biz ladiesLife & Business

biz ladies: logo design

by Grace Bonney

today’s biz ladies article comes from the lovely meg mateo ilasco. meg is the author of craft, inc. and the craft, inc. business planner. she’s shared book advice with us twice, branding advice, tips on starting a business in hard times, and today- logo design! representing your business in a succinct, visual way is not always easy, and today meg will be sharing her expert advice on creating your company’s logo (meg won an award from print magazine’s regional design annual for the logo she made for her company mateo ilasco). thanks so much to meg for sharing her logo tips with us!

*look for two new books from meg this fall 2010: creative, inc. and crafting a meaningful home*

CLICK HERE for the full post after the jump!

Look closely at the two clothing tags below. On what type of clothing would you expect to see tag A? On what type of clothing would tag B rest? Which piece would you choose to wear based on its logo alone?

Now look at the actual pieces of clothing below. Were these the type of clothing you were expecting to see?

These are two pieces from one of my favorite local clothing designers, Rebecca Beeson. I purchased the tank top in 2001-ish and the striped long sleeve in 2008-ish. Interestingly, both the tank top and shirt share a similar aesthetic and could’ve easily been from the same collection. But the logos are worlds apart, exhibiting rather opposite brand personalities.

This brings me to the topic of this post: logos. Logos are meant be powerful symbols to help raise your company’s visibility, credibility, and, most importantly, its memorability. An important thing to remember from the exercise above is that your logo should absolutely match your product. You have one brand—so everything related to your company, including your logo, product, and packaging, should send the same message about the personality of your company.

Naturally, most new creative entrepreneurs are on a shoestring budget, so they usually make their own logos. Most, I gather, probably don’t spend enough time on it before releasing it into the wild. I know I didn’t when I made my logo for my first business (a wedding invitation company) in 1999. In the course of its 6-year run, I changed my company logo three times. My company launched with what I call its “Blossom” logo. It was fun, whimsical, and happy. Being new to the neighborhood, it wanted to please everyone and be their friend. It was curly and wore a big floppy hat with a sunflower (metaphorically speaking). About two years later, my company was doing well and entered into a sort of new bourgeois phase. Thus, the logo entered its “Kate Spade” phase. It wanted to be sophisticated and more discerning about who it hung out with. It got rid of the floppy hat and wore stilettos instead. It enjoyed serifs, as well as comfortable breathing room between its letters. Finally, about three years after that, my logo finally figured out who it really was. It had tried hard to be chipper and perky—and failed. It tried hard to be sophisticated—and failed. In the end, it was exhausted trying to be something it wasn’t, so it finally found itself.

The thing is no one needs to see the evolutionary chart of your logo from ape to man. (It’s okay for people to see your logo go through different versions of “man”, but no one needs to see “ape.”) My logo could have quickly and easily skipped to the far right of the evolutionary chart if I had just hired or consulted with a graphic designer. Instead, I unknowingly allowed my company to appear unstable, small, unfocused, and constantly suffering from some sort of identity crisis. Even though my goal was to save money by doing my own logo, I ended up spending more time by constantly redesigning my brand and wasting more money by reprinting all of my packaging and business stationery.

With my second company, Mateo Ilasco, I still designed the logo. Luckily, I’ve had the same logo since I started in 2005. Thank. God. It also won a design award, but I owe it largely to 6 years of hard-won hindsight and a greater understanding about design. If you decide to design your logo, just remember not to take it too lightly. Don’t make a logo by choosing between the 3 halfway decent fonts that came free with your word processing program. Do your research and educate yourself a bit in graphic design. Graphic Design: The New Basics, by Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips, is a good introductory book. Also, look to websites like Graphic-Exchange and thedieline.com for logo- and identity-design inspiration. And make sure to take your logo out for a test drive by showing them to people (design-savvy and otherwise) whose opinion you respect.

The bottom line is an amateur logo design could only hurt your business. Just because you’re an artist, craftsperson, or designer doesn’t make you a skilled graphic designer. Designing a logo takes experience. It’s no easy task to take everything a company stands for and bring it down to a single graphic representation or symbol. If you don’t trust your design skills or sensibilities, hire a graphic designer whose work you admire and can work within your budget. Or better yet, find a good designer who’d be willing to barter for your services or products.

