Marketing 101: Choosing a logo
No, Clipart doesn't count
Learn How To:
- Find someone to make a logo.
- What you need to tell your logo designer.
- What kind of files you'll want from your designer.
Your logo is the signature of your brand, and one of your company's most valuable assets. It is the single element that will symbolize your brand more than anything else. A well-designed logo is one that reflects your business and communicates your message. It needs to be simple, unique, memorable, versatile, and work without color.
In order to choose a logo, there are important steps to go through, both by yourself and with a graphic designer. In this post, I outline the logo design process and some important guidelines to keep in mind when choosing a logo that is perfect for you.
For the creation of your logo, you are free to choose either a freelance designer, a design firm, or perhaps an advertising agency. Throughout this post, for the purpose of convenience and readability, I will use the term “designer” to include whichever type of business or individual is applicable to your case.
Choose A Budget
First off, you should decide on your budget for your new logo. Prices can range from $300 to $300,000 USD (and sometimes more) for professional logo and identity development. Many factors determine the price, including the specific project requirements, the size and age of the company, the media on which it will be used, and the experience and client history of the designer. Like any graphic design element, logos are not a commodity. The value of a memorable and timeless trademark cannot be calculated by how many hours it takes to create it. Investing in a logo (and a corporate identity to go with it) is one of the most important first steps you can take when building a brand.
You may have noticed more than a few online logo banks and contest sites where you can get one for around $150. There are even freelancer bidding sites where people promise insanely low prices, like $30! Be aware that choosing a logo for a cheap price online can be disastrous and have a low-quality output. Inexperienced designers may take forever, not communicate well, use clip art images (a definite no-no), and may not provide you with the correct files you need for use on different media. A professional identity designer will work closely with you, encourage useful feedback, and ask you important preliminary questions before doing the necessary research, brainstorming concepts, moving to a sketchpad, or sitting at a computer.
There are so many places you can find graphic designers. Choosing the right designer for you is definitely a lot harder (and we'll get to that in a minute). You can locate lots of candidates by using different methods.
- Ask around. If you know someone with a great logo, simply ask them who did it. Most of my freelance design work comes from referrals.
- Search graphic design firm directories such as the one on GraphicDesign.com.
- Browse design galleries and portfolio communities like The Behance Network, Dribbble, and Forrst.
- Search for “logo design” and “logo development” on social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus, and Facebook.
Choose a suitable designer
After contacting a number of designers and requesting quotes, make sure you look at more than just the price when deciding who gets the job. Consider the designer's previous logos and the corporate identities they have created around those logos. Look for good design presentations because it shows how much they care about their own professional appearance. Read the descriptions that go with each of their logo projects because a logo may look great and all, but it has to meet the specific design requirements to be effective.
More importantly, choose a logo designer whose style of design fits your own preferred style. By doing this, you'll be happy with the logo you end up with, and the designer will be happy because that style is what they're most comfortable with.
You can judge the professionalism of a graphic designer by the following points. These don't all have to apply, but be on the lookout for at least a few of them.
- They are polite, direct, knowledgeable, and efficient communicators.
- They explain their design process for you and tell you what will be delivered upon completion.
- They will ask you relevant questions to understand your business.
- They have some sort of contract or service agreement to sign before starting.
- They require a specified up-front payment before starting.
- Their grammar, spelling, and punctuation are at least satisfactory. (As with any industry, bad writing says a lot about a person).
If the designer presents you with a contract or agreement, make sure that the ownership of the logo is transferred to you upon final payment. If there is nothing in writing that mentions ownership, then ask your designer to give you this agreement in writing. It is imperative that you own your logo design so that you can legally use it however you like in the future.
Brief the designer in detail
Whether you brief your designer face-to-face or send over a brief in email form, it is essential to explain what you want in detail. Answer these questions first:
- If you currently have a logo, why don't you like it?
- What does your business do?
- Who is your target market?
- Who are your main competitors?
- How are you different from your competitors?
