All marketing efforts start at the same place: a logo. Logos are at the core of your law firm’s brand identity, as they are the first and most basic visual representation of a business. Consider how important logos are to every major company. We all associate the curved check mark or “swoosh” with Nike, the green mermaid with Starbucks, the swoop of the “D” for Disney. Each of these brands has crafted an instantly identifiable logo using shapes, colors, and/or fonts, and built all of their marketing efforts around this one signature design piece.
Law firms are no different than these major corporations. Whether you’re a lawyer starting a new entity or an attorney with a major law firm looking to refresh and rebrand, the very first element you must consider is your law firm logo. I’ve designed dozens of law firm logos, and below I break down all of the things you should consider when creating a new logo or refining existing brand standards.
Firm Name: Full Name, Abbreviated Name, Initials, or Trade Name
If you are an entity just starting out, establishing your law firm name is at the top of the list. As you think about your entity name, also think about how you want that name to visually appear. Do you plan on using your full name if you are a solo practitioner or only named partner? If you have many named partners, will the firm logo include all of their names, or will it be colloquially known by just a few?
Initials are also something to consider, as they can help visually shorten a firm name with long and complicated last names. But initials can also be problematic in some instances: a firm with the name of Smith Harris Irving & Thomas probably wouldn’t use initials in their logo design. Make sure to consider (and even research) initial variations before going down that path.
Attorneys in Texas also have a new option available to them beginning July 1, 2021: trade names. While trade names have been a viable opportunity in other states for a while, the State Bar of Texas membership voted just this spring to drastically update the advertising rules, which now allow law firms to operate under a trade name (as long as the name is not deceptive or misleading). This means law firms can now market themselves under a name that includes identifiers about the type of law they practice, such as “Texas Immigration Lawyers.”
Make sure to consider all potential options and variations when determining an entity name, as it will absolutely have a significant impact on what you can and cannot do with your law firm logo design.
Color: It’s More Complicated Than You Think
One of the most integral elements of a logo is color. Color plays an important role in the emotional and mental reaction people have to a brand, and countless studies have shown people perceive colors differently. For example, most people associate cooler colors like blues, greens, and purples with peace, tranquility, and calm. Conversely, warmer colors like red, orange, and yellow are strongly correlated to energy, passion, and aggressiveness. According to one study conducted by the University of Washington, 34% of participants associated the color blue with “trust” while 28% associated it with “security.” Black was associated with “high-quality” by 42% of participants, while 26% regarded orange as being cheap or inexpensive.
It’s important to keep color theory in mind when selecting logo colors. This includes focusing on making sure your colors:
- are complementary
- make the text easily legible
- work well both in print and digitally
- evoke the emotional reaction you are seeking from potential clients
Also remember that color looks very different in print than it does digitally. That’s because colors are “mixed” differently for these two platforms: digital uses RGB (red, green, blue) blending to create colors while print uses CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) blending to create ink for printing. This means colors like a true red are easy to create digitally but often more complicated to get right in print materials.
WTF: What the Font
Font selection is another major decision in logo design, and there are literally hundreds of thousands of fonts available.
Fonts primarily fall into two main categories: serif and sans serif. The former are your more traditional fonts, and include a small line or projection from certain end points on each letter; these small lines or strokes – or serifs – on letters date back to the 1400s and the time of calligraphy. They are typically used by established mediums like newspapers, books, and magazines. The psychology of serif fonts lends itself towards feelings of confidence, tradition, elegance, and trustworthiness. If you want to convey the idea that your law firm is established, reputable, and serious, a serif font might be the way to go.
On the other hand, sans serif fonts – or those without the extensions – are cleaner and sharper. The lines of the letters often have a uniform thickness to them, making them bolder. Almost all technology and startup companies use sans serif fonts, as they are much more amenable to digital use. The clean lines and sharp edges render more clearly on a screen, which increases legibility for users. Sans serif fonts say “approachable” and “streamlined.” If you want your law firm to come across as modern and your lawyers as cutting-edge, then a sans serif font is most likely your best bet.
Digital and Print: Make It Work
Regardless of color or font selections, one universal truth remains the same for everyone: your logo must look good both digitally and in print. From printed business cards and branded promotional items to websites and email signatures, your law firm logo needs to be a powerhouse of versatility. This means DO NOT DO the following:
- Gradients: they look really cool digitally, but become a muddy mess in print, especially in black and white.
- Metallics: many lawyers want to incorporate gold as a logo color. Metallic tones simply do not render digitally, and at best end up looking like a muddy mustard color. And, unless you plan to spend thousands of dollars in printing costs, metallics are incredibly difficult to achieve in print as well.
- Neon: much like metallics, neon colors look great digitally, but their vibrancy is hard to replicate in print. You will typically need a shiny coating on the paper stock in order to get a neon color to really pop, which will again add to the printing cost and potentially look too “slick” for a law firm.
- Very thin fonts: selecting a font with very, very thin letters will most likely cause issues when printing.
To Mark or Not to Mark
Logos can include more than just a law firm’s name: they can also include a mark of some kind. A mark can be incredibly powerful in marketing a brand identity. While most of us can’t really describe Nike’s font from memory, we can draw the curved swoosh in a heartbeat. Apple has undergone several rebranding efforts, changing the colors of the brand and even the fonts used… but its Apple mark has stayed the exact same shape for decades. And Target commercials don’t even have the word “Target” on the screen – just the big red bull’s eye.
Incorporating a mark into your logo design can happen a variety of ways. It can be an artistic interpretation of your firm name, like creating an interesting shape or combination of your law firm’s initials. It can be a shape or design element that speaks to your practice area. Or it can simply be a visually interesting element that matches your law firm’s personality and identity. If you choose to select a logo that contains a mark, make sure the design of the mark works together with the color and font selections to make one cohesive design.
It’s Hip to Be Square
A final important element to consider: logo orientation. This might seem like a strange thing to consider; after all, why would it really matter whether a logo is horizontal, vertical, or square? Isn’t the shape of a logo irrelevant?
In fact, the ratio of elements in your logo and how they can be manipulated in shape is incredibly important, particularly for digital use. Social media channels are a must-have for law firms in today’s digital era, and all of them require a square or round icon for the profile photo. If your logo is long and horizontal, no one will be able to read the teeny tiny letters in the little round circle or square next to your social media posts.
No matter what colors, fonts, or design you select, the most important component of a law firm logo is making sure it reflects your firm’s identity. Keeping this at the forefront as you work towards a new logo or through a rebranding effort will ensure your logo serves the firm well for years to come. If your law firm is contemplating a new look, find out how we can help you craft a brand identity.