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Make a Resolution to Know What You Do, Then Make a Logo

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My Facebook feed is currently filled with my friends' public declarations of their New Year's resolutions.

One of the fun parts about starting a company and creating a product is creating a brand identity for the product. And a logo.

Before you set out to have a logo designed, make a resolution to get clear on your purpose as a business and what message you want to convey before you jump in with the artists.

Having this clarity of what we wanted to convey ultimately helped us at Edthena design our own logo.

A Logo Isn't Forever

I'm not a logo or branding expert. But I've met some like Alina Wheeler and Ann Willoughby.

edthena business card printing proofWhen you read a branding book by authors like Alina, you start to realize that, while some logos are literally cast in stone for display purposes, a logo isn't permanent. It can change and shift over time. Some of the most iconic brands have done this.

That's good news, as it takes the pressure off a bit for getting things 100 percent right the first time.

Still, a logo is the face of your company when you can't be around. It's on your business card and your website and maybe even a t-shirt or two.

When I hand out my business card, the reaction I get is very positive. And I don't think it's because of the fancy 14 pt. matte stock I chose from the printer.

The reaction is positive because I hand out my business card with our logo facing upward—it fills the entire side. It's memorable and reflects who we are.

Ideally, you'll develop a logo that you feel similarly about. And to design that logo, whatever it might be, you'll need to be able to clearly articulate what message you're trying to convey and how it should make someone feel.

Knowing these things in advance helped us not choose some visual themes and early designs.

The Meaning of the Edthena Logo

When we were constructing the initial logo for Edthena, we cycled through a variety of themes.

One route in particular that we explored was drawing upon imagery of Athena. This had potential, as there were many elements and themes which would have been familiar to people:

  • Athena is the goddess of courage and wisdom (yes, and war). It takes both courage and wisdom to develop as a teacher.
  • Athena also represents the search for knowledge. Again, good for the work that we do.
  • Athena has some strong visual elements we could draw upon for association, namely the torch and the laurel leaf headdress.

edthena logo progression wordmark.pngYou can see the influence of these initial conversations in our wordmark which has some Grecian undertones with the formation of the letter A which forgoes the bar and looks similar to the letter lambda.

But ultimately we needed and wanted the logo to be more broad and more flexible. Being tied too much to Athena could limit this.

edthena logo progressionSo our final logo has no torch or laurel leaf. Instead, it focuses more on who we are and what we do. Here's how I'd explain our logo (to accompany the diagram):

Edthena facilitates leaving comments about videos of teaching (A), and the comments come together inside our platform to create a conversation (B). As a company, we're focused on connecting people (C) to create conversations via our platform (D).

Our logo happens to have a meaningful explanation behind it. Yours doesn't need one. It's just the approach we took to reflect what we do.

Related to a conversation about logos and brand identity is the topic of colors. We wanted our brand to be lively, bold, and fun. This felt in contrast with some traditional enterprise education software brands which were in the market at the time.

We've been using the same logo since June 2011. It's turned out that it was the right choice for us, so we've stuck with it.

But even at the time, because we are a startup and because it's hard to get things 100 percent right the first time, I remember saying, "At a minimum, the logo is great for right now, and we'll get a lot of mileage out of it. It can change again in the future if needed."

Update: The original version of this post didn't name Ann Willoughby. While I mentioned having met Alina, it was potentially implied that she was involved in discussions about our logo and name. Thus, I wanted to ensure that full credit was given to Ann -- since this is how I met Alina -- and her team who were directly involved in the logo creation and naming process for our company. 

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