As a small business owner, most of us “wear many hats.” That is, your role is comprised of a whole bunch of alphabet soup titles; President & CEO, Chief Operations Officer (COO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Information Officer (CIO), Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and so on. You may ask, “Tom, what the heck does this have to do with logo design?” I will explain.
It is very difficult to start a business. In most cases you are building everything from scratch. So given the multiple roles, you don’t have the time, dedication or money that many other businesses have to throw into each area. In starting my real estate business, I knew one of the most important pieces to focus on was branding. We needed to create a brand, one that meant something, to help set us apart from the many other landlords and “slumlords” that offer space for lease.
So the goal was to create a brand that communicated quality to our clients. When they saw our logo or our signs, I wanted them to instantly know they were getting a quality apartment. Additionally, one of my marketing professors (Jim Prinzi – Vice President of Marketing for Monro Muffler Brakes & Service) said that you should never compete on price. So I also wanted to be able to charge a higher rent for our properties. From a management perspective, I also hoped that a higher rent would assist in renting to better tenants.
The first thing I did was create a business card. I used VistaPrint.com. If you have never used them, I would highly recommend them for printed and marketing materials. They are very cheap, offer many products, can produce small to large quantities and do a pretty good job on quality. Also, you can almost always find a 25-50% discount coupon.
I cannot overstate the importance of having a business card. You can order 250 “free” business cards for under $20 from VistaPrint. These cards will have some advertising for VistaPrint on the back (“Business Cards are FREE at www.vistaprint.com!”), but for a few dollars more you can remove this text. Not only do business cards make you appear more legitimate in the eyes of your clients and business contacts, but they are also the cheapest piece of marketing that you will spend money on.
The first business card was very basic. I knew that I wanted to use the color blue as part of our brand, since it symbolizes trust, loyalty, expertise and stability. So the first card used blue and black. It contained only the most basic information: the business name, what we do, my name, email, business address and business phone number. I chose not to include the website since I hoped most people could figure it out from my email.
Once I had business cards, I set out to create a logo. I knew it had to be easily recognizable and people needed to know what we did from it. Given that we were in the real estate businesses, I felt like the logo needed a house. Through many of the initial logos, I kept getting the feeling that the logos were cheap and overdone. If someone saw them, they would know that they were done by an amateur and it would tarnish our brand. So I started looking online at logo design, because I did not want an amateurish logo, but I did not have the funds to pay someone else to create one for me. In almost all of my searches, the FedEx logo kept appearing. I believe this logo cost quite a bit of money to create, but the thing that I kept coming back to was how simple it was. For those who are not aware of the history of the FedEx logo, the designer created a forward arrow in the white space between the E and the X. You can read more at The Story Behind The Famous FedEx Logo, And Why It Works.
So I tried to scale it back. I removed the houses and tried to use more of the white space concept. In this early prototype to the left, you can see just the roof outline. I liked the concept, but didn’t feel like it showed enough of what we do. So I teamed up with my sister, Erica Sylvester, and we brainstormed. We went through various ideas and concepts, and eventually made a breakthrough. Our website URL was sylvesterent.com. When you say it out loud, you could hear two potential interpretations (think Mad Gab). This could be see as SylvesterEnt.com, short for Sylvester Enterprises. Another variation of it could be seen as SylvesteRent.com. We found that we could help people hear the second interpretation by highlighting the letters. And what better way to do this than with a house?
So I am really happy with our current logo. It did take some time and many concepts/brainstorming sessions, but at the end of the day we were able to create it ourselves for minimal costs. Once we had the initial concept, we had a classmate of Erica’s who worked in graphic design (Nick Prinzing) take the concept and clean it up graphically. I feel like the logo is simple, clean and has the subtle aspect that lets people know that we rent houses. We have started to update our marketing materials with the logo. Our “For Rent” and “For Sale” signs have been a big hit. They definitely stand out as compared to the standard red and white signs and allow people to know that the real estate we offer is backed by our company.