Startup 1.4. Naming Your Business and Designing Your Logo

Shoestring Venture: The Startup Bible (1st Edition)

At some point, you have to sit down and name your business. Someday somebody is going to play the following music to your ears: “Who do I write the check to?” And you say . . .?

“So,” you may ask, “what’s so hard about naming my company?” Well, there are a few issues you have to resolve:

  1. Do you legally have to have a business name? Certain business structures, such as corporations and LLC’s, require that you file a business name with the state. For sole proprietorships and partnerships, some states only require that you have a formal name if it’s anything other than your name. For instance, in the State of California, you can start a sole proprietorship called Peebles Pet Shop if your name is Frank Peebles without filing any paperwork at all. But if you call it “Great Gorillas,” then you need to file the name with the state.
  2. What is your business or what do you offer customers? Your name should somehow reflect what it is you do and should not mislead customers into thinking you are someone else, something else, or somewhere else.
  3. Will your name confuse your business with another similar business? Are you infringing on other people’s business names or trademarks? If I name my business, “Palo Alto Software Solutions,” the folks at Palo Alto Software would haul me into court. They could argue—rightly—that people will confuse my business with theirs. If I name my business “Palo Alto Fish Farm,” then Palo Alto Software wouldn’t mind. The only people who would confuse the two names are probably people that neither of us would ever want as customers.
  4. Is your name that important? You can waste a pile of time and hard-earned cash on your name. Major corporations often spend millions of dollars coming up with a name (think Verizon). But most of the great names really don’t mean much and were thought up over the dinner table: Mattel (formed from the first letters of the two founders’ first names), Audi (a Latin word meaning, “Hear!,” which translates into the founder’s name, Horst), Nike (the Greek goddess of victory). These names, which are now worth billions of dollars, came easily, effortlessly, and cheaply to their owners. How many friends do you have who know what “ Audi” or “ Mattel” means? Who cares? They’re good names.
  5. Can you secure a .com domain name similar to your own? If your online presence is critical to your business and you want a domain name similar to your business name, then the availability or expense of a domain name should be one of your paramount concerns. We discuss securing domain names in section 1.5.


The megabucks advertising, marketing, and branding firms always do a foreign language check on business or product names as part of the development process. Entrepreneurs and start-ups almost never do—to their peril! Sometimes they even skip checking the English meaning of the word; many years ago, there used to be a restaurant in downtown Portland called “Hung Far Lo.” When Chevrolet tried to market its Nova in Mexico, no-one bought it. Why? Turns out the name means “it does not go” (no va) in Spanish. It’s incumbent on you to know what languages your customers may know and what your name may sound like in those languages. Then find people who know those languages, either through friends or Craig’s List, and run the name by them. It sounds trivial, but you don’t want your great business or product name sounding like “hung far low” or “it doesn’t go” in some other language your customers know.

In the same vein, you may want to design a special symbol to identify your business—this is typically called a “ mark.” You may, in addition, want the name of your company put into a nice design—typically called a “ logotype.” These two graphic elements—the mark and the logotype—are called a “ logo.” Again, like a business name, you can certainly overinvest time and money in developing a logo; FedEx, for instance, paid 1.5 million dollars a few years ago to develop its new logo. But you can easily acquire an excellent logo for peanuts; Phil Knight paid an art student $300 for a logo when he started Nike back in 1964. The Nike logo is now arguably the most famous and best- designed logos in the world and is currently worth billions.

There are numerous online services that can help you design a mark, some that will let you generate your own mark, and many others that will design a mark for you for as little as $60.

