I was very young when I planned my wedding. I perused all sorts of relatively new websites dedicated to helping frazzled young brides to be with checklists, timelines, and must-haves. One of the sage pieces of advice I encountered over and over was that “the save the date card sets the tone for your event, letting guests know the style, theme, and formality of your big day!” (I sincerely hope you read that in an over-bright, over-enthusiastic way!) I can practically hear Jennifer Lopez’s high strung character Mary Fiore informing one of her clients of the vital importance of “setting the tone.” Me, I got hitched a few short months after getting engaged, not leaving a ton of time for all of those “vital” little details. I wouldn’t change a thing about it.
When planning my creative business, on the other hand, I dedicated quite a bit of consideration to those elements that would set the tone for my potential customers, my name and logo, both of which we will explore today. If you haven’t yet considered the initial, soul searching steps I’ve spent the past few weeks outlining (authenticity , purpose , and focus), I encourage you to dive in to those more foundational steps first.
My business name was actually a fairly simple choice for me. I’ve previously shared the important role my children have played in my creative purpose, so incorporating the name of a special little was almost a given (as a matter of my personal comfort as a mama, I try to keep my children’s privacy at a premium while still sharing what I feel comfortable with in the spirt of authenticity-I use code names for them here and on social media). I also knew that my love of nature and natural fibers was going to be integral to my design decisions. In addition, I have always kept as a goal to offer patterns whose instructions are given as clearly and “naturally” as possible. Naturally Nora Crochet was (forgive me for being obtuse) a natural choice for a business name: simple, memorable, and to the point. But, oooooh, the logo…
“Logo” comes from the Greek for “word.” I think of my logo as a quick visual reference that will become synonymous with my business name, whether the actual name is there or not. Instant visual recognition is the name of the logo game. That is a deceivingly complex and daunting task, which more often than not requires a level of professional expertise most of us simply don’t have. I did it anyway.
So, I am pretty cheap, pretty over-confident, pretty much a risk taker, decent with watercolors and Photoshop, and a pretty quick study. Years ago when I first got my start, I jumped into the graphic challenge of designing my own logo. I have been through like four or five. But, they have all had one simple element in common, which I like to think has become the core of my logo.
I had this vision of a crochet hook carved from a branch, still bearing some of the little buds and twigs-the perfect symbol for Naturally Nora Crochet. I got out my old jar of india ink and painted up a graceful silhouette, then scanned it in to my computer and used Photoshop to make it into a logo. I kept that initial logo for about a year, then I realized I could improve it. My style was just beginning to settle and my logo needed to reflect that. I changed the font, changed the scrolling frame around the outside, and toned down the colors. I used that logo for two years, then decided it was time for another change, as I was launching things here on the blog and wanted a cohesive look. I came up with something I liked, but even just a few months later, I literally woke up at about 5:30 AM with a vision of my forever logo. Every logo I’d designed up to that point had been good, but not great. My current logo is a very, very slight tweak, the biggest change being the addition of the lavender sprig. That was the puzzle piece for which I’d been searching for years. It is classic, timeless, fresh, and brings in an element of that natural, warm, California vibe that has become such an important part of this little brand. It all finally clicked into place. You can still see snippets of my previous two logos floating around on older patterns and photos. That is the price I pay for my creative journey, and I am ok with overcoming those inconsistencies a little bit at a time.
I share the details of this journey for two reasons: number one, your taste is going to change and your style is going to evolve, but keeping an element of your logo that remains the same is so important. Number two, if this all sounds like a big waste of time to you (which, in some ways, it was) don’t hesitate to hire someone to do this design work for you. There are many artists and graphic designers out there, and many of them are very affordable. Personally, I enjoyed the journey I’ve been on and am really proud of what I have now, but if my story is giving you hives, do some research and hire a professional.
Your name and logo are important, personal, and special decisions that should incorporate all the elements and reflections we’ve gone through so far. The beauty of all this work is that each of us will have a unique story and approach. I asked the super talented and endlessly kind, funny, and encouraging Michele of 144 Stitches (find her on Instagram here) to share her name and logo story. Her story illustrates the way each of our branding journeys has detours and bumps, but they more often than not become part of our “becoming” process. Here is Michele’s story:
I love what Nicole said in her launch of this series:
“Authenticity is the single most attractive attribute any individual, group, or even business can have, in my opinion. It is the only thing you just can’t fake. You know it when you see it.”
That is the core of what we do isn’t it?
