For startup business owners and graphic designers alike, there’s nothing more satisfying than building a new brand from scratch. It’s an exhilarating process where you never quite know what’s around the next corner. Startups need to be prepared for anything — and that includes creating a library of logos early on that will be flexible enough to suit any situation.
Here’s a handy checklist of essential logo design creative assets for startups and entrepreneurs.
_____ 1. Design logos with and without the company tagline.
Slogans and taglines help prospective customers to understand what your new business does and which markets you serve — a critical element for any startup brand. Unfortunately, there won’t always be room for that tagline on every single marketing or advertising piece, so create at least two versions and make sure that the logo design itself can stand alone and still look amazing without the slogan attached.
_____ 2. Design for a variety of backgrounds.
Every logo library should include not only your standard four-color logos, but also grayscale (black-and-white) versions, single-color versions, and reversed-type (white on black) versions. Creating these ahead of time will prompt discussions about acceptable usage and portrayal of your logo across a variety of media. Decisions arising out of these acceptable-use discussions can then be documented in your Branding and Creative Style Guide (see below).
_____ 3. Design an icon-only logo.
If all goes well, at some point your new startup business will become widely recognizable and your logo won’t have to work quite so hard to identify the brand. When that day comes, you’ll probably want to have an icon-only version of your logo ready and waiting. Have a vision for the future by incorporating a visually compelling icon into your logo from the very beginning.
_____ 4. Export logos in multiple file formats.
Most logos are designed in Adobe Illustrator and then exported for placement into other media. Be sure to export your logos in a variety of file formats to suit almost any media environment. At a minimum, your logo library should include logos in the following formats:
- PNG (for digital) and EPS (for print) — Use these when you need a transparent background allowing you to layer the logo over top of photos or other colored elements.
- JPG (for digital) and TIF (for print) — Use these when your logo has photorealistic design elements such as color gradients or shadows.
- GIF (for digital) and BMP (for print) — Use these when your logo was created using simple line art or flat color with no gradients or shadows. (Avoid a common designer mistake: Saving flat-color logos as JPGs or TIFs will result in an artificially inflated file size because Adobe will actually add color where no color is needed — such as in pure white-space areas.)
_____ 5. Design stacked and horizontal orientations.
For ultimate flexibility, you’ll want to design both vertical (stacked) and horizontal versions of your new corporate logo. Having both orientations is an absolute must, especially in the digital ad space. When designing PPC banner ads, for example, leaderboard banners most often require horizontal logos, whereas skyscraper banners require stacked logos. Taking this into consideration now will help you to avoid design headaches later.
_____ 6. Leave room for registered marks and trademarks.
Even if the company hasn’t officially filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, chances are it will still want to protect its intellectual property. When designing a brand new logo, be sure to designate space in the design for placement of either a registered trademark (R), an unregistered trademark (TM) or an unregistered service mark (SM) symbol. (Note that it’s never appropriate to include a copyright (c) symbol in a logo design.)
_____ 7. Plan ahead for sub-brands and spin-offs.
You’ll be way ahead of the curve if you can also draft a few sub-brand or spin-off logos in preparation for your startup company’s eventual growth into new areas (i.e., sister companies and new service lines).
_____ 8. Draft a Branding and Creative Style Guide.
Your Style Guide should address basic identity standards (such as approved font types and colors), but also issues around branding, such as:
- what the brand is all about
- tone and voice (i.e., how branding messages are to be communicated and how not to communicate them)
- wording of common calls to action
- proper use of acronyms and abbreviations in place of the company name
- custom hashtags and social media handles
Regarding your logo specifically, the Style Guide should specify:
- acceptable logo orientations (stacked vs. horizontal, etc.)
- logo colors (listed in both CMYK and RGB)
- minimum logo size allowed
- minimum padding allowed around the edges when logo is positioned next to text or other editorial elements
- visual examples of the logo being used in four-color, grayscale (with shade percentages specified), single or spot color, and reversed color scenarios
- visual examples of unacceptable logo uses (such as tilted logos, screened-back logos, or incorrect colors, etc.)
_____ 9. Design logos in varying resolutions.
Depending on the medium, you’ll need to stock logos in varying resolutions (dpi). For print pieces such as brochures and business cards, you’ll need anywhere from 1200 to 2400 dpi resolution logos. For digital media, 150 to 300 dpi resolution will generally do the trick.
Note that scaling down to 72 dpi used to be the acceptable “web” friendly resolution for logos used online, but if your logo is going to be used in a responsive environment, where it will shrink and grow based on the user’s device width, 72 dpi is no longer a safe bet, as your logo can become pixelated and fuzzy when enlarged on-screen. Better to go with 300 dpi so that your logo will look good on any device.
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