I have outlined the basic steps that i went through and you can take this as an example of the general stages a designer uses when designing, to end up at a final design visual. This article is a guide for clients wondering about how a graphic designer creates a design and will also give an understanding of why clients must pay what they do for graphic design work. After reading the article you will have an idea of how much work is involved, because there are many parts of the process that clients will not get to see first hand!

Stage 1: The brief

The first stage of any graphic design project is the brief. The brief outlines in words the purpose of the design, the application type and the ideas that it is supposed to represent. At the beginning of the project the client and the graphic designer must communicate ideas back and forth about the design, so that the designer is well informed about it, and can then start the project and take it in the right direction. You can communicate ideas over the phone, via email, or in person, or you might use all of these methods. All in all, the better that the idea has been communicated, and the more information a designer can get about the design, the better he or she will cater for the clients needs. Just remember that information, and lots of it, is the key to a successful design!

Stage 2: Referencing

Its often really helpful for the client to provide some examples of what kind of designs and styles they like at the beginning of the project. Its not a necessity but often this can cut a lot of time from the design process and save money. Its not really cheating if you are not stealing the design. Good referencing is a way of getting ideas for the project from other successful designs without stealing. A reference should be clear, exhibiting either the colour scheme, style or feel of the desired outcome. It is often a great idea to borrow from other successful designs, because there is nothing better than growing and learning with the help of your top competitors. Every design process is unique. You might use a reference, none at all, or maybe even introduce one in the middle of the project. Every design journey is different, and every destination unique. The positive side of using a reference is that the designer will not have to spend hours creating new ideas, doing layouts and changing the design numerous times before coming across a design that both of you are happy with.

Stage 3: Concept visuals

Concept Visuals, or rough concepts are just a very simple representation of the components of the design. You can do a simple drawing or generate some quick ideas with adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. I generally like to use what i will be using for the final design.

A note for unsatisfied clients: Sometimes when a client is given the concept roughs, they will tend to have second thoughts and become afraid thinking they might have gotten themselves into a dodgy deal with an unqualified designer. My advice is: DON’T WORRY! Please don’t judge the book by its cover and assume that your designer is an amateur and that you are paying for someone who is going to mess up your job! This is just the beginning! The concepts and the roughs are meant to be of a really rough quality! The idea is to get many concepts out on paper in as quick a time as possible. If you are truly not sure about the person you have hired, at least you can have a look and judge their standard by looking at the other jobs they have done for other clients. If you are seeing that most of their work is of a high quality you can just relax and take the process as it comes. Just because the concept roughs don’t look amazing, doesn’t mean that the end result will not be! I promise that if you are patient until the end your design your graphic designer will create an amazing piece of art and design into fruition for your company! Its up to you but just be aware that if you decide to go with another designer its an infringement of copyright to take the designs and have them reproduced by the first designer and hand them to someone else. Your new designer will have to start again from scratch and might take extra time and money. Just be aware.

For clients without a reference: Some clients may not have a reference or a fair idea of what they want the outcome to turn out like. That is understandable, after all you have hired the designer, for a reason. Because they are talented at representing ideas visually and know what they are doing, right? In this case the designer will probably get to work and produce a variety of concept visual responses to the brief, one of which will be chosen to develop further. Concept visuals can be really simple, such as a few 5 minute line drawings, or some computer generated ones as well.

Often the designer will get straight to work churning out idea after idea for the design. This is usually how it works, as a designer tries to get all of their ideas out and ‘on paper,’ at the beginning. After the designer is happy with the amount of satisfactory options they have come up with, they will usually send them to the client to be viewed. It’s good for the client to have some options when choosing a design especially if they are still at the ideas stage of the process themselves.

Stage X: Revison

I call this stage X because a revision can happen at any time! While it is more desirable for a revision to happen at the early stages of the project you never really know when it is going to come up. A revision is essentially a change that needs to be made to the project which moves it in another direction or replaces one of the main elements. A designer will usually offer a certain amount of free revisions before the client will need to start paying to make any more major changes.

Stage 4: Rough Visuals

Rough’s or rough visuals, are an important part of any project as they help to map out the various elements of the design and are use to experiment with layout, colour and the rest. In most projects there would normally be a couple of roughs done to show the client. At the end of this stage the client will discuss the project so far with the designer and choose the most suitable option for them. The designer can then begin to work on the final design. By this stage most of the thinking and conceptual work should be close to resolved and the project should be heading in the right direction.

The creation of a rough image: Use a reference, save the file numerous times (if using a computer), and try to get it to the highest professional standard that you can at this stage. You can use your hand drawings in combination with or simply just use Photoshop and Illustrator (or whatever other program you are using). Make sure to create a couple of options if possible so that the client can have a browse and choose the one that they like best.

working with text: Use whatever program that suits you. I usually use Adobe Illustrator or InDesign and import the text into Photoshop for the final blending and style options. Text from Illustrator turns out much clearer/professional than when done through Photoshop. Play around with many of the fonts and settle down to at least three that you think work best. Make sure that they match the style of the company or design that you are making. Be careful with certain jobs for example: posters, to not use more than three different fonts. Work with the fonts and blending options and styles and create a couple of examples for your client to have a look through.

