Designing Your Brand: The Power of a Simple Logo

4 green boxes with a heart inside, except the second one that is red and is floating above

What is it about a well-made logo that gives it the power to inspire, motivate and influence people to take action?

Logos don’t have to be elaborate to work really well.

If you want your simple logo to be effective, there are a few steps that are absolutely essential. They have nothing to do with your drawing ability, or which colors you choose.

In today’s post, I’m going to do something I don’t usually do. I’m going to show you the logo ideas that didn’t make the cut, and tell you why they were weak and ineffective.

It’s my dirty logo laundry, aired in public. Scandalous!

A great logo starts in your brain

I’m going to show you how I developed a logo for the project I’ll reveal next week. Today, you’ll see how the logo went from brainstorm to finished art. Next week, you’ll see how we put it in motion!

Use this process to design your own brand, or apply it when you work with a professional designer. Either way, you’ll end up with a finished product that’s a powerful reflection of the very best your business offers.

So how do you take a great idea and give it form, and an identity? Start where all great marketing decisions start: thinking about your target market.

Who do you want to reach?

Karyn Greenstreet is my partner for my new venture. Early on, we realized we didn’t want to use either of our existing brands for the project. It needed to have its own name and look, since it was different than anything either of us already offered.

We spent a lot of time talking about who we wanted to reach: people who have been in business three or more years, who want to learn to run their business like a CEO, and who want to push it to the next level of success.

We wanted the tone of the project to be vibrant, full of life, and to show growth and progress. We wanted it to look professional, but not stodgy … maybe even a little fun. (Who says business can’t be fun?)

Name the baby

When a brand-new project is born, you have to give it a name. Once you know who you’re trying to reach, and the emotion you’d like to evoke, naming your project is easy: you just run all the possibilities through the target market and emotional filters you’ve decided on. When you do that, the winning name is usually pretty clear.

We came up with a name we both loved: Leap Year.

We wanted to communicate that devoting time to your business within this program would allow you to take a big leap forward. Lucky for us, 2012 is a leap year. That was convenient. ๐Ÿ™‚

The evolution of a logo

We didn’t have a tagline yet, so I used a placeholder tagline in the initial ideas. Here’s the first logo idea I came up with.

Designing your brand, example 1

I liked the typeface on this one: it has lots of movement and life. But the overall effect was a little too much like a restaurant menu, or a wedding invitation. Blek.

The second logo tried to show growth and progress, but the imagery was too literal. Besides, growth isn’t all about profits: growth can happen in a lot of different ways.

But there was something about those colors that I liked …

Designing your brand, example 2

When I’m designing a word mark logo, I often start by perusing my extensive type collection, which is is so large, I’m a little embarrassed by it.

As I was searching for font inspiration, I came across this typeface, which I loved! The shapes were sophisticated, but kind of fun. The letters looked like they were reaching for the stars. Perfect. Except … it was a little plain all by itself. What could I do to make it even better?

Designing your brand, font only design

I noticed that both words had an “A,” and that the shape of the A reminded me a little of an arrow. What could I do to emphasize that?

Removing the bar from the A helped reiterate the arrow shape. Pushing it up and to the right — like it was about to take off — emphasized the upward direction.

Designing your brand, font only with tweaks

Karyn and I came up with an official tagline, and had a photo taken together. Voila: a finished logo for our brand new project.

Designing your brand, final product

Next week: Adding movement and music: a simple way to animate your brand. Stay tuned!

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson coaches people to build profitable online businesses. She's an online educator, author, and keynote speaker. Read reviews of the tools used to run this site and business. Have you taken the free Focus Finder quiz yet?

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27 thoughts on “Designing Your Brand: The Power of a Simple Logo”

  1. That’s amazing! I love design but am not a designer myself, so it’s really cool to see the process designers like you go through to get to the final product. Can’t wait to hear about the program too! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • In one of the original iterations, each phrase followed the other in a line. Adding periods allowed us to separate each concept. I think when you see what I did with the art next week, you’ll see it worked pretty well.

  2. Pamela,

    I really enjoy how you walked through the thought process. The end result is great!

    Please continue to show your progress on this project it’s a great learning experience.

    Thank you – Theresa

  3. Thanks for airing your dirty laundry in public, what a fascinating process to watch from the sidelines. I love the final product and it’s encouraging to see that even the experts need more than one iteration to get it right.

    • Thanks, Nicole. I learned a long time ago that the creative process (for me) involves getting a few boring, predictable ideas on paper first so the really great ones can make their way through. I don’t think any of my “first try” logos have ever become finalized. They’re usually just warm ups!

  4. >As I was searching for font inspiration, I came across this typeface, which I loved!

    What’s the name of the typeface?

    And Jean Gogolin is correct, the periods are ungrammatical since the statements aren’t sentences (although “designer’s license” allows you to use them!).

    Nice post.

    • Joel, the logo font goes by the lyrical name of … URW Oklahoma D. The tagline font is Yanone Kaffeesatz.

      And Jean and Joel, you’re both right: grammar rules are bent in the name of marketing copy every day. When I break them, it’s very much intentional: I’m going for a desired effect.

      Of course I realize the effect for some people might be that they cringe … ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

  5. @Joel — I wasn’t bothered by the grammar; I just thought the periods looked odd because headlines don’t usually use them. You’re right- designers have license to do whatever works!

  6. You did something here, too which (I don’t think!) was mentioned.

    Can you guess what it is?

    You placed your logo against the proposed backdrop you were thinking of integrating it into to, as well. This may seem insignificant, but it’s critical for logos! People don’t think of the “usage” of the logo or it’s relationship to other colors. That’s probably one of the critical mistakes that terrible logos make, no?

    Anyway, you have some great posts on this blog about colors and their relationships with one another… trying to do a little digging for some of those at the moment…

    • Danny, you’re so right. It’s one thing for a logo to look good on a white background, but if you’re not going to use it that way, designing it on a white background won’t do you much good. In this case I knew I wanted a dark background and chose a green that would “pop” against it.

      I hope you found the color resource tab at the top of the site. There’s a free downloadable PDF and the page has links to lots of color posts. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Thanks, Pamela… I found your color resource guide ๐Ÿ˜‰ Your site is a great resource for entrepreneurs… I must admit, logo design is by far the element of design that I loathe the most. But since I’m bootstrapping a new business right now I have to do it.

        Do you think, for a website, it helps to have a mock layout of the site created first? It’s because I want the logo to tie in to the overall vision I have for the website / company. But manifesting your vision is the hard part.

        • I usually approach it the opposite way, Danny, and somehow it works for me.

          I have a general idea of what I want the site to look like, and then I design the site header. Once I’m happy (or my client is happy) with the site header, I use it as inspiration for the colors and fonts on the rest of the site. That way everything looks cohesive.

          Good luck with your new website!

  7. Pamela, how perfect that both words have the same number of letters with the ‘A’ in the same position!

    And the full stops work perfectly. The statements are stronger because of them.

  8. Really interesting to see the evolution of fonts. I love the transition to the green and the mirroring of the shape. So nice to see how this evolved (and totally agree with the blek on the first design). Designs have to “fit” as well as look good!


    • Thanks, Cathy. It’s nice when the business name you pick โ€” combined with the right font โ€” provides a “happy accident” like the letter A did here!

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