your business, your logo

What's in a symbol?

Past conversations with clients or prospects as well as a few recent articles about the process of logo creation have me thinking today. You start a business, and you need an identity. Or, you feel the identity of your business does not correctly define your business or is not creating the impact you had hoped for. The first step in creating a business identity is the logo - the symbol that will bring associations of your business to the thoughts of clients and prospects. Often, small businesses cannot afford to pay much, or do not see the value in paying much, for a logo. Why does it cost so much for a designer to put together a logo - can't they just put something together quick and charge less? They are supposed to be creative, after all.

If your thought process leads you to cheaper is better, it is not impossible to come up with a logo for your business. However, take a step back and consider this: if you are providing a quality service or product, do your quality thresholds require a certain amount of time to achieve? And do you want to be paid for, and profit from, your work? Do you want material that speaks to the quality you produce? If the answers are, "yes", you can better understand the time and processes a designer takes to deliver this small, but important and effective symbol of your business to you.

Once you have your logo, everything else can grow and flow from there. Your identity material (cards, letterhead, envelopes), marketing material (brochures, folders, postcards, sell sheets, rack cards), and social media logo treatment (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+) will all be based on the functionality and appearance of your logo. So you can see where that logo is the most important step in the development of your brand. Yet so often, it is given short thrift, little thought, minimal effort, and few resources.

Your logo, the symbol of your business, is the seed of all your business growth. It will likely be the first thing that prospects see about your company, before they meet you, before they even get a look at what that symbol represents. Logos are an important visual representation of your business. While everyone brings their interpretation to the logo, logos can enhance a first impression. Logos can build loyalty and establish a brand identity. Many hours of strategic thought may go into the creation of a logo. Or a logo can spring from a more personal preference, as the apple is said to have been for Steve Jobs. (Even so, think of everything the apple connotes - it packs a powerful wallop for such a simple symbol.)

Logos should be functional. They should work well anywhere. They should be easy to reproduce. They should be a distinct representation of your company and reproduce well in black and white. Logos that are less "trendy" have the ability to remain "current" with minimal changes over the course of decades.

There are three basic types of logos. The first two may be easier to pull off less expensively than the last. The first is a font-based logo - IBM, for example, or Sullivan & Sons plumbing. There are choices within this choice that may enlarge the scope of the logo project - what font to use? Something more classic? More modern? Conservative? Playful? Serif? Non-serif? Does my color choice enhance or detract from my message?

The second type of logo is an illustration - set apart, or integrated more closely with your business name. There are generic designed symbols available, e.g. a house for a realtor, a pen for a writer, a hammer for a carpenter. Here, there are questions about the art work. Is it available for commercial license? How many other realtors, or writers, or carpenters have that exact same logo? How does that logo differentiate you from all other competition in your profession? Custom designed illustrations can set you apart from the competition, but will cost more as they are being uniquely created for you.

The third basic type is an abstract, custom created symbol. The Nike symbol requires communication of underlying associations with the symbol. Apple is rather an abstract symbol for a computer, iPod, or iPhone. The ReMax balloon is an abstract, but eye-catching logo for a real estate business. Again, symbol, font, color choices all play into the design of a custom logo.

The bottom line is, whatever your budget, whatever your preference for logo type, you should work with a designer to produce the best symbol possible for your business. Your business is unique, and your logo should reflect that. You should look toward your designer for creative ideas and suggestions, but you should also be part of the process and provide insightful information about your company, after all, you know it best.

For a look at the design process in action, check out this online article via Imprint on Paul Rand + Steve Jobs, a peek at the process that designer Paul Rand followed when he created a logo for NeXT, Steve's second act. Also an interesting article on design is this question about the NASA design - do you prefer the "worm" or a "meatball"? I have to say, while I am not a vegetarian, in this case at least, I am not a fan of the meatball.

rally for ally bike run

Rally for Ally Bike Run: VROOM, VROOM.

rally for ally bike logo
The second fundraiser for the Alexandra Smith Foundation, a motorcycle ride through Walpole and adjacent towns, was held June 26th. Everyone had a great time, and we raised more money to help provide extra care services for Ally Smith, who suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in December. Since this event was so different from the first Rally for Ally, the event planners wanted a different logo. So I came up with the Rally for Ally bike.

I knew immediately that I wanted to incorporate the event title in the bike, and it wasn't too long before I thought of giving the text a 60's feel—a photo of Ally at an outdoor concert inspired that idea. I found "Keep on Truckin'" at Dafont. I purchased a commercial copy for about $20, but it is free on Dafont for personal use.

It's one thing to know what you want, and another to actually get the effect you want. I had no experience drawing motorcycles. Initially I thought of tracing motorcycle photos in Illustrator but in some cases, I felt like I lost important detail. So, using a photo as a guide, I began with the tires and body, contorting the text into the shape I needed. I decided to give the tires a little spin and to alter them so they were not perfectly round and stagnant. Decisions had to be made on what detail to leave in and what detail to take out. The handlebars were the trickiest part; my first efforts looked like a scooter. Initially, the plan was to keep the logo in two colors (red and orange and red and slate blue were initial options) but we decided to go full color. A few little curly cues in the back for exhaust added a little flair.

Once the logo was set, I reformatted the flyer, poster, and collection can layouts from the first event and carried the bike run theme throughout. We updated the website with the logo and created an easy registration mechanism through PayPal. Printing donations helped us get the flyers, signage, and other collateral into the community. Initially we planned to go with two-color print on shirts, but we got a break on tee-shirt printing too, so decided to go with full color and the logo was optimized for the tees. We promoted the event through various biking websites and event pages.