(You can thank me later.)

P.S. I visited Rebecca Beeson’s site and saw she has a new (modified) logo.

Well done!

Suggested For You


  • So true. As fun as it sounds to design your own identity, resist it (unless you are a good graphic designer). New business owners have so much more to worry about. If you really plan on running a successful business (and who doesn’t want that?), then factor in the cost of a good graphic designer to help you out. It will probably cost you less in the long run!

  • A very timely post. I am currently looking for a graphic designer with a fresh, modern, bold aesthetic who likes to work with small businesses. It’d be nice if they also had printing contacts for custom business stationery, but its not necessary. Any recommendations would be appreciated. Thanks so much!

  • This is right on time for me. I’m thinking of branching out in a few ways and branding and logos were on my mind as I tossed and turned last night. Thanks for the insight.

  • Great Post!! :)

    Rebeca Beeson logo looks really good and pro!!

    Logo is really important in just 1 square inch it has to represent your products, personality, target, etc etc.

    I read Craft, Inc. and it was very inspiring, I just opened my shop and applied many tips.

    I didn’t knew there’s also other business plan book from her!! gotta see it! :)

  • Great article Meg! It’s great to hear someone exclaiming the virtues of a well-done logo. As a graphic designer myself, I face a lot of clients who take the do-it-yourself approach and don’t do their company justice. Your logo is wonderful by the way!!

    I happen to know a good designer! :-)

  • As a graphic designer who has worked with small businesses I think this is an excellent post. Meg’s point about actually saving money from having to reprint over and over again is VERY true. Consulting with a designer can save you a lot of headaches…especially if you have a vague idea of what you want, but can’t quite get there yourself. Designers are trained to ask the questions that will reveal what you’re really all about, so we can deliver a logo that will really represent you and your vision.

    A note on pricing: if you are on a budget, be up front with your designer. While you likely won’t find a legitimate designer who will design a logo for you for $100 (logos take a lot of time), I don’t know a designer who isn’t willing to accept payments, or work with their clients to deliver a great product and a price that the designer feels represents the value of their work and that the client doesn’t feel is breaking their burgeoning business. Thanks Meg!

  • YES! Hire graphic designers! Designing your own identity is really difficult even if you’re in the field and having someone design your identity from the outside will give you perspective about what you stand for. Also, graphic design is a completely different medium than art and requires a different set of skills that you probably didn’t learn in art school (unless of course you majored in design) And we’re a pretty inexpensive way to make your business look legitimate. Please hire a graphic designer, we’re collectively sick of looking at ugly logos for creative companies and muttering kearning and poor font choice and what were they thinking under our breath.

  • Thank you SO much for pointing out the benefits of working with a talented and educated graphic designer. I find that graphic design is something that everyone seems to think they can do and the result is a sea of awful branding and sad looking logos. A logo is so important, as it jump starts your business, telling the world who you are and what you represent.

    So thanks!

  • Thank you so much for this inspiring post! For the last month I’ve been reading Craft, Inc. like a bible and using the planner to help hash out the details in the small biz I’m starting. They’ve both been wonderful resources-thank you so much Mateo! Love the books and hope you come out with another soon.

  • Yes! Thank you. I’m a graphic designer and my favorite project is a logo. I decided a few years ago I was only going to design for clients who appreciated what I do. Got what the benefit was to hiring me. For years, like your logo, I tried to be so many things to so many people. Your posting is a great one to explain the process and benefits to potential clients. I don’t mind educating the people I partner with but sometimes coming from another source helps. By the way, nice logo.

  • Thanks, Meg, for sharing your insights about the importance of effective branding! As a small business owner AND a freelance graphic designer, I have seen this from both ends of the spectrum. Designers will help you focus your message and can present cost effective packaging solutions that you might even know is possible, saving you money and lots of headaches.

    I second Kathleen’s comment about working within a tight budget. Designers with smaller clients know that times are tough, and can be open to payment plans and other options. Be up front, and you may be able to work something out you didn’t think was possible.

