What’s in a logo?

The Oxford English dictionary defines the word “Logo” as “A symbol or other small design adopted by an organisation to identify its products, uniform, vehicles, etc.” (I know, a very clichéd opening to an article!)

By the definition above, a logo is to your business as a name is to a person. The only major difference being that a logo can incorporate a design and colours. That’s not to say that you can’t do that with your name, I mean Prince did it! The point is that a logo is important for your business as it identifies you and your brand as well as becoming synonymous with your reputation.

There are all sort of logos too! Simple, complex, colourful, clever, big, small. They are just as unique and individual as each of us. (FYI, I know you didn’t ask but I tend to like clever yet simple logos such as FedEx with its hidden arrow or Baskin Robbins where the “B” & “R” show the number 31 to represent their 31 flavours of ice cream)

Now at this point, you may be thinking, “Is this person going to be discussing tips on how to create a logo?” The simple answer is No. I am not really the creative, artsy type and I know very little about logos and what is good and what is bad. What I am going to discuss in this article is the VaraTech logo journey in the hope that maybe you have had a similar experience or that you are just starting out and need help with ideas on how to start or maybe you are going through a re-branding but aren’t sure where you should start and that my experience may help to kick start your thought process. If all else fails, you may just have a good chuckle at me doing everything arse-upwards.

When VaraTech started, the logo was a distant thought. I knew I had to do one at some point but I felt that it could wait. It wasn’t until about 4 months in to starting that I decided to spend time on my logo. I know what you’re thinking, “Why on earth did you not have your logo sorted before you started?!” Well, the answer to that is that I was basically starting from scratch. No supplier chain, no contacts, no nothing. I also wanted to spend some quality time on it to make sure that I was happy with it and it represented VaraTech in the best possible way. So while I was building these relationships, the logo took a back seat. That was until I attended some networking events. *Face palm!* No logo meant no business card which meant no business card to hand to others to promote the business. That was rough.

I finally decided I can’t put it off much longer and actually sat down to brainstorm.

Hurdle 1 – Where do I start?

So this was the moment where I actually sat down to work and focus on the logo and instantly had a myriad of questions. “What is a logo? How big? What design? What colours? Should I include the full business name or just the initials? Do I need a picture of something “techy” to be part of my logo? Should I make it simple, complex, clever or all 3? Shall I just look for someone to design one for me? How much will that cost?” and the questions went on and on and on. As you may have guessed, I overwhelmed myself – at the 1st hurdle!

So here is what I did. I went and spoke to my most knowledgeable and most favourite uncle…Uncle Google. (You can also speak to Aunt Bing, Cousin Yahoo or other family search engine). Now my Uncle Google is not a judgemental person and I can ask, what may be perceived as the most stupid, mundane, simple questions and I will get an answer, no judgement. And that is exactly what I did. “What is a logo?” – search. The search came back with millions of different articles on logos, design, the science behind visual interpretation of the colours used…everything. Excellent! So now, one by one, I started to search all the different questions I had and then use the information I had collected to decide what was best for the business (I still didn’t know what was best or what was actually going to work, but I made an educated guess from the information I had gathered)

Hurdle 2 – What should it look like?

After gathering all the information regarding logos, I had made a few choices in terms of the elements that I wanted to incorporate as part of the VaraTech logo. I decided that I wanted to include the full business name “VaraTech”, I wanted it to be simple but clever and I wanted to use 2 colours.

Now although I had gathered information on logos in general, I now needed to see what designs and colours etc. were being used in the industry that I was to be a part of – the tech industry. The colours used tend to be mainly blue, then red, then black and then a mix of other colours.

I chose to use black and a blue. The colours you choose do matter and they have an impact on the way your customers, clients, suppliers etc. all see your business. There are companies who tend to be bold with their colour choice and that is OK too. I think it ultimately depends on what statement you want to make about your business. For example, look at Microsoft or Google, they use 4-5 colours which tends to represent diversity, whereas Apple now uses gradients of grey/silver which represents balance and calm. (This is the science of colours showing through!)

For VaraTech, the blue was chosen because it was to represent strength, dependability and loyalty which I think is an extension of my own personality and values. Black was chosen to compliment the blue to show prestige, sophistication and value.

Hurdle 3 – How should it look?

Now armed with the basic elements of what I wanted in the logo, I set about trying to put it on paper. At this point, I could have got a graphic designer involved and discussed what I wanted in a logo and then had them draw up some designs etc. but I decided not to. I wanted to have a go myself. I wanted to give myself a visual representation of what the VaraTech logo could be and it would also serve as a mental thing where I have an attitude of giving something a go even though I have never done it before and know that what I produce could be absolute rubbish. I have nothing to lose. Whatever designs come from what I produced can only be better, right?

