Often I find myself trying to work with existing brands that weren’t really thought through before they started design and as a result we end up making lots of design compromises to accommodate a poorly-designed logo. The first thing a lot of start-ups do is run out and hire someone to design a logo before they’ve had a chance to think about their desired brand identity and marketing plan. The logo design process can’t effectively be done until you’ve got a very clear picture of who you are, why you are in business, and what are your business objectives for your brand.
While some top design agencies might be able to think strategically on your behalf, most designers are focused on making something pretty, and they don’t necessarily think about your business and all the ways your brand / logo is going to be used. This is especially the case if you go out to some el-cheapo off-shore logo company for a $250 logo. Here are some of the big issues I frequently encounter when working with logos that weren’t really thought out:
- Amateur design. Your logo is typically the first impression you give as a business; however, I continue see a lot of people using logos “designed” by a VistaPrint wizard or other inexpensive online service that make them look unprofessional and rinky-dink. If you have unpolished logo and identity materials, how professional will people think your services will be?
- Too many colors. Inexperienced designers don’t get that your logo is going to be used in a variety media, not just online. I’ve encountered logos that have had several colors in them, which increases your production cost at best and at worst, won’t work as in the case of many most promotional products.
- Poor print match. Often what you see on screen or printed out on your ink jet printer looks nothing like how the colors will appear on an off-set printer. I’ve had to scrap a whole set of identity materials that came back from the printer because the colors were much darker than we expected (but what the designer wanted). In order to avoid nasty surprises, always ask your designer to provide you with for PMS / Pantone chips and CMYK equivalent of the color of the logo so you can see how it will look when printed out.
- Doesn’t work with Social Networking sites. How often are you on Facebook or Twitter that you see someone whose logo is cut off? Of course that’s a big no no, but 9 times out of 10, unless I specifically tell a designer to design for Facebook, I’ll end up with a logo that doesn’t fit. There are certainly ways to avoid this. Either tell your design to a) make sure your logo is a perfect square when you design it; or b) create a perfect square version of the logo. Here’s an example of what we did for Edwards Educational Services, with the logo on the right for use in social networking sites.
- Missing tagline or other information. One of my clients likes including their logo on everything, but they created their logo before they decided on the tagline. As a result, we’ve encountered a lot of problems fitting the tagline next to the logo on a variety of items from the website to signage. If you’re planning on having a tagline and using it a lot, it’s important to come up with it before you design the logo. Then have the designer make a version with the tagline and one without. Below, you’ll see we created a square version of the Off The Ground logo, as well as a verion with the tagline. Note, this was all taken into consideration before the designer even started working.
Creating your logo is an important part of creating your brand, and it’s important you do it right so you can avoid these problems. While the top design agencies will probably avoid most of the rookie mistakes, they’re not going to necessarily think about taglines or social networking. However, if you provide detailed guidelines about how you’re planning on using the logo to your designer – be they the top agency or online logo factory (although I’ve yet to see one of these I really like) – you’re most likely to have an attractive logo that supports your brand strategy.
Julie Legrand is the founder and president of Off The Ground Consulting. She provides project management, strategic branding and tactical marketing consulting to help start-up companies lay the foundation for a long-term marketing success.