How to choose a logo designer?February 16, 2017
Your logo or visual identity is the lifeblood of your business. It needs to represent your offering accurately, and tell the world about you at a glance. Having a poor or outdated logo can be detrimental to the success of your business as a whole.
Updating your visual identity may be an option, but you have to take on the process very carefully. It can be a large investment, and you don’t want to have to make that investment twice by picking the wrong professional in helping you create it.
So, how is one supposed to know if they have the best design partner for their job? That’s a difficult question to answer. Our goal is to help guide you towards finding the right designer to help bring your visual identity to a new level and avoid the common pitfalls that can stand in your way if you don’t do enough research before you begin the process.
Step 1: Evaluate your current logo
Do you need a new logo? How would you know if you did?
This isn’t a simple question to answer either for most businesses. You work hard, and you want to make sure you invest in your business wisely. Ensuring you can get the best return on your investment. Here are a few signs that your brand may be tired or needs updating,
- The logo you are currently using does not translate well to modern forms of advertising, like social media and responsive websites.
- You designed your logo yourself, and it’s obvious. If yours looks obviously novice, you need to consider an alternative.
- Your current logo is incredibly complex. Trends are pointing towards simplicity, that way consumers can instantly grasp who they are looking at. If they have to squint to read small type of figure out intricate designs, it is time to revamp your look.
- Look at your logo objectively – would you pick your competition’s logo over yours if you were a consumer? If there was a yes, or even a maybe, it is time to update how consumers see you.
- Ask someone outside your business to look at your logo on your website or business card for 1 minute then take it away and ask them to draw it in black and white on a piece of paper and see how they do. If it’s easy for them then its memorable if not then it’s another sign that you need to rethink your logo design.
What do people think of your logo? Is it giving the right image of your company?
The first thing you need to do, whether you are already considering hiring a design agency or not, is to evaluate your current logo. What image does your design give of your company? How do your current customers, suppliers, and staff view your design? Have you asked? This is an important piece of knowledge for any company that is considering a new look. What do your clients first think of your company when they see your logo? Don’t be afraid to reach out. Customers love to be a part of the process, and knowing that their input is having an effect is a great feeling for them. Involve as many people as you can in your research because then, you can get input that will later assist you with the choices you need to make. The more answers you get, the more power you have over the decision-making process!
What results does the current design get?
After that, you also need to look at the results your current logo delivers. Is your logo attracting customers or is it costing you potential clients? You need to evaluate the return on investment that you get from your current logo. Is it negative or positive? Losing customers because your logo is weak can be a worrisome prospect for many business owners. So if your logo is poor or weak, this could very well be true. Hence the impact of your current logo can be more important than you think, so you should research and ascertain how it affects your company in as much detail as possible. Here are a few things that may be causing your customers to turn elsewhere when they see your current logo so think about the answers to these points before you embark on a new one:
- A lack of recognition of who you are or what you stand for
- A look that seems unapproachable or boring
- The look doesn’t resonate with the people you want to connect to
- Your design makes you appear out of your customer’s league
Step 2: Preparation
Now that you have identified the issues with your current design, you have some decisions to make. Once you have figured out whatever the problem is with your current logo or brand, you need to decide on what you want to get out of a new one.
What is your initial idea?
With that in mind, you could now think of a new concept for your logo. It can be initial concepts or ideas of what you’d like your company’s visual identity to be, but it is important to have these concepts as not knowing will make it more difficult for the designer you choose to understand your needs and the direction you want to pursue.
You need to decide what expectations you would hold that new brand identity or logo to, including things like:
- The connection it may have to you, your staff, and your audience.
- How recognisable this new brand could be.
- Will your new brand or logo elicit emotions, or allow others to empathise with your company?
- Could a new brand help you attract or retain new clientele?
- Would a new brand identity gain you more referrals from those you are already working with?
Study your audience
To help you with that initial project, you should study your target audience. If your current logo is not working effectively, it may be because it isn’t aimed at the customers your products could attract. For that, you need to figure out what gender, age group, etc. … most of your customers are. This information is essential for the creation of your logo – visual identity. Even if you will work on your design with the agency, it is important to understand that your final design might not be what your personal taste are, or might not show your subjective interests, but it should empathise with your target audience. Many companies want to show their history and interests in their logo design, but remember that might not be relevant to your main audience.
What is your budget?