Event day was beautiful. About 200 bikers showed up for the ride at the Walpole VFW. Food donations allowed us to provide coffee, pastries, and fruit before the ride and a delicious barbecue afterwards. A few local bands provided entertainment. I had a lot of fun taking photos that day, as did other photog enthusiasts! Pictures of the ride are up on Ally's site and there are also plenty of photos on Ally's Facebook page, Ally's Road to Recovery.


bert monroy

Bert Monroy, pushing the limits of software design.

A few years back, at a National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) Photoshop World, I attended a seminar held by Bert Monroy. His digital "paintings" blew me away back then, but his latest effort is truly incredible. He has really pushed the limits of software and hardware with his latest creation, "Times Square." In addition to being an incredible work of art, it is also an homage to Photoshop developers and professional photographers, featuring quite a few of those characters within the work. The finished painting will be on display at Photoshop World, March 30 to April 1 in Orlando, FL.

The image size is 60 x 300 inches and took four years to create. The overall image contains over 500,000 layers (total of all the files) and is comprised of almost 3,000 individual Photoshop and Illustrator files. Check out "Times Square" and see it for yourself.


just for fun

film strip

Video—just for the fun of it.

There are many good reasons to consider posting videos on your website. This may not be one of them, but as I was fiddling around with uploading and embedding videos, I thought it would be nice to create a page just for fun and share a couple that can be found on Vimeo.

speaking in a foreign tongue


Kicking around in the iTunes store about 11 weeks ago, I came upon My Daily Phrase Italian (one of many language programs by Radio Lingua). And so “step by step, day by day, phrase by phrase,” I have been learning and relearning a few words. I have been learning to speak Italian from Mark, who speaks English with a Scottish accent. Interestingly enough, I now find myself speaking English with a Scottish accent on occasion. When I was a child I spent much of my time with my grandfather, and so back then I spoke English with an Italian accent. For example, I would ask the waitress to cut my toast “corn to corn” because I wouldn’t eat bread unless it was cut at an angle, from corner to corner.

At any rate, I now know how to say “Sto imparando l’italiano. Non parlo molto. Parli inglese?” a group of phrases which make my mother laugh every time I say them. (I’m learning Italian. I don’t speak much. Do you speak English?) After 11 weeks, I know quite a few other phrases and words too (but none of the phrases and words I heard my grandfather say under his breath). I have got to work it a little more, but I find myself beginning to think in Italian every so often, and also at times when I fumble for an Italian word, I find I come up with the French equivalent. It’s been awhile since I’ve studied French so it is quite fun to relearn bits of that as I go along too.

Learning Italian has also brought me a new awareness of the musicality of a language, which in turn benefits my creative writing. I find that opening myself up to new things has always benefited my endeavors in some way. Designing for a dance company and viewing modern dance performances added a fluidity to my design work which had not been apparent before. It also challenged me to create collages of photos, work that I have not done for some time, but have been thinking of experimenting with again.

But now I must get back to the business of writing copy for a business. In between, I’ll keep learning Italian “step by step, day by day, phrase by phrase,” and continue to experiment with new techniques in writing, design, and photography.

Tutto per oggi! Ciao!

chasing the crow

This morning I saw a small bird soaring right behind a large black crow. It seemed like the small bird was chasing the crow who was about five times the size of the small bird.

As I watched them, I thought about art and creativity, and how all the creative things that artists do are sort of like the small bird chasing the crow. You have a goal in mind that you’re in pursuit of, a vision of something greater than yourself, and you’re trying to catch it.

Later, as I tooled along downtown, I heard an old song by Donovan with a line that ran something like this, “First there is the mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.” The song also mentions a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. Sixties songs and Donovan’s influences aside, I thought of those words in relationship to the bird and the crow and to the process of art as well. A vision of something larger than yourself. Either a feeling of missing the mountain or scaling it step by step and losing sight of the mountain. And then, there it is back again, and hopefully you’re not still at the foot of it.

While I’ve been busy writing and doing design work, I have also been busy trying to get a new online photo service for my work, go through some of my photos and pop them into my gallery, and this has re-ignited my desire to pursue pinhole photographs again.

In addition to experimenting with color pinhole and using my digital differently to get similar effects, I also worked on scanning some of my original black and white pinholes. Although that presented a few obstacles, I had fun doing it. The pinholes are so different than everything else I have shot, but as Marian Roth, my pinhole teacher, told me: these are a part of who I am too. “You think it’s the camera,” she said, “but it’s not. It’s you.”

Since I’ve been thinking about blogging, and haven’t done so for a month, I thought I’d share a few pinholes today. They are a lot darker than my other photography, and the color ones have presented some pretty eerie effects, but I love them just as much, if not more than getting crystal clear, light- and color-filled shots.

Fountain of Ghosts
The fountain in the yard at Snug Cottage in Provincetown. Taken with what I referred to as my “fish-cam.”

wharf 1
Lancy’s Wharf, Provincetown
Also taken with the “fish-cam.”

The “fish cam” was a can decorated with colorful fish. I used the fish to orient the paper inside either vertically or horizontally. The paper was curved inside which provides the warped look.

wharf 2
Lancy’s Wharf II, Provincetown
Taken with the “eye-cam.”

The “eye cam” was a smaller Body Shop can. I drilled the hole for the pinhole through the eye on the cover of the can. I didn’t shave the hole clean, and this added a little something to the process.

This broken up pier just keeps disintegrating with each passing year. I’ll be sorry to see it go.