The Art of Small Business. Create your own company logo, letterhead, or business form
by Robert Bixby
If you've ever thought of becoming an artist but you're uncomfortable smearing paint or uncoordinated with a Conte crayon, there's still hope. You can supply your own commercial art and design work at a low cost and learn about computer art in the process.
But before you dive into commercial art with a product like DrawPerfect Charisma, you need to put aside the idea that you have no talent. With computerized art products, nearly all the work is done for you. After you've mastered a few simple techniques, you'll be generating all the logos, letterheads, and business forms you need. And, as you'll discover, it can be a lot of fun. Unlike most areas of computing, art is practically mistake-free.
The company logo is one of our culture's most ubiquitous art forms. People even wear clothes with the labels on the outside to show off the logos of the companies that made them. Logos have increasing value in our postliterate society because they don't require that the consumer be able to read. If they're seen often enough, they can be recognized instantly. And in international business, logos have the added advantage of overcoming language barriers.
Start with a logo. It's the foundation on which you'll build the other forms of your business communication; your letterhead will show your logo prominently, as will your business forms. When you sponsor softball teams, their uniforms will sport your logo.
There are several different strategies for creating a logo, but the best strategy is to incorporate the name of the business. The big corporations can get away with abstract logos, like Transamerica's (which looks like an arrangement of six hockey sticks). But I'm assuming that your home or small business isn't as large as Transamerica. Therefore, you should consider name recognition as well as logo recognition.
The possibilities based on company name are name only, name with meaningful graphic, and name with abstract graphic. To create these logos, I'll use the latest version of DrawPerfect from WordPerfect. It's one of a number of options available at a moderate cost to the home or small business. It not only offers outstanding graphics for printouts but also has presentation graphics and the ability to use macros both within its own environment and under WordPerfect's Shell. In addition, its graphics are directly transportable to WordPerfect, the best-selling word processor of all time. It comes with dozens of pieces of clip art which you can use with your WordPerfect documents, and you can also use the WordPerfect clip art in DrawPerfect.
DrawPerfect is far from the only software of its kind in this price range. You could also use Arts & Letters Graphic Editor, Corel Draw (both operate under Windows), or GEM Artline.
For the purposes of this article, we'll make up the name of a company. Since many small businesses are engaged in "massaging information," Baker and Rogers Publishing is a likely name for a company that provides a broad range of services including writing, typesetting, and layout (all of which are performed in WordPerfect).
Because she's the creative force in the company, Baker volunteers to create the logo, which must meet the strict standards of Rogers, who's a real stick-in-mud. The partners see this as a perfect pairing because they compensate for each other's shortcomings.
The Name Game
Baker sits down at her AT and starts DrawPerfect. To begin, she simply writes the name of the company in several different typefaces. (Some of the available typefaces are shown in Figure 1; as you select each typeface, you see an example of it in the box at the upper right.) She takes a critical look at the resulting text, remembering that she has to please not only herself but also her partner and her company's customers, whose preferences are much closer to her partner's than her own. With this in mind, she passes over the script options and chooses WP ROMAN, the last one shown in Figure 2.
Her next step is to size the text large enough to work with. Since all these programs work with outline fonts, there's no reason to stick with the skimpy text. You'll have much more control if you make the text fill the screen and then size it smaller for use. Size is an option on the Edit menu.
The text looks handsome by itself, but it's not very distinctive. It's all too obvious that very little work has gone into it. These are Baker's options at this point: * To enhance the text by drawing a
box around it or by placing rules
above and below it * To rotate the text or distort it in
some other way (such as stretching it
horizontally or vertically) * To change the text's appearance by
altering its color or fill * To copy the text and distort the copy
DrawPerfect text is just text. There are a limited number of ways you can distort the actual letters. Arts & Letters and similar graphics-based packages let you alter the letters on the screen because the individual letters are treated as clip art once they appear on the screen. DrawPerfect does let you select certain text attributes, such as hollow letters, before the text appears on the screen.
To create her first logo, Baker creates the text in outline letters and then copies and rotates them. Next, she creates a white rectangle and the text one last time--this time in front of the rectangle (Figure 3).