  • I second (and third, and fourth!) the suggestion to work with a graphic designer when creating a logo. I am a graphic designer and take great pleasure in working with the other creative women in my life to trade our talents. I often barter logo and identity design skills for handmade accessories from my friend’s Savannah shop. It’s a fabulous way to do meaningful work that is close to your heart while still feeling compensated, in a fun, (ideally) tension- and invoice-free way, for the work you’re doing.

  • I’d also like to point out that graphic design students within their last year of school or just graduating are a great resource for logo design. Most design schools have a graduate portfolio show that is open to the public. Contact your local design college and ask them when their next portfolio show is. But please don’t think that just because they’re recently graduated that they will give their work away for free.

  • Thank you so much for giving us graphic designers props. Sometimes we’re able to approach a ‘problem’ from an angle the client never even considered. We’re trained, but also have the instinct to look at things from a different perspective and come up with a solution.

    How many of us would give ourselves a haircut to save money? Imagine the cost and time it would take to recover from that debacle. Not to mention the damage to our image! I trust my hairdresser and know she’s an expert in her field – so I’m happy to have her do the job!

  • Well said.

    As a (degree-holding, professional career-having) graphic designer, I thank you for this post.

  • graphic design, at least good graphic design, is much more than just coming up with something pretty. so true that “it’s no easy task to take everything a company stands for and bring it down to a single graphic representation or symbol.” excellent post!

  • I can’t you how frustrating it feels when people are consistently dumbfounded by the pricing associated with branding & design. Like they think it’s just a little mark on a piece of paper and it takes two seconds to make it happen. If you hire a designer for a $400 logo & business card, chances are they will spend a good 40 hours on it. Regardless of how fast, easy, or “simple” you’d like your logo. $400/4o hrs breaks down to $10/hr. That is barely above minimum wage. Not exactly how I want to be repaid for my graphic design degree, my years of training.

    Thank you for underscoring the investment value associated with hiring a professional!

  • Great post! Often people don’t realize the time and effort that goes into developing a successful brand (not to mention the genuine caring on my part to get it right), and also don’t appreciate enough that this brand will represent them everywhere and PRECEDE them in most cases. It’s worth the time and the money. Find a designer you love and it will be the best investment you could ever make.

  • LOVED this post. I have major logo obsession and just settled on a new logo that Viola at Chewing the Cud designed. It’s fabulous and I can’t wait to get it up and running.

    Oh and Meg…I just bought your planner for my sis in law who is starting a craft biz. A huge congrats on all of your success!!

    Abby (style me pretty)

  • Love this post! In this day of DIY, many non-designers like to take on the challenge of graphic design themselves. Though I specialize in small business logo design and branding, it’s sometimes difficult to educate the client. I so appreciate when they come to me knowing what they are and are not capable of.

    I believe we professionals provide a great value, and I thank you for the props!

  • To echo the sentiment of all the other designers who already commented, thanks so much for this post! When I opened it I was nervous that the content would be a how -to guide for logo creation. So I was very pleasantly surprised to read such a well-written case for the importance of logo design and the benefit of a professional’s involvement.

    I also love the hairdresser analogy, I use examples like that with clients all the time.

  • Clearly, we graphic designers can’t thank you enough!

    I’d like to add that all the fun of doing the logo yourself needn’t be lost when you hire a designer. Your feedback and enthusiasm for the design will make the process delightful for everyone.

  • I was so happy to read this post, and happier still to read all the comments below.

    I specialize in strategic branding for the corporate world by day, but branding for fellow creatives and artists is truly close to my heart. I’ve worked with small creative businesses on tight budgets, and bartered services. It’s so rewarding to see my client get what they need, fall in love with their brand, and have the time to focus on what they are good at while I do the same. This is what I love about branding.

    And I agree with Stevie. Your creative energy is so valuable to the process!

  • We second everything said above by other designers! A logo is so important for brand identity and people always want to shave a few bucks and do it themselves, trust us when we say we can tell that you did it yourself, most of the time.

    Thank you Meg for putting this out there!

  • Fantastic post, Meg! I purchased your first book as well – and I will now be checking out the others when they are released. These are really great points – that are sometimes easily overlooked. Thanks for the help in “refocusing”.

