Updated: Aug 22
Logo design has been around since the dawn of civilization, and it's one of the oldest forms of graphic art. From cave paintings to ancient Roman mosaics to Renaissance-era paintings, logos have been used throughout history to make positive impressions.
In the digital age, logos have evolved into much more than just a symbol, and company identity has become just as important as products. Logo Design is an art and a science that should maximize your brand's impact, revenue, and prestige by producing a symbol representing everything you stand for.
So, if you're considering a business logo, it's important to understand that there's more to creating a logo than just choosing a cute font or a free stock image. Effective logo design draws in customers, associates your brand with a product or service, and builds customer loyalty.
A Logo's Role in Growing Your Business: Do Logos Really Matter, or Are They Just a Formality?
A good logo makes you feel good about your business. But is that all it does? Or can it help you make a tangible difference to your bottom line? This question can dictate how startup founders and entrepreneurs lean when selecting a logo.
A logo matters in three crucial ways: enhancing recognition, brand recall, and positive feelings towards your business. These factors can help (or harm) medium-to-long-term profits for your business. Poor logo design impacts short-term gains the most, which can hurt your bottom line.
Let's explore each of the aspects in which a logo can affect your business. We'll consider what happens when you pick a good or bad logo.
It is almost impossible to check a box even in an application paper without thinking, "Just Do It." That's because of Nike's brand recognition. While the company's logo is simple, it has been slapped across enough ad campaigns, billboards, and products, to have higher recall value than many celebrities' faces.
Your logo can be a celebrity.
If you nail the logo, you have the opportunity to turn it into an envy-worthy brand. But for better or worse, we like celebrities who look good. And for the most part, we turn people into superstars only when they look good.
If your logo doesn't look or feel good, each advertisement you attach to it leads to some dollars or cents getting wasted. Your logo is even more critical if you're in fashion or any consumer item business. Why? Because an ugly logo can make your products unappealing.
Look at Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, Apple, and Mont Blanc. These brands' logos have become value-builders. And all of them are objectively beautiful. If you didn't know of these brands and saw one of their logos or monograms on a poster, you would like it.
To maximize your brand's potential, you need to select a logo that is objectively appealing yet unique. This is no small feat because 137,000 new businesses are started each day!
As mentioned earlier, a good logo can become a celebrity. People like to take selfies with Tom Holland, and they want to take mirror selfies that show off the Apple iPhone logo. When it comes to brand recall, the same principle applies to celebrities and brand logos: simplicity rules.
The biggest celebrities in the world are distilled to a single idea or even a tagline. Michael Jordan became 'Air Jordan,' synonymous with flight. His high-flying dunks are etched in the memories of those who lived through his era.
Floyd Mayweather couldn't compete with Muhammad Ali's legacy, so he created his own category: Money Mayweather. He's known for being one of the highest-paid boxers of all time. These celebrities are humans with hobbies and interests that we don't see because their public persona is simplified for instant recall.
The same principle applies to logo design. Nike, Mont Blanc, Apple, Android, Adidas, Google, and every other easily recognizable logo in the world is as simple as it can be while preserving its uniqueness.
In fact, if you look at the earlier iteration of each logo (especially Apple), you will realize a fascinating theme: as the number of global brands increases, market leaders are further simplifying their logos.
Complexity is necessary to the extent that it sets you apart from every other logo. After that, it only works to reduce the memorability of your brand. A logo too complex is a logo forgotten.
Finally, we come to the most important way a logo helps your new business. While recognition and recall are valuable to businesses, it is a positive perception that helps a new business. How many times have you walked into a new store just because it looked good?
How many times have you scrolled a little longer on a random Instagram post because the subject was beautiful? It often happens that we get interested in whatever makes us feel good, even if temporarily.
If your logo looks beautiful or invokes positive feelings, it gets a higher priority in buyer consideration. And if we continue with the celebrity metaphor, the comparison is simple: pretty people get cast more often.
