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8 Things You Should Know Before Designing Your Logo

By April 1, 2013June 28th, 2015Branding & Design
8 Things You Should Know Before Designing Your Logo

Ready to start developing some branding materials? Maybe you have a new business or one that’s starting to take off and you want to represent it visually.

Or maybe you’re ready for a bit of rebranding… shedding old skin and old ways and refocusing your business values and goals.

Either way, you’re ready for a logo! But before you start, here are a few things to consider that will make the process easier and the outcome better.

1. What Should Your Logo Say?

I don’t mean literally “say” as in a tagline, but what’s the message you’re trying to get across? This speaks to your goals and values and also to your company culture.

A logo is part of your identity which means – no surprise here! – that you need to know what your identity is. If you don’t have a value proposition, a USP or something similar, you’ll be hard pressed to capture any meaning in your logo.

And yes, your logo should have meaning. It isn’t simply someone’s art school project or a cool-looking symbol to spruce up your business card. It’s a visual representation of your brand.

Figure out who you are and what you stand for and then decide what essence you want to capture in your logo.

Do you want to convey a message of forward thinking? Or one of tradition? Risk-taking? Or security? Non-conformity? Or conservatism? Retro, modern, friendly, reserved, sophisticated, simple?

Yup, you can say all that with a logo.

The colors, fonts, styles and other elements will derive from your identity so knowing who you are before deciding how to represent yourself will put you on the right path.

2. Clipart Is Not A Logo

Much like Comic Sans isn’t a font… unless you’re five years old… you don’t get to play with clipart and call it a logo.


That’s all I’m saying.

3. What You Like Doesn’t Matter (Much)

Refer to above point about your logo not being an art project. I know, it’s fun. All those colors! And fonts. And swishes and circles and shapes…

And while I believe that you have to like your logo insofar as you can look at it without wishing it out of existence, it’s not really about your color, font or shape preferences.

It’s about your goals and your message and whether the design represents your business, not your personal taste.

If you want your logo to represent a totally edgy, nearly 22nd century company but you keep gravitating toward Victorian tassels, you either need to come to terms with the fact that your logo isn’t going to match your personal taste or it’s time to rethink your company identity. It’s possible you hold Victorian values dear and are trying to fit into some mold of an “edgy” company because that’s what you think people want.

But assuming you know what your company stands for, set aside your tastes and “ooh shiny” moments and instead of asking, “Do I like this logo?” ask “Does this logo represent my business?” and “Will it meet my business goals?”

4. What Your Sales Team, Spouse, Friend Or Anyone Else Likes Doesn’t Matter (At All)

I’ll tell you a little story to illustrate this point. I worked with a client on a logo once, discussed vision, values, goals, all the good stuff, and we came up with a concept. He loved it! LOVED! Was ready to paper his walls with it.

Then he showed it to his wife. And she thought maybe the blue should be darker.

Suddenly my client didn’t love the logo so much anymore and wanted 47 revisions and second-guessed everything.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch… his wife’s opinion of the color blue had no bearing whatsoever on the success of the logo. She might as well have been choosing a paint color for the bedroom. The whole process got derailed because of someone else’s personal preference.

And so my advice to you is: don’t show your logo to anyone until its official unveiling. And if you do, don’t ask them whether they like it! I guarantee at least one person in the room won’t.

Repeat after me: my logo must represent my business and meet my goals. Period.

5. Someone, Somewhere, Is Going To Ask You What That Symbol Is

This ties in with my previous points with an added twist: you need to be able to explain your logo to anyone who asks.

Think of it as having an elevator pitch for your logo because eventually you’re going to be standing around at a networking meeting, you’re going to hand over your business card, and someone is going to say, “Cool logo. What’s that symbol for?”

And unless you know, you’re going to stutter out something lame about your USP then face-palm later as you drown your embarrassment in a glass of wine.

Keep this in mind because it’s easy to get distracted when you start seeing pretty colors and fun shapes. Next thing you know, you’re drawing little tassels on everything.

Unless you’re Apple (logo: an actual apple) your logo may be abstract and conceptual so stay focused on your message throughout the design process.

6. You Only Need One Option

It’s a classic question: how many options do I get?

The correct answer should be: one.

O blasphemy!

But honestly, if you’re focused on your message, if you spend a good, long while discussing and refining your vision and goals, there’s only one outcome that’s going to fit.

Designing a logo can be an iterative process that starts with a few fonts and narrows them down… a few colors and narrows them down… and so on. But there’s only one logo that’s going to be the logo. And it’s not something you’re going to pick out of a bin like a hat or a plastic cup.

Ok, ok, I’ll let you have more than one, if you’re totally hung up on it. But I’m warning you, the more choices you have, the less effective each of them will be. At that point you’re back to choosing between preferences and not meeting goals.

7. It’s Not Always Going To Look Big And Colorful

This is super important and easy to overlook when you see your designer’s comps on a nice, big monitor, but your logo isn’t always going to be that nice and big and pretty.

It’s going to be tiny on your business card.

It’s going to be black and white on that flyer.

It’s going to be textured on a t-shirt.

Keep that in mind and make sure you’re not coming up with a design that looks great on your website but scales to a big blurred mess on your business card or elsewhere.