I know for me, every stitch and every design is somehow an extension of myself. When I am designing something new, if it doesn’t feel right or fit into me and my vibe I will scrap it in a heartbeat and start over (sometimes in tears). I can’t tell you how many times I have found myself sitting amongst a pile of frogged yarn only to later find myself finishing off the perfect design. Ah – the process.
Believe it or not, this applies to your name and logo as well.
As small artisanal shops, our names and logos are an extremely important aspect of our business. Liken it to the dust jacket to your story. And you want people to open the book, turn the page and invest in your story. It is often the very first impression you make to your customers, and to the world.
So the big question – how do you pick your name & logo?
It is not as easy as just hiring a badass graphic designer (thought that may come later). It is about getting to the core of YOUR story. Trust me. I know.
I went through a major rebranding about 2 years ago. It was a painful (and costly) process because I had already spent my first 2 years establishing my brand. The problem was, I was establishing A brand… but it sure wasn’t MY brand.
You see, when I named my business, I ignored all of my marketing background and instincts (never do that) and didn’t put nearly as much thought into it as I should have. I was thinking short term; get something up quick and cute and catchy. I was thinking of this is a hobby or side project, not my future or anything in the future to be real. I wasn’t thinking at all to be honest. And THAT was a mistake.
And that is likely why it never felt right. It never felt comfortable. And it definitely never felt like me. When people asked me about the name, I actually either cringed at having to explain it or shrugged my shoulders as if to say “meh, it’s a name”.
Coming to the realization I needed to change my name was natural. It was kind of obvious in fact. And this time I didn’t rush into anything.
I thought about my story. I thought about what would I say when someone asked “where did the name come from?” I thought how what I would say when people ask why I started my business. I considered where do I want to go next and what name will embody all of that.
Sure I thought about websites, SEO, search and all that important stuff. But mostly, I kept coming back to my story. I kept coming back to the authenticity of my work and designs. And that kept leading me back to my grandparents who raised me.
I named my business 144 Stitches after my grandparents who were also small business owners. They were both immigrants who met and made a new life for themselves in the USA. Their last name was Gross.
Well, I couldn’t name the business Gross Stitches (though I thought about it for a minute). Then I turned to my inner geek and, in math, a dozen dozens is a “gross”. So that means a gross is 144 (12 x 12) and 144 Stitches was born!
It is fun, edgy and has a lot of meaning for me. It’s also a great conversation starter to tell people about my business and my story. My name is my dust jacket. It makes it personal.
I also feel like it is limitless. I can explore beyond crochet into knits and Tunisian crochet and it is all encompassed in the name. 144 Stitches really represents MY STORY.
Now that I had a name… I needed a logo!
I got together with a graphic artists friend of mine to come up with a logo. Something that represents my whimsical edgy side and that I am a yarnie not a clothing seamstress. I actually have two versions of the logo: one with me as an avatar and one showing all my yarn love. Again, this works for MY brand story. One logo will usually do the job.
So let me encourage you not to make the mistake I did and take a beat, marinate on YOUR story. Marinate on YOUR style. And most of all, stay authentic to both of those things and that will lead you to your name and logo and be the dust jacket to your story.
I love Michele’s story-it proves that honesty and flexibility are just as much a part of branding decisions as making product and interacting with customers.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when settling on your business name and logo:
How can I project my authentic self and purpose in my shop name? How can I ensure my shop name is descriptive to potential customers?
Naturally Nora Crochet reflects where my inspiration comes from and my style goals in my design work. It is also specific about what craft that is the focus of my maker business.
What elements can I include in my logo to extend the message of my business name? What elements do I want to include to ensure that it reflects the style focus I have developed?
I included my branch hook image as the focal point of any logo I’ve ever had. Michele has her yarn ball and heart. These are instantly recognizable images that can take the place of our business names (we hope). If you have trouble coming up with one of your own or executing your ideas successfully, consider consulting with a professional artist or graphic designer!
Put your business name and logo on your mood board (from the last post) and see if it all fits!
Let’s review: you know yourself, you’ve defined your purpose, you’ve explored your style focus, and now you’re on your way to a business name and logo. How thrilling! We are making some amazing progress! Next steps, coming in the next few weeks and featuring more AMAZING makers, are: Design (think colors, font, design elements, etc.), and Images. ALSO, I have just decided to add one more post to this series, focusing on Packaging…and you’re going to be excited about who is collaborating for that one! Stay tuned!