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.

al and cal realty group

identity material

Al & Cal Realty Group wanted a new, cohesive updated brand image.

The best place to start is by asking questions and creating a look that meets each clients' needs. We began by talking about their business and clientele, their approach, and their future plans. In this case, it was important to keep the Keller Williams logo visible and prominent. There were some guidelines to follow with KW, but Al and Cal also recognized the need to develop their own team identity. The color scheme was built on the Keller Williams red, and an accompanying blue was chosen.

After some discussion, the first step was to develop their logo using their Realty Group name - Al and Cal. A few different looks were developed incorporating different parts of a home. The final logo is a result of playing with the idea of using their names as a foundation and walls of a house. The "l" in "cal" was extended up through the roof to provide the look and feel of a chimney. Their website can be added below to give more height to the home, or the "house" can also function as an arrow, pointing up towards important information, or, down the road, a series of taglines. The logo was also designed with Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and other social media in mind.

Once the logo was developed, I played with a few different looks for letterhead, cards, and envelope. Their logo was placed on the right on both the letterhead and envelope to take advantage of the way we read - left to right - giving that a bit of a "final say." With the initial identity materials in the final stages, their image can now be incorporated in all their marketing material.

rickard company website

Rickard Company Website

I've been working on a new identity for Rickard Company, a construction company focused on Commercial Renovation and Repair.

The job began with a new logo—something simple and straightforward that reflected the company's focus on commercial renovation. A bit of embossing was added to the logo letteringto give it a raised, metal feel. A business card was designed from the logo with a blueprint background, embossed lines, and pertinent information.
Rickard Business Card
The header for the website reflects the look of the business card. Red accents were added to contrast with the blue / gray theme and to allow certain information - like the contact phone number to stand out. On the back end, a site map, browser and description information, and keywords will help with Search Engine Optimization. In the future, we'll be adding photographs and more information to round out the site!

Scrivo! website update

Well, my site sure has changed a bit from February. The site was built in RapidWeaver. I love the extra content areas provided by the template (seyDesign), and with the addition of the Stacks plug-in by YourHead software, I felt like I gained a lot more flexibility on the fly and the look of the pages really changed. I built in more news bits and an events section, and hope to keep up with my own site and change that content regularly.

While I do have to beef up the photography and design portfolios (particularly the design portfolio) and bring in some other samples there, I thought I would give this another review today and post as is for now. Sometimes a little distance and a break can help you refocus!

safehome custom construction website

Scrivo! created a logo and website for SafeHome Custom Construction. The website was launched mid-January and updates have been taking place all month. The client requested green and orange for a color scheme, so green was used as the primary color and orange as the accent. The colors are reminiscent of the colors of the Irish flag, keeping with the owner's Irish heritage.

SafeHome Custom Construction tackles a wide range of projects. A few of my favorites are the killer kitchens and bathrooms, some of which are featured on the website. In putting together the site, we wanted to showcase Gerry's amazing custom designs and woodworking skills, but also wanted to showcase his range – everything from residential to commercial to industrial. "Ain't no mountain high enough" to keep him from successful completion of a specialty project.

On the website, I used a variety of photos supplied by SafeHome. Many were installed as a flash photo display, but since flash is not SEO friendly and does not display on some browsers and smart phones, separate albums were created for kitchen and bath displays.

On the front page the smaller photos are linked to take viewers further into the site. Larger photos can be viewed within the photo albums.

new Scrivo! site

scrivo web
Ahhh, another website design. Here I am at 8:00 pm reviewing old blog content and transitioning it over to my new blog.

I am extremely excited to be launching a new website. Over the last year I began to build websites with RapidWeaver and also began to learn Dreamweaver.

Website design marks the first time I will have used templates for design, but since I am more familiar with designing than coding, I thought I should take small steps. RapidWeaver, and the templates built for RapidWeaver, seemed like a good first step. New themes for RapidWeaver that are produced by seyDesign really have me excited since they have a lot of built-in customization, and I have begun building sample sites in Dreamweaver.

The template I am using for the new Scrivo! site is GiD3OUS, a theme by seyDesign. I wanted a natural, light, water / beach feel for the site without drifting too far away from my color scheme of blue/gray. Since I am redesigning all my material now, I'm sure there will be a lot of interplay before I settle on a look, and I plan to try different colors with my business card and letterhead.

I am indeed giddy to be producing a new website (and other identity materials) for Scrivo! — but I will be even more "GiD3OUS" when it is completed.

creating a series of flyers

I recently completed a set of three brochures for Notification Delivery Network (NDN). The service allows emergency teams, schools, and businesses to communicate quickly with many people via voice, e-mail, text, and SMS.

Initially, each flyer was to share the same layout but utilize different color combinations to differentiate them from each other. For example, school bus yellow and red for schools, red and blue for crisis management, and a medium shade of green and red for businesses.

Since the flyers are targeted to different audiences and are unlikely to be presented to the same group, the color scheme was changed in keeping with NDN’s company colors.

The text on the left hand side of each flyer gives some information on the scenarios associated with each target audience and the advantages of having NDN in place, and the sidebars highlight the important features most relative to that target audience. Photos were purchased from

school flyer crisis flyer business flyer

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.