Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Make Sure Your Logo Can Handle the Job at Any Size

Note: This is the third in a four-part series of guest posts on B2B branding strategy and website design from Rebekah E. Donaldson ("Red") and Cris Rominger of B2B Communications.

Today, logos must work well at 2 pixels wide or stretching the full length of a trade show banner.

Size matters

One of the big laughs in the film “Spinal Tap” came when the band took to the stage to sing of Stonehenge. The set was supposed to feature a replica of a section of Stonehenge standing an imposing 18 feet tall. Due to a miscommunication problem with the designer, it shows up at a ridiculous 18 inches tall.

When it comes to your logo, you want something that works no matter what size. Sticking with the music theme for a bit, consider how graphic designers have had to adapt as the 12-inch LP jacket gave way to the 5-inch CD cover, and finally to the tiny icon that shows up on an iPod. The February 2009 issue of Wired magazine gives examples.

Today your logo has to work as tiny square icon in a browser address (see our website for example) to 50-foot long banner hanging from the ceiling of the Cow Palace… and also on business cards and in email marketing…

We all need reminders

I’ll use myself as an example of what doesn’t work. I was moving super fast when redoing our company’s logo in 2007. We considered lots of things before signing off on a final pick, but I didn’t test it in all contexts. And I got burned. When we applied the logo to our website, it didn’t work well and we had to tweak it. To use the logo in reverse (white on blue site header) we had to nearly double the letters’ width. Doh! I should have followed the same process we use with our clients.

Lesson: vet all choices against the basics:

• Does it clearly differentiate our company?
• Is it memorable?
• Is it attractive?

Even pros have room to improve

Because of the diversity of contexts, you have to:

• Know what you must convey vs what you want to convey, and
• Beware of certain kinds of logos
• Beware of incongruity between your brand identity and your written positioning statements

Compare these five examples of companies trying to position themselves as on the leading edge of their fields. All logos are shown at 1.5 inches wide. Three to four of them need updates to make them work in a Web 2.0 world.


Bulldog Solutions’ logo is so memorable that it wins in my book. The tag line is small (it reads “Lead Generation Unleashed”), but short and powerful like a bulldog. The dog can be shrunk to icon size and still convey just the right tone: tenacious, fierce, and loyal… with a wink of humor. The company actually uses a blue paw print for their browser icon.

Bluewolf's logo is clean and scales down well. I’m partial to the blue. I think the brand identity would be stronger with the addition of a clear and concise tag line and a unique mark to use when confined to a tiny space. Indeed, I don’t see an browser bar icon when I visit their site.

Rubicon Marketing Group’s logo is interesting. The deep red color stands out -- in a good way. The gray is a great compliment to it. The roughly 2x1 proportions of the mark are useful. The tag line makes me want to learn more. The serif font seems old school for a company competing as a leader in modern marketing. In the browser bar they use a red capital “R” for their mark. I wonder about incorporating a unique mark to use when confined to a tiny space.

Verticurl’s logo could use several updates. A white background and 2x1 dimensions will be more versatile. I would consider a different type treatment to convey the distinction between the first and second parts of the word. The tag line could move below and expand if it is compelling. Also there’s the need for a distinguishing mark.

Pedowitz Group’s logo is most troubling. The graphic to the left of the words says to me “blue pizza!” while the tag line text says: “The Leader in Web 2.0 Marketing.” The blue pizza is in the browser bar when I visit their site. Look at it more closely, in their services brief PDF. Could it be a blue sales funnel with blobs in it? Mysterious.

Note: I started by pointing out my own weaknesses – I and we are not perfect! And again, it is these companies’ positioning statements (i.e. “The Leader in Web 2.0 Marketing”) that drew my attention to their brand identities. Still, let me make a peace-offering: 1) Feel the link love from this executive brief promoted on our site and blog – both currently PageRank 5 – and a brand identity consulting phone consultation for any of the above companies, on me.

Testing ... testing

There’s only one way to know whether a logo works in oodles of contexts: Test it. Then test it some more. Test it on business cards, banners, Web pages, letterhead, coffee mugs, name tags, anywhere you can imagine that it might show up some day.

Ask to see multiple examples of all design mockups – you’ll need different resolutions for different media, different sizes for potentially different uses, and at least one black & white and one color version. Today’s logos appear in browser bars, online ads, in print and display advertising, and more. I recommend requesting all of these as deliverables, in at least .png and .jpg file formats so you are ready to hand over whatever logo version is requested down the road. If something looks strong in all sizes, at all resolutions, in all contexts, you’ve got a real winner.

Contact: Red(at)b2bcommunications.com

Previous: Cut B2B Branding Guesswork With a Methodical 5 Step System
Next: The 9 must-have qualities of a user-focused B2B website design

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