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In the Year of our Lord 2018, you might be wondering if you need something as archaic-seeming as a logo. What is this, Mad Men? And what are you going to do with it — put it on paper?!

But logos — which do, incidentally, look great on business cards or letterhead — are a very important part of your brand, even if you are operating a solely digital venture. Maybe you’ll put it on your website, or as your social media avatar, or you’ll slap it on free tote bags; whatever the case may be, it’s worth your time to craft a design that is recognizable, attention-getting, and neatly in line with your brand.

“You are seeing less paper, so maybe you would think the logo would be dying a little,” says Megan Roy, a graphic designer at Los Angeles-based graphic design firm Hole Punch Design. “But logos in particular have to vibe with the whole brand of the company, even if it’s not paper you’re putting it on.”

You might consider enlisting the help of a professional graphic designer in creating a logo that works for you, but if that’s out of your budget (or you just want to try it yourself!), here are some pro tips.

Understand Why You Need a Logo (The Buy-In)

Perhaps when you hear the word “logo,” you immediately think of something that represents a big company, like Twitter’s bird, or Apple’s apple. But the truth is, whether you’re a freelance journalist or the CEO of a small business, logos are a necessary part of your brand and your online presence.

“The logo should match the full branding package, no matter what your product is,” says Roy.

That holds true even if you’re a solo-preneur who’s using only your own name to market your services.

“There are hundreds of thousands of ways you can write someone’s name, and that is going to say so much about their brand or their business,” says Roy. For instance, “if you use a messy brush-pen font, that is going to give you information when you see it.”

Drill Down on What Your Company Stands For

This is a critical step for any type of branding — get specific about who you are, who your clients are, and what service, exactly, you are providing. You might have a clear vision of all that in your head, but it helps to spell it out and ask some questions that you might never have considered before. Roy says that Hole Punch Design starts out new clients with a 30-question survey to get clear on what’s truly in their company’s DNA.

“We have a pretty extensive questionnaire,” she says. “It asks for all different kinds of information about their business and the vibe that they are going for, like, ‘Is there a story behind your business?’ ‘What are your brand strengths and weaknesses?’ And some fun questions, like, ‘If your brand were a person, how would you describe that person?’”

Try, Try, and Try Again

Look, we’re not going to sugarcoat this one: Creating a good logo takes work. That’s why people hire outside firms to help (or, alternately, they just kind of… never create a logo at all). You might need to go through dozens of ideas before settling on a few that seem right, and even then, the tweaking process could still take you through another handful of editing rounds.

Roy notes that after reading over a new client’s questionnaires “several times,” she pulls phrases that are repeated more than once, or ideas that stand out. From there, she says, “I will go through usually 20 versions of the logo before I send anything to [Hole Punch Design creative director] Natalie [Andres]. Then we will go through revisions. It’s a lot of back and forth through what the client wants, as well as what we think is going to look good.”

Be Smart About Color

You might love neon pink, but if you’re a financial consultant, it might not be your best bet to design your logo starring your favorite player in the color wheel. Instead, think about how each color reads to viewers and whether it matches the mood of your business.

“If clients say, ‘I want a logo that feels young,’ to me, that means brighter colors,” says Roy. “Whereas a more professional palette is maybe a little darker; navys, blacks.”

In the end, designing a logo can actually be fun. It just requires a commitment and some time — or perhaps some outsourcing. But if done correctly, you’ll end up with something that sets you apart from the pack. After all, says Roy, “no two logos are really the same.”

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