4 Things to Consider When Creating a Business Logo

by Kaschimer 23. August 2010 02:55

This post originally appeared on Mashable on 8/23/2010

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

With all the noise on the web today, good branding is more important than ever. Even if your business is not a cutting edge tech startup, the overall identity of your face on the web, social media, and your storefront should be unified, clean, and compelling.

There’s a lot about doing business on the web that is inexpensive and turn-key: All you need to fire up a basic website, blog, or social media presence is an e-mail address. But no web app can substitute for real design vision, and your logo is the linchpin that ties all of your business’s aesthetics together.

Whether you’re going to hire a pro or put those college art electives to good use, take a moment to heed some advice from the experts about what makes a biz logo “sticky” in the minds of web-savvy consumers.


1. Identity in a World of Infinite Choice


A logo is a first impression. Before a customer knows anything about what you do or sell, they’ll view your identity with two choices: Keep reading, or click away. On the web, that choice is made in milliseconds.

Like the clothes you’d wear to a business meeting, your logo has to say, “I’m smart, I’m savvy, and I can compete,” at first glance.

“[The] first thing any small business owner should do is realize their business exists in a marketplace driven by multi-national brands,” said Von Glitschka, an illustrative designer who works extensively on identity and branding. “Their identity needs to be able to compete visually on the same level to be a success.”

The reason the web has been such a boon for small businesses is that they have reach comparable to big corporations like never before. So come to the table prepared, design-wise.

“A small business can maneuver and adapt to an ever-changing culture far easier than a multi-national brand can,” Glitschka added. “But if they don’t lay a good foundation for their marketing via a well-designed and appropriate logo and identity, they are handicapping themselves right out of the gate.”

So where do you start?

“Research,” said Sneh Roy, a graphic, web and logo designer based in Sydney, Australia. “There is nothing worse than bringing to life your vision … if it has all been done before. A small business owner is fighting for a small [piece of] real estate in a highly overcrowded market. Doing thorough research on who his competition is and how they project their brand image is the first and most important thing for a small business owner.”


2. What Makes a Company Logo “Sticky?”


If you’ve done your homework, it’s time to think about what kind of visual identities make a strong impression.

“The average consumer is fickle even in his loyalties, purely because of the sheer number of choices available to him,” said Roy. “Because a logo must be non-changing and timeless, making it ’sticky’ can be a bit ‘tricky.’ The perfect amalgamation of minimalism, well-thought-of concept, and strength in bold colors and typography — in my opinion — is what eventually makes a logo memorable and sticky for the consumer.”

“Avoid the predictable trends, forget about what others are doing, and create something that uniquely represents your business,” said Glitschka, and remember that “your actual business will be the ultimate draw, not the logo.”

“A logo that doesn’t preach; a logo that leads and adapts to the changing times; a logo that has heart and the ability to connect with the viewer can and always will cut through all the ‘noise.’” Roy added.

To achieve all this, you’ve got to hire a pro.


3. How to Find a Great Logo Designer


 

 

 

 

The best way to find anyone in a service industry is through personal recommendation. If a colleague has had success with a talented designer, make that connection.

For those starting from scratch, the web makes it easy to browse the portfolios of artists whom you can connect and work with from anywhere in the world. There are a few approaches that may yield results:

  • Browse or search portfolios on quality websites like BehanceCarbonmade, and LogoPond. Portfolio networks make it easy to cross-reference design styles and get in touch with artists that pique your interest.
  • Subscribe to design blogs like Smashing MagazineDesignm.ag, and Six Revisions (Disclosure: Six Revisions Founder and Chief Editor Jacob Gube is a contributing author for Mashable). The writers and contributors at these publications are usually designers themselves. If their discussions of branding and identity align with your business vision, look for portfolio and contact links in their bios.
  • Social media is often a great way to discover design experts with serious skill and clout. If you can’t get a referral from one of your Twitter or Facebook pals, use social media search tools like TweepSearch andGoogle Blog Search to find profiles with “logo design” and “branding.” Check out their feeds and websites. Do they appear to be well-respected and write authoritatively about their design expertise? If so, shoot over an e-mail and get a quote.

“Look for a designer who has a good grasp on marketing. Understands brand culture, has a proven methodology with other small business clients and a portfolio to back it up,” said Glitschka.

“One of the most important factors to consider when shopping for a pro logo/graphic designer is the style,” said Roy. “Each logo is different and the brand it represents may have very specific requirements. Look around to find a designer whose design style fits your needs.”


4. Translating Your Logo into a Social Web Presence


You’ve found a talented designer, and she’s produced the perfect logo for your business. What’s the best way to (re)introduce it into the social marketplace? A logo alone doesn’t make a brand, and the process of building a presence around that identity is no small feat.

“Any logo design should take into consideration from the very start the potential context it will live in,” said Glitschka. “If the business is geared for an online existence, then the design should be appropriate for that format. A tall vertical logo for a web-based business would be inappropriate for the context.”

And when it comes to the social web, try not to spread your identity too thin.

“Translating a logo design into a larger web/social media presence should be purely decided on need,” Roy added. “If your business doesn’t need it, don’t cheapen it by jumping on all kinds of media online and off the web. Have a good focus of where you want your brand to go and set your logo only along that focused path.”

In the end, Glitschka notes, it’s still your core business model that will determine “whether the logo will play a part in transforming a business into a larger web presence.”