Getting A Logo: Your 4 Options (And Why #4 is the Best...)
Now you know what your logo broadly needs to be. It must be visually appealing, simple, and aimed toward a positive emotion.
So, let's explore your options.
1. Do It Yourself / Use a Logo Maker
DIY logos have become common since the advent of Canva and Wix logo-maker. These tools offer simple templates and drag-and-drop features to emulate a logo.
Insider Tip: These programs are also used by Fiverr "logo designers" to churn out hundreds of logos a day.
From a branding perspective, this can seriously restrict your brand in terms of colors and font choices in the future. Think of your logo as your Snapchat profile.
Once your profile has 100,000 followers, it is hard to move away from it even if you hate its username. That's why getting an appealing username from the get-go is wisest.
Similarly, rebranding can be hard if your business takes off and you discover that the logo looks too tacky or unprofessional. It will cost more to do a logo of a business that is off the ground. It will also be a difficult decision as you will alienate consumers already familiar with your DIY logo.
Pros of DIY or Fiverr Logo Design
Cons of DIY or Fiverr Logo Design
Cost-effective (free or nominal fee)
Your logo isn’t unique
It is almost instant
Your logo can have obvious design errors
No one disagrees with you during the process
People can tell your logo is made from a template
The above pros and cons also apply to hiring a cheap designer off Fiverr. Some designers charge $5 and have 700 positive reviews. But these are reviews given by logo-buyers, not the market. That is why the design world judges based on awards, not customer reviews.
That said, there are decent graphic designers in the "Fiverr Pro" category.
They should be good enough for your project if they are specialized designers in the logo design space. We will discuss the benefits of hiring a non-specialized professional graphic designer and a specialized logo designer in their respective sections.
2. Hire a Graphic Designer (Non-Specialized)
Graphic design polymaths who do everything from book covers to birthday cards can technically make a logo. They have the design knowledge required to avoid novice errors, but their work isn't market-tested, so they don't know how to represent brands in a way that consumers can accept.
Pros of getting your logo made by a graphic designer
Cons of getting your logo made by a graphic designer
The service is relatively cheap, ranging from $5 to $299
The vast differences in skill levels of non-specialized graphic designers make it impossible to be sure of the quality
You can get your logo very quickly
Your logo doesn’t get as much attention
You don't have to take a meeting to communicate your ideas (you don't even need to have ideas)
Your logo is treated as any other graphic.
There are no best practices for hiring a non-specialized graphic designer for your logo design because it is impossible to recover from this choice. We don't recommend going this route for a brand logo.
3. Hire a Logo Designer
The Nike Swoosh was designed for $35 in 1971 ($290 in today's money) by the designer Carolyn Davidson. Today the company is worth 26 billion dollars. A bulk of that can be credited to Phil Knight's efforts, alliances, and strategy. But a portion of the credit should go to Davidson, who made the logo that endures today.
The consensus among graphic designers is that the value of the logo, even in 1971, was over $68. She charged less because Nike wasn't exactly thriving, but many argue that she should have requested $33 worth of Nike's stake alongside her $35 fee!
Professional Logo Designers charge $100 to $500 for new business logos, and up to $2,500 for a major corporation logo revamp. The sooner you get a logo from a professional designer, the cheaper it is. Once your business starts operating, the design quote can skyrocket.
Pros of getting a logo designed professionally
Cons of getting a logo designed professionally
You and the designer might disagree on which logo works for your brand
You will get a unique logo that will unmistakably represent your brand
You might have to wait because good designers can have 50 - 80 orders in the queue
Color psychology and logotype will be considered for you
It can be difficult to tell which designer is a true professional and which one is an amateur
Best practices for hiring a logo designer:
● Check their portfolio - Professional designers have portfolios that include established brands' logos and logos that make a positive impression.
● Ask for references - A designer who commands a high fee has clients who praise him highly. At a minimum, a designer should be able to present positive reviews on request.
