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How to use your logo

Peter Shaw explains what to think about before designing your logo and your brand

A logo is never seen in complete isolation. If it is on a sign on your building, the building itself will say an awful lot about your brand. On a business card the quality of the card and ink will speak volumes. When you design your logo you need to consider all the different ways that it will be applied: packaging, brochures, website, emails, letterhead, business cards, signage, vehicles, uniforms and so on. The combination of these various elements and the way they are designed and produced constitute your brand identity.

If you already have some loyal customers you already have a recognised brand and by definition you already have a brand identity, however strong or weak that might be. Your brand identity should reflect the qualities that your customers associate with your brand and it is certainly worthwhile spending some time and effort ensuring that your brand identity works as strongly as possible in support of your brand. A great brand identity can’t substitute for brand delivery, but it can help to set expectations and consolidate positive customer attitudes.

A useful exercise to fire your imagination about your brand identity is to flick through some magazines, selecting images, words and colours that you think have the type of associations you would like your brand to have. This is a very useful exercise when briefing a designer and don’t be afraid to say what brand identities you admire and why.

Of course the creation of a brand identity that can be applied across all aspects of your business can be a significant job requiring some serious design talent, however, whether you decide to invest in a graphic designer’s time or create it yourself there are a few principles to follow:

1. Don’t chop and change.

You will live with your brand identity day in and day out but your customers will not. So remember that until your brand is a national favourite people will need to see it again and again before it becomes familiar. Stick with your chosen logo and accompanying identity design until you can see a very good customer-driven reason to change it.

2. Two typefaces

Choice of typeface is a very important part of creating a great brand identity. You should have two typefaces, no more, one more distinctive for use in headlines on your website on brochures, signage, uniforms and so on and one simpler typeface more applicable for copy and everyday use in letters, emails etc. The two typefaces need to sit well together and will become a recognisable part of your identity. Incidentally, websites have particular needs for body copy and will default to something simple like Arial, but for captions and headlines on your website you can use fancier typefaces by applying those words as image files.

3. Colour control

A brand will typically have one or two primary colours that it is recognised for, for example Virgin’s red or Lloyd TSB’s green and black. A brand will also have secondary colours that can be used in combination with the primary colours. Choose those colours carefully and try to stick with them. Specify the exact make up of each colour through the Pantone colour reference system that is used by all designers and/or colour breakdowns using RGB and CMYK, according to whether the application is digital or print. It is critically important that your colours are consistent and when printing make sure that your printer shows you samples of the type of paper and finish because they have a big impact on the final colour. If it is a big print run go to the printer’s facility and see the first run-offs coming off the printing press and check them with your colour masters, the printer can easily adjust colours then and there if they are not right.

4. Be careful where you put it

Set some rules on the way that the logo can be shown, how small it can go, how it can work in black and white, which colours it must not be put against, how it works with your strapline if you have one and so on. If you have other brands that your logo is shown with consider how best those relationships work. This is meat and drink to a competent graphic designer

5. Don’t be a fashion victim

It is very important that your brand identity feels right for today, but be careful not to create a look and feel that will rapidly date. Even fashion brands have brand identities that outlast many a season’s trends.

In summary, think of your logo as a beautiful watch and your brand identity as the clothes, shoes and haircut of the person who wears it. The watch will only make a great impression if everything else around it looks great too.