By Jeff Garrett, founder of Lumberjacks Restaurant

When starting a new business, one of the hardest decisions is the selection of the icon. It can’t just be any icon — it needs to be instantly recognizable and memorable, while also speaking to who your brand is. Consider the following key factors during your decision-making process.

Resonate With Your Theme

Before you start your search, take a second to reflect on your business to fully understand the goals and expectations. From there, it’s easier to select an icon that will align the brand and its messaging. When people see your icon, they should get a feel for your brand’s personality and understand what separates you from competitors. Pick colors that make sense with the theme of the brand, as different colors convey different messages. For example, red is the universal color for stop, while green is linked to nature. From the color to the shape, your icon should resonate with your business. Be sure your icon is inviting and friendly in order to draw consumers in.

While brainstorming creative icon ideas for the full-service restaurant I founded, Lumberjacks, we knew we wanted our icon to be a lumberjack, of course. But other than that, we had a lot of decisions to make. What should he wear? What should he look like? What should he be doing? Decisions like these are easier to make when you know the specifics about what type of business you want to run and who your target audience is.

Originality is Key

Choosing an icon is fun, so get creative! There are hundreds of thousands of themes for businesses, so play around with things. It’s important to choose something that is original but not random. Consumers need to understand it at first glance, and eventually, they’ll associate the icon directly with your brand. Because of this, be sure to check out what themes and icons your top competitors are using and avoid using similar concepts and colors.

When crafting an icon out of the chosen theme, keep it simple. It’ll be the most visually appealing. Do some research on the colors chosen and what moods and emotions they bring out in people. Then, trademark the icon so no other business can use it. Trademarks are a valuable asset to a business, so be sure to renew it every few years so that it allows you to grow your brand awareness without competitors swooping in and using it legally.

For our Lumberjacks icon, we took a different route than other restaurants and chose a three-dimensional image. We found a company in Wisconsin that made a fiberglass lumberjack statue that fit perfectly with our brand, and we wanted to ensure no other restaurant could also use it, so we purchased the trademark rights to it. We’ve found that our 12-foot tall, 650 pound fiberglass lumberjack statue is extremely memorable for guests as we always see guests stopping by to snap a picture with it.  Three-dimensional icons can really draw consumers to the business.

Find Something Sustainable

Make sure that you are thinking long term when choosing your new icon. It needs to be sustainable over time, adapting to stay relevant over many years.  Your icon should grow with your brand and evolve as different trends come and go.  If it is too specific then it will eventually be outdated and irrelevant.  Be sure that your icon appeals to a wide demographic so you are not limiting your customer base.

Icons can be altered over time, but the adjustments can’t be too large as to confuse customers. A few years ago, we discovered that the two-dimensional lumberjack icon we were using on our signs and menus was a little off-putting to guests; he looked mean! We realized this didn’t accurately convey Lumberjacks, so we edited our icon to feature a lumberjack with a more pleasant expression.

Measure Your Expectations

Think outside the box to find a unique icon, but be sure to set realistic expectations. Stay true to your vision but make sure your vision is obtainable. Carefully look at all of your options but don’t over think it; in the end, being decisive will move the process along. Even if you think you are an artist, you should always hire a trained graphic designer to help you form your icon.

Jeff Garrett is the founder of Lumberjacks Restaurant, a full service log cabin themed diner, serving breakfast all day, lunch and dinner in large portions of down-home menu items made from scratch with fresh, quality ingredients. Founded in 2004, Lumberjacks is known regionally in Northern California and Nevada as “Where the Big Boys Eat.” Lumberjacks began franchising in 2010 and today has nine locations in two states with a 10th location opening by the end of 2016.