Before you design your own logo or use the Internet to find an inexpensive designer, you should consider the following general rules:

  1. Legibility: Your logo has to be readable. The typeface should be simple, basic, and set in such a way that the words can be quickly and easily read. Simplicity is always the key to a great logo.
  2. Visibility: You have to be able to see the logo. If the typeface is too small, the mark has too many details, or the logo is a mess of colors, it will be hard to see. Consider all the places your logo will appear. If you have to put it on a sign and people have to see the sign at night, then black is a bad color.
  3. Applicability: In choosing a logo, you should consider in your decision everything your logo will be applied to: signs, Web sites, brochures, business cards, faxes, and so on. Your logo has to look good, be legible, and be visible in all those applications whether large, small, in color, or just plain black.
  4. Communication: Your logo should say something about your company. It does not need to be a work of art; it just needs to accurately convey to the viewer what you think your company is all about. Before having your logo designed, you should write down three or four adjectives that you think describe your company, like “classy,” “helpful,” or “tough.” Your logo should communicate one or more of those adjectives.

One of the authors has designed, or supervised the design of, hundreds of logos for companies and products. There are actually far more ways the process can go wrong than right, and they almost all have to do with you.

  • Your logo is your business’s logo, not your logo. It says nothing about you, your tastes, your personality, your cats, your mother, or anything else that’s wonderful about you. The logo is about your business, your product, your services, and the value they bring to your customer. I have seen more than one start-up go hopelessly astray as they try to make their business logo into some kind of personal statement.
  • Your logo is not a novel. It cannot communicate a veritable encyclopedia of propositions about your business. “I want a logo that tells people that my business will teach them to be strong, yet willing to take care of themselves and the people that know them. It needs to tell them that they can be upper-class in their identity even though their modest in their roots.” And so on. The best logos communicate a “simple” message simply.
  • Your logo is not some symbolic key to deeper truths. “I want lions facing each other because that shows the power of personal interaction.” People don’t ponder logos for their deeper meanings or hermetic truths locked up in them.
  • Your logo has to grow with your business. The most frequent error that entrepreneurs make is coming up with a name and logo that is absolutely appropriate for a limited, targeted audience and a blissfully small number of applications, but suddenly looks inappropriate, dated, or solipsistic when the business attracts a wider variety of customers and needs to appear on a larger number of applications. A logo is like a tattoo on your face: it’s more than just an aesthetic of personal choice, it limits your options in the future.

Unless you’re a seasoned pro, chances are you haven’t dealt with logo design much. Believe it or not, the “deliverables” for a logo are far more than just a design. When you have someone develop your logo, make sure they deliver:

  • An EPS (Extended PostScript) version in CMYK color and with font outlines of the logo that you can use in all print applications, such as your business cards. This EPS version is the bulletproof version that you can give to any printer anywhere for any application.
  • A bitmapped version in TIF and GIF format in RGB color that you can use in all electronic applications.
  • All the original artwork (in Illustrator, Photoshop , or other graphics program format). You paid for this artwork, so it belongs to you. You’ll need it if you want to make any tweaks or modifications to the logo.
  • A list of all the typefaces used in the logo and where you can get them. If you don’t have this information and need to tweak the logo, you’ll have to pay someone to track down the typefaces.
  • A list of all the colors used in the logo—if the logo only uses process color, they need to give you all CMYK values; if the logo has “spot” colors, they need to give you Pantone values. None of this may have any meaning for you, but you should still have the information.
  • Any additional image files appropriate to the various media the logo will be applied to.

You want the original artwork and typefaces so that you can easily change the logo in the future. Without them, you’ll have to start from scratch and end up paying more for the change than the original logo!

1.4.1 Creative Marketing Solutions— Business Name and Tagline Generator

Marcia Yudkin, a marketing consultant, provides a huge number of innovative books on her Creative Ways Web site (—these are all available as books for download (at a cost). While you can find a number of Internet resources on other aspects of selecting a business name, Yudkin is the only person who discusses how to actually create a business name. She describes nineteen steps that will take you to a great business name:

