Rescue 101: Logo Design for Your Rescue

The logo that you use for your rescue is going to be an important part of your overall brand image, it’s going to be something you use on a variety of materials you use to represent your rescue. You’ll use it in large format on banners and signing, in smaller size on brochures and business cards, and it will be one of the first things your visitors notice when they arrive at your website. You’ll want your logo to say something at a glance about your rescue, and to incorporate the color pallet that you decided on earlier in Rescue 101: Start Branding with Color Theory.

Designing a logo might seem like a simple thing based on the general idea that it’s a complimentary picture along with your business name, but pulling off a good logo is actually quite difficult unless you’ve got some serious graphic design chops under your belt. There’s a reason there are professional logo designers and a myriad of logo design services out there, having a well turned out and polished logo makes a serious difference in your brand impression.

Create Your Own Logo Services Online

There are websites online where you can find free logos that you can customize for your use. If you aren’t familiar with graphics editing programs and don’t have anyone around that might be able to help you create a custom logo, this can be a good option for a rescue starting out that doesn’t have the budget to pay for a professional logo designer. The downside of using a free logo creation service is that you almost certainly won’t find something out of the box that really fits what you would want for your rescue, and it can be difficult to pull off a solid-looking design using a free service.

If you search on Google for Free Logo Design, you’ll find quite a few options but not all of them are actually free. Many websites offer a service where you can design a logo using their online tools and resources, but when it comes time to download your logo they will ask you to pay a one time fee to receive the digital files of your logo. In general, most services that will ask you to pay a one time fee should be charging $50 or less, so if you do find something you want this can still be a cheaper alternative to paying a proper logo designer.

Logo Sample from Logomakr

This logo was created with Logomakr, a free online logo design service.

One genuinely free service you can check out is Logomakr, which offers a simple interface where you can add text, change colors, and choose graphics from their library. Logomakr is a very approachable tool for someone not used to graphic design and you’ll find a variety of clip art items to use for your logo. To the left you can see a logo that I designed in a few minutes for a fictional guinea pig rescue. The logo to the left was created using a simple shape in Logomakr, a piece of clip art, some text, and changing colors. Click Here to try out Logomakr online.

A sample logo for an imaginary bird rescue

This logo was created from a logo base found at Logoinstant

If you have some comfort level in using a graphic design program such as Adobe Photoshop, you can check into services like Logoinstant. The logo to the right was created by modifying a logo based called birdfly from Logoinstant and required little more than some basic cropping and adjustments to the way the text was spaced. Click Here to visit Logoinstant online.

Whichever service you decide to use, make sure that you read the terms of use for any graphics that you are using from another program. For example, if you use graphics from Logoinstant you can use them for personal or business use, but you have to acknowledge that the logo was from their website in printed materials and online unless you purchase a club membership from them which you can read more about in Logoinstant’s Terms of Service. This might not be a big deal if you just need something to put up on your website and don’t mind giving them a courtesy link back, but having to acknowledge them in print on all of your materials is not going to be a good look for your rescue.

Creating Your Own Logo from Scratch

If you have some familiarity with graphic editing programs like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, you may be able to design your own logo. Coming up with the inspiration for a logo from scratch is not an easy thing but there’s a lot of ways to find inspiration online.

North Star Rescue's Old Logo

This logo was one I designed for North Star Rescue in 2009 using Adobe Photoshop.

The logo I originally designed for North Star Rescue was frankly really bad, I didn’t even retain a copy of it although I’m sure it’s floating out there somewhere. I do recall it was a graphic with an overabundance of 3D effects from Photoshop and gradient patterns that made it a nightmare to print out cleanly on anything, and so it only showed up on our website and social media accounts. In 2009, I decided our logo needed a serious facelift and struck out for some logo design inspiration, finally settling on the logo that appears to the left.