Before you get in contact with an agency, you need to establish a provisional budget. Your budget depends on what results you are aiming for, and it will help you decide on what type of designer will be the right one for you. It is important to know that if you want a quality result, you will have to set up a relatively important budget. If your goal is to save money on the design, then you may not get the desired results you intended at the end. Your expectations may not align to what your budget allowed for. This is usually the biggest issue people face, and they do not get a result that is either good enough quality or fitted to the image you want your company or brand to portray. Your initial budget might not be the one you end up spending, but it is useful to have an outline idea to submit to the designer or agency, that way they can plan how far they can go with your project.
What goals and expectations do you have for your project?
After studying the results of your current logo, you need to consider what opportunity you may be presented with if you went with a new logo. Would it allow you to reach a new or wider audience? Would a new logo give you the opportunity to target the correct audience that you meant to reach in the first place? You need to think about what’s more important for you, whether it is to increase sales, increase your brand visibility, reduce bounce rates on your website, increase traffic and sales transaction or improve your brand awareness. You also want your new logo to show that you are a serious and established company that offers quality products and that is successful in its industry.
Step 3: Choose a list of companies
When it comes time to find the ideal designer to create your logo, this is a decision you must not make lightly. There are so many places to look. If you are not sure of where to go, here are a few ideas to begin your search.
Search on the internet
Your first idea would probably be to search on the internet. On Google, you can find a various range of logo designers and design agencies. You can also find online resources like Dribble that become the connection between you and a designer. You will find a wide variety of budgets, levels of experience, and perspectives, so be sure to look through each option carefully and make a list of the options you like most. However, remember using these online services may not connect you face to face with your designer and this can be a problem. Understanding your needs correctly and communicating them accurately does need rigorous investigation and interpretation by the designer and this is usually achieved best by meeting each other. A trust and understanding is developed and creates a better result in general. However, by researching online, you can get a good idea of the possible avenues to take. If you are not comfortable with using online resources, then plan your requirements before you jump in especially with online resources as you may end up with a bad experience.
Another place to search is by talking to people who have a logo you like, or who just went through a rebranding process. Speak to friends and family first, as they are going to give you the most accurate description of what they have experienced. They will tell you the pros and cons of their experiences and will steer you in the right direction. However, this can also be misleading too because one friend may not value logo design as much as another so please take many people’s views into consideration, not just one.
Look at companies you admire and your competitors
Look at different companies you admire, especially in your field, and search the designer or agency that created their logo and brand identity. You can also do the same thing with your competitors to know which designer or agency designed their logo. From this research, you will also get a good idea of who might be best to work with or at least consider.
Ask experts advice
If you need additional options, you can always hire experts and ask them who they would refer you to. They will help you find high-quality logo and branding expertise that will remain within the budget you have set aside for the project. In that case, you will learn from their experience what they would advise for a company like yours, what you should be wary of and more generally, what are the things to look for when you are searching for a logo designer or design agency.
If you need additional options, you can always go into your Local Enterprise Office and ask them what advice they can give you around your quest. Since they want to help create new jobs and expand current businesses, they have networked all of the offices together, giving you a lot of resources that can be found in a single location. Once approved they will set you up with a mentor, and then you can speak with that mentor about where you can find high-quality logo and branding expertise that will remain within the budget you have set aside.
Step 4: Find the right agency for you
Once you are down to a few designers/companies that have your interest, there are a few considerations you want to make. Here are the most common considerations that you should go through, to make sure you get the most out of your budget and subsequent logo.
Can the design partner you hire help you with anything else?
Some companies specialise in logos and branding, and that’s it. Other companies do this, plus web design, digital marketing, advertising, product promotion, and more. If this company can help you with additional services, it may be a wise investment to make as you most likely will get further insights as to how to build and promote your business through expanding your digital footprint and creating brand authority. In that matter, take a look at what you first needed and compared it with the services you can afford with the budget you first established. With that in mind, you can decide what type of services you want to get the result you expect.
Do they understand your target market?
When learning more about a designer or design agency, you also need to look at their previous work. Have they previously worked on a similar type of project as yours for a similar target audience? From this, you can determine whether they can create a similar result for you too. If you opt to go with a company that doesn’t know the market you are in, you may be missing out on nuances that an experienced company could offer. Make sure that you see case studies to show that the company you choose knows what they are talking about, and can back up what they claim.
Do they understand your industry?
