A logo is important to all businesses and other organizations. But it’s especially important to retail enterprises, because unlike an insurance company or baseball bat manufacturer, a retail company must have a clear, effective brand identity in the marketplace. In addition, a retail brand logo must resonate graphically with your customers. The logo for a clothing store will be quite different from the logo for a bakery. But both must connect with your customers and cause them to feel good about your brand. Regardless of market niche, the development of a logo requires attention to established guidelines.

Incorporate your corporate identity.

Although something of an abstract concept for many, the notion of corporate identity is at the heart of the U.S. retail industry. In its simplest terms, it means the way you want your brand to be perceived. It applies to the overall impression you make with your business cards, letterhead stationery, product labels or store signage. Your logo plays a key role in your corporate identity because it’s a common element in everything you do. Matching your logo design to the image you want is critical. For example, if you’re a sophisticated seller of expensive designer clothing, you’ll want an elegant, stylish logo. If you run a pie shop, you’ll want a logo that gives customers a down-home feeling that is at the opposite end of the design spectrum from a boutique logo.

Work with an experienced logo designer

Logo design is a specialized skill that few companies possess in-house. Depending on the size of your business, you will pay anywhere from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars as a design fee. Experienced designers charge as much as $250 an hour, plus application fees, or more. An application fee refers to how widely the logo will be deployed. For example, a logo that will be used for 1,000 national-brand retail stores will cost more than one for a single local store. In smaller markets, the typical design fee range is $75 to $150 an hour. Before you contract out a designer for the project, ask for three references for whom the designer has created logos. Contact those clients and ask how the designer was to work with and how well the new logo has performed in the marketplace.

Develop a lot of concepts in what’s called a “thumbnail” stage

A thumbnail is a rough, miniature representation of what a logo might look like. They can be as small as an inch, drawn on paper — or on 3 X 5-inch index cards. A good designer committed to a successful outcome will present at least a dozen or more thumbnails that you will review and critique. From the thumbnails, you will pick three “finalists,” or concepts, that will be taken to full execution. Select the three finalists and provide the designer with your final input or revision notes. Some designers work faster than others, so be prepared to wait anywhere from a week to several weeks before you see a trio of finished logo designs for your final consideration.

Host a formal meeting for the designer’s presentation and the final selection of a logo

Invite all stakeholders, such as your sales manager or floor salespeople or advertising manager. Everyone whose role will be impacted by the logo should have a say in its final execution. Creativity is often a subjective undertaking, and as a result, multiple heads (and sets of eyes) are generally better than one. The goal is consensus and collective excitement about the successful exercise in corporate identity and market presence. Pick a winner and do an applications analysis. An applications analysis means testing the new logo at the various sizes it will be used. For example, the smallest is usually a business card. The largest is usually signage or a billboard. In between are shopping bags, brochures and seasonal fliers selling specials. Look at each and every application and make sure the logo looks good in all. Once the logo is approved, the designer will deliver an electronic library of logos in a range of sizes that can be adapted to any individual application.

Be bold and make it a collaborative project with your customers

In 2010, GAP rolled out a multi-million new logo application that bombed with customers, who revolted online. Within days, GAP yanked the logo and reverted to its tried-and-true old identity. Lesson learned: if your customers don’t like your logo, you’re in big trouble. Be an innovator and get customers involved up front, in focus groups or other forms of market research.