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


  • 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

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