Starting Up: The Logo
Jan 31, 2008 12:40

I've never had a logo before. In my previous work as a sole proprietor, the brand was just me and the brand identity was my face. Shindig is a company (just a set of legal rights and a bank account - no face), so it needs its own visual brand identity. Since people will see the company mainly through business cards or the web, it doesn't need a jingle or a celebrity spokesperson - but, like other web business, it needs a strong logo identity.

I did some rough designs myself, just so I'd have something to go on my early invoices:

Strong colour, a slightly 'western' font to match the name - but this wasn't really what I wanted as an identity. A key aspect of this company would be that it isn't blandly corporate and that it should have some personality. I like to think of myself as a somewhat cheerful and fun person - and I wanted that to be reflected in the brand identity. 37Signals said this quite well: "Differentiate yourself from bigger companies by being personal and friendly".

However I quickly realized that while I can do basic design work myself, getting a real logo involves more than a nifty 60pt. font with a gradient and a drop reflection. Looking at Logopond was supposed to provide inspiration, but it confirmed that a great logo was out of the range of my abilities - especially with all the other stuff I needed to do to start a company and get it making money.

So I got hold of Marla Dixon, a local designer, musician, and all around cool person. She had done a great job designing my business cards back in 2005, and I knew she would do another great job now.

I sent her dozens of links from Logopond for ideas of what I was thinking about. She came back with a lot of great ideas - the two smiling dudes in the "I"s in Shindig came up pretty early, but usually in more spectacular fonts. I really liked the idea, but I wasn't entirely sure about the font choice. Whimsy is great, but I needed a balance - I am building business software, after all.

I sent emails to some of my colleagues with some of Marla's designs, as well as, for contrast, a quick mock-up of a card I had thrown together in Photoshop, which looked like an ad for a steakhouse:

The feedback was kind of surprising: turns out everyone who lived/worked in the 416 area code (i.e. downtown) really liked the fun logo with the jagged fonts and the little dudes. People who lived and worked in the 905 (suburbia) actually preferred the my 'steakhouse' mock-up! Unfortunately most of my prospective customers for the S.O.S. are in light-industrial / commercial districts in the 905, like Mississauga, Brampton, Markham, and Vaughan.

So Marla and I went back and forth for a while and eventually - over a few Guinnesses - decided to compromise by keeping (and even highlighting) the dudes, but toning down the font to a more basic sans-serif. The result is, I think, something that is fun but still professional.

The logo implies connections - it's web-based software after all. It's also human-focused (my early work in the 1990s had the byline "Computer Help for Human Beings"), and it has a sense of fun. It also has strong clean type that's clearly identifiable at a distance. Also, the colours can be changed around without diluting the branding statement, and it looks good either on its own or in a box:

The two 'dudes' by the way are named "Jack" and "Herman" - named after my two grandfathers, John Burke and Herman Iverson. I'm still working out their exact personalities - they may yet show up in their own comics. They seem to be having a good time, though.

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