Small businesses looking to create a new logo - or alter an existing one - should keep one thing first and foremost in mind: ...

by Gina Binole
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Small businesses looking to create a new logo - or alter an existing one - should keep one thing first and foremost in mind: A good logo makes not just a first impression, but a lasting one as well. Think Nike's swoosh. McDonald's golden arches. Apple's apple.

Susanne Manheimer, a graphics design instructor at The Art Institute of Los Angeles who specializes in small-business identities, says the right logo can help build a brand and give small companies a more polished, professional look. Manheimer and a few other marketing specialists offer these tips for companies in search of an identity and a new or different logo:

Check out the competition. Compare the images they've chosen. Are they bold or conservative? What image do you think might distance you from the pack? You want a logo to be unique, but not too off-the-wall. A logo should reflect the nature of your business and provide people with some clues as to the services you provide or the products you sell. If you sell high-end furniture, for example, you might want to use a more classic typeface. If you want to reflect speed of service, you can be more fluid in your image, like say the FTD florist logo.

Remember a simple design works best for all mediums. It should be easy to see no matter the size, easy to recognize, and easy to download. Colors aren't as crucial as you might think, but think twice before selecting bold ones. They typically don't reproduce well, and can increase printing costs. If the logo doesn't look good in black and white, it won't look good no matter what color scheme you choose. Keep in mind that a logo will not only be used on a Web site, but it also will be placed on business cards, fax paper and envelopes. Pick a clean typeface and steer clear of thin type as well as type with serifs, or little feet. They won't reproduce well, and if the type needs to be reduced, it can make for a difficult read.

Think of the future and avoid being too trendy. A good logo will last your company 15 years and give customers a chance to burn the image into their brains. Even with these tips, it's important for a company to get outside help unless it has in-house designers who have some experience with logos as well as the time to devote to the project.

Having a logo designed or modified can set a small business back anywhere from $500 to $50,000, depending on how elaborate you want to make the process.

In addition to the design costs, companies also must remember they will need to start fresh and transfer the new logo to everything, from shipping labels to envelopes. All of that can add to the final bill, a sudden changeover is preferable to a gradual transition.

Sonya Snyder, president of Quill Communications in Orlando, Fla. says it's important to select a designer whose "eye," talents and past projects are in line with your business, your personality, your market and your budget.

Finally, once a business has settled on a logo, it's important to trademark it and protect it from use by other companies.



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