Putting it together: Work with text in conjunction with the image to create a logo that looks ‘right,’ ie: the colours and styles match, and has an overall unique impact that is aesthetically pleasing to look at and advertises they type of business it is designed for well.

Stage 5: The Final Design

For the final stage of the design, the graphic designer is required have a look and re-asses the project as it is so far. Are there any typos? Do the images look as professional as they can? Do the styles match? Do the fonts work? Are the layouts mathematically perfect and everything aligned? Are figures in the right pose or have the right facial expression? Does this truly represent the company as they want to be represented? Will this design suit their demographic? And can i do it any better than i have done? A designer must put together all the pieces so far and really take a look to see if anything should be changed or improved. Trust your designers eye for details and intuitions to help you along with this. Then when it is all looking right, you can call it complete! When you present it to the client, if you are doing it in person it always helps to have the designs printed on professional looking paper and put into a display folder for viewing. If you are doing it online, make sure that you send a low quality and small file, which is still visible if you are unsure about whether you are going to be paid. Not everyone tries to get something for nothing, but you never know. It is wise to protect yourself and get down to settling the contract first by filling in the final parts of the contract such as final payment figures and copyright information. Make sure that it is signed and agreed to by both clients, and then you can finish off the deal by giving the client what they hired you for! The designs.

At the end of the project the designer will be required to send, via post, or electronically the final version of the project in whatever formats are needed. Usually jpeg and pdf is sufficient, of 300dpi or more quality, of the right size for print or other media, and in cmyk and rgb color versions. Depending on the job the client may want you to seek printing services and send the final product directly to them. In this case you should arrange additional costs for the printing process. Make sure that you inform your client of the copyright information that you have asked them to agree to. Most designers will ask for extra payment for licensing copyright on top of the project, or for giving the client extra rights to the artwork or image. There are usually certain restrictions such as the the type of media it can be used for, amount of prints or time in which it will expire.

I hope that all designers and clients out there will get the best out of their client/designer relationships and that many new projects can blossom from this unique process. It is also important to be prepared in case something goes wrong, and a contract will usually solve many problems. Happy designing!

Good Design Is Always Good Business

A great brand identity visually expresses the core values and essence of any company or organization with consistency. It is an essential component in the ongoing success of any company wishing to compete for dominance in a niche market.

The prime element in reflecting this essence in it’s simplest form is the logo. Whether elegant, outrageous, literal or conceptual; every logo must be, above all, memorable. This company ‘thumbprint’ is the cornerstone of every company’s visual marketing efforts. A well designed logo is conceptual, the aesthetic is fine tuned and the color palette inspires trust and drives consumer behavior. It is important to note that in this day and age, visual discernment in consumers is high. Any logo purchased for $39 at some place like ‘CheapLogos.com’ will be rejected upon sight, and prospective customers will mentally file your organization into the “you’ve got to be kidding me” category. The importance of proper logo development cannot be understated.

The second main extension of a company’s identity is it’s online presence. Websites, blogs, social media pages and email marketing campaigns are the most visible carriers of a company’s image. A well designed home page alone can inspire and win over customer loyalties instantly. Conversely, one that is poorly designed, repels visitors and creates a negative equity for the company. There are no excuses to neglect investing in proper, well integrated, professionally designed visual branding.

Financially speaking, the development cost of a well executed strategic identity is a “no-brainer” investment in any company’s future. Design fees are budgeted expenses deducted the same year they are incurred; as opposed to a piece of machinery which usually costs more and is amortized over a number of years. And yet the benefits of a professionally designed branding system is retained over a longer amount of time. One related study of a more tangible nature was completed by Yankelvitch Partners, Inc. They surveyed senior-level business executives nationwide, asking them to rank the relative importance of a company’s branded marketing materials. The study showed that a company’s logo and branded visuals ranked second only to annual sales figures in conveying a company’s professionalism and prestige.

Customers, prospects, investors, potential employees and other important audiences do, in fact, judge a corporation largely by its branded identity and corporate visual language as it’s applied to printed marketing, an online presence, outdoor campaigns, radio and television, etc. We can also offer tangible proof that even ‘specialty’ production techniques selected for producing marketing collateral can make a notable difference in how the company is perceived and embraced. Good branding sets you apart at every opportunity to communicate with your target market. Starbucks is a great example of successfully consistent, well integrated branding. From store front signage to packaging to online presence, brochures, interiors, cups and gift cards; they know how to leverage their perfectly targeted branding solution.

A company can, for a modest budgeted expense, create and manage a well-strategized visual brand identity, cultivating loyal, trusting customers for many years. Or it can choose to neglect this foundational process and let customers catch them poorly prepared in every opportunity in which presenting professionalism is essential to winning business.

Poorly executed and inconsistent brand identities create negative public perception and kill business; on the other hand, well designed and managed brand identities propel companies, inspire loyalty and sell. In short, good design is always good business.