- What qualities do you want your company to project?
- What feelings do you want your new logo to incite?
- Do you have a tag line that needs to be included in the design?
- Will your logo show up in videos? If so, will it eventually need an animated version?
- Which specific logos are your favorites, and why?
- Are you partial to typographic logos (Coca-Cola, FedEx, or ESPN), symbolic logos (Nike or Apple), or a combination of both (Pepsi or Adidas)?
Let the designer know exactly where you plan on using the logo. Sure, you'll have business cards and a website, but will it also be seen on billboards and your social media profiles?
Ask if the designer will provide a logo usage guidelines document, which advises how the logo can and cannot be used. For example, which logo variation can be used on which color background? Finally, ask for a favicon. This is the little image that appears in browser tabs, in your bookmarks manager, and on your computer when you save a webpage. They usually come in one of three sizes: 16×16, 32×32, or 64×64 pixels. Ask for a 64×64 pixel favicon, so that is looks crisp everywhere it appears.
Equipped with all this knowledge, your designer should be able to deliver an accurate visual representation of your business. Solidifying your vision before briefing a designer will definitely save you time, money, and headaches in the end.
When I entered into the logo design industry, I encountered a few clients who expected me to know all of these things and deliver a perfect solution to a problem that was not expressed clearly. It inevitably led to non-stop revisions of their logo and tired faces all around. That's why I decided to start sending out a list of preliminary logo design questions before even considering a job. If you don't know what you want in the beginning, then you may keep changing your mind as the project moves forward. It's definitely okay to change your mind, but be aware that the designer will probably ask you for more money before continuing.
Choose a logo concept
The designer will then do the necessary research and experiments, then come back to you with some concept designs. This will take around two to four days, depending on the specific job. Ideally, they will present you with three to six hand-drawn sketches. When you first view the concepts, choose a logo that immediately catches your eye. This is usually the one that your gut is telling you to choose. Continue the decision process by asking yourself some essential questions:
- Does it represent my product or business?
- Does it convey my message?
- Is the design simple enough?
- Does the design have sufficient contrast to stand out?
- Will it work without color?
- Will it work when it's super small?
- Does it look too much like any other logos?
- Will it be relevant five years or ten years down the road?
After that, sleep on it. Do the exact same thing and ask yourself the same questions for a second time. Do your answers change? It's also a good idea to ask friends and family what they think.
Give useful feedback
After the first draft, your designer may actually present a logo that is close to what you're looking for, but it's not often they'll hit the nail on the head right away. Therefore, it's up to you to communicate your needs as best you can. Provide your designer with feedback that is useful. Simply saying, “I don't like any of them” doesn't really help the process. Express why you don't like something, or what you would like to see differently, such as, “I don't like how rigid and symmetrical this one is. Can you give it more movement or make it more lively?”
Giving clear direction is necessary, but try not to become the designer yourself. You have hired a designer for a reason, so let them do what they do best. If you have chosen a good designer that communicates well and matches your preferred style, then you can be confident they will present you with quality work.
Upon release of final payment to the designer, you should receive the deliverables promised to you in the beginning of the business relationship. This should include vector files that are resizable, as opposed to raster images that cannot be increased in size without becoming pixelated (blurry).
You need files that you can start using on the web right away (usually PNG, JPG, or GIF). Ask for a PNG or GIF if you want the background to be transparent (no white box around your logo). You also need to get the original source files (usually AI or EPS). You definitely want to have the source files in case someone else needs to modify or expand on your logo someday. For example, if one day you hire someone to create a video for you, then a source file is required to incorporate your logo—a JPG simply won't cut it.
When it's time to choose a logo that is perfect for you, realize that it's not a simple process. It takes a lot of thought about your type of business, your target audience, the message you want to send, the feelings you want to incite, as well as open communication with your designer.
However, it's definitely worth the effort to strive for a strong logo design, as it is the first thing your audience sees, and it will be with you for a long time to come.