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.


a multi-channel campaign

Multi Channel

Think you can do without print? Or do without marketing through electronic channels?

Think again.

According to a 2008 study by InfoTrends, more than 200 marketers who were surveyed reported an improvement of 35% for multi-channel campaigns (print, e-mail, web landing page) over single channel print-only campaigns. Personalization further improved campaign performance: marketers reported an average improvement of close to 50% for personalized multi-channel campaigns over print-only campaigns.

It is interesting to note that using single-channel electronic media is not as effective as the multi-channel approach either. More channels elicit greater response than single channel marketing.

How can you create a multi-channel campaign? One example is to send a postcard that invites recipients to a URL, then send a follow-up thank you e-mail for visiting. Or invite people to your website where they can select various product or service options, and send a follow-up brochure or e-mail based on their interests. You can utilize the power of social media too — provide a discount or other incentive on Facebook with a link to a URL, ask the visitor to act (buy now, more information, etc.) then follow-up with an e-mail or mailing. The more consistency in your marketing message and the appearance of your print, web, and e-mail design, the better. Be sure to create as cohesive a look as you can.

For more than 60% of those surveyed, multi-channel campaigns improved response rate and customer acquisition, retention, and satisfaction. An increase in sales conversion was also noted. The bottom line improved with increases in overall revenue, profitability and sales. Another plus? Nearly half of those surveyed reported a reduction in the cost per lead.

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!

quackin' up

duck race
The Neponset Valley Sunrise Rotary Club is getting ready for the annual Duck Race on the Charles. The Club will be selling ducks at local supermarkets over the next few weekends and you can adopt a duck by going to Many business sponsorships are also available. The event will support many local and international charities and it promises to be LOTS of family fun.

To produce this flyer, I chose a template that I've used for other Rotary events, but I wanted to inject a bit of fun into it. I reversed the template by moving the gradient to the bottom (rather than the top) and left the top open and white. The blue gradient on the bottom also helped create the feeling of the ducks floating on water. I got my hands on a rubber duck, shot a quick picture in my office, spiffed the duck up in Photoshop, added a drop shadow and pulled it into the In Design layout.

One duck looked a little lonely so I added a couple of others to make it look more like a race. I played around with object effects until I got a look I liked. Red and yellow text was used to draw more attention to the flyer. I added an outline to some of the text to help it stand out more, and added a few effects to some of the text as well. For another marketing tool, I created a a Facebook Duck Race on the Charles page and used a piece of the layout (the Duck Race on the Charles text and the duck heads) for the profile photo.

Duck Race 1 PDF

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!

serviam magazine

layout page 4
I am really excited about one project that is making its way to the Ursuline Academy community now — the Serviam Magazine. Another makeover was called for, and my focus was to create a clean design which continued make use of color but did not hamper the readability of the magazine. (Pictured at right, page 4)

When creating a design, it’s important to create a good structure with repetitive elements. I chose a 3 column setup and used rounded green (PMS 625) boxes which bled off the bottom of the page on the left hand pages and off the top of the page on the right hand pages. Lowercase headers were used to introduce new sections; on left hand pages the headers were set above the rounded
page 20
box and on the right hand pages were set over the box. The headers were generally set in an opaque tint of the main color.

Inconsistency creates chaos, but too much consistency creates boredom. At some point you have to break the mold a bit — or altogether — so I chose my change-ups carefully. For example, on page 20 (pictured at right), the color scheme became a gold box with some purple text, fitting for a page on spirituality, but in keeping with the basic formula. When reviewing my photographs ( for shots of spirituality, Patrice Howard ’04, UA’s Director of Communications, decided to write an article on Liturgical Dance, an aspect of spirituality that had not been strongly featured before.

page 21
For page 21(pictured at right), we chose to highlight UA’s drama club using Dan Busler’s excellent photography ( Dan takes amazing performance shots and he gladly supplied us with photos he took at two UA plays. I chose a simple red curtain for the background from, made the box on the right a transparent black, and used yellow text which brightened the page and also complemented the yellow tones in some of Dan’s photographs.

On pages 15, 18, and 22, I dramatically altered the formula or dispensed with it altogether. On page 15, using a backdrop of the famous UA rhododendrons, I created a straight-forward collage of photos shot by Patrice (who took the Serviam cover shot) and myself. After discussing the layout a few times,we went with a full color back and simple white frames around the pictures. Other info on the page echoes elements found throughout the magazine.

