How to Create a Corporate ID

Next to naming a company, creating a corporate identity can stir emotions more than anything else you will do in the early planning stages of your company. It makes sense, after all. Your company name and logo speak volumes to the outside world. Your logo, in the best cases, is a statement of who you are and what you are all about as an organization.

And though I have talked about the company-naming process in this column on two occasions (first almost a year ago and then again in December), I have yet to tackle how to go about developing a corporate identity. To some, the fact that there is actually a process involved for creating your company identity is surprising. It is far more complicated than bringing in a designer and telling him or her to go for it. More and more, the company name and corporate identity are part of a larger brand-building process. In essence, they become the foundation and soul of a company’s brand message.

To that end, your logo and identity system must be rooted in what your company is all about. Here are some tips on developing a process that will generate the best long-term results for your company:

Your corporate identity says it all. The first step before you embark on your identity development is to develop your company’s brand strategy and target audience profiling. (But as loyal ClickZ readers, I’ll assume you’ve already done that.) The next step is to translate all that information into your logo design. Ask yourself whether you want your company to be perceived as big and traditional or modern and eclectic, technology- or service-driven, or serious or fun. Whatever your answers, they need to be conveyed in your logo design.

However, there are limits. Some company attributes may be so esoteric that they are hard to convey in a single logo design. Bottom line: Don’t ask your logo to do too much, and you’ll be fine.

Choose your design firm carefully. Every design firm has a different approach, personality, and style, all of which are reflected in the body of its work. Make sure you thoroughly review prospective designers’ portfolios to see if they have the necessary experience as well as the look you’re striving for.

Avoid design clichis. Swooshes, ellipses, and little running men are just some of the many design clichis that people rely on to convey a company’s brand. And while these tools are familiar, cute, and comfortable, they are mainstream and do not stand out in today’s competitive landscape. Often when assessing the competitive landscape of logos, you will see a mind-numbing similarity that makes you wonder if companies just decided to copy one another intentionally. It’s hard to be original, but there are definitely more creative ways to demonstrate motion and speed than a swoosh-type logo.

Don’t date your design. Just as you should choose for your company a name that won’t embarrass you down the road, design your logo with an eye on the future. If you make your logo timeless, people will always relate to it. And while it may be tempting to go with the trendy colors and typefaces of a particular time, keep in mind that they will quickly look dated, along with your company.

Create a multidimensional logo. One of the biggest mistakes companies make in logo development is that the logos can be used only one-dimensionally. In other words, the logo looks good on a business card, but that’s about it. Either the colors are too thin, the types too light, or the logo just doesn’t transfer well when you shrink it or place it on a home page. Remember: Your logo is going to be used and seen in multiple environments, from T-shirts and magazines to letterhead and Web sites. The best logos work everywhere and anywhere.

Of course, these tips are only a few of the things to consider when developing your corporate identity system. But they are some of the most primary concerns that can move your company toward a world-class logo that can stand the test of time, not to mention become an important part of building your emerging brand.

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