I may be a horrible design snob, but I won’t even consider purchasing a product or service unless its design is appealing. This might mean the packaging, marketing materials, the product itself, or, that traveling salesman of design elements, the logo. Now, if you’re a freelancer working on your own, you may not have enough money to pay for a professional logo design.
You don’t have to spend a lot to get something that looks like it was professionally designed. Even if your company name is just your own name, which is the case for a lot of freelancers, you should take the time to make sure it can become a recognizable brand.
A lot of people are daunted when faced with even basic design work, but, even without advanced tools, you can produce something impressive enough to work as a website header or make an otherwise blasé business card design pop. First, let’s assume your only tools are a basic office suite, and you have absolutely no drawing skill.
I once worked for a company that used PowerPoint as its primary graphics editing and layout software. It’s definitely not the ideal solution, but it does teach you how to do as much as you can with what you have. Working in Word and PowerPoint taught me that fonts and typography go a long way.
First, choose a font that looks good. It can even be a system font, as long as you steer clear of ones that feel dated and/or are overused (i.e., no Times). For example, look at this ad I did for The Southernmost Review, a friend’s journal which I help edit:
I used Georgia for the font, which ships with OS X, and is a nice alternative serif to Times that looks just different enough to catch people’s attention. I used three different text boxes, so that I could easily control spacing between paragraphs, and the hue of each word.
All of the text is overlaid on a simple square shape, with a gradient fill and a thin blue border. In OS X, I do a simple area screenshot using Shift-Command-4 and drag a square around the object. There are Windows freeware apps that do the same thing, like MWSnap.
If you are limited to using a basic editor like PowerPoint or Word, try playing with alternate spacing between letters, or font weight (i.e. Bold vs. Regular) to introduce visual interest without getting too complicated.
If you happen to have Flash, Photoshop, or Illustrator, it’s even easier to create a snazzy logo quickly and without hassle. Consider this logo I created for my personal blog, TheDether.net:
There’s not much too this logo, even with the addition of the graphic flair on the right. The font is Helvetica Neue, which ships with OS X, and the effects are stock Photoshop layer effects (Inner Shadow and Gradient Overlay, with blend mode set to Normal). The graphic I created separately in Photoshop, by drawing circles, warping them, and using the Gradient Overlay tool to provide the color.
Note how few layers there are. Believe me, I want this to be as simple as possible, and I’m sure you do too. I’ve expanded the layer effects so you can see how they’re applied. Note that I also tried a Drop Shadow effect, but later disabled it because I wasn’t satisfied with how it looked.
These are just a few simple examples. Often, I use a combination of Illustrator, Flash, and Photoshop to get the effect I’m after, but in most cases, it’s not necessary. In fact, if you’re just after a recognizable, uniform way to display your own name on your website, business cards, etc., you want to be as miminal as possible, so that the effect is easy to replicate no matter what programs you have access to.