When I decided to move my photography from the realm of hobby to business I had to decide how to brand myself. I spent hours working on my logo, colors, website layout, etc. With a background in graphic design I was able to do these things for myself, but it wasn’t easy deciding what to use. I often forgot a few of the basic rules of design and had to go back and start over! Most branding starts with deciding on a name and logo. The decision of a name is rather personal, but there are a few “rules” of logo design that apply to any business. Whether you are working with another designer or creating your branding yourself here are a few tips to get you started with an effective logo design.
As a Marine I was introduced to the K.I.S.S. principle; “Keep it Simple Stupid!” An effective logo design will be simple and easy to read. While lots of flourishes and illustrations are fun, they are also distracting. The more clipart you throw on there the less professional your logo becomes. Remember that the purpose of your logo is to present the name of your business and a small a hint at your style. You do not need or want to incorporate everything you are about into one logo. Leave out the camera with a heart and a dog and a kid running around it and just focus on the name of your business presented in a style that matches you whether it be classical, fun, whimsical, or elegant. Think about other successful businesses that your target market shops at and use their logos as inspiration.
Fads come and go, but certain things last forever! Your logo should be like a good pair of jeans. No matter what styles fashion embraces the basic denim jean never goes away. Your logo is the face of your business. You wouldn’t trust a person who was constantly getting plastic surgery on their face, so people won’t trust a business that is constantly changing their logo. Make sure that your logo is one that you can be happy with throughout the life of your business.
The purpose of your logo is to give the client an image to associate with your business name to assist in them recalling that name at a later date. In order to be memorable a logo needs to be unique. Putting a cutesy camera next to your name might look good, but it does nothing to make your logo memorable. While using others for inspiration is great, be careful not to imitate any logo you see too closely because you will not only risk copyright violation, but also a lack of brand recognition.
If your name is “Green Tangerine Photography” and your logo is of a purple flower people will just get confused. Relevant does not mean, however, that you have to have a picture of a camera or a baby or a pet. Think of Apple. Their logo isn’t a computer, but it is relevant to their name. McDonalds doesn’t have pictures of french fries and hamburgers in their logo, but the Golden Arches are very relevant to their name. No one cares if you love bluebirds or think mason jars with fireflies in them are cool. If it isn’t relevant to your name then leave it off. Extra fluff just distracts the viewer from your name.
I believe that the most important aspect of good logo design is that the image be functional. You logo has to work just as well on a large sign at a trade show as it does on a small business card. It needs to be easily recognizable in both black and white and in color. If it takes more than 2-3 tones of gray to render your logo into black and white then you need to simplify; ideally you will be able to translate your logo into stark black and white without any loss of detail. Your logo also needs to be scalable. This means that it needs to be designed in a vector based program such as Adobe Illustrator an not in a raster based program such as Adobe Photoshop. For a full explanation of raster vs. vector click here.
For photographers who use their own name as their business name one way to follow all of these tips is to simply use your own signature. It is simple, will never go out of style, unique, and if done right highly functional. Converting your signature to a digital format is simple.
First sign a piece of paper with different pens and markers until you find a look you like. Scan that image into your computer, or if you do not have access to a scanner take a high quality photo of it. Open the image in Adobe Illustrator. Click live trace and choose custom. Adjust your settings to black and white and then move your threshold sliders to wherever you need to make sure it is finding all the edges. Check the box that says “Ignore white” to make sure you end up with a transparent background. You can then change the color of the fill to whatever color you want for your logo. Save as a .png to preserve your transparent background.
After scanning in your signature trace over it with the pen tool then delete the scanned image from your file. You can then experiment with applying different brush stroke styles until you find a look you like. Once again save as a .png file to preserve transparency.
Once you have converted your signature to a digital format you can then add in any additional text “photography, studios, photography, etc.). You could put your initials or signature inside another shape or add some simple graphics to the side. No matter what you choose to do you will have a simple recognizable logo that will never let you down!
Thank you Emily Smith for contributing this article.