yahoo_logoAre you thinking of designing a new logo? You’re not alone. Yahoo! did last week. So did thousands of businesses. So did I.

I sympathise with everyone who has had the task of coming up with a unique combination of letters and colours to sum up the whole of a business. Fortunately, when I was working with my designer on the logo for my new online shop,, I found there is considerable guidance in the form of research and surveys on the do’s and don’ts.

Only the most international and well known of businesses can expect to be recognised by a symbol like the Mercedes star, the Nike flash or Apple’s bitten apple. I remember when I arrived at The Mayflower, the agency had tried to create an iconic ‘M’. It might have worked on a local level but unfortunately it coincided with the launch of Mates condoms, also sporting a zigzag first letter. Unless you or the designer you’re working with are very imaginative, it’s also easy to slip into the cliche of a house for an estate agent, a horse for a racetrack or theatrical masks for a theatre.

So don’t worry about a symbol or device. The first question should be what font should you choose to reflect your brand.

DO Choose The Right Font

Serif fonts, the ones where the letters have accents on the ends, are associated in people’s minds with trustworthiness and tradition. Good for a bank you might think and, yes, Lloyds, HSBC, Santander and Barclays all use serif fonts. Maybe the government wouldn’t have trusted RBS so much if they’d taken more note of the lack of twiddly bits on their logo.

Non serif fonts are seen as contemporary and stable. Script fonts that look like handwriting are feminine and friendly. ‘Modern’ fonts, which are round and geometric, are considered chic and intelligent. So, for a site that offers gifts to celebrate silver, ruby and even golden anniversaries, I chose the reliable, traditional serif font. Yahoo! went for something modern but with classic thick-thin letters.

Not that you can stop there. With thousands of businesses making use of every font, you have to do something to stand out. So

DO Customise The Font

You hit the jackpot if you can customise your font so that the mere shape of the letters is instantly recognisable, like Kelloggs or Coca Cola. You could write any word in their font and people would still associate it with that particular product.

Yahoo! chose to up the size of the final O and to scoop a bit out of the top of each letter (a bit so small as to be almost subliminal). All of us can do something minor to customise a font. I made the word Celebration italic or sloping. Not so inventive as Yahoo! but, hey, I was on a limited budget.

DON’T Design for only One Medium

One thing you must remember is that your exciting new logo may have to work across a number of media. It may be used on something as big as the side of a building, as odd as a tin can, as unreliable as newsprint, and as small as a smartphone. Because of the rise of the web, virtually all today’s top logos use crisp separate letters to avoid them coagulating into a blob when reduced in size. Not surprisingly, Google and Amazon show the way on this.

The problem I found with the original logo of my shop Your Life Your Style– designed for a shop front and written in one line- was that it was too small when reduced to fit on a poster, let alone a smartphone screen. I eventually changed it to fit into a square shape.

I’m fortunate that my new business will operate exclusively in digital media so my only consideration was making sure it would work when small. However, the name is way too long. I don’t know what I was thinking, when I came up with it! Well, I do, I was thinking of search engines looking for an anniversary and celebration website, but it made life awkward when it came to a digitally friendly logo. The best I could do was to put it on two lines. I think it works, just.

Then there’s colour.

DO Choose The Right Colour For your Logo

Given the limited number of fonts, you can make your logo more memorable by associating it with one or two particular colours. In fact, research shows that our subconscious judgement of a logo is based more on colour than font– between 62% and 90% of people’s first judgement is based on colour.

It doesn’t have to be an unusual colour. The most popular colours for the top brands are blue (33%), red (29%) and black/grey (28%). White is always a mistake unless you are prepared to put your logo in a box with a contrasting colour whenever it’s printed.

Red says action and energy while blue suggests dependability and strength in people’s minds. Black is considered neutral, serious and sophisticated. White is associated with purity. Yellow and orange are happy colours. Brown is warm and calm, while green is restful and nowadays associated with eco-friendliness. Grey is cool and corporate but is useful if you need something that will work well with a range of other colours.

DO Choose A Consistent Colour

One thing is for sure. Once you’ve chosen a colour, you should stick to it if you want people to instantly pick you out. Kelloggs and Coke both use red, as do 29% of all top companies, but you would take a lot longer to notice them on the shelves if their logos were sometimes green, sometimes yellow and sometimes rainbow coloured. By the way, apparently red stimulates hunger which is why so many food and drink brands use it.

DON’T Choose More Than Two Colours

A combination of two colours can increase memorability. The red and yellow of McDonalds is a case in point. More than two is usually too much to remember. I chose- actually, my partner chose- two colours, purple and pink, the colours of romance and femininity.

DO Follow Through

It always looks unprofessional if your new logo appears on your print while your old logo is still on your website. Don’t launch until everything from letterheads to advertisements have been changed. Produce a guide for everyone who uses your logo, both internal and external, that shows how it should be used in all circumstances and provides a web link to a page where it can be downloaded .

DO Trademark The Final Logo

No point in going to all that trouble and have someone copy it.

Ann_Cel_logoWill our logo convey the brand image we need for Will it work on a practical level? I dare say I could have done better if I’d had a £10,000 budget but, in business as in life, there always comes that moment when you know it’s not perfect but you have to let it go. A bit like this blog.

This blog was written by Paul Lewis, owner of the marketing consultancy The Lewis Experience and online retailer Your Life Your Style, and former Head of Marketing and Operations at The Mayflower Theatre. You can connect with him on Google+ and LinkedIn.