Recently, the online “folder boutique” CompanyFolders developed a graphic that contained suggestions for how to design a logo. As the kind of folders the company sells are purchased by marketing types, including designers, it’s okay to provide such information. However, to the small business owners who have never designed a logo before, my best advice is this: Don’t. Hire a graphic designer with experience in logo design.

Borrowing and adapting some of CompanyFolders’ advice (with permission), here are some things I suggest you consider when the need for a logo comes up.

dont be dumb

One of the first times I recall hearing the word “logo” was when I was a college student in the mid-1970s. I heard that the NBC television network was spending $1 million to design a logo to replace their iconic peacock. (I think that’s the moment I decided to include logo design on my first resume.)

NBC’s new logo, a geometric treatment of the letter N, was epicly bad and so lacking in inspiration, it was judged to be an infringement of the Nebraska Public TV’s logo. Within moments of its unveiling, the logo became the non-stop butt of jokes by comedians, including those of its own shows like Johnny Carson and the brand new Saturday Night Live. Within three years, the peacock was back. Perhaps you’ve noticed: 40 years later, the peacock is still alive.

hire a designer

Engage a graphic designer for the project; and not necessarily the one you know the best. Better yet, rather than looking for a graphic designer, start looking at logos of local businesses and start asking the owners who designed the ones you like. If one name keeps coming up, give the designer a call. If the designer asks you lots of questions about your business and customers and personality and hopes and dreams, then chances are you have found a great designer for you logo. If the designer immediately sends over an email with some logos attached, then chances are you have found someone who googled the term “free logo.”

logos need to be adaptable

After three decades in media and marketing, I can understand why it cost millions of dollars to design a corporate logo for a global brand: a logo isn’t just a little graphic. It is the visual appearance the company will use to present itself to the markets a company serves. There are so many ways a logo can end up being used, if you don’t know what you don’t know about how logos work, “designing” your business logo shouldn’t be your first DIY graphic design project.

Even the most famous logo around, the Nike swoosh, has a built-in challenge with adaptability.

nikes logo backwards

As it suggests running, the swoosh works amazingly well (at least for those of us in the west who read left to right) when we see it going left to right, with the point being at the far right. However, when it needs to appear on the outside panel of a pair of shoes, the logo on the right shoe is actually flipped horizontally. In other words, on the right shoe, the Nike logo is backwards. Do you think a person designing his or her first logo could have thought that through? (Well, for $35 she did, and it has worked out well for Nike.)

keep you logo simple

The chances of you having a bad logo increase every time you try to add some requirement to what it must accomplish. Simple is better. The worse thing you can do is confuse what a logo is with what the name of the company is. It’s amazing how many businesses have logos that are their entire name. (If you have not noticed, the logo flunks.) For some (Coca-Cola, IBM), it might work. But the problem with doing that these days is the dilemma of what to use as the company avatar on Twitter. Note: Whatever you use as your Twitter avatar will become your logo.

reinforce your name with your ogo

I am always impressed when I see a logo that serves as a mnemonic device for the name of the company. It’s an Apple, so it must be, uh, Apple’s logo. A small business can do this also. Come to think of it, the small business that hosts has such a logo.

hammock logo

Articles about designing a company logo


(via:  CompanyFolders. Images by, inspired by