You’re opening a car wash and you need a logo! Now is not the time to give your nephew, your secretary, or that nice aspiring designer next door their big chance. Your logo is far more than just a cool representation of your business name. Done properly, it is an effective standard-bearer for your entire investment. Done poorly, it will be an embarrassing liability that you will pay for dearly in the long run. Let’s look at some of the important responsibilities of your logo and what you can do to help your design contribute to your success.

It must introduce.

Your logo will often be the first exposure people have to your business. Your business' name should be very clear without requiring any effort to decipher. If you want people to promote you to their friends (the most effective and least costly tool of brand building) they will have to refer to you business somehow, so make it easy for them. “That car wash with the monkey riding a lightning bolt” is not as efficient and just saying, “Bob’s” so let them know clearly that this is Bob’s Car Wash.

Use a typeface that is easy to read. This is not the time to sift through thousands of faces in the internet’s vast font library and pick the one that “looks wicked cool” for that reason alone. In fact, a font as ubiquitous as Helvetica (born in Switzerland in 1957) can be leveraged with tremendous success. Sure, more stylistic typefaces can certainly be used effectively, but never lose sight of the first goal. Make your logo clear.

It must engage.

Perhaps you should add a graphic element that connects the name to what you do... or more importantly, to what your customers need. A car, a splash, a sparkle... It doesn’t need to be “eye-catching” as much as it needs to connect the name to a need or desire. A leprechaun jumping off a unicorn into a volcano is certainly eye-catching but it does little to connect the viewer to a desire (unless they desire leprechauns jumping into volcanoes, then you’re doing a great job at this logo stuff).

Keep any art simple and well illustrated. Don’t think an evening with Microsoft Paint is your ticket to success here. Art must be executed well and in a format that is appropriate for every vendor from your business card printer to your embroidery shop. That means .eps or .ai (an Adobe Illustrator file). No exceptions. It’s possible to forgo an art element and adjust the letterforms artistically to represent an engaging element but be careful not to make the name difficult to read. Getting one element to do two jobs effectively can be a tricky dance but very effective if executed well.

It must motivate.

To do this, your design must ooze trust. Thoughtful use of coordinated colors is critical. I’m not suggesting basic and bland, but using wild colors because you think they “pop” will work against you like a loud tie on a used car salesman. More than anything the clean, tight, balanced appearance of a professionally designed logo will present your business as solid, well-founded, and trustworthy.

Without a doubt this overview only scratches the surface of a very deep subject. I say this all to get you thinking in the right direction.

Think. Sketch out some ideas. Think about colors and coordinate with your architecture. Now, find a professional and communicate your thoughts and concepts. Their services may be expensive but a good logo is a powerful investment. A seasoned pro will listen, create a few directions and refine one down to a truly effective design that will be an asset paying its dividends for years to come.

Tom Dodson is a 35-year veteran of design based in Dallas, Texas. In his extensive career, he has lead teams of creatives for national brands like Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Subway, Miller Brewing and countless others. Most recently, he is responsible for the development of the Tommy’s Express brand standards.

Tommy Car Wash Systems