Disclaimer: The following sentence is not a product endorsement, just a personal preference.

Nothing really beats a good old pen/pencil and paper when it comes to drawing or writing but in this instance, I decided to use my Microsoft Surface Pro to start my designs. Once I started, I ended up with a few designs which I thought were decent enough to progress with, I then decided to employ the skills of a graphic designer. Although I wanted to “give it a go”, I still have limitations with my creative ability and it was time to step it up and give my designs to a professional who can draw up my designs that actually look good as well as coming up with ideas that may be even better than I had imagined.

The reason I waited up until this point was so that I had more clarity on what and how I wanted VaraTech to be represented through its logo. This clarity is what I wanted to be able to communicate with the graphic designer but also give them the freedom to put their creative spin on it.

Logo Design 1
Logo Design 2
Logo Design 3
Logo Design 4

Hurdle 4 – Enter Brad

To be perfectly honest, this should be the hurdle where I go through the trials and tribulations of trying to find a decent graphics designer that was good value. However, I was fortunate to be able to skip this step as I already knew someone for the job, Brad. (Also, I know the title of this paragraph suggests that Brad was a hurdle; in fact, this was the easiest and simplest part of the process).

I have known Brad for a while now, he designed some fliers and promotional material for a Thai bar and restaurant that I was involved with a few years back. His work was excellent and quality. He is an Everton FC fan, but I don’t hold that against him ;-). Brad was really easy to work with. I contacted him and we spoke for probably 20-30 mins while he was on the bus home. Most of the time was spent catching up but he told me exactly how he would go about helping me and designing the logo as well as telling me his fee up front for his time (which was more than reasonable!). I also told him that he could have free reign to be creative with the designs and create something himself. I sent him my designs and a day or 2 later I had 5 logo designs. 2 of which were mine and 3 that Brad had made.

The designs that were mine, which he had put his professional touch on, were excellent. However, the designs that he created were certainly different and bold and gave me food for thought. There was one that actually stood out as a contender along with the designs I created (picture 1). I narrowed down the 5 designs to 2 and gave him my feedback. Based on my feedback, Brad produced more logos and went above and beyond by creating all the different versions possible (picture 2). What ensued was a very difficult choice! How do I pick the right one?! Answer – Test them out and ask a sample of people.

Picture 1
Picture 2

Hurdle 5 – Testing, Testing 1…2…3

“How do you “test” a logo?” I hear you ask. Well, the way I did it was like this. Firstly, I took the logo designs and printed them on an A4 piece of paper as if they were my letterhead. I then sent the various designs to family, friends and business owners that I knew, and asked them which one they preferred and liked and why. The results came in and there was definitely a preference towards one particular logo. The only thing was, I preferred the other one (only slightly, but to me it represented more than the preferred logo).

Why did I prefer the other logo against the samples preferred choice? Well, both the logos had the same incorporated colours but it was the circle pattern emerging from behind the VaraTech name that stood out to me. For me, it represented continued growth for VaraTech as well as continued growth for the businesses that we wanted to support. It also represents emerging and developing technology and being at the forefront of customer needs. It represented more than I imagined and it is simple and professional yet effective.

Market Preferred Logo (Left)
Chosen Logo (Right) (Against the Market)

Finish Line

We got there in the end! A logo! A visual representation to identify VaraTech. What a journey!

In designing the logo, there are other lessons to be learned here that can apply to anywhere in business. 

1. First and foremost, Give-It-a-go! If you don’t attempt something, you will never know. If your first attempt at something isn’t what you expected that’s wonderful. You learn and improve. But what if your first attempt is better than expected?

2. Keep learning. Research, research, research! The more information you have, the better you are to make better informed decisions.

3. Collaborate. Some people are good at lots of things, some people are good at some things and some people are good at one thing. You need to fill your skills gap whether you learn the skill yourself or you collaborate with someone who has the skill(s) you need. Collaboration is a win-win – every time!

4. Don’t be afraid to do the opposite of what the market is doing (or saying) if it makes sense. In my example, the “market” was the sample of people who gave me feedback on the logo designs. The consensus was towards a particular logo but I chose to go the opposite way to the “market”. It made sense because of what I wanted VaraTech to represent.

5. Probably not a good idea to attend a networking event with a logo and business card.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this article and enjoyed the VaraTech logo journey. Keep checking back for more articles as we write them.