I remember back when my father hooked me up with my first set of graphic design hardware and software components for the old family computer in our living room. It was a small Wacom tablet and a physical copy of Adobe Photoshop (ah, the days before predominant digital subscription!) and Lord knew I had no idea what to do with it. A very light pen with no ink in it, and a flat, digital sketchbook with one page were all I saw, and I did not know what to do with it….except draw comics, like I did on looseleaf notebooks and graphite. I couldn’t have been more than fourteen at the time, but I’d been drawing my own homemade comics since I was seven.
In all that time I had only grown better at drawing anime-style characters and realistic environments and continued to use Photoshop to color in my ink drawings, having put graphite behind me for now. I did as many class projects as I could where I could utilize Adobe for presentations and quickly found that my classmates associated me with this silly anime-character niche. Prior to college, I had no idea that I held one of the most powerful tools in the world of graphic design; I didn’t even know “design” was a business! I didn’t know the difference between a rasterized and vectorized digital imagery, or the sense of majesty a serif font could portray, let alone how logos in the world of business truly represented the brands that they held up…not dissimilarly to high-school me, and my “representative” anime-style digital characters.
As an entrepreneur, presence–brand–is darn-near everything. One will come to understand that first impressions, though important, are still only secondary, being that their evolutions are commonplace and quite welcome in business strategies. After all, plenty of major American-based companies such as fast-food juggernaut Taco Bell, comic-book kingdom DC, and computer conglomerate Microsoft have changed their infamous logos over time. However, when we see the immortal arch of McDonald’s, the omnipotent and titular fruit representing Apple, or the simple, solid red brick denoting the very passionate, very lively universe of Marvel Comics, and the decades-long consistencies of these brands, we can connect a few dots and conclude that these are the sort of companies that Taco Bell, DC Comics, and Microsoft are attempting to keep up with by changing their branding time after time, after time.
This is the power–the importance, rather–of logo representation. Apple and Marvel Comics are particularly exceptional examples because their branding is so universally recognizable that their advertisements and promos do not even need to include the actual titles of their companies–just their symbols that represent them as wholes. I only wish I had understood this back in high school, how crucial clean, simple vector imagery really is. It’s almost frightening how simple the symbols are that represent the basic cable television channel American Broadcasting Company–which has not changed since 1962–and the massive media franchise Ghostbusters–which has not changed since 1984. Yet, they hold up their lofty brands because of their instantaneous recognition.
If we are serious about our businesses, then the truth is that we’re going to have to invest in our brands that represent our business. The more time we take to understand the psychology of color palettes and the unacceptable nature of raster images in business models, the more the ROIs will shock you. The art of business–the literal and visual art–is almost as important as the business itself. For my personal podcast brand SuperTangent, I’ve already changed my logo twice, and I just launched on January 15, 2017! Changing brands, again, is an acceptable practice, if we learn not to overdo it and eventually harm our chances at our audience ever truly recognizing our brands. Here are three actionable steps to a better logo for your blog, vlog, podcast, or online business:
1) Study the history of logos for successful companies.
Not only is this step a ton of fun for the visual artist or history junkie, but studying what other successful companies have done in their branding is vital to figuring out what we need to do for our own. See where their logos have undergone transformation, if at all, and why those logos had changed. Were they attempting to keep up with a rival company? Perhaps attempting to reach out to a younger or foreign audience? Implement what you discover into your own brand. At the very least, find a virtual assistant or graphic designer who understands the non-visual aspects of logo creation. This is not something you will want to overlook.
2) Get comfortable with the color wheel.
As mentioned earlier, there is a tangible psychology and emotional strategy to color usage when it comes to logos. Hyper-complexities and soulful gradients are not inherently poor choices, but they can often denote the designer’s lack of understanding the depth of solid, monochromatic simplicity. The aforementioned logo for Ghostbusters, one of the most easily recognizable symbols for the past three decades, is often seen in two dominant colors: red, and white (with a soft black stroke giving the central ghost an approachable cartoon presence). Understanding what emotions an audience feels when confronted by a deep, solid warm color like red is pivotal. And at that…
3) Make sure your logo can be done in black and white.
“Monochrome” is used to define an image that is done in one color, often with various shades and hues of that color. If an image is all yellow, even in different types of yellow, it is a monochromatic image. And since the final hue of black is white, then yes, a black and white photo is considered monochromatic. Companies will want to see how your vector image looks on letterheads and business cards just as much as on websites and banners. It if can’t be done in black-in-white (i.e. if it can’t be done in two colors) it might be time to rethink your color strategy.
Hopefully those small tips will help start you thinking, or remind you on, the importance of logos for your business. Always take the time to study up and never be afraid to ask for help. The truth of the matter is, most of us can’t do it all, all the time. We can, however, also learn something new, and smile at our failures of the past by taking what we’ve learned from it, and moving on to the next venture. Entrepreneurship is a valley, not a sidewalk, and as it pertains to logos and vector artwork, it’s more of a rocky, unpaved “under construction” highway. The more you invest your time in knowing the basics of vector design and try them out with programs like Canva and Adobe Illustrator, the smoother and more paved with fresh cement that road becomes. You got this.
Justin Williams is the creator of the podcast+blog SuperTangent, and husband of entrepreneur Allie Williams. He is a graphic designer, arts and pop culture fanatic, and a sarcastic logophile who loves to write about what he loves. SuperTangent can currently be found on iTunes, Google Play Music, and Stitcher.