If you’ve recently gone through the process of redesigning your small business’s logo, let us know which tips you’d add to the list in the comments below.

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Design | General | Website

Here are 5 Reasons to Choose CMS over CSS

by Kaschimer 22. February 2010 03:58

There is an article over at the 15MinuteWebsiteMaker that caught my eye because they were advocating CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) over CMS (Content Management Systems). That’s a little like comparing the use of a motor-driven bicycle to a car. The site contends that:

Content Management Systems are expensive to buy, set up, and maintain. Cascading Style Sheets are inexpensive by comparison and require very little maintenance

…Static sites containing CSS don’t have this problem. They load quickly and easily without hindrances like tables to slow them down…

…the CMS system has limited template designs and sometimes only one style to use throughout the site. If the company wanted to change the look of their online presence, a designer would have to come in and reload all new templates…

So here are my 5 reasons that a user should choose CMS over a simple CSS site.

1) Using a CMS, a site administrator has nearly total control over site design, layout, and content, all from a web site environment, as most CMS engines use an online “administrator only” section for controlling the site. In addition, you will not need to hire someone to continually update the site (by uploading “new” pages). The maintenance of the system is self-contained. And some CMS (like Kentico) provide many more page layouts and styles than a business would ever need to use.

When the author of the article claims that a designer would have to come help the company if they use a CMS is misleading. If the company uses CSS, and no one in the company has any knowledge about CSS or access to graphics editing software, then they will need to enlist the help of a designer to make any changes to the site.

2) In modern CMS dynamic web site environments, URLs can be configured to allow very good SEO (Search Engine Optimization) which can enhance your standings in search engine rankings.

Older CMS systems (and some that are not as sophisticated) did not give users much control over how the URLs in their site looked, so often you would have something that looked like “http://www.yoursite.com/default.aspx?pageid=25fdac43bcdb&section=45” which search engines had a hard time crawling and figuring out that the page requested is “Products”. Modern CMS systems overcome this limitation by rewriting the URL as “http://www.yoursite.com/Products/” which makes search engines happier and your search engine results more accurate.

3) The fact that you can make a CSS site very quickly and easily does not mean you know how to optimize your pages for SEO. Further, in order to effectively optimize your site, there are a lot of search engine spider rules and tricks that you will need to know.

You still have to know SOME tricks to tweak your search engine results, but for the most part, modern CMS systems handle the rules for you. You may (as a site administrator) need to go into the settings of the site to add keywords and metadata, but other tricks like how headers should be coded, etc. are handled by your CMS.

4) You can install a modern CMS and maintain it by yourself if you take the time to learn how. The companies that produce these systems make it fairly straightforward to install their products. Alternatively, you can work with partners of your chosen CMS to not only install the CMS, but also provide training to administrators and content providers on the proper use of the system.

Whether you use a CMS or CSS for your site, you will need some amount of knowledge. People are not just born with the understanding of CSS, and if you ask me, I would say a CMS is easier to use than CSS.

5) Finally, most hosting companies will regularly back up your database on a regular basis, so your data is secure. They also back up their web servers on a regular basis. CSS Templates require no back-ups, until the web server that is hosting the site crashes and you lose your site altogether and have to start from scratch.

Backups are a way of life, especially when your website is critical to the mission of your business. Whether you host your own site on your own servers, or you host it with a web host (like GoDaddy, etc.) your site (and any associated data) will need to be backed up.

I will not argue against the fact that CMS are the best choice for large corporations who need the ease of site management and data that they provide. But I would also argue that CMS are appropriate for small to medium sized businesses as well because there are many out there that are free or low cost, yet still provide the same benefits listed in this post.

Above all things, I say this… There is no one perfect answer for a website, whether your business is small, medium or large. Investigate your options, know your budget (for both the immediate as well as on-going maintenance), and work with people in the industry (like Dash Technical Solutions) who can help point you in the right direction.

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Design | General | Website

CSS Gallery List

by Kaschimer 22. September 2009 01:54

Below is a list of galleries to get inspiration from. I’m a recent convert from the “use HTML and spacer gifs as a way to control layout” way of thinking to the CSS way of thinking.

Have a look. There’s some good stuff here. If you are a dyed-in-the-wool old-school tables kind of person, then it may take a bit to get you to see the beauty of CSS and get your head around how it all works. There is still room for tables but tables WITH CSS, is a thing of beauty.

Take a look at this link as well, which describes some of the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches: http://www.mardiros.net/css-layout.html

 

  • CSS Clip - Web Design Inspiration and Gallery
  • CSS Blast - Russian CSS Showcase
  • CSS Collection - CSS collection web sites without tables
  • CSS-Demo - CSS Showcase
  • CSS Bloom - CSS Gallery with Blog’s and Online Portfolio’s
  • CSS Drive - CSS gallery, code samples, tutorials, and more
  • CSS Design Yorkshire - A gallery of CSS web design in Yorkshire UK
  • CSS Import - The no-frills CSS Gallery
  • Liquid Designs - Liquid Designs is a gallery of websites designed with liquid layouts using XHTML and CSS
  • Piepmatzel - collecting best practice web standards design examples
  • Webdigity - CSS gallery
  • Well Designed CSS Sites - Andy Budd’s extensive list of well styled sites.
  • OSWD - Open Source Web Design (free css templates)

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