How to get a Professional Looking Logo on a Shoestring Budget

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There is one good piece of news for anyone launching a new business – you do not need to spend a small fortune making a great-looking logo. When you see the montage of logo’s above, some of the most iconic names in the digital world plus some of the oldest blue-chip brands have logos that consist of coloured text and use a few simple graphics.

Some of these well-known brands have recently updated their logos – Google, eBay, Spotify, Facebook to name but four. In most cases, you would have to look twice to spot the difference (as the Facebook old and new logo below demonstrates). This shows that ‘simple’ is a winning formula, and even the biggest brands keep returning to it.

(The logo on the left is old, the logo on the right is new. Compare the letter ‘a’.)

The other bit of good news for the entrepreneur who doesn’t want to invest too much time or money in a logo is that there are plenty of people who will design a logo at a very reasonable cost. There are also logo generator websites that will make ‘starter’ logos for less than $50. They will be basic, and you will doubtless keep seeing similar designs popping up from time to time on various websites you visit.

A better idea is to use a freelancer, and there are many sites like Fiverr and Guru that offer a vast range of talented (and not so talented designers)! In most towns and cities there will also be a phalanx of designers who work from home and target their services at local businesses.

If you have opted for using a designer, you will need to give them a short brief. The following should offer a few tried and tested ideas to help you create a professional logo brief.

Keep it Simple

As we saw earlier this is a principle successfully employed by many big brands. Gone are the days of copious amounts of drop shadow, five different fonts, 30 colours and some complicated, new-age symbols. Is there anything purer than the NIKE swoosh?

(NIKE logo recognisable with or without the word)
(The NIKE logo is recognisable with or without the word)

On the other hand, you are not NIKE, so avoid being too simple by at least having the company or product name in the title until that is you have made the first billion! There’s a case in point below of a company that sells old fashioned style bathrooms. Their logo says what they do and has an old, slightly dated, script type of font which is very in keeping with their product range.

There’s no graphics, no image and nothing else other than the name of the company – which just happens to be what they do – which certainly helps. Even if you didn’t look at their catalogue or website, you’d have a pretty good idea about what offer just from the logo!

Image courtesy Old Fashioned Bathrooms
(Image courtesy Old Fashioned Bathrooms)

Ensure it is appropriate

If you do a web search for “inappropriate logos” you will see lots of examples of logos that didn’t quite work out as the designer intended – or perhaps in some cases exactly as the designer intended! Aside from that meaning of ‘inappropriate,’ the look and feel of the logo should be relevant to the products or purpose of the business. A crisp, sans-serif font with an orange background wouldn’t work for a company selling antiques. A ‘comic’ font would be inappropriate when used in the logo of an accountancy business.

The Toys R Us logo could not be more tuned in to the customers they are trying to attract. It has the ‘comic’ font, the primary and secondary colours and of course the backwards ‘R’ which we forget actually replaces the word “are”. It has obviously spawned a whole industry of logos with backwards letters, and this, or replacing a word with a letter may or may not work for your business – but it certainly works for Toys R Us.

(The Toys "R" Us logo is perfect for it's audience)
(The Toys “R” Us logo is perfect for its audience)

The logo designed recently for a new media service aimed at the air cargo industry demonstrates a good use of a very limited pallet (basically blue, black and white) and appropriate sans serif font. The simple lines and lack of any embellishment sort of represents the business-like, no-nonsense message that comes across in the content of the website. The ‘eye’ that appears alongside the company’s name fits in nicely with the next recommendation, namely that it is memorable and catches the eye – quite literally in this case.

(Image courtesy: Air Cargo Eye)

Is the logo memorable – will it stand out from the crowd?

A third thing you might want to suggest to a designer is to think of ideas to make the logo in some ways memorable. The “M” in the McDonald’s logo plus the red and yellow colours are so recognisable that you don’t need to see the word McDonald’s, just the yellow M will do. You could recognise the logo just from seeing a tiny fraction of one part of the ‘M’ in just one colour (not even with the red background). For example;

image06

Is it versatile?

Ideally, a logo should be able to work in both the worlds of print and digital. It needs to look good on a business card, website or mobile phone as well as in a letter or on a large poster. It could be used in colour or black and white – the latter is especially the case if it is on a letterhead which is then photocopied.

It is worth considering if the logo can be printed in reverse (i.e., a light logo on a dark background). It is all very well the logo being used on a website with a white background, but it needs to be versatile as to where it can be used.

On a similar note, logos tend to be quite ‘landscape,’ normally because linear text is involved. Can the logo be made into a square or portrait versions – these can be very useful in banner adverts that often use ‘skyscraper’ designs.

A great example of a completely versatile logo is that for the London underground – it actually ticks all the boxes of being simple, appropriate and memorable!

image05

If you plan to write a design brief for a logo then one final suggestion is to ask for it to be created in a ‘vector’ format (e.g., .eps or Adobe Illustrator). As well as meaning that the logo can be scaled to any size without loss of quality, it also immediately gives the impression that you know what you are talking about. Hopefully, the designer will not need to ask too many more questions!

Matt Janaway is a successful Digital Marketer and Entrepreneur based in Nottingham, UK. He started his digital career journey during the mid 2000's internet retailing boom by developing 10+ eCommerce stores which enjoyed great success using a successful and evolving SEO formula. Matt is now Head of Digital for a leading UK retailer, managing a team of digital marketers and content writers as well as running a web design agency, a digital marketing agency and an agency offering consulting and training. Matt contributes to some major digital marketing websites as well as blogging advice on SEO and digital marketing on his own blog.
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  • Erica Martin

    The article is well researched and informative. I really appreciate writer’s efforts. I agree that a logo is often the face of a business, the visual representation of a brand that customers notice and remember.

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