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.


happy cinco de mayo

To celebrate Cinco de Mayo, I thought it would be fun to take a look at fonts designed by typeface designers in Mexico. The 2010 Type Directors Club award winners includes Cristobal Henestrosa of Mexico City. Cristobal's revival typeface, Espinosa Nova, is based on types used by Antonio de Espinosa, a Mexican printer of the 16th century. The typeface is number six on the TDC list. (Another winner, Deliscript, was recently showcased by For a list of Mexican (or Mexican inspired) typeface designers and a few typeface samples, you can visit the Mexico Font Scene.

If you’d like to see some modern Mexican graphic design, check out this sampling on Blog of Francesco Mugnai. The blog features Mexican design that they deem the "world's best."

golf tournament marketing

fore the girls

Now that the weather’s warming up (for the moment anyway), I thought I’d share some material done during the winter months in preparation for a golf tournament this coming June.

golf girl
A redesign of a school golf tournament, Fore the Girls! was called for. The look that was sought was more of a “fun” look and there was a call for four color. My goal was to add these elements without detracting too much from the initial brand that golfers had become familiar with over the previous eight years.

The initial logo also featured a girl golfer and to fit the scheme, I colorized the original black and white line art. The girl was later rejected, but I colorized stock black and white artwork to create colorful tees, bags, and tufts of grass. A funky Tekton font also added to a more fun feel to the material.
brochure frontbrochure back

Shown above are both sides of the letter fold brochure.

Shown at right is the letterhead.

This was a small, fun job for a good cause. It was a great opportunity to do design work that gave me breathing room from writing projects and more demanding design projects, and a nice chance to create a comprehensive look and carry that over various marketing materials.

identity materials

For those of you who’ve had the pleasure — or pain — of being my marketing guinea pigs, thank you for your viewpoints and perspective on my evolving design. It gave me much to reflect on and was a great help.

In designing identity materials, the goal is to create a look, a recognizable brand, that you can carry consistently through your marketing materials. While a product (business cards, letterhead, etc.) is the end goal, I believe the process of creating that look can be one through which you ultimately learn more about yourself and your business. In addition to sharing my new materials, I thought I would share the process.

Although I experimented with more drastic design and color changes, in the end I made a few minor changes that made a noticeable difference.
business card before business card after

First, the name. Conventional advice would have me use my name rather than a name like Scrivo. I wrestled with this the first time, when I chose Scrivo! Graphic Design & Writing Services. Scrivo was initially chosen as a nod to my Italian heritage, a unique opener to describe what I do, and to highlight the fact that I wrote copy as well as designed. It felt right to me then, and it still feels right to me, and many of you, now.

My initial focus was on writing and graphic design, but that no longer encompass all I do, so I changed the “design & writing” to design, photography, and writing.

Arguments can be made for and against the choice of the color blue. After playing with other colors,I came back to blue but decided to replace the black. In developing this site, I had chosen a warm gray to offset the blue. I liked the look. For the cards a cooler gray, which worked better, was chosen.

As for fonts, my initial use of Simoncini Garamond and Lucida Casual was meant to convey an idea of practicality and fun. Classic yet sporty. Since I’ve more or less hung up my Chuck Taylors, I opted to replace the Lucida, and looked for a non-serif font which I felt was clean, reserved, and modern. After trying some more unique fonts, I chose a standby, Helvetica.

In my first revisions, the “ink blots” came out. I tried lines. I moved sections around in the layout. People missed the “blots” and I missed them too, so for now, the blots remain, but smaller.

The idea of replacing the exclamation point of Scrivo with a scan of a quill pen occurred to me, and I worked on several variations of the scan, manipulated in Photoshop. I tried a more edgy quill, designed in Illustrator. Lots of fun, but they both took more from the name than they added to it, a feeling also expressed by some of my marketing “team.”

business card frontbusiness card back
The addition of a second side was a must. The cost of adding a second side is minimal and it provides more information for potential clients. A second card was created to hand out at photography events, and the back has space to add the website to which an event’s pictures are posted.

Another change was the card stock. I was tired of the gray granite look and wanted the blue to pop and the gray to be more prominent. So white was the best choice. Other minor changes to the letterhead and the envelope were made.

The tag line posed the most difficulty, and I tried out many before deciding on this one, and I chose to place it on the back of the card but featured it more prominently on the letterhead, envelope, and web site.

“Portraying your spirit and vision in business and life” comes the closest to what I try to do. I believe it is important, in business and in life, to be true to yourself. My goal, through design, is to reflect the mission and vision of your business in a beneficial way unique to you.