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Real Graphic Designers Share the Secrets to Great Small Business Logo Design

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We’ve talked about how building a brand is more than just choosing a logo, but your business’ logo still matters. Good logo design can help a small business stand out from the competition, attract interest from prospective customers and concisely communicate the company’s personality, values and key selling points. Even if your business logo never becomes as famous as the Nike “swoosh,” it still serves as a valuable component of your marketing efforts, and it’s worth doing well.

We talked with some graphic designers and marketing experts about how small business owners can make the most of their logo designs:

Make it Meaningful

Too many companies – big and small – have bland, indistinct logos. If you’re going to invest in a logo design, make sure it actually conveys a clear message about your brand. Shari Nomady, co-founder of X! Promos, Inc., says that small business logos should deliver a quick, high-impact message about what your company does and why it matters.

“I call it the 5/10 logo test,” Shari says. “In five minutes, can 10 people tell you what your business is if you just show them the logo? Or can they tell you five characteristics about your company just by looking at the logo? If not, you’re not on track.”

X! Promos has a simple but clear logo – it’s a letter “X” with an exclamation mark, and the X is tilted in a way that conveys excitement and motion. “Just from looking at our logo, it’s clear that we do promotions,” Shari says. “The X! adds some personality. We want our logo to convey the message that we are fun, exciting and can be extreme, and you can expect excellent results.”

Be Unique

Another common logo design mistake is to try too hard to emulate or imitate a larger company’s logo. Don’t feel like you have to try to look “bigger” than you actually are. Sometimes being a small business can offer unique competitive advantages – besides, you should always try to be yourself in order to build trust with customers. Michelle Ruiz, founder and designer at Insite Creative, says that small business owners need to embrace their own uniqueness.

“Although it sounds like an obvious point, being unique is an important part of a logo,” Michelle says. “The problem is, often times small businesses will try to emulate a larger business. By using a similar logo or color scheme, you’re not setting yourself apart from the competition. For example, when the Pepsi brand started, they tried to be similar to and emulate the Coca-Cola logo, but Coca-Cola was the original and has stuck to their logo from the start. Pepsi is the one who ended up having to change in order to stand out as a unique brand.”

Michelle says that one of her favorite examples of a unique logo is the Goodwill logo. “It’s simple, recognizable and just clever enough to manage to be a letter ‘g’ and a smiley face at the same time,” Michelle says.

Create an Emotional Connection

The best logos create a specific feeling or emotional connection with the viewer. A good logo design can help set the mood for your prospective customer and guide their thought process in the right direction to be ready to buy from you. Michael Carroll, creative director at digital marketing firm Kaleidico, says that the best logos convey emotions in a simple way. “Great design emotes, or expresses, with color, line movement and font treatment,” Michael says. “The most important thing to remember is that a logo is not a system for delivering information, it is a mechanism for evoking an emotion. It sounds crazy, but ask yourself: how do I want my customer to feel when they look at my logo?”

Michael says that one of his favorite logo designs is the Netflix logo, because it creates a specific emotional impact that is directly related to watching movies. “When I look at the Netflix logo, how it floats and fans out like the rich fabric of a red movie curtain, I get the exact same feeling I do when I settle into my chair at a movie theatre,” Michael says. “There is anticipation, relaxation, and most importantly, happiness. The Netflix logo is simple, but brilliant. It feels.”

Create a Story That Lasts

Rachel Hunter, designer with Meta Pixel Solutions, says that the best logos have a way of creating an instant connection, while also making an enduring appeal to the brand’s overall story.

“The logos that stick with us speak of the brand they represent in a way that creates an instant connection,” Rachel says. “Some do this with simplicity like the Nike Swoosh or the Target target. Others make this connection with a memorable design element, like the arrow contained in the E and the x on the FedEx logo, or with appropriate colors, as seen in the colors of the Dunkin Donuts logo. The logos that resonate with me have all unnecessary elements removed. They all show a strong brand understanding.”

Rachel says that one of her favorite logos is the NASA logo for America’s space program, and she also enjoys the various craft beer logos appearing around the country. “I love the NASA logo,” Rachel says. “It’s changed several times since 1958, but it’s retained a tech-nerd vibe throughout that I find appealing. It’s American but not governmental. When I see it, I feel inspired. I also enjoy the surge of local brewery logos that have cropped up over the last few years with a common theme of fun, local pride and craft. For example, the logo of the Snowy Mountain Brewery – it makes me want to go there and drink their beer. I see a community and a place, not just a beer logo.”

Make it Mobile Friendly

One technical detail that small businesses need to keep in mind is that your logo needs to be mobile friendly. Most people are going to visit your website for the first time and get their first impression of your logo via mobile phone – so your logo needs to look good on small screens.

Alan Canton, managing partner at design firm NewMedia Create, says that small business owners need to keep the technical specifications of mobile phones in mind. “Make sure your logo looks good at 350 pixels wide,” Alan says. “The reason is 350 pixels is about the width of most phones. Also, especially in the era of mobile-first web design, you don’t necessarily need a graphic for your logo anymore. A huge number of businesses are using text logos because they load much faster on mobile devices and there is no design cost.”

Alan says that if small businesses want to get a low-cost logo, they can start by choosing a cool font for their company name by using Google Fonts.

Kabbage Takeaway: Logo design can be as simple or as complicated as you make it. Ultimately, small businesses need to choose a logo that best represents their company’s values and personality, while still being unique and authentic. Whether you find inspiration from big company logos and clever design elements, or choose a low-cost logo design that looks good on mobile device screens, your logo needs to be integrated in support of your overall brand strategy.

Does your logo tell your customers who you are? Share your logo with us in the comment section below.

Kabbage Team

Kabbage is here not only to provide access to the small business funding you need, but to also help you grow your business through free marketing tips, webinars, tools and more. Is there something you'd like us to cover or want to get your small business featured on our blog? Send us a note at content@kabbage.com.