Ed. note: This article has been republished with permission from Logodesignlove.com.
Logo design should not be approached with the goal of filling that
blank spot on the top of your letterhead. It is not the time to
recklessly do something trendy and cool. Most importantly, it is not
about getting a task off your to-do list so you can move on to selling
widgets to your customers.
The logo design process should provide value far beyond the delivery
of a symbol.
Many logos however are being sold simply as a graphic. Crowdsourcing
and online logo warehouses make the purchase quick and easy with little
need for any true understanding. Both the client and “designer” are
released from investing in developing a deep understanding of brand,
strategy, marketing and design principles.
By removing the requirement of understanding, logos can be sold as if
they themselves are widgets with plug-and-play compatibility — a
generic product that can be applied to whoever wants it.
Logo design should always be considered as part of a larger brand
strategy. It is an opportunity to develop cohesive and consistent
messaging tailored to a specific set of customers. To accomplish this
requires customization, knowledge and skill. It demands that design is
viewed as a service and not a product. It requires strategy.
Without a complete and well thought out strategy, you can’t
successfully influence where a company is heading. A bank won’t hand
money to a company that operates without a strategy, and, over time,
neither will customers. They will choose to buy from a company with a
solid strategy, a consistent message, and a defined direction — one with
a strong brand.
While a graphic designer can help with the nurturing, a logo alone is
not the solution to developing a strong brand. This strength can only
come from understanding. The company must understand their business,
competition, market space, preferences, trends, strengths, weaknesses,
and most importantly why customers should care about them.
Understanding goes the other way, too. If their customers can’t
understand what it is that makes the company unique and why they should
care, then they cannot develop a connection. No connection, no strength.
One of the greatest values a graphic designer can provide is the
ability to successfully translate this understanding into a visual
Online logo warehouses and crowdsourcing put the onus on the client
to ask the right questions, to validate the answers, and to translate
that information into the selection of a graphic. In doing so, they
remove the most critical part of any identity project — the focus on
developing an understanding.
A graphic designer must provide a bridge of understanding between a
company and its audience. They must ask the right questions, pushing the
client for authenticity. They must then validate the responses, making
sure there are no gaps in understanding or differences in thinking. They
must provide direction and guidance built on strategy.
Logo sweatshops and crowdsourcing websites pretend this “little
detail” has no value. They thrive on clients believing a logo is only
meant to fill an empty space.
No. You need an identity built on understanding, and the cornerstone
for that is a logo. At the end of the logo design process you want:
1. A Creative Brief. A document derived from answers to hard
questions. Developing the creative brief is vital to solidifying
direction, objectives, audience and tone. In almost all cases, this is
not an easy document to create.
2. A Partner. The designer should become part of your team. They
should be available to provide support and advice throughout the project
and into the future. As a partner, they must remain aware of your
evolving brand and how best to leverage it.
3. A Logo. The obvious deliverable, the logo is part of a larger
branding strategy and must meet all technical and creative requirements
for the foreseeable future.
4. A Roadmap. You need to be armed with a strong sense of where the
visual brand is heading and how it integrates with your marketing plans.
At a minimum, this may be in the form of guidelines for the use of
color, fonts and the logo itself, but often involves mock-ups of the
brand in action.
Yes, but you receive better value. Hiring a graphic designer ensures
there is a solid foundation for your visual brand built on
understanding. This is certainly worth more than a graphic that looks
cool but leaves you floating with a hollow and unauthentic reflection of
The most loved brands, the ones that last, are authentic. They are
not a cheap veneer that peels away over time. Authenticity requires
understanding. Understanding requires experience. Experience requires
time. Time costs money.
Logo design and branding are not about getting an item off your to-do
list. It is an ongoing exercise in fostering understanding and there is
no $99 solution for that.
About the Author: Steve Zelle is a designer and brand identity consultant based in Ottawa, Canada. He operates as idApostle and runs Processed Identity, a blog dedicated to the creative process of logo and brand design.
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