Tag logos

The benefits of professional services

Hand holding wrenchDavid Airey has a series of posts about the business lessons you can learn from Aesop’s fables. Thoughtful stuff for business owners. The lesson on hiring a professional stands out to me. I often see business owners try to save money by enlisting the help of someone who lacks experience. This is especially true with graphic design and video production.

Having some software is not the same thing as being able to use those tools to effectively communicate a specific message. Most people own a wrench, but that doesn’t mean they can fix your car, does it? For some reason, that realization is lost on a lot of business owners when it comes to logos, advertising, or web site development.

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Literal logos

Costa Brava vertical logoLogo Design Love says your logo doesn’t have to show what you do. I heartily agree.

116 years

1890s Coca-Cola ad

In 1895, Coca-Cola ran its first advertisement. I doubt this is that ad, but it does date back to the 1890′s. My how ad styles change, except for the logo.

Wrough Iron Contracting

Wrough Iron Contracting logoHere’s a look at the new logo for Wrough Iron Contracting, a logging contractor in British Columbia. Wrough iron is another name for wrought iron, the metal that blacksmiths bend and pound to make their wares.

The company name immediately brought to my mind the image of a branding iron, and the owners loved the idea. Early drafts incorporating a literal branding iron were abandoned. Eventually the mark became an actual representation of a livestock brand.

The WR in the icon was selected to emphasize the spelling of the word “Wrough,” distinguishing it from its homonym, “rough.” If the brand is “called,” or read aloud, it is the Bar W R Combined. Both the icon and the lettering have a rough feel to them, as if they have been burned into the page by a branding iron.

This was a fun logo to work on. The client loved it and it will serve them well into the future.

A well-designed logo

I’m excited about today’s post. Not only do we look at an outstanding logo, we get to hear from the designer, Caleb Chang!

While spending the holidays up in the Pacific Northwest with my family, I attended church in White Rock, BC with my in-laws. During the service, I noticed their logo. I think its a little above most church logos I’ve seen and I wanted to share it with you.

White Rock Community Church logo

WRCC logo on a promotional banner. Logo designer, Caleb Chang.

What I really like about this logo is how it contains a subtle message about this church’s mission but yet that message doesn’t get in the way of clearly identifying the name of the church. Under the words “White Rock” is a simple line. The line adds a nice visual element but also is reminiscent of an open book or Bible. The “spine” of the book points to the letter “t” in the word “Community,” which is shaped as a cross. What I see when I look at this logo is a subtle message: the Church’s foundation is Scripture, and Scripture points to Christ.

What’s neat about this is that this message doesn’t get in the way of telling the reader the name of this particular church. Most small businesses would love to have this much symbolism in their logo, but only end up cluttering it up so much that their identity is lost and unreadable.

After asking about the logo, I discovered that I had met the designer just a few days before. Caleb graciously agreed to share a little about the design process for this particular logo. Here’s an excerpt from Caleb’s email:

A logo should also have staying power because let’s face it – most small businesses or not-for-profits don’t have huge budgets when it comes to marketing. As a general rule of thumb, unless you have the time and money to revamp your logo every 5 years – don’t follow the latest design trends.

White Rock Community Church (WRCC) wanted a logo that reflected the fact that they were an intergenerational, Christian community that valued practical teaching from the Bible and long-lasting relationships. Their mission was to help people reach their God-given potential in Jesus Christ. So how do you create a logo that reflects all of that without it looking like it was drawn up by your artsy 14 year old niece?

Create a wordmark, a distinctive, text-only typographic treatment, instead of a logo. I proposed using the wordmark with different photos and let the photos tell the story. Well, the client wasn’t totally convinced so we reached a compromise – we integrated some basic symbols into the wordmark.

The intergenerational aspect of WRCC is portrayed by blending a 1930′s face (White Rock) with a modern classic face (Community Church). The visual divider between White Rock and Community Church is a bible and the “t” in the word “white” and “community” were changed into a cross.

Ministries within the church followed the same look and feel:

WRCC Student Ministries identity

Great work, Caleb, and thank you for sharing your insight.

You can reach Caleb at his website, changstein.ca. And yes, that’s a Seinfeld reference. :)

What is a logo really worth?

A so-so logo that is used consistently in all marketing and advertising can become quite valuable. A great logo that is rarely used is worthless.

I’m always surprised at how many small businesses invest in a logo and then don’t use it consistently. That includes making sure it looks the same every time it is used.