● Have a consultation - The above two allow you to see whether a designer is a true professional. A brainstorming session shows you whether he is right for your business. In a consultation, you can see whether the agency is capable of implementing your vision.
4. Hire a Design Agency
If you don't want to go through the hassle of picking an individual logo designer you can trust, you can work with a high-end agency with professional designers on the payroll. The high-end design agencies expand vertically and can offer complete branding and marketing packages.
Other services you can get from a top agency include:
● Design Psychology Optimization - Most brand design agencies have a marketing arm. This allows them to design your logo (and brand) based on your audience's psychology.
● Data-Driven Branding - Unlike solo designers, agencies have access to data, which allows them to ground branding decisions in tangible indicators that point towards higher sales.
● Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) - Finally, if the agency that's designing your logo also specializes in web design, you're in luck because conversion optimization is a gift that keeps giving. Once your website is optimized, every dollar you spend on ads goes further as more people convert to buyers.
Because the agency's reputation is on the line, it has reasons to maintain strict quality control. Here are the pros and cons of hiring a design agency for your logo:
Pros of getting your logo made by a design agency
Cons of getting your logo made by a design agency
The logo costs less than an individual (professional) logo designer charges
You might not meet the designer
Your brief is implemented (differences in vision are resolved in your favor)
An agency charges more than the average (novice) graphic designer
You can get adjacent services like website development and brand toolkit production
An agency might require you to take multiple meetings to communicate your ideas, select a direction, etc.
How Do Design Agencies Compare Against Freelance Designers?
It might appear like a freelance designer is cheaper or that you're “cutting out the middle man” when you choose not to work with an agency. In reality, you're cutting out the “quality control man”.
According to reviews on freelance marketplaces, here are the most common complaints clients have regarding freelance designers:
● They are great at starting but never finishing - Designers have a very limited capacity dictated by how underpriced their service is. A freelancer charging $5/logo is not going to spend more than 15 minutes on that logo. This creates a dichotomy of rushed logos or logos that never get delivered. And neither option is worth the advantage of a $5 price tag.
● They make you feel bad for wanting a revision - Most freelancers offer 'free revisions' out of desperation and then try their best to convince you that their first attempt is the masterpiece that should represent your legacy. When they do agree to a revision, your request gets moved to revision purgatory.
● They can take feedback too personally - Finally, you have to walk on eggshells when you talk to a designer about their work. With an agency, you talk to an expert who gets feedback and communicates it in an artist-friendly way to the designer. You have the freedom to be blunt and honest with an agency.
Comparing the above to an agency seems absurd because an agency doesn't have the drawbacks listed above and can offer plenty that individual designers can't. Here are a few such things:
● Scalable brand-building - Freelance designers who understand brand-building create their own agencies. The ones you get working solo may churn out pretty pictures only. An agency can help you build a brand that will be scalable.
● Online presence optimization - Agencies are very rarely one-trick-ponies, and freelancers are rarely specialist polymaths. You can also get online presence optimization services from design agencies. In contrast, you need to juggle multiple freelancers for your marketing, design, and branding needs.
● A background in improving engagement - Finally, most design agencies have enough of a background in online marketing and presence management that their design choices are far more effective.
Best practices for hiring a design agency for your logo:
● Go local - Avoid hiring design agencies located outside the US if you're in the United States. A design agency abroad might just be an LLC registered by a solo designer. There is no assurance of quality control. When you work with a top agency in your own country, you get access to top local and global talent, but you also have peace of mind regarding the entity responsible for making your business look good.
● Check for professionalism - How an agency does anything is how it does everything. Every aspect of the agency should reflect professionalism and high standards, from responding to queries to initial client relations.
● Look at reviews and awards - Never hire an agency with less than 500 reviews or zero awards. Awards are the equivalent of having a graduate degree in the design world.