Page 18 retains some of the elements from other pages, the round photo bleeding off to the left, the intro header, a pull quote, but we added a light yellow back and brought in a touch of other colors in the header and subhead. In addition to those brick and blue colors just looking right, they are also similar to the colors of the Haitian flag, apropos for an article on service in Haiti.

Patrice wanted a travel picture collage for the trip to Washington D.C., and the focus was on fun. I dispensed with the standard layout altogether. There were so many cool photos, shot by Patrice, from which to choose. I settled on six and set them in frames to give them a Polaroid feel. Handwritten text beneath the photos, a bit of a sassy attitude, a touch of stars on the background photo, and stripes for the main text completed the look. The page was built in Photoshop and imported into the layout program.

Pages 15, 18, and 22 are pictured below.

page 15
page 18
page 22

The Serviam Magazine is 28 pages, and it includes an extra 12 page Strategic Plan with its own cover shot. The cover shot is one of my best and a personal favorite. (Pictured at right.)

While it looked great in its original state, it did require a little alteration to suit the requirements for the cover. More on that “magic” another time. For the strategic plan, we wanted to use a layout to differentiate it from the magazine, but the colors and design elements utilized in the plan “recall” those elements found in the magazine, which results in a more smooth, less jarring, transition.


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.

bashful baker website

bashful website
The Bashful Baker was overdue for a website change. Check out their new website, The website was designed with RapidWeaver, a great little program. I began with a template and customized it to suit the bakery.

I had a lot of fun putting the new Bashful website together on their new domain. In addition to their quality desserts and goodies being handcrafted using the finest ingredients, their desserts are fresh, so we decided to play around with that and the fact that they may not be all that “bashful.”

Writing copy for the bakery is always fun; while they are serious about their cakes and pastries, they have a wry sense of humor. While I don’t consider myself that much of a computer geek, the commentary on the contact page sprang from a spirited conversation about computers.

I shot the mini-pastries which debuted on the front page when I uploaded it this month. (Yeah, taking pictures of delicious pastries is a tough assignment, I know, but someone had to do it.) I also shot several other photos featured in the main content areas or sidebars of other pages; one of my favorites was the cocoa dusting on the tiramisu on the contact page. Many of the wedding cake photos were contributed by other wedding and event photographers.

In addition to the site, I created design pages using a custom background and photos that the bakers had on hand. We printed some up for their photo album and also downloaded many of the designs into a digital photo album they can use as a sales tool.


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.

i resolve to...

Seven things you can do to start the new year on a positive note!

Run a financial check-up. Are you where you had hoped to be financially for the year? Check your Profit and Loss, Income, and Expense Reports. Review your sales reports to determining the more profitable areas of business and areas where sales were sub par. Create a plan to increase business in more profitable areas during the coming year. Either prepare to eliminate less profitable ventures, channels, or market segments, or create plans to increase their profitability.

Prepare a budget. Examine your projected budget and actual expenses for the year. Prepare a budget for the new year, and resolve to stick to it! Factor in expenses for computer and software updates and purchases of new equipment. Be sure to allow changes in your marketing strategy for the upcoming year. Prepare a list of areas to cut if profits and cash flow start running below expectations and a list of contingent opportunities to add or increase if cash flow runs higher.

Plan to succeed. Businesses that fail to plan, plan to fail. Create that fresh business plan you’ve been thinking about. Or, if your financial check-up shows variances, fine-tune your existing business plan for the coming year. Set aside some quality time in January to lay the groundwork for future sales.

Create a marketing plan. Evaluate your marketing mix for the past year, and make changes for the better for the coming year. Freshen up your marketing message and strategy. Are you consistently getting the right message out to the public, or do you find your strategy and materials are sending out mixed messages?

Update the database. Review your database, updating information as needed. Renew contact with lapsed customers, and touch base with existing customers. Ask for more referrals from some of your best customers; connecting their associates’ businesses with ours is a win-win situation. It is a quick and inexpensive way to increase business.

Review staff. Identify staff behaviors and accomplishments that should be acknowledged or even rewarded. Also, identify those whose behaviors or work need to be addressed and improved. Everyone wants feedback on how they are doing. If you have difficulty remembering pertinent examples, schedule a few minutes each day or week to update notes (both positive and negative) for performance reviews for each of your direct reports.

Learn something new. Resolve to update or improve your professional skills. Take a class or plan to read a book or two in an area in which you feel you could use more training.

© for Smart Business Matters, Vol. 3, Issue 4

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

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.