Category Archives: Logo Development

Color & Branding – Number 2 in a series

Let’s start with a secondary color instead of a primary, just to keep us on our toes.


Orange is the color this week.

Incidentally, the major source of information on individual colors I’ve used to formulate these blog entries is About:Desktop Publishing. You can access the entire color spectrum at

It’s interesting that when I went to the page on “orange” on the website, the Google ads were all about the fruit, oranges. This just serves as a reminder that many words may have more than one meaning or association. In the evaluation phase of developing a brand name, be sure to take that into account.

Anyway, back to the color orange in branding.

Major attributes of orange are warmth, energy and cheerfulness. First of all, it’s a warm color on the spectrum, with red on one side and yellow on the other. It’s also the color associated with our most pervasive icon, the sun.

Orange demands attention but doesn’t scream for it. Thus, though it can be vibrant, it can be a background or secondary color in some palettes. Think about a box of Tide. Yet, as an accent with a complementary or contrasting color, orange will stand out and make a statement. It is not frail.

Examples of orange in branding

Because it’s energetic, and because it’s the color of the very healthful orange fruit, orange can be associated with good health, particularly when combined with a solid green.

Though it’s vibrant, orange also has a “dark side”. It’s the color of falling, (that is dead) leaves, so it’s associated with fall and Halloween. It’s the color chosen by the Fightin’ Gators of of the UofF, my almamater and the bane of the rest of the SEC. But orange is predominantly a cheerful, friendly color.

Medium blue is the color diametrically across the color wheel from orange blue. That makes for a contrasting combination in tension but also provides a pleasing combination. When combined with red and/or yellow, you have analogous colors that form an exciting, warm and attention-getting palette.

And FedEx found the combination of purple and orange to be both exciting and unique. Home Depot’s logo and trade dress is predominantly orange, using white as its partner.

Orange can be associated with the tropics, summer, friendliness, good health, warmth and excitement.

According to Mitch Meyerson, a psychologist associated with Jay Conrad Levinson,s Guerrilla Marketing empire, orange appeals to intellectuals, and it’s a good choice to accent business-to-business communications.

Looks like we started this series off with a winner.

Martin Jelsema


Branding Basics – Step 9

Now the brand needs a logo.

Here is where many entrepreneurs stub their toes. Here they have a momentary lapse of judgment.

Since their sons or daughters are pretty good on the computer, and there’s software named “Logo Creator” or “Business Logos in Minutes”, they believe they can cut corners and do-it-themselves.

I’ll stir the pot a little here by saying: “how can a novice create a powerful logo when most graphic artists can’t create powerful logos?”
Non-designers (and I include here design students and other acquaintances without logo design experience) will make a lot of unprofessional mistakes that are just “nits” to most entrepreneurs. They don’t consider such things as: kerning and line spacing, proportion of graphic to logotype and of logotype to tagline, color selection for consistency in all media, typeface selection that’s relevant to the brand story, need for variations in different media and context, scalability, legibility, need to document specs for future applications, and a myriad other details that surround the main theme of the logo.
And main theme problems abound, too. They include reverting to cliché, rendering the name illegible through “gimmick” technique, over-designing so it won’t convert to very small or very large display, using an icon no one understands or appreciates, introducing extraneous and distracting elements, considering how the logo will interact with other brand elements, selecting an inappropriate type style or piece of clipart.