When looking through their portfolio, you can also see if they have worked with companies from the same industry as yours and even some of your direct competitors. If they have, you will know that they already have some basic knowledge of your market sector and that it will be easier for you to communicate with them and align your requirements. However, remember this is helpful but not always the best path. For example, some designers only work in the hospitality industry, like logo design for hotels. While they will have great experience in hotels, they may also produce something very similar to other hotel logos they designed which may not give you the unique result you are looking to create.
Check their references
Once you’ve checked through their case studies for similar projects as yours, you could also check their references by looking at testimonials or even calling their testimonials if possible. An agency will probably provide you with a portfolio of their previous creations and some references of their former clients but do some check-up yourself. Get in touch with companies from your fields or others that have previously worked with them. Ask them if they would recommend that agency, if they are happy with the solution provided and the results it gave them and if they liked the contact they had with that agency. When you have a couple of testimonials, you could make up your mind about what working with that logo designer or design agency is really like.
Do you have a good feeling about the agency?
In term of choosing the right logo designer or design agency for you, apart from the rigorous research, you have already undertaken, you also need to follow your gut intuition. Part of hiring a design agency is building up a relationship. In that case, like many others, you will quickly know if you feel like working with a team or not. If you feel trust in the words, they speak to you, that’s a good thing. If you don’t quite understand what they are saying or feel as though they are speaking at you instead of with you, trust your gut. Go with a company that feels right, especially when you are entrusting them with creating a logo your customers should be able to feel, too.
Have they and will they be around long?
Try to know better the logo designer or agency by doing some deeper research on them. You don’t want to build a relationship with a company that is going to help you now but retire in 12 months. You want the designer or design agency that is going to be around to help you with any issues you may have down the line. So make sure your choice has future longevity.
Do they provide any get out clause?
If you sign a contract, you need to make sure that the designer or agency provides you with a get out clause. That way, it will allow you to get out of your business agreement if you don’t like the work they are doing, if they don’t respect the delay you gave them or if you have any differences with the team that works on your project. If you’re not careful when you sign the contract, you might end up stuck in a business deal with an agency that doesn’t provide you anything and can cost you a lot of money without showing any results.
What are the payment terms?
Payment schedules should be set up before work begins. You don’t want a company that expects more than half up front, and you never want to go with a company that expects all of the money before doing any work. Some money up front is normal and to be expected, but negotiate something that you can live with, and they are happy to as well.Remember also while money is important for most designers, respect is probably more important. If you value their time and commitment, they will produce greater work and become more committed to the result. Also, it is part of their profile too so they don’t want to create something that they are not proud of either. So try to empathise with their creative side as you will get more from them in the long run.
Step 5: What should you get for your budget?
Your budget should include most if not all of the following. If it’s missing any completely, then you could be choosing the wrong designer or agency, so consider these points carefully, (including your previous research):
Does your gut instinct tell you that you can deal effectively and efficiently with your logo designer or agency? This means that if something doesn’t feel right, you can talk to them about it. Remember you don’t want to go with a designer that doesn’t let you have your input. After all, this is your logo your brand and company you are talking about, and nobody knows it as well as you do.
As we’ve seen before, you should expect the designer you hire to know about your company and the industry you work in. This means that they should be able to give you advice on what would work best for your company. As your relationship with the agency grows, you should be able to establish a real conversation between the two of you, give your feedback to the agency and expect their advice in return.
A Brand Strategy
While your goal is to produce an amazing logo for your company, that resonates with your target audience and beats the socks of your competition you do also need to understand what your go to market brand strategy will be. You need to decide where and how your brand will be rolled out and how your new logo will fit into this brand strategy. Remember your brand is the holistic results of your logo, language you use, imagery, presentation and message your target audience receives. Your logo is only one element of your brand but is an integral element and the most important visual element you will use. While we have outlined some of these elements listed below it is imperative that you use them for your brand strategy as much as your logo design:
- Analysis of your competition. If you don’t know how you rank among your field, then you won’t know how your image will do.
- Ideas for evolution. It is great to have a visual identity you enjoy today, but how will it be able to evolve as your business does? Your designer needs to be able to show that your business is not going to become stagnant in a few years using this logo, or if it might, how the logo can be changed to keep up with the times.
- The idea behind the image chosen. You need to be able to understand what your consumers are going to see when they look at your logo. Your brand strategy needs to outline what your consumers will feel and think upon looking at your new brand. Plus, you must agree that this is what you want them to feel.