Costa Brava

Costa Brava 2-color logo

This is a logo that I recently completed for a logging company. The client wanted to tie the icon into the rugged coast of British Columbia; costa brava is spanish for “rugged coast” and BC is where the company is located.  The area in which they primarily operate is known for its difficult, steep terrain.

Being a logging company, a tree of some sort was explored, as was an icon that was reminiscent of a rock. Given that Prudential pretty much has TOMA on rock images and every timber company in the world has a tree in their logo, we explored a variety of images that captured the idea of a rugged, isolated place.  The client loved the end result.

They can also use the paw icon as a stand-alone element in their marketing. A lot of small businesses want to look like their competitors, but that generally is a mistake. Bravo for Costa Brava!

Vancouver Island University’s logo

We’re visiting my wife’s family in Washington state and British Columbia for Christmas. On the ferry heading to Vancouver Island, I saw an ad for Vancouver Island University. They have a great logo and I thought I’d share it with you.

I like how the logo brings to mind both a maple leaf and the island. Having a literal icon isn’t necessary for a logo, but it’s really nice when the execution is subtle and not overstated.

Image matters

In light of yesterday’s post, How do your customers identify you?, I’d like to direct you to today’s post on Seth Godin’s blog. Here’s the meat of it:

Marketing is actually what other people are saying about you.

Like it or not, true or not, what other people say is what the public tends to believe. Hence an imperative to be intentional about how we’re seen.

You need to give some thought to how you want people to see you and your company. Then you actually need to be that, or at least begin the process of becoming that. You also may need to adjust your company’s “identifiers” – its logo and associated marketing materials – to reflect that identity.

Don’t be like this company. They got a big write up in a well-known technology blog, and most of the comments ended up being about how cheap their logo looked. Go ahead and click the highlighted link and scroll down to the comments at the bottom of the page. Some people had fun with it, but it is clear that a lot of people had a hard time taking the company seriously because of their logo.

The company handled it well, even making a joke about it and eventually announcing they were pursuing a new logo, but that doesn’t change the fact that their unprofessional image overshadowed their service.

You put on nice clothing when you go to a job interview. Shouldn’t you dress your business nicely when you meet a customer? Invest in a good logo that accurately reflects your business and how you want it to be seen.

Oh, and the other stuff that Seth mentions in his blog post, it applies to you as well. Dressing up a bad business with a great logo and marketing is as useless as putting whipped cream on an onion.

How do your customers identify you?

Here’s a question for you: What type of work do you do? Not what is it you do for a living, but what kind of work is it? Is it competent work? Is it mediocre? Is it horrible? Is it professional and white collar? Is it skilled and finely detailed? Is it rough, no-nonsense and immediately useful?

The purpose of this question is to get you to think about how your customers identify your company. I got to thinking along these lines recently while doing some research for a logo I was working on. I was surprised at how many small business logos for this particular field did little to convey the type of work they did.

When we see someone in a suit, we assume they work behind a desk. When we see someone wearing boots, we assume they work outside. That’s not a surprise. But it is surprising when someone is inappropriately dressed for they work they claim to do. If the guy who is supposed to clear your land of brush shows up in dress slacks, you’ll wonder if he is prepared for the job. You’ll think the same thing if a person selling you a suit is dressed in a sneakers and worn jeans. How they present themselves gives a clue to whether or not they are up to the job.

The same applies to businesses, yet a lot of small businesses inadvertently give the wrong message in their presentation. If you’re a selling something that has an appeal based on looks (clothing, furniture, whatever) then your business card had better look good. If you’re in a line of work where dependability is key, say transportation, delivery or courier services, then your marketing materials had better look dependable.

When a potential customer needs a dependable courier service, will they think you are dependable by looking at your web site? When a potential customer wants a nice couch to change the look of their living room, will they know you have good taste based on the sign outside your store?

Often a business owner will tell me that once a customer comes in to see their merchandise or tries their service, it sells itself. But the truth is that a customer won’t try your service or come in to see your merchandise until they are convinced that you are up to the job.

Saying you’re up to the job isn’t going to convince them. You show them your are up to the job by making a competent presentation through your marketing and advertising. Fail to do that, and you’ll be like the guy in sneakers and worn jeans trying to sell suits. He can say he knows suits till he’s blue in the face, but no one will buy unless it’s priced so low that it’s too good to pass up.

It’s not difficult to present your company in a competent fashion. Yes, it will take an investment of a little time and some money. But the investment in your business’s identity – the logo, the design of the business cards and the letterhead – is essentially a one-time investment. It is miniscule compared to the monthly ongoing expenditures you make in the course of doing business.

You’re going to have business cards printed up anyway. Why not do them right? Contact me. You have nothing to lose.

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