Let me start by saying that good designers are a necessary part of good design. But if you don’t have time or budget and you need a logo yesterday, you can get by for now with a text-based logo.

Just because you know what you want (assuming you do), that doesn’t mean you know how to execute it – that’s what the pros are for. If you can use a designer, do it! But sometimes either you don’t have any budget, or you run into a project for which the full-blown designer treatment is overkill. I am speaking of the quick and dirty project – the Q&D. This is that project that your father-in-law asks you to do for his fantasy football league, or that gratis project for your church or book club, or that project for your tiny startup when you need business cards in just 48 hours.

A badly-executed logo can be worse than no logo at all, so if you need a logo fast (unless you are a great designer), your best option is the text-based logo to use as a stand-in.

There are numerous resources about how to select a font for your text-based logo, so I won’t get into that here other than to say you should select a font that communicates your brand. Think of the key words that you associate with your brand, then look for a font that helps communicate that to your audience. Here are some examples, both obvious and not so obvious:

Finding Your Font

Your operating system came with a pretty good set of fonts that you use in your day-to-day activites — from emails and documents to the occassional spreadsheet. But these are the fonts that everybody has. Using these fonts will mean that your text-based logo will be easy for anyone to duplicate. In fact a competing business could easily (and legally) use the exact same font in their own work. This is fine for your father-in-law’s fantasy football team or book club newsletter, but probably not for a small business. If you want to go beyond the basic fonts for your Q&D logo project, start with a unique font.

When you go online looking for fonts, there are basically the free fonts, and the ones you buy.

  • Free fonts: I don’t have anything against free fonts in general — there are some very nice fonts out there that are free. Download them, play with them, and if you like them, consider sending a nice note and a PayPal donation to its creator. Note that free fonts are usually intended for personal use. If you plan to use the font for a business logo (as opposed to that fantasy football team), then follow the directions for a commercial license on the page where you downloaded the font. Usually a small donation is all that is necessary to obtain a commercial license. Take care: I  have on several occasions downloaded a free font and found it to be lacking certain features. With free fonts, you sometimes get exactly what you paid for.
  • Purchased Fonts:  I’m an admitted font-junkie, and my dealer of choice is MyFonts.com. The MyFonts website is a virtual playground for font enthusiasts and is an excellent resource for experts and novices alike. It makes it easy to browse through tens of thousands of available fonts, try the fonts with sample text you enter in multiple sizes, and see all the available styles.
    [Full disclosure: I participate in the MyFonts affiliate program, but I would still recommend them even if I didn’t!]

Getting Started

Once you have your font, experiment with weights and styles, but keep it simple. Look for ways you can arrange the words of your company name (or initials, if you prefer), that result in a pleasant-looking logo that is a good fit for your brand. As long as the logo communicates your brand and you like it (ask a few of your trusted colleagues for their opinion too!), then go forward with it now, knowing that in a month or two (or a year) when you’re beyond the hectic start-up phase of your company you can invest the resources to hire professionals to help you with branding and design a logo that will mark your company’s growth into it’s next phase.

The moral of the story:

Use a real design professional to create your logo if you can, but if you simply can’t, consider making a text-based logo yourself using a unique font. A bad logo is worse than NO logo, so keep it simple and ask your peers to weigh in with their opinions. The point is to get a usable logo in place that communicates your brand so you can get on with the business of running your business.

An important postscript:  When you have the resources in place, hire a designer and get a”real” logo. You will be amazed to see what a professional designer can do — even with a simple text-based logo. To see what I mean, see 200 Text-based Logos and 125 Creative Text-based Logos (this second link takes a bit longer to load, but it’s worth the wait!)

Working on a new logo? This post on logo design has wonderful advice, not only for those creating a logo, but those who are assessing logo options provided to you from a designer.

And here is more on the color of your logo.

And finally, the folks from FirstSiteGuide have created a very thorough guide on creating your logo, including links to tools that can help you finish your design. Check out their How to Make a Logo, and check out the other guides and resources on the FirstSiteGuide website.

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