So you’ve got a brilliant idea, a show-stopper, and you’re ready to light the world on fire? Well, not so fast. First you’ve got to give that genius of yours a winning look. After all, we don’t go to the jewelry store to look at diamonds in the rough, right? We go to look at the shiny, sparkly, diamonds! (Well, I do, at least.)
The first piece of advice I have for anyone going out there for the first time is to really invest in the design. Do NOT have your cousin or your wife’s friend from work do it, unless they are paid full time in some capacity as a designer. A good designer will have education in what makes good design, they will have proper designer software, and they will have the proper computer to create designs. Make sure you entrust your big idea to a professional. This is your first impression they’re creating, and as we know, you only get one chance to make a first impression.
Let’s start with the logo for your big idea or business. Choose some colors or logos that you like (or hate) and talk about it with your designer. The logos you present should be of similar business or market as yours – even if they’re examples of what NOT to do, it’ll be a good starting point.
Good logos have something in common, and that is that they help companies become recognizable brands, no matter where you see them. Good branding always has that familiarity associated with it. Your big idea needs that! It doesn’t, however, necessarily need a tagline. It just needs to represent you, and your brand, and what you’re trying to show the world. It also needs to really speak to your target audience, draw them in and entice them.
So how do you do that? Well, logos have 2 major elements, the icon and the text treatment.
The font for the text should represent you well. Try to choose a professionally designed font, like from myfonts.com. I’ve also been using fonts from Google Webfonts lately because they’re so easily embeddable into a website. Why not choose a font you can carry over online? I mean, if nice ones are available for free, I say go for it. Fonts have all different personalities, from professional to fussy to sophisticated to sassy to casual. What are you trying to project?
The icon, or the graphic part of the logo should also represent you. Don’t just choose something meaningful. It needs to represent your idea well. You don’t want people looking at it wondering what the heck a white dove has to do with your financial services company. Let the graphic help explain what it is you’re offering. Logos don’t ALWAYS need a graphic, either. For example, for an event planner logo I designed, I just used some sparkly starry type graphics to shine up the text treatment. This explains her business without having to have some type of “event” graphic, like…I don’t know, a bow tie? Champagne glass? Too cliché! Old Navy’s logo is a great example of this. If your big idea doesn’t need an icon, then forget it!
In my book, this comes way before the business card. Doing your website will help you get clear about your audience and business goals, since you’ll be writing your bio for the about page, your services out for the services page, or getting prototypes done for the shopping cart. Whatever the biz, you need to get that website done, pronto. A typical website has about 5 pages minimum: Home, About, Services, a Portfolio/Photo Gallery/Links/Resources/Testimonials page, and a Contact page. You should be able to gather information for those five.
The website, like the logo, needs to be done by a professional. Even if that means you get a professional WordPress theme and have someone install and configure it for you, don’t go cheap. I recommend WordPress for a variety of reasons but the bottom line is that you can manage the content yourself. And that is invaluable. Plus they look neat and are expandable. Ideally, you’ll want your Facebook page, Twitter feed and LinkedIn profile to be accessible from your site, and this is easiest in WordPress, in my experience.
Even if you don’t go WordPress, the site should represent you well. Like fonts, websites can give off a feel when you first pull it up – and sometimes that feel is new, technically savvy, warm and fuzzy, and sometimes, that feel is yikes or old-fashioned or unprofessional, if the site isn’t done right. It should have the same colors/feel as the logo, and it should use a high resolution version of the logo and be placed in the upper left corner. If you represent fun, make sure your site is fun! If you represent law, make sure your website is stern and intellectual. Either way, you need to make sure it’s done right before you move on to print materials.
These days, your business card can have all sorts of neat graphics on them. You don’t have to have linen finish or raised print. There are amazing online printers out there that will print your 1000 business cards for about $40, full color, glossy, and with rounded corners. Of course your logo will go on the card, as well as your web address and email address. A phone number is good too. Snail mail and fax number these days are totally optional – and lots of times including this info will take up valuable real estate on your 3.5 x 2 inch business card. You don’t need a tagline, just contact info and maybe a little info about what you’re peddling.
Logo, website, business cards. This is really all you need to start gaining momentum. It’s great to get started in social media, and there are great ways of branding those too. The main things to remember across all platforms are:
1. Use similar fonts on each piece – the logo, website, and business card should all be using the same font;
2. Use the same colors to keep the consistent feel;
3. Make sure you’re always aiming those pieces at your target audience, no matter who it is. Speak to your customer!