In our Blogging 101 series we covered a range of areas you'd need to look at while setting up a blog, but there's one small thing that can help with looks and branding: a logo.
A logo for your blog is a key part of your branding. A logo helps the name of your blog stand out and become more memorable to those who visit it.
In an ideal world, we'd all have the money to go out and get a designer to do a logo for us, but we don't live in an ideal world. Further, while a logo should be on your list of things for your blog, it shouldn't be necessarily a top priority either.
The good news is that it isn't hard to design a logo yourself. Here's some things to consider in designing a logo for your blog. For the purposes of this post, we're referring to logotype (that is, text) and logo (graphical element) as one in the same, although strictly speaking they're aren't.
Tools You will need a graphics editing package to create your logo. Windows Paint doesn't count. At the high end, Photoshop is industry standard, but an expensive call for most people. If you're determined on using Photoshop but can't afford it, you can often pick up older versions on eBay for around $100. Photoshop CS will still do a fine job vs Photoship CS4 for example, even if it doesn't have all the latest bells and whistles.
On the cheaper end, The Gimp, the open source graphics editing package is free, and has improved with age. There's also other options such as Corel Drawn and Paintshop Pro that offer cheaper packages that will allow you to create your logo.
Once you've got the tool, creating a basic logo is about as hard as typing text into a blog or word processor. Create a blank canvass, type the name, change the font and color.
Font: serif vs san-serif
A Sans-serif font is a font like Arial, it doesn't have the "serif" end strokes that you see in serif fonts like Times New Roman or Garramond.
The web has broken some of the rules when it comes to font use. Traditionally, serif fonts have been used in print due to readability; experts claim that serif fonts are easier to read. And yet sans-serif fonts (particularly Arial) are widely used online for text. For you logo, readability rules for cotent don't apply as much, but it's something to keep in mind.
Generally speaking, I've always found the split this way: Serif fonts look for traditional, and have an authoritative feel about them. San-serif fonts look more modern, and are more commonly seen in tech/ web 2.0 blogs for example.
You can also go with a decorative font like an Old English newspaper style font (like on the NY Times) but you need to be careful with these styles as they can often be difficult to read depending on spacing, placement etc...
One consideration is the introduction of a graphical element to your logo. That might be a picture or designed graphic that is used with your logo text. The two can also be merged, so that a graphic might be part of your text. Here's some examples:
No graphical element We don't have a graphical image with our logo
Graphical element (designed) Darren Rowse's Problogger has a designed logo to the left of the text.
Graphical element (stock) b5media's Media Scribbler has some stock images in the background adding to the theme of the blog.
The harder of the three is the designed element. Unless you pay some one to design it for you, are skilled, or can create something very simple that works, they are best avoided.
Getting it right
The Inquisitr has had 4 different logos since we launched in May 2008. No, I'm not indecisive, but I use the example because even on the first attempt, you can always improve. Ideally you get to the stage where you lock in a logo for the long term, but it doesn't hurt to experiment.
Here's our previous logos and why we changed (note, logos not to scale)
Our first logo was very much a reflection on the template we started with, which featured strong Serif headlines. I believed it was assertive and strong as a branding statement (note in use, it was 550px wide).
The second logo reflected a desire to add a 728x90 banner ad to the top of the page. The logo had to shrink, so it did. There were actually two versions. The first had "tech, pop and penguins" as the slogan, the second version "the better mix." Feedback was that people didn't understand what tech, pop and penguins meant (it was an inside joke), so it failed as a branding statement. The Better Mix referred to our mix of content, which by this stage was starting to go wider.
The third logo abandoned the aggressive serif font for a lighter, more traditional font. As we moved into more non-tech content (we've never dropped tech, but it dominates less today) I was looking for something that appealed more broadly, particularly to a female demographic. Around this time we also did a major overhaul of the template.
The fourth harks back to the original logo, but switched to a sans-serif font. Our template revisions had dropped the serif headlines, and the rest of the site was in a sans-serif font, so I felt that it fitted better with the overall layout. It's also cleaner, more modern, and dropped the slogan.
One possible way to add to your logo is with the inclusion of a positioning statement/ slogan. As noted above, we ran additional text about what we were about on several versions of our logo. This can be particularly useful when starting a blog, and where your sites name doesn't define what you are writing about.
Case study: Blippitt
I've been corresponding with Chris Monty, the owner of Blippitt for a while now, some great content there if you haven't checked it out. Chris recently changed the name of his blog from Monty's Mega Marketing to Blippitt for branding purposes and simplicity.
There are other changes to the site, but one thing has stayed the same: a plain text logo. I thought I'd try to come up with some basic logos for the site based on the advice in this post.
Space Starting point is the space to work with. By my rough calculations, a 360x60 logo will fit in the current configuration.
Note I've played with basic colors here. Blippitt is primarily black and red (not unlike The Inquisitr). It's always safer to not introduce new colors in a logo (unless primary), and introducing additional colors is the biggest mistake many people make.
None of these logos are necessarily ready for use, but it took me less than 5 minutes to come up with the list. I quite like the second last, although maybe not in red.
The point though is a simple one: you can start with a basic blog name and come up with a basic logo even if you're not that comfortable around graphic editing tools.
A specialist graphic designer will tell you that there's much more again to coming up with a logo for your site, and I wouldn't disagree. But for the rest of us, getting a basic, solid logo up doesn't have to be that hard if you follow some simple rules.
Your logo is an important part of your branding, and it never hurts to take that first step away from plain text.