Best Practices of Logo Design for Business
Now that you understand each option's pros and cons, you should get some background knowledge on logo design basics. Doing so will help you communicate your ideas, debate design choices, and get exactly the logo you want.
Know What You Want!
A logo is pure potential. It can lean towards iconography (image) or semiotics (words). It can feel modern or classic. But if you don't know what you want, you will never be satisfied with your logo.
Start by figuring out the emotion you want to convey from your brand as a whole. That emotion will help you figure out the single point of recognition (logo) that will stand as an icon for that feeling.
If you work with a logo designer or a design agency, you can get into an assisted brainstorming session where it doesn't feel too daunting. Communicating the type of logo you want requires one to know the different types of logos:
● Mascot - A logo that incorporates mascots like the KFC (Colonel) logo and the Raptors logo.
● Wordmark - A logo that says a single word (often brand name) like the Facebook (word) logo.
● Lettermark - A logo that spells a single alphabet like the McDonald's arch logo.
● Logo Symbol - the Twitter logo is an example of a symbol logo. The bird is the symbol. Similarly, the Apple logo is a symbol.
● Emblem - A shield-type logo like the Starbucks logo or the British Royal Coat of Arms is an emblem. It is often oversimplified as a symbol logo but with more detail.
● Monogram - Any logo that mentions alphabets (usually a brand acronym) like the KFC (alphabet) logo and the HBO logo.
● Combination Mark - This logotype includes more than one form, like the overall KFC logo. It combines the Colonel's image (mascot) with the Monogram.
Understand Color Psychology
Colors are crucial for your overall brand, not just for the logo alone. Once you understand things like green signifying health, red and yellow associated with appetite, and deep blue conveying integrity and power, you can start understanding the branding of Whole Foods, McDonald's (and KFC), and the Clinton Foundation.
Your logo and your brand work hand in hand to convey the feelings you want to invoke among your customers. More on this in the brand kit section.
Consider Fonts and Cultural Perception
Fonts aren't wired into our psyche the way something as primal as color is. But they are culturally consumed, which means different fonts have come to stand for other things.
Serifs are the edges of each letter. They have come to represent formality and tradition because of their grounding in the steam press and the typewriter era. Sans-Serif fonts are a modern invention and are often seen as contemporary.
Similarly, cursive fonts convey one thing while bold and standard ones convey another. Knowing each one is the key to getting more out of your logo (if it is a wordmark). More on alphabet logos in the logotypes section.
Choose One of the Three Functions as Primary
You might recall from earlier that the three ways in which a logo affects a business are by enhancing its recognition, memorability, and visual appeal.
We recommend picking one of these three as the primary objective because it helps make the logo that can serve your business's needs the most. If your average customer shops just once, you need to make the logo more memorable.
If you're having difficulty getting noticed, make a more recognizable logo. If you feel like your customer relations are suffering, improve your brand's visual appeal and fire the customer service staff (optional).
Novice Logo Mistakes: The Definite Don'ts of Logo Design
Knowing the best practices for selecting a logo means you can make educated choices when guiding a logo designer. Still, you need to know the most significant mistakes in logo design as they expose novice designers masquerading as professionals.
Starting Without a Creative Brief
A dead giveaway for a novice logo designer is starting a project without a complete brief. You should always start logo design with a brief, even if you're making your own logo.
When you start working out, don't you set the number of reps you want to do? When you go to the store, even for yourself, don't you have an idea of what you want?
Free life tip: you should know exactly what you want before stepping foot in the store...or your wallet will pay!
Whether you're doing it for yourself or a client doesn't matter, you should always make a logo according to a brief. Professional design agencies often offer clients a session where they can help build a brief.
Not Discussing Revisions
Very few logos come out perfect on the first try. But logos that go through too many revisions come out worse than the single-try logos. Most professionals distill their revision into a single round because one draft should yield the perfect logo on the second try.