Another favorite approach designers take is to take initial caps from the brand name and somehow make that their logo. Now IBM and GE made that work, but especially for a start-up company, I believe the entire name should be part of the logo. Initials in and of themselves have no personality let alone meaning. Unless you’ve plenty of money and time, relying on initials to establish a brand is pretty tenuous. (Incidentally, “logo” used to mean the name rendered uniquely, but common usage allows the graphic elements accompanying the name to be considered part of the logo.)
Now, convinced you should seek help, where do you go? I suggest you go to an established graphics designer with credentials in logo design. You might ask for references and ask those references about how the designer approached the project based on the discussion presented here.
Then provide the designer with direction, including your brand platform (Step 5), your brand story (Step 6) and your naming brief (Step 7).
There are four reasons many graphic artists have a problem creating powerful logos:
1.   They weren’t given direction about the logo’s function within the brand.
2.   They become enamored with the design aspects of initial caps.
3.   They tend to think beauty before function.
4.   They tend to follow the latest trend in logo design (now it’s arches and arcs
So have discussions about your brand and share your branding story and vision with the designer. Then give them direction. Don’t worry, a competent designer will appreciate getting direction based on strategy. It will not curtail the “creative process”.
Tell them you do not want a logo based on the initials of the name – you want the entire name as part of the logo. Tell them how you anticipate using the logo. Tell them how it should interact with other elements like taglines, product/divisional designations, logos of partners. Also, give them your personal “sacred cows” and “taboos” up front.
Then, make sure they know they can call you anytime to test an idea they may come up with. They’ll almost never call, but make sure they have permission, and that they understand the importance you attach to the logo as part of the brand.
In addition to the logo, I also suggest you find out from your preferred designer how they intend to document the use and reproduction of the logo for various applications. We’ll cover this in more detail in the next step.

More on memes

Last week I blogged about memes as a means of branding. Memes are icons or phrases with universal meaning such as the red cross of the Red Cross organization.

I suggested that some marketing advisors embraced the idea of associating a product or service with an existing meme such as Prudential has done with the Rock of Gibraltar. I then stated that I’d be very careful in associating your brand – or incorporating a meme into your brand as Prudential has done – because the meme by its very definition is not unique.

I still hold to this premise. But I must expand my thoughts to say that a meme can be a really powerful brand element or association if you’ve created it. In other words, if you’ve established and promoted your brand through a unique graphic, audio or text element that has become a meme through your presentation of it, and through people’s acceptance of it, you’ve got a winner.

Another way to say it: you’re practicing viral marketing. (As an aside, is it a coincidence that viral and virile have the same root?)

So if you’ve created “where’s the beef?”, or a bald-headed, house-cleaning genie, or “you’ve got mail”, you may be gaining brand equity. (Just a warning, though, the toy bunny with a drum is most often associated with Duracell even though he belongs to Energizer Holdings.)

Still, finding a unique way to express the essence of your brand is vital, whether that icon or tagline ever becomes an authentic meme.

Martin Jelsema


Beware of Complicated Logo Designs

I recently offended the proud owner of a brand new logo. She had just paid a lot of money to a well-respected design center for a logo in full-color with gradients, fine line work and copy-over-icon.
Even though it passed all the designer-important standards (good use of contrasting colors, relevant imagery, proper proportions, a distinctive typeface), it was too limiting for real-world applications.
There was no way you could have used the logo in a black & white ad. If it were reproduced smaller than an inch wide, it was illegible. There were no allowances for reproduction as jewelry or ad specialty applications. It had been designed to look good on fine paper and on the website, and without regard for any other application.

When I pointed that out, the owner accused me of being jealous and walked out. Sorry, she wouldn’t leave me a copy to show you.
Here’s another example of pushing an original logo design past its limits. Just south of Denver is a relatively new community, Highlands Ranch. It’s a planned community developed by big money. They went all out in designing streets, neighborhoods and, yes, their brand..

But their logo stinks.

They’ve taken a dramatic piece of art depicting an eagle (I think) taking off into the wind. Its feathers are in disarray just as they would be in nature. Quite dramatic. But then for almost every sign in the community – from major “entering” monolithic displays to street signs, they display the logo in silhouette as shown here.

Highlands Ranch logo - b&w

Without the explanation, I’ll bet you too would be hard-pressed to identify this icon, this symbol of a city.

A note: look at the small logo from Todd’s And Top 150 below my signature. In larger sizes, it’s a colorful, unusual and relevant logo. But look what’s happened to it when shrunk to a smaller size. You can’t read it or identify the Lego blocks as Lego blocks. Oh, well.

The moral is to ask your designer to design a logo that can be used in a variety of applications, from one-column “help-wanted” newspaper ads to four-color 24-sheet posters. Also ask them to sacrifice their “artistic” mind-set for something both relevant to the project and intelligible to viewers.

There are certain criteria I apply to logo design, but that’s the subject of a future blog.
Martin Jelsema

Power 150: ranked 118