When trying to come up with the idea for the new logo, I jotted down some notes about what I wanted to do with my logo. I wanted to use the star symbol from our rescue’s name, but I also wanted to include some kind of rodent picture so that people would know what we were about. I did a search on Google Images for “North Star Logo”, “Rat Logo” and “Rat Line Drawing” among other things to come up with ideas for my eventual logo. I incorporated ideas I found from other logos, such as the Star symbol connecting in to the logo and spanning across a good portion of it, and eventually came up with the logo you see here. This logo was something I made using Adobe Photoshop, and while there are more ideal programs to do graphic design in, Photoshop is the one I’m the most familiar with. Despite the pretty simple overall result, I’d estimate that I spent several days trying out different design ideas and tweaking them before finally getting to something I was happy with. The logo involved manipulating basic shapes, bending line paths, drawing different rough lines and manipulating them, changing fonts and more.

For me, the hardest part of coming up with a logo is figuring out what it should look like. There’s a lot of places you can draw inspiration from, and if you are going to tackle designing your own logo from scratch I’d recommend checking out some other designers for inspiration before you get started. If you are thinking of designing your own logo, I recommend that you take 15-ish minutes out of your life to watch this video of Aaron Draplin of Draplin Design Company. Aaron is a professional logo designer and in this video you’ll get a look at his creative process, and how he taps into ideas for a logo design challenge.

Using a Professional Logo Design Service

If you have the money to invest in paying a professional logo designer, by all means go for it. There are lots of very talented logo designers out there who can help take your rescue’s branding process to the next level by creating something eye-catching, unique, and tailored exactly to your rescue group. Paying a professional to design your logo is a wise investment in your future, you will be using this logo in so many different ways to represent your rescue that having a great looking logo will make you look that much more professional and competent when people are first getting to know your group.

North Star Rescue's Logo

The logo designed for North Star Rescue by Chuck Peterson Designs.

Above you saw the logo that I initially designed for North Star Rescue by myself, and to the right you can see the logo that we had redesigned for North Star Rescue in 2015 by Chuck Peterson of Chuck Peterson Designs. The new drew heavily on the design of the one I put together, but you can take a look at the same idea in the hands of a professional to see the difference in impact. The new logo has a bolder punch to it, with brighter and more impactful colors, while still keeping our desired elements of the star and the rat. Our new and improved logo prints cleanly on a variety of mediums thanks to thicker lines that won’t be missed when we use the logo to be printed on give away bags or t-shirts, and it stays clean and easily readable when printed on black and white in paperwork we give away.

There are a variety of levels of service you can get, either from an individual logo designer or a logo design service. It’s important to get a good understanding of what you are paying for in the service before you sign up. Most designers will require that you pay a portion or their base fee up front before they start work for you, this is important for them since they are still going to be putting in work for you even if you decide at the end not to go with the logo they created for you. Most services or designers will allow for a certain amount of redesigning to be done off of the first draft of the logo you present, but may charge for additional change requests after a certain limit. They may offer different final formats for the logo designed, it’s good to ask up front if your designer can provide you with multiple formats and sizes so that your logo is ready for use in a variety of applications.

Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals from business owners that you might know or other rescues to find out what service they used for their logo creation if they have one that you like. A logo designer should be able to show you a portfolio of examples of work so you can see if their art style matches what you want for your rescue’s logo. If you want to be able to work hands on with someone, you may also have local business organizations or sign printing shops that can refer you to local talent so you can meet face to face with the person creating your logo. It’s also easy these days to work with a logo designer online where you can scan and send sketches back and forth, or provide feedback by e-mail to get your desired final result.

Growing with Your Logo

The logo you choose isn’t an anchor, you can expect to go through a few redesigns over the years as your rescue grows and you have more to invest in your image. Don’t get too hung up if you can’t afford a professional logo designer from the start, you can always start with a free logo design service and upgrade your logo when you have the funding or time to do so.  North Star Rescue has been through at least four logos that I can recall in ten years of operating and it’s not uncommon to see companies update their logo, either through a major design revision or little tweaks and updates.

Keep in mind when you plan to update your logo that you will potentially have other materials that will need to be updated. If you have digital files that you print to hand out, like animal care brochures, you might need to update your logo each time on all of the printed materials. If you have signing or banners that might be more expensive to print, changing your logo will represent a much higher cost.

About Lauren Paul

Lauren is the founder of North Star Rescue, a non-profit organization in California’s San Francisco Bay Area dedicated to the rescue and welfare of companion pet rodents. Lauren operates Alma Rodentia, a website featuring an online store for pet rodents and their humans and a blog about rescue and life with pet rodents.

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