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Appearances docount Featured

9:55am EDT July 22, 2002

Nike. McDonald’s. Mercedes. These companies have more in common than just success. Whether you see a Nike logo on Tiger Woods’ cap, the golden arches on a road trip, or a Mercedes’ emblem on the car next to you on I-77, you not only recognize the company, you know what to expect.

“As soon as you see the emblem, you think high-class, high-quality,” says Todd Locke, president of Wern, Rausch, Locke Advertising Inc., a 45-year-old advertising agency in Canton. “If you see the golden arches from two miles away, you know what to expect. It identifies the company.”

It’s no wonder, then, that companies large and small spend anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to a couple of million dollars designing and implementing their logos. After all, that design, illustration or lettering not only represents the company, it plays a vital role in the company’s future success.

Two years ago, Locke’s firm catapulted into the national spotlight when Mary Regula — wife of House Rep. Ralph Regula, a Locke client for years — asked the firm to compete with agencies from across the country to design a logo for the National First Ladies’ Library, devoted to the lives and legacies of America’s First Ladies.

Locke traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with the committee that represented the library and returned with their ideas.

“We were excited,” says Robert Isenberg, creative director for the agency. “We knew millions of people would be seeing it, so there was a lot more competition between the artists.”

Over the next few weeks, artists at the agency designed 30 logos that met the committee’s mission.

“They didn’t want it to look real feminine and frilly,” Isenberg says. “They wanted people to take it very seriously.”

When the artists’ work was done, Isenberg recruited friends, family and peers to review the logos and narrow them down to the top three.

“We had people from all walks of life,” Isenberg says. “Men. Women. Different races. We wanted to make sure the logo appealed to everyone outside our little world of advertising.”

Next, Locke returned to Washington, where he and the committee chose the winning logo. The committee not only picked a logo that was in the top three; they picked a logo designed by Isenberg. “I was happy with the one they chose,” Isenberg says, noting that the major design elements in the logo are stars, a quill and an elegant typeface. “It indicated literature and history. And it has a very official look without being stodgy or boring.”

The elements did what a good logo should do: They communicated the mission of the library in a memorable, simple way. And that’s the most important thing, Isenberg says.

“You want something that is simple but unique. Something that is going to stick in somebody’s mind,” he says. “A lot of companies end up with a logo that’s too complex because they want to tell the whole story of the company. It needs to tell a little bit about the company — or the image of the company — at a glance.”

When designing your logo, keep these things in mind: Make sure the person who’s making the final decision is involved in the process from the beginning. “If after hours and hours of research and design, that person says, ‘I don’t like it,’ then you have to start over from ground zero,” Isenberg says. “That could cost your company money.”

Make sure you choose a typeface that looks good in both small and large sizes and that you pick a design that matches your company’s image.

“If you’re a law firm or a financial firm, you’re obviously not going to have wild colors or crazy type,” he says. “You want to appear very stable.”

What if you’ve already got a logo? How do you know it’s time for a change? First, Isenberg says, pay attention to what people say when they see your logo.

“If people get the wrong idea about your company, misunderstand what your company is about by looking at your logo, if it doesn’t stick in people’s minds, if it blends in with other logos, then it may be time for a change,” he says. “If we design a logo that doesn’t stand out among the thousands of logos you see every day, then it’s a failed logo.”

Also consider updating your logo if it’s gone out of style. Recently, Canton’s Superior Dairy approached the agency, and asked Locke to inject a bit of energy back into its look. “Their logo was starting to look a little bit stale,” Isenberg says. “We did a quick fix — still the same colors, still the same recognition as before — just a little bit more up to date.”

But some logos — such as the National First Ladies’ Library logo — have to withstand the test of time. Locke not only knew this when he took on the project; he realized the role his agency would play for years to come.

“Ten, 15, 20 years from now — when my children and other people’s children recognize the contribution that our First Ladies have made — we’ll be a part of that,” he says. “As time goes by and the logo becomes a nationally recognized symbol, it will become more prestigious for us. We can say we had a hand in history.”