Making Your Mark

"Logos and branding are so important. In a big part of the world, people cannot read French or English – but are great in remembering signs."

– Karl Lagerfeld

"Don't make it cute."

– Steve Jobs in 1977, directing his

graphic designer creating the Apple


It's the visual representation of your business. It provides an instant insight into your brand personality. It's the logo, a concept as old as cave drawings and something creative types have made careers out of for decades.

The same goes here in Traverse City. See the light lines of the Red Ginger mark? Think modern elegance. Oryana? Those waves of grain scream organic and natural. The National Cherry Festival? Cherries and fun, of course.

The TCBN asked two professors from Michigan State University (one critiqued the presidential candidate logos for Newsweek and the other is an experienced branding professor) to critique several northern Michigan logos. So which are creative perfection and which miss the mark? See page 32.

By the way, did we mention that we have a new logo?

The flowing script of Coca-Cola. The Nike swoosh. The Target bullseye.

All are iconic logos, the chief visual components of their companies overall brand identity. You find logos on websites, business cards, advertising, stationery and more. As such, a well-designed logo can contribute greatly to the success of a business, while a poorly executed logo gives off an air of amateurishness that can turn off a potential client or customer.

But what makes a strong logo?

"It combines color and design," says Bonnie Alfonso, owner of Alfie Embroidery, one of Traverse City's largest providers of logo-bearing products. "It should be striking, but not too out there. It has to be legible without being busy and it needs to tie back to your company's mission."

Good logos are not an accident, according to Tim Nielsen, of Nielsen Design Group, a Traverse City design firm. "They are not frivolous expressions. They should be memorable and thought provoking. They should contribute to a more organized and vibrant, alive, visual environment."

Most people think of a logo as a symbol or visual device, but it's really a unit of meaning, a moment in which a meaning is transferred visually or symbolically, according to Nielsen.

"Every business, organization or individual has an identity, it exists as self perception, and for the purpose of your article, in the minds of others," explains Nielsen. "That image exists by default, whether it is rationally planned or professionally designed…a logo or symbol has a purpose, it has a job to do. It must function in a way that succeeds at performing that function.

Nielsen notes that a logo is a single element in a system of elements. "It's just one element among many in a graphic ID system. Other expressive, or functioning, elements are color, typography, graphics (photos, illustration), materials, layout."

Alfie's Bonnie Alfonso warns against making any logo too cluttered.

"It's not your business card," she says. "When you're creating your logo, it's also important to think about how it's going to be used. What type of media you're using it on. What may look good in print may not work well on a ceramic coffee cup or shirt."

Alfonso sees all types of logos while serving clients at Alfie. So what logos stand out to her?

"Pure Michigan, they did such a great job with their logo and their entire campaign," she says. "It's clean, it's crisp and conveys a sense of Michigan. When I see their logo, I hear Tim Allen's voice."

And a couple of local companies make her list of effective logos – Yen Yoga and American Waste.

"I love Yen Yoga's logo. It's simple, yet balanced like yoga. It's perfect for what they do and it supports their mission. I like American Waste because they have a pretty messy business, but it's a good clear logo with a bold patriotic star." BN