  1. Brainstorm a list of keywords that describe your business.
  2. Look up the keywords in a thesaurus and make a list of similar words.
  3. Try combining words on your list.
  4. Consider whether any of the words on the list have homonyms.
  5. Write down words about how your customers will benefit from your product or service.
  6. See if any of the words you have written down suggest any common sayings or phrases, for instance, “stitch” might suggest “A Stitch in Time.”
  7. Write down words that describe your customers.
  8. Add your own name to some of the words.
  9. Write down some words that suggest mastery, skill, or excellence, like “best.”
  10. Brainstorm what your customers are trying to avoid when doing business with you, i.e., if you are a pest control business, your customers don’t want bugs.
  11. Think of some of the things that your customer’s tell you they really want.
  12. Consult the list to see if any words begin with the same letter—those words tend to combine very memorably together, like “Hamburger Heaven.”
  13. Consult the list to see if any words rhyme—those words go together memorably.
  14. Look for paradoxes, which are words that don’t quite go together but when combined are very suggestive, like “heaven on earth.”
  15. Look to see if there are any suggestive words from mythology.
  16. Once you have a name and tagline, check to see if they are concise, easy to spell, easy to pronounce, distinct, pleasant, true to your business, and something you can live with.
  17. Try it out on a few people and see how they respond.
  18. Check for legal problems.
  19. Go for it!
1.4.2 All Graphic Design—Logos

1.4.2 All Graphic Design—Logos

All Graphic Design has the most exhaustive list of articles and resources available for you to think about your logo and find an inexpensive online developer. Articles include:

  • 9 Keys to an Effective Logo
  • Corporate Logo Design—6 Keys to Success
  • How Do You Define a Good Logo?
  • The “Right” Logo


LogoBlog provides a directory of logo designers with client reviews and ratings, a gallery of famous logos to help you brainstorm your own logo, and a comprehensive online book on designing corporate logos.

1.4.4 Logoworks

Logoworks are bespoke logo designers that specialize in logos for small businesses. All work is handled entirely over the Web. As such, your logo design is a collaborative affair and takes about a week or more to complete, which is about as long as it would take if you hired a local designer. In addition to logos, Logoworks will design business cards, stationery (letterhead and envelopes), Web sites, and brochures. Typically, a Logoworks logo costs somewhere between $300 and $600. The difference in price is based on how many initial logo designs, from two to ten, are required, how many separate designers, from two to five, work on the logo (different designers working on the logo translates into radically different creative approaches), and how many times you can revise the concept that you choose, from two rounds of revisions to unlimited revisions. For all practical purposes, then, Logoworks is a convenient way to hire professional logo designers and work with them to produce a more-or-less custom logo. It may not save you money, but it can save you considerable time and effort. Logoworks delivers your final logo in EPS (Extended PostScript, which allows you to print or change your logo), JPG and GIF (for Web uses), TIF (for simple printing), and BMP.

1.4.5 Logo Yes

On Logo Yes, you can generate your own logo right on their Web interface using their symbol library. Generating your own logo costs $99 and there are additional fees for business cards, postcards, and brochures with your printed logo. The formats they offer, EPS (Encapsulated PostScript), JPG, and GIF, allow for a multitude of uses in print and the Web; the EPS file will allow you to easily change your logo. You should keep in mind that if you select a symbol from their database, it is still available for anyone else using Logo Yes, as well. So like the famous comedy situation in which two women show up to the same party in the same “exclusive” designer dress, you might happen upon another company using “your” logo! In order to get exclusive rights to a symbol, you have to purchase an Exclusive Custom Symbol at a considerably higher price, and paying that brobdignagian price only prevents the symbol from being used by future buyers, not by people who have purchased the symbol previously. So you may not enjoy the exclusivity a custom- designed logo offers you.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply

Shoestring Book Reviews

Shoestring Venture Reviews
Richard Hooker on Jim Blasingame

Shoestring Fans and Followers



Business Book: How to Start a Business

Shoestring Book

Shoestring Venture in iTunes Store

Shoestring Venture - Steve Monas & Richard Hooker

Shoestring Kindle Version # 1 for e-Commerce, # 1 for Small Business, # 1 for Startup 99 cents

Business Book – Shoestring Venture: The Startup Bible

Shoestring Book Reviews

Shoestring Venture Reviews

Invesp landing page optimization
Powered By Invesp
Wikio - Top Blogs - Business