Logo tips for car magnets – Part 1

So you want to include a logo on your car magnet. That's good! As we've discussed elsewhere, a logo can serve as an instantly identifiable image customers will associate with your business -- and that's good, because your customers often are catching a glance of your car magnet in traffic, when they may not have a ton of time to digest a lot of words or details. pepsi-logo-fat-guy To that end, we offer these logo design tips:

1. Get inside your customer's head
A logo is your brand. It's your reputation, all wrapped up in a visual cue. So you want to know what you want your logo to communicate about your business to those who view it -- your customers. What do you want THEM to think about your business when they see your logo? Have a concise goal in mind before you get too deep into designing.

2. Choose your path -- Who are you?
What does your business do? Who are your biggest customers? Do you have previous logo designs you'd like to incorporate in this logo, or would you rather be bold and come up with a completely new design? Answering these questions ahead of time will make it easier for you to pin down a desired direction when beginning logo design work for your car magnet.

3. The only bad idea is one in a wastebasket
You may sketch a lot of logo ideas out on paper in the early going. Do yourself a favor: Don't throw them away, even if you think they're no good. You may find later in the design process that there are elements of some of those earlier ideas you really liked and can incorporate into your final, winning design.

4. Research, but do not imitate
The internet offers multiple resources to look at company logos, including a couple of websites dedicated to logo research. Looking at some other companies' logos may help you design a compelling logo for your own car magnet. It is important, however, that you not imitate your favorite logo from another company. You want your logo to be unique, after all -- not easily confused with another brand or business. Take a small number of logos you like -- say, 10 of them -- and write down things you don't like about each one. That should help you avoid those unliked traits in designing your own logo later.

5. Lazy goal-setting begets lazy results
When you sat down in the beginning of the process to map out your goals for your logo, you may have said something like, "I want my logo to be memorable." Well, of course you do. That's a given. It's also a lazy goal. A brash, brightly coloured logo may be memorable, but not for the right reasons if you're designing a logo for an understated consulting business.

6. Never underestimate the power of paper
It's easy in our computer age to want to head straight for the PC or laptop when designing a logo, but good old pencil-and-paper drawings can often result in better design. Doing it the old-fashioned way during the brainstorming and initial sketch processes allows ideas to get out onto the page more easily.

7. Vector, vector, vector
Once you DO move to a computer to create a more polished design, you'll probably work in Photoshop or an equivalent image modification software suite. Once you have a digital version you're happy with, head over to Illustrator to create vectors of your image. These will allow it to be resized without losing quality -- important for when your logo gets enlarged many times over on its way to being a part of your car magnet.

8. Beware of the thin stuff
Car magnets, like many things, may be screen-printed, so you'll want to take care to avoid unnecessarily thin or light lines, type, or other elements that may not transfer well in the screen printing process. You'd hate for your car magnet to arrive only to find part of your logo's lines or type has disappeared or become distorted.

9. Type cast
You have two paths from which to choose when incorporating type into a logo: Create your own or use an existing font. Creating your own is the more difficult path, obviously. In addition to the technological hurdles, you have to be sure your typeface isn't fashionable -- like all fads, it, too will become dated rather quickly. Similarly, gimmicky, highly stylized fonts tend to make your brand look cheap and should be avoided -- after all, tons of folks, all of them less professional than you, are probably using those already. Whether designing your own typeface or using an existing one, remember that simple typefaces often work best on car magnets because, like billboards or other roadside signs, the viewer has a limited time frame in which to decipher what the logo says.

10. Match font qualities with your company's qualities
Consider what your choice of font says about your company. Some fonts are big, bold, and powerful, while others are lithe, elegant, and classy. Still others may represent forward-thinking (e.g. slanted type).

11. Text as logo, logo as text
Sometimes, text is the only element needed in a logo. Other times, you may feel an image or design is necessary. Under no circumstance should you feel it's a rule that you MUST include an image or design. Sometimes text is perfectly adequate -- or sometimes, text can BE the design.

12. Blank space is still used space
Giving your logo space to "breathe" within its surroundings is a good idea. Just because you've got room to include some kind of design element or wingding does not mean you SHOULD include it. Most companies include an official "exclusion zone" within their logo usage guidelines. That is the area around a logo in which no other element can be placed. This gives the logo its appropriate weight and provenance. Consider giving your car magnet logo design a specified amount of room where text and other sign elements can not, under any circumstance, be set. In addition, it's important to consider the blank spaces between elements of your logo. Font tracking and kerning can be modified to give the letters the desired amount of distance from each other -- right up to the point they touch, if you desire. The FedEx logo has a particularly famous use of white space within its letters, as the E and x are tightly spaced to created an arrow shape between them, implying motion. Like we say, blank space is still used space.

13. Dead devices are boring devices
A "device," in logo speak, is a symbol. Nike's "Swoosh" is a device. And that device works so well because it implies motion, activity, and excitement. Twitter morphed its logo from a simple bird sitting still to a bird that appears to be in flight because the bird in flight is a much more appealing and eye-catching design.

14. Consider culture
Some cultures read left to right, some read right to left. So while logos that feature implied motion from left to right may say "forward-thinking" in Western countries, those same logos may say "backward-thinking" in the Middle East, where many countries read from right to left. Designing a car magnet logo that appeals to the culture at the core of your customer base demands this kind of attention to detail.

15. A note on tone
Sometimes, a logo design works really well in color but not so well in black and white. This is especially important to consider if you fear your car magnet budget may not be sufficient to pay for full color printing. Consider the tone of your logo design before taking that final step. It always helps to convert the logo to black-and-white digitally in a program like Photoshop before submitting it.

16. Don't be afraid to mix it up
If you're ordering multiple car magnets, you might want to try a number of different variations on your logo design. These can be as simple as changing the color of one accent element in your logo. The Nike "Swoosh" device is often seen in a variety of colors, for example. Changing up colors can also help you ensure your logo works on dark backgrounds -- an important consideration and a good way to make your logo stand out if, for instance, you have a black car and wanted a black background for that "seamless" look to your car magnet.

17. Three's a crowd
When choosing fonts, limit yourself to one or two. Three typefaces can make a design seem crowded and cluttered.

18. Know what you're up against
While, as we mentioned earlier, it's important not to be too trendy and you should not imitate your favorite logos, it can be useful to know what you're up against by studying the logos of some of the hottest companies in your area or industry. You can't set a new trend unless you're sure you're not just riding on the current wave, after all.