Your logo is the signature of your brand. It is the emblem that symbolizes your whole business. It can be displayed anywhere and everywhere and over time can become one of your company’s most valuable assets. A well-designed logo should reflect your business and relate to your audience. It must be simple, unique, relevant, memorable, and versatile.
When you decide that it’s time to get a logo, there are a few important steps to follow. In this post, I outline this process and some handy tips to keep in mind along the way.
For the creation of your logo, you may choose a freelance designer, a design studio, or 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.
Step 1: Prepare a brief
Great logos are born from great creative briefs. Without a thorough brief, a designer will have a much harder time getting inside your head and understanding your business. Call it a project brief, a design brief, or a creative brief—this is the document that tells a designer about your business, what makes it tick, how it’s different, and who its customers are. Without such a document, you’ll end up with a logo that either doesn’t represent your brand, doesn’t relate to the target audience, or both!
Whether you’ll be delivering the brief in person, emailing it, or posting it on job boards, it must include specifics. Try answering these questions:
- What does your business do?
- Who is your target market? [e.g., middle-class soccer moms, aged 30-50, who have large influence among their peers]
- Who are your main competitors? [Provide links, if possible]
- How are you different from your competitors? [Your unique selling point (USP)]
- Describe your overall customer experience in three words.
- What is your ultimate promise to customers?
- What is your vision for the future of your business?
- Where will your logo appear (e.g., website, print materials, billboards, videos, packaging, clothing)?
- Do you have a tag line that needs to be included in the design?
- Do you need anything else designed (e.g., a favicon*, social media avatars or backgrounds, stationery, a PowerPoint template)?
* A favicon is the little image that appears in browser tabs and bookmarks. A well-designed favicon makes your website tab stand out when users have a million browser tabs open.
- If you currently have a logo, why don’t you like it?
- Which specific logos are your favourites, and why?
- Are you partial to typographic logos (Coca-Cola and FedEx), symbolic logos (Nike and Apple), or a combination of both (YouTube and Red Bull)?
- Are there any other preferences, guidelines, or restrictions (e.g., must use existing brand colors)?
Equipped with all this knowledge, your designer should be able to deliver an accurate visual representation of your business. Solidifying your vision and writing it out in a document before briefing a designer will definitely save you time, money, and headaches in the end.
When I entered 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 started sending out a list of preliminary questions to all of my clients. If they don’t know how to answer the questions, then we have a chat and I help them craft a good brief.
Step 2: Choose a budget
You should decide on a budget for your new logo design. 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 and deliverables, 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 type of design, 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 brand identity to go with it) is one of the most important first steps you can take when building a brand.
“But I can get a logo cheaper than that!”
Yes, there are dozens and dozens of logo banks and contest sites where you can get one for around $150. There are also freelancer bidding sites where people promise insanely low prices—like around $30! Be aware that choosing a logo for such a cheap price can be disastrous, having questionable final products and being the source of many avoidable headaches. Inexperienced designers may not communicate well, may not understand your needs, and may not provide you with the proper digital files. Cheap design services will almost always use regurgitated, plagiarized designs across multiple client projects.
A professional identity designer will work closely with you to produce original creative work that suits your needs. They will encourage useful feedback and ask you vital questions before doing the necessary research, brainstorming, sketching, or computer design.
Step 3: Choose a suitable designer
There are many different 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). Browsing design directories and portfolio communities is usually sufficient to find dozens of candidates. Try these sites:
Or you can just ask around. If you know someone with a great logo, ask them who did it. Most of my design work comes from referrals.
Consider the designer’s previous logos and brand identities. Browsing portfolios, notice how they present their work and make sure to read their project descriptions. The overall presentation shows how much they care about their professional appearance, and the descriptions tell you how design thinking was used to solve specific business problems. A logo may be visually stunning on its own, but it has to meet the design requirements of a business to be effective in the world of branding.
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 working in a style they’re most comfortable with.
After contacting some designers, sending them your brief, and requesting quotes, make sure you consider more than just the price when deciding who gets the gig. 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. You’ll probably want to work with a professional who will:
- be polite, direct, knowledgeable, and communicate well
- explain their design process and tell you what will be delivered upon completion
- ask you relevant questions about your business or the creative brief
- have a service agreement to sign before starting
- require a specified up-front payment before starting (30-50% is standard)
- have sufficient grammar, spelling, and punctuation (as with any industry, bad writing says a lot about a person)
Make sure that the ownership of the logo design is automatically transferred to you upon final payment. If there is nothing in writing that mentions ownership, then ask your designer to say so in writing. It is imperative that you own your logo design so that you can legally use it however you like in the future.
Step 4: Choose a logo concept
The designer will sit down and work his or her magic, doing the necessary research and sketches, then come back to you with some conceptual designs. Depending on the type of project and the criteria, this could take a few days to a week or more. Ideally, they will present you with three to six hand-drawn sketches in black and white. (Viewing sketches first helps the brain understand that the designs are works-in-progress. Viewing black and white first is best because colours tend to skew our judgements of the shapes, positions, and contrasts of visual layouts.)
The designer will most likely explain their thought process and design choices while you view the sketches.If the designs are emailed to you, there will probably be some explanatory paragraphs to accompany the concepts. Many designers, like myself, place the designs where they will eventually appear—on a business card, a Facebook page, or a clothing tag—to show you the logo in the context.
When you first view the concepts, take note of the logo that immediately catches your eye. Continue the decision process by asking yourself these types of 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 colour?
- Will it work at small sizes?
- Does it look too much like any other logos?
- Will it still be relevant five years down the road?
Get someone else’s opinion, if necessary. Just be careful with that; the person must also understand your business and target market to be able to give you any useful input.
After that, sleep on it. Come back to the designs with fresh eyes and ask yourself the same questions. Do your answers change? And does the logo that caught your eye the first time catch your eye again? Trust your gut.
Step 5: Give useful feedback
At this point, there will always be a need for changes, whether they are major modifications or minor tweaks. It’s up to you to communicate your needs as best you can. Provide your designer with feedback they can use to improve the design. Simply saying “I don’t like any of them” does not help the process. Just saying “I like this one” without offering any reasons doesn’t help either. Express why you like or dislike something, or what you would like to see differently. Try something like, “This one feels too rigid. Can you give it more movement somehow?”
That being said, try not to become the designer or problem solver yourself. Remember to give your designer problems to solve, not solutions to use. You have hired a professional designer for a reason, so let them do what they do best. If you have a good designer that communicates well and matches your preferred style, then you can be confident they will present you with quality work.
Step 6: Accept deliverables
Upon release of final payment to the designer, you should receive the deliverables promised to you in the beginning of the business relationship (usually outlined in the agreement). 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). If you need them at a certain size for your website or email signature, then say so (and include that in the creative brief).
You also need to get the original source files (usually AI or EPS, and sometimes PSD). You definitely want to have the source files in case someone else needs to modify or expand on your logo someday.
Before you go
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, and the message you want to send. It requires trust between you and your designer, paired with honest and open communication. There are a gazillion graphic designers out there, each with their own styles, specialties, and processes. Take your time in choosing a person, studio, or agency that you are comfortable with. Again, trust your gut.
It’s definitely worth the time, money, and effort to obtain a strong logo design that speaks to your audience. It’s one of the first things people see from your business, and it will be with you for a long time as you continue to grow.
If you need a new logo or brand identity, or you just need to freshen up your current look, contact me today.