  • As an apparel/millinery designer, I have designed my own logo. An art background prepares artists to multi-task, so N/A here for me, except that DS has broken its’ own rules to not promote apparel designers. I guess when you own the blog, you can change the rules whenever you see fit.

    • elsie

      i don’t have a “rule” about covering apparel on design*sponge.

      i prefer to focus on home design rather than apparel with our main posts, but that doesn’t prohibit guest posts like this that are discussing business advice. there’s a big difference between doing regular posts on fashion and including a clothing label as an example of logo design.


  • Brilliant. It’s hard to make people understand that it’s important to take time with your logo so it is memorable, relevant and has longevity. And that paying for a professional, customized design IS worth the money. Cheers to a great article!

  • As a graphic designer (like all the others who have chimed in!) I loved this post – having a strong logo *makes* your brand! Don’t be afraid to give your thoughts to your designer but also don’t be afraid to trust their opinion – having an outside, professional opinion and working as team make the process (and outcome) glorious!

  • Is this really a coinsidence? This topic is exactly what I’ve been busy with for the past two weeks. I renovated my logo. Blogged about it. Put the link in different forums asking for opinions. Then re-renovated my logo. Blogged about it and now I just got the D*S newsletter with this helpful post. What I need now is some professional look on my trials so far. I designed several variations as a new logo. They are all to be seen here including my odyssey from version A to version F (so far).



  • Great article!
    I’ve been a ‘fan’ of graphic design for many years (as geeky as that sounds) As a teen I would cover my walls with things I found interesting & this included many tags & labels. I agree that labeling is very important to sales. While I like the first 2 labels shown, I can’t say that either, taken alone, would inspire me to buy. The third example is quite professional looking & seems to fit the brand better, a very important component to marketing. Thanks for posting this great advice!

  • you can find designers and their portoflios on websites like coroflot.com or behance… usually their profiles will say if they accept freelance projects.

  • design is face, and vitally important, but not so much as the DNA that makes it possible…or should :)

    *raises a glass to the nature of and necessity for brand development by one who knows how* ;)

  • This was a wonderful post, and I love your book, “Craft, Inc.”. I purchased one for myself and loved it so much I got a copy for my mom for Christmas! Thanks so much for giving a voice to graphic designers as well!

  • What perfect timing this post is! I’m working on starting an online shop and of course everyone and their brother has their own opinions! The big one lately as I’ve been discussing getting my logo designed…wouldn’t you save $ by doing it yourself? So of course this makes me question myself and wonder “should I design it myself?”.

    Thank you, thank you for this post…because that’s exactly what I’ve been feeling. I don’t know the first thing about creating a brand & logo…I want someone who has experience and training. It’s the hard part of being a small biz owner…you can’t do everything! Thanks for the reminder (and now I can print this article out to show to people who think I could save $ :)!!

  • Glad you all found this post to be helpful. And I appreciate your support of Craft Inc.! Thanks for inviting me to post Grace.


  • I love bartering design work. I often prefer it for my freelance. I get money at my real job and things for my freelance….works out pretty well!

  • I liked this post a lot. As a graphic designer who works with mostly small and medium sized businesses I would love everyone to slow down when creating their image/brand. Visually, what are you trying to say, and does it reflect the essence of your brand and your company’s character. Some thoughtful design early on will save many headaches and avoid many pitfalls later.

  • This comment “The bottom line is an amateur logo design could only hurt your business.” is so true and even more so when it comes to clothing labels / branding.

    This area is so important, people look to the label to give them some sort of direction on the quality of the clothing.

    If the design isn’t working or doesn’t back up the style and quality of the clothing then its going to drag down all of the skill, design and hard work that went into that piece.

    As we can see from the likes of ‘Gucci’ or other high end designers, the logo or identity and what it communicates is almost more important than the clothing itself.

    • thelma

      i’m not sure if meg offers those services, but you can contact her via her site if you’d like to ask about consultation rates.


  • I just found this article of yours and I must say I’m impressed. I really enjoyed the beginning of the article and how you encouraged us to choose based solely on the logo. I must say I didn’t expect that the second one to look like that. I thought it would be more formal. It was a great exercise that shows us the power of a logo

Leave a Reply

Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, that comment on people's physical appearance, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.