But it is understandable to accommodate revisions because designers don't want a client's effort in brainstorming and briefing to come to a dead end after rendering a single iteration. The middle way forward is to set a revision price.
Some designers offer a complimentary revision and charge for the second and third rounds. Some agencies accommodate unlimited revisions within a specific timeframe. Regardless of the specifics of different professionals' policies, logo professionals have one thing in common: they have a revision policy.
Not Considering Different Logo Uses
Not considering your logo in different scenarios is an error that fresh clients and novice designers make. When you learn that you need a logo, you're likely in a specific situation where it is required.
For example, you might need a logo ASAP for a document or letterhead. As a result, you might tunnel vision your logo for that specific use. Logos, however, are needed on billboards, in collaborated campaigns (where they must align with a different color scheme), on black posters, and on products of non-standard color.
At the broadest level, you should have the negative version, the transparent version, and the main version of the logo. It is okay to get one version of a logo as long as you plan to return to the same design agency for other versions when you need them.
The most manipulatable version is the. AI format, allows future designers to generate other formats with some effort. The most restrictive is a .jpg, which cannot be scaled up or turned into any other format in a meaningfully useful way. But it is also quick to load and is used often in web assets. Every logo format has a benefit, and your design agency can explain better what you need at each stage in your context.
Remember that even professional logos have limitations despite having a variety set. Google's color-based logo doesn't lend itself to a negative version very well. But since Google has never required its logo to be against a background that it doesn't control, this hasn't been a practical limit.
Keeping the different realistic uses of your logo in mind when ordering your logo is a must in the brief-setting stage.
Rendering/Delivering JPG Only
Finally, the (almost irreversible) mistake is getting a JPEG file (a.k.a. JPG) for your logo. Novice designers render only JPGs, while new clients don't know any better because they are used to getting all their images as JPGs. While your selfie can afford to remain a JPG, you need a different file format to have your logo cover a billboard.
Different logos allow you to scale your logo to different degrees. And if you get only a JPG and even a PNG, your logo is useless except for use on a white background at almost the size at which it is created.
Logo File Types
If you learn one thing from this guide, learn this: you should have three renders of your logo: first as an image, second as a vector file, and third as a PDF file. Professional design agencies offer multiple file formats within each one.
Standard logo file types are:
● PNG - PNGs, or Portable Network Graphics, are the best file type for logos because they can handle graphics with transparent backgrounds.
● JPG/JPEG - This image format stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group. JPEGs were once the most common image type on the Internet but are less popular today because they don't have transparent backgrounds.
● AI - This stands for "Adobe Illustrator" and is a file your next designer can access through a program of the same name.
● PDF - PDF is Portable Document Format, and this render allows changing the logo size (within reason). Use PDFs to print the logo on letterhead and other brand stationery.
● EPS - EPS is a vector file, meaning the mathematical formula of pixel positions is saved. The EPS file can be scaled infinitely, and the logo doesn't blur because it keeps getting recreated at different sizes.
● SVG - This stand for Standard Vector Graphic, a different extension for the same type of graphic. The formula for the image is saved and can be scaled almost infinitely.
Brand Guide - What it is (and What it Includes)
If you get your logo from a design agency instead of a logo designer, you get the added advantage of adjacent services. One of these is the brand guide: A brand guide is the briefest document on the comprehensiveness of your brand.
Unlike a Brand Identity Toolkit (BIT), a brand guide doesn't comment on the type of words or images your business should use. Instead, it contains the recipe that makes your brand consistent.
Let's look at each item within the brand guide:
Fonts and Uses
A brand guide will feature a font set with exact spacing and styles for specific contexts. This will guide how your marketing assets are created and used.
It can feature font size recommendations for printed communications as well. The fonts should be used on your website and in your stationery.
The color scheme section of your brand guide includes the color codes that yield the precise shade of the logo, graphics, and different media of communication for your brand.
You must get the exact color scheme notes unless your logo and brand are solid black or white.
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