Hey, Good Lookin'

Designing a strong, lasting logo

Melissa Sowell hired a designer to work on her company's logo even before she opened her doors. While she might have been able to get a perfectly decent logo for $1,000, Sowell paid $5,000 to Bradford Lawton, a graphic designer in San Antonio. "It really wasn't a hard call," she says. "We needed continuity in the look and feel of our branding. I wanted open-ended advice." She certainly got that: Lawton thought up not just a logo but the name for Sowell's Albuquerque restaurant, WingBasket. He also designed a T-shirt and the restaurant's galvanized metal menu boards. WingBasket now has 40 people and about $1 million in sales.

A good logo sets you apart from your competition in a way that is memorable to your customers and unique to your business. It's also something that should stand the test of time: You should be proud to have it represent you for years. Key, of course, is finding the right designer. That means not only a talented artist but also someone who understands your business. A good designer will ask questions that will help prompt a discussion of what really sets your company apart.

How do you find such a person? Research. Chris Parks, owner of Up Design Bureau in Wichita, recommends a trip to the graphic design section of your local bookstore. There you'll find books devoted to logos, including directories that are updated regularly and list contact information for featured designers. Sites like www.logolounge.com let you surf through several areas without charge, read interviews, and see samples of current trends. You can also call companies whose logos you admire and ask who they've worked with.

Depending on where you're based, the price of a logo will start at $2,000 to $5,000 and climb upward. Estimates are based on the complexity of the job and the size of the client. To save money, you might try looking for an experienced designer in a smaller market. If a designer is hooked by the concept behind your product or company, and the two of you click philosophically, he or she might be willing to work with a tight budget. But if you need to see a lot of different options before you can make a decision, or if your company has to go through a lot of layers to approve something, that'll cost you.

Once you find a designer whose portfolio you admire and who passes the chemistry test, it's time for some analysis. The designer will ask questions about you, your goals, your company, your competition, and your customer. That will help him or her create a simple graphic that will tell the world how to perceive your company.

The strongest logos are simple but rich with meaning.The graphic should set you apart in a way that's memorable and unique. It should be as clear and readable on a business card or fax as it is on the side of your building.

Barney Schumacher turned to Todd Clausnitzer of Image Printing to design a custom logo for Enchanted Designs, Schumacher's $2 million, five-employee diamond business in Bismarck, N.D. The two had worked together before, so they were able to decide quickly that they wanted a clean, romantic logo that conveyed "corporate elegance." Schumacher wanted to present a strong brand to jewelers, who in turn would sell it to customers. The logo itself had to be crisp and recognizable on jewelry stores' video monitors, where it would morph into a picture of rings, yet also print well on newspaper, which is especially challenging. "We had to beef up the swirls a little bit," says Schumacher. Hopefully that will beef up his marketing, too.

By Carole Christie

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