- Any opportunity this new brand is going to provide. You want to have an analysis done as to how this portrayal of you is going to open doors for you. Getting someone’s attention doesn’t do much if it won’t hold it, and you need to see how this can help your business grow. That is the point after all, right?
- How you tell your story. You want to be able to see how your logo identity will help people outside of the company understand your story. You need to have something that directly reflects not only who you are now, but also who you want to be, and this has to be woven into your strategy.
- Profiles of your ideal audience. If your goal is to reach a specific type of audience, you want to see profiles of that audience built into your brand strategy. That way, you and your designer are consistently keeping in mind who you are reaching out to.
A design brief plays the most important part in your logo creation. You want to be able to make sure that everyone is on the same page with every aspect covered in the design process. The brief is essential to getting you the desired results you want. There are seven elements that are essential to an outstanding design brief.
- 1. Goals and objectives of the logo and brand
- 2. Schedule and the budget set aside
- 3. The audience you are trying to target
- 4. The general scope of the full branding project
- 5. The style or overall look you are trying to achieve
- 6. The materials you want to use the new image
- 7. A list of things you do not want associated with your new logo and brand identity
These are all essential to getting you the logo and brand identity that you want while avoiding the things you do not want out of the final project.
The logo concepts
So you have completed all the research, reviewed all the possibilities, decided on your budget, chosen your designer and created a brief. Your strategy is set out and you’re ready for action. So what do you expect from your logo designer on the design work and how many ideas and concepts should they give you. How many pages of ideas will you see? How many times will you get to iterate the ideas presented? These are all important questions and something you need to understand at the outset.
Some designers will give you three original concepts, some only 1 and some up to 12. The answer on how many ideas is not always the answer in how you choose a designer. You may feel one idea will be restrictive and you don’t feel you got a choice. But it is not necessarily the way to look at it. If you have a very experienced logo designer and they understand you and your market and are very creative, it may only take that one idea. Also if the logo designer is a real professional, he will most likely create the logo design that best fits your brief. And this is what matters the most. If the brief is clear and well researched, there should be only one real result.
However, most design agencies usually offer three concepts and allow for choice. They should be three different concepts rather that variants of one. Usually again one will stand out more than the other two, so you get the same result in the end. Once one is chosen, then there can be iterations of it something may not fit in with your requirements. Size, orientation, colour elaborate graphics may need changing as the new logo may not facilitate all requirements. So a suite of logo options may be required.
Once you move through this process, note that the designer most likely has considered many other ideas, but they feel that the results they show you are the best from them and empathise best with your target audience.
Throughout this process, it is imperative that you know what you like, and what you want to avoid. If you aren’t sure what you do or don’t like then use a 3rd party for help if possible someone that can be impartial and then talk with your designer. That’s why you want a designer that you can build up a relationship with. They can ask you questions that can help narrow down aspects you think are good, and which you want to avoid, even if you don’t know what it is you want yourself. It is a matter of eliminating many possibilities until you achieve the desired result for you. A bit like marriage. You may date many people or only one, and that could be the one you stick with forever
Visual Identity Guidelines
Within your budget, it would be best to set aside some of it for a set of guidelines as to how your logo should be used. This is the responsibility of the designer to tell you in most cases, as they have a vision in their mind of how the logo will work best. The guidelines will illustrate how to avoid misrepresentation of your logo and how to keep brand and logo consistency which is the true test of your professionalism and shows your customers that you value your offering supplied. By you investing time, money and consistency in your logo and brand identity this confirms your commitment to your market and customers.
So these are the main considerations and pointers for choosing the best logo designer for you and your company. Remember that your logo and brand and your company is about the meaning you reflect towards your audience, not only about the aesthetic of your logo and website. Your brand is how you reach your customers. Make sure you pick a company that understands how important this is to your success. There are a lot of factors that you need to check before you sign a contract with any designer, but in the end, you should go with the one that you feel is the best for your company. Take your time and find a company that will work hard for you. It is always better to wait to hire the right designer than it is to hire someone that just does the job and only that. It’s like going on a journey. If you research what you need and how you get to your destination with rigour and diligence and you plan your trip and know what to expect at the outset it’s most likely you won’t be disappointed with your result. And most of all you will enjoy the experience in getting the final result. To get more information on that subject, you can get in contact with CDG.