Naming a business is a complicated and fraught endeavor.

Maybe the name you want is already taken. Maybe something like “Bob’s Bakery” is just too unimaginative for what you have in mind. So you come up with a name that is really cool or has a certain sound. Maybe it has a special meaning to you. Either way, what you end up with is nearly perfect. The problem? No one can tell from your business name alone what your business actually is or does.

Sure, you could add a bunch of subtext and explain things that way. But a business doesn’t always need or want a tagline, industry identifier or other extra type surrounding the logo (looking at you, all those logos with ‘Est. 2011’). Sometimes it’s just extra clutter. And when a logo has to be shrunk down small, that extra text basically becomes illegible. So how do you make clear what your business does or is about without adding and relying on those extra words?

It can be done, and rather easily with some strategic visual choices. In today’s Brand Nuance challenge, I’m going to show how to use a logo’s styling and imagery (not its words!) to give an indication of what exactly the business is.

Challenge Parameters:

  1. Each logo must use the exact same name: Midnight Juice.*
    No other words or taglines or subheadings may be used.
  2. Each logo should express what the business is through styling and imagery alone.
  3. Each logo must be in just plain black and white.
    This experiment would quickly devolve into a time suck if I had to get into color comparisons, too.

See what I’ve done here:

Midnight Juice #1This Midnight Juice is an organic juice bar that stays open as late as any real bar.
Grab a healthy nightcap on your way home from the pub crawl.

Midnight Juice #2This logo option would be for the alcohol-centered version of Midnight Juice,
an urban cocktail bar with an impressive and unique drink menu.

Midnight Juice #3Here is Midnight Juice with the volume turned up,
appropriate for a record store focusing on all types of rock.

Midnight Juice #4And this is Midnight Juice, the late night talk show podcast,
discussing all the juicy tidbits in current events.

Do you see that variety in style? You can say so much with just two words and a mark! A few changes, and poof: completely different business. I think you’ll agree that no one is going to mistake Midnight Juice the juice bar with the late night podcast. Even the juice bar and the cocktail bar, which are fairly similar businesses (the both sell beverages after all) have a unique vibe.

Side note: I am in love with that mark for the cocktail bar- the crescent moon as the garnish! Gah, I’m good.

What you need to keep in mind is this: Fonts have personalities. Drawing & iillustration styles have personalities. When you take the time to match up those styling personalities with your business, you’re golden. Even if the business name itself is unclear, well-done visual branding can do the explaining for you. You don’t have to clog up your logo with extra words and taglines.

What do you think? Could you tell what each Midnight Juice business was before reading the caption?

*Credit for this post goes to my friend Kara, who mused that there should be a juice bar open late for the people who go out drinking, so they can get a head start on avoiding a hangover. She even suggested it be called Midnight Juice. Kara, if you ever want to make that a reality, the branding is already done! 😉

Need Branding Help?

Helping you hone in on the perfect visual branding is part of my job. If you have a new creative business and are struggling to come up with a logo, check out The Newbie package, especially for new business owners.