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 it 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 professional logo, there are a few important steps to follow. In this post, I outline the process and offer you 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 in 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 is different, and who its customers are. Without such information to guide the designer, you may likely end up with a logo that either doesn’t represent your brand well, doesn’t relate to the target audience, or both.
Whether you deliver the brief in person, send it in an email, or post it on job boards — it should include some specifics. Try answering these questions:
- What does your business do?
A concise paragraph is fine.
- Who is your target market?
Hint: “everyone” is not a target market.
- Who are your main competitors?
Provide links, if possible.
- How are you different from your competitors?
These are your unique selling points.
- How would you describe the 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?
Will it be on your websites, print materials, videos, packaging, or uniforms?
- Do you have a tagline that needs to be included in the design?
And if so, do you need two versions — one with and one without the tagline?
- Do you need anything else designed?
Do you also need a favicon*, some social media backgrounds, or 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 tabs open at once.
- If you currently have a logo, why do you want to change 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 this vital knowledge, your designer should be able to deliver a fitting representation of your business. Preparing a brief for your logo designer will save you time, money, and headaches in the end.
Upon entering the 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 in the beginning. It inevitably led to non-stop revisions of their logo and tired faces all around. That didn’t last long, as I soon prepared a list of preliminary questions to send to people. And if they don’t know how to answer them, then we have a chat so I can help them out.
Step 2: Figure out your budget
You should decide on a budget for your project, as many designers will ask you for one. You should also know that asking people “How much for a logo?” won’t get you an exact number for an answer. Prices can range from $300 to $300,000+ USD for professional identity development, and there are many determining factors. (Don’t worry, those hundred-thousand-dollar price tags are usually only seen when big name brands hire famous design agencies.)
If you’re looking to get the basics — a single logo and a colour palette — then the price will certainly be on the lower end of that range, sometimes upwards of a couple thousand dollars. For the deliverables, you should receive a source file plus web-ready image files you can start using right away. (I’ll talk more about deliverables in Step 6.)
From there, prices go up with more additions.
- Do you also need a favicon and social media avatar?
- Do you need more than one variation (e.g., one horizontal and one stacked)?
- Will the logo eventually be embroidered on a uniform?
- Do you need a style guide to ensure brand consistency throughout the company?
- Do you need the final designs delivered within two weeks, or less?
Answering yes to any of these will likely increase the prices you are quoted.
Aside from the project specs, designers each have a different level of experience, a different area of expertise, their own pricing structure, and varying amounts of available time for new clients.
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.
“But I can get a logo cheaper than that!”
Of course, 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 — around $30! Be aware, though, that choosing a logo for such a cheap price can be disastrous and cause many avoidable headaches. Inexperienced designers may not communicate well, may not understand your needs, and may not provide you with the proper digital files. What’s more, cheap design services will nearly 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 give you invaluable suggestions, encourage useful feedback, and ask you vital questions before and during the project.
If you are a small startup or solopreneur who just needs to get the ball rolling and maybe talk to some investors about funding, then it may not be the right time for you to spend your time and money on a professional logo. Sometimes all you need is a quick working logo to get started, and that’s fine. It may make sense for you to wait until you get funded or find some traction before hiring a professional designer to help take your brand to the next level.
Step 3: Choose a suitable designer
There are many different places you can find graphic designers. Choosing the right designer for you is a lot harder (and we’ll get to that in a minute). Browsing a couple design directories and portfolio communities is usually sufficient to find dozens of candidates. Here are a few good sites:
You could also 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 logo and brand identities. While you’re Browsing portfolios, take notice how they present their work, and read the project descriptions. The overall presentation shows how experienced they are and how much they care about their appearance. The descriptions tell you how design thinking was used to solve specific business problems. Sure, 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 designer whose style of design fits the style you’re looking for — something that will match your brand personality and resonate with your target audience. By doing this, you will be happy with your new identity, it will help attract your ideal customers, and the designer will be working in a style they are 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 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:
- communicate well;
- be polite, direct, knowledgeable;
- explain their design process;
- tell you what will be delivered upon completion;
- ask you about your business needs;
- have an agreement to sign before starting;
- require a specified up-front payment (30-50% is standard); and
- have sufficient grammar, spelling, and punctuation (as with any industry, bad writing says a lot about a person).
Make sure the ownership of the final 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 the rights to your identity design so you can legally use it however you like in the future. That said, it is also common for designers to retain ownership of any preliminary or unused designs, whether you have seen them or not.
Step 4: Choose a logo concept
Once the agreement is signed and initial payment made, the designer will proceed to do what they do best, and 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, and the designer should communicate this estimated schedule up front.
Ideally, they will present you with three to six hand-drawn sketches in black and white. Viewing sketches helps the brain understand that the designs are works-in-progress. And 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 concepts. Whether in person or via email, the concepts may come in the form of a slide presentation with explanatory text. Many designers, such as myself, use such presentations to guide you through their thinking and include mockups that are relevant to your business (i.e., placing designs in photos — on a business card, a poster, or a clothing tag — to give you some 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:
- Is it a good representation of my business?
- Does it match the brand’s personality?
- Is the design simple enough?
- 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. Could you give it more movement somehow?”
Try not to become the designer, though. 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 an experienced 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 soon receive the deliverables promised to you in the beginning of the business relationship (usually outlined in the agreement or another written form). It may take a bit of time for the designer to get the final files ready and packaged up nice and neat.
For logo designs, you definitely want to have the source files in case someone else needs to modify or expand on your logo someday. Source files should be “vector” files, which means they can be resized without losing quality. This is opposed to “raster” images that get pixelated (blurry) when increased in size. You will most likely receive AI or EPS files, and sometimes PSDs.
You will also need files that you can start using on the web right away (usually PNG, JPG, or GIF). It’s the PNG and GIF files that support transparent backgrounds — meaning they don’t have a white box around the designs. If you need them at a certain size for your website or email signature, then say so (and include that in the creative brief).
Before you go
When it’s time to get a professional identity designed for you, know that it’s not a simple process. It takes a lot of thought about what your brand stands for, who your audience is, and how you want to be seen by the public. 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, prices, 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 get a strong identity that fits your brand and 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 are in need of a new identity, a logo redesign, or you just need to freshen up your current look, feel free to drop me a line. I’d be happy to chat with you and see how you can better reach your customers.