To create the second type of logo--a name with a meaningful graphic--Baker could look through her collection of clip art and call up a drawing of a book, computer, or laser printer to use as a background for the name. Creating a name-plus-abstract-design logo would also be fairly simple to design, involving no more than working with the drawing tools in DrawPerfect and creating something pleasing to the eye.
Assuming that Rogers approved of the logo, Baker has a new project in mind: She plans to apply the logo to the many business forms used by the tiny company. She'll start with a letterhead to represent her business. Once the letterhead is designed, she can print out a single sheet and take it to a print shop for reproduction, print out the sheets herself as they're needed, or turn the letterhead into a WPG graphic and import it into a WordPerfect style. WPG graphics can also be converted into other file formats for other word processors, such as Ami Professional, WordStar, and Microsoft Word.
We'll assume that Baker has chosen the first option. Laser printer toner is expensive enough that it's usually less expensive in the long run to use the laser printer for composition work and a professional printer for actual reproduction.
To turn the logo into something that can be easily altered, Baker chooses the Area Selection option, selects the entire logo, and groups it--turning the logo into a single object that can be moved and stretched. She enters the full name and address of the firm and tries different arrangements of name, address, and logo, easily sliding the elements of the letterhead around on the page until they look just right. Her final solution is only one of an infinite number of pleasing arrangements.
DrawPerfect is one of a small number of non-Windows-based draw programs. Most draw programs are designed to operate under Windows. One of the first of the Windows programs was Graph Plus from Micrografx. When it came time to update Graph Plus, Micrografx decided it was time to come up with a sexier name as well, and Charisma was born. Charisma, like DrawPerfect, is designed to create presentation graphics, which means it has a built-in facility to display computer screen as if they were slides. Both products can create files that can be turned into real slides for use with a projector. And both can create a number of different graph types based on values provided through links with a spreadsheet program or entered through a spreadsheet-like interface.
Figure 4 shows a text-plus-graphic logo for Baker's company. To create this design, a graph was made using the graphing utility from Charisma, and a rounded rectangle was created that frames the name. It was filled with solid white, and the words Baker and Rogers were superimposed on top of it in the Times Roman font. (In addition to its outline fonts, Charisma uses the fonts available in Baker's Star Laserprinter 8 II with LincPage PostScript emulation. DrawPerfect relies on its own outline fonts.)
Figure 5 shows the logo as it appears on the Charisma screen. As you can see, Charisma is slightly less WYSIWYG than DrawPerfect. However, because of its reliance on Windows, Charisma is easier to use if you've had some experience with other Windows-based graphics programs.
You've seen the name-only and name-with-meaningful-graphic logos. The last category is name with abstract graphic. It's a fun category, but anyone seriously interested in abstract design will warn you that it isn't to be taken lightly. Because your design can go anywhere or be anything, there's a real danger it will be misinterpreted.
Let's begin with a squiggle. If you repeatedly select Duplicate from the Arrange menu, move the duplicate squiggle slightly to the right, and select Rotate Left 90 Degrees from the Change menu, you should be able to create a bale of wire. Although at first glance the drawing appears random, it tends to draw the eye, and upon closer examination you can see that there's a subtle organization in the design. In fact, you can see that it is a design, not just random markings.
The next step is to add the company name. This time, the Times or Times Roman fonts would be inappropriate because they're traditional fonts with a classic beauty. To use them here would be like putting Mona Lisa's face on a portrait by Picasso. For this logo, seek out something with a more modern appearance, such as Helvetica, as shown in the final logo (Figure 6) or another sans serif font such as AvantGarde.
Extending Your Reach
Your commercial art projects don't have to be limited to logos and letterheads; Charisma and DrawPerfect are excellent programs for creating business presentations for sales meetings or trade shows. Graphics from each products can be converted into slides by a commercial slide service or you can run a slide show on the computer with a projection monitor.
And in addition to saving you money, these programs can entertain your creative side in the midst of a day of drudgery. Taking a graphics break can help keep you interested and alert and add extra creativity to your bread-and-butter work.