8. Other Companies Might Be Wearing The Same Dress To The Party

If you’ve seen one swish, globe or green leaf, you’ve seen a hundred. Google “companies with similar logos” and you might be surprised at how many there are.

While it’s impossible to know everything that’s out there, do some due diligence and see what your competitors are doing, see what others in your industry are doing, and even see what the trends are so you can make sure your identity doesn’t blur into someone else’s.

It helps to avoid cliché and stereotypical symbolism – the green globes and beige leaves for eco-logos, the chat bubbles and HTML symbols for tech-logos or just about anything that’s a dot or a swish.

Designing a logo can take a lot of thought, planning, exploration and time, but considering that it’s going to be the visual representation of your business likely for many years to come, it’s worth putting in the extra effort.

Dropping $99 for 10 samples delivered in 2 days is often not the best way to go about visualizing and creating part of your brand identity. Remember, everything you do says something about your business! What do you want your logo to say about yours?

Do you have a logo for your business? What does it say? If you don’t have one, what do you want it to say?

Join the discussion 12 Comments

  • Hi Carol,

    Great advice here. Interestingly, I’ve been thinking of having a logo or should I say two logos. One for each my businesses. But man, it’s tough to even know where to start, so this post really gives me some good pointers.

    I like the fact that you’re saying that you don’t have to like your logo so much, but rather have a logo that represent your business well. That makes sense.

    What also makes sense is if your logo is going to be seen in different forms, and not only online that’s a good point and something to think about, indeed.

    I will definitely bookmark this post when I’m closer to getting ready to create those logos of mine.

    • Good luck, Sylviane and whatever you do don’t ask anyone else what they think 🙂 That’s what derails most projects! Someone likes their logo, then shows it to someone else who has an idea or an opinion and then it’s all downhill. It has to be for you and your business, period. And it’s ok to like your logo! Of course we want to like it and be proud of it. But like I said, it’s not about the artwork. Sometimes our tastes in design don’t match our business goals so we have to think past that. It’s definitely a tough process! (PS: to be honest, i was never a fan of purple… and yet there it is in my company logo!)

  • Donna Merrill says:

    Hi Carol,
    Love your story about your client who loved his logo, showed it to his wife and had to revise it so many times! Just goes to show that a logo is a “personal” thing that not only is a reflection of our business but of us!

    The first logo I had done for me years ago was of a tree with roots. No I didn’t like it at all, but the person who made it sat me down and asked me so many questions. She came up with that logo and it was my “elevator speech” It was a symbol of how a person is rooted, but can change like the seasons change the tree.

    I was thinking about having a logo for my business so of course I did book mark this page for future reference.

    Thanks so much,

    • That’s a perfect example, Donna! You didn’t love the tree but it completely represented you. In the end I think you can grow to love it because it’s something you believe in. Another thing to keep in mind is that you may like the concept of the tree but maybe not the execution. Sometimes you can use the same concept but do something artistically different with it, even abstract. I think your designer had the right idea – start with you and your business then build your logo around it. Good luck with your next version!

  • Hey Carol, thanks for writing this article. You’ve hit the nail squarely on the head – again!

    Like you, I had the same experience with a client who LOVED the logo I designed for them, per their specs, and then as soon as they showed it around, it suddenly wasn’t what they wanted – even though I drew my inspiration from their very own notes. One client went as far as to go find someone else behind my back in the middle of our design process and gleefully announce via e-mail that a “friend” had given him a design. That design looked nothing like we had originally discussed. To say I was frustrated would be an understatement.

    But then there’s the clients who value what I bring to the table in my offbeat, quirky kind of way, who LOVE the first draft and use it over and over and over again.

    In any event, I have a treasure trove of logo designs that I still use as “foundation” pieces for new logo design projects so my client’s have a visual understanding up front what a logo should look like and how we can work together to make something fantabulous.

    • Oh Colleen, I feel your pain! I think design is one of the hardest things to do because you somehow have to read your client’s mind… and usually that’s as blank as a…. um… blank slate?? They don’t even know what they want but somehow you’re supposed to figure it out.

      The “show it around” thing is the worst. I think people try to be “helpful” and they think they need to give you suggestions, so they start nitpicking on everything that they know nothing about, then the client figures there is something wrong with the logo and next thing you know you’re in revision hell.

      I’m glad I just project manage. If I had to design I’d go nuts 🙂 Oh, and I want to see your portfolio!

  • Hi Carol, Great article on logo design. You covered all the hot topics I come across with my branding clients. I developed a questionnaire to use with my clients that really helps them narrow down the “look and feel” as well as the tag line we use. The sticky subject is – always – what do their family and friends think? Thanks for pointing out that it doesn’t really matter. What matters most is if it works for your business identity and will it represent you effectively in your niche market.

    • Hi Maura, I know exactly what you mean because I have certainly been there. The logo makes its rounds… everyone comments… and the process drags on. I think I may make all my future clients read this first 🙂

  • RobG says:

    Hello Carol, Nice write up. I have been designing a few logos from day one but never really found one that made me say WOW! now that’s me.

    I make all my own and try to come up with a trade mark kind of thing that will reflect my blog. Maybe I’ll give it another shot one day and see what I can come up.

    THanks so much for a very interesting post Carol.

    • Keep trying, Rob! Before you start again, sit down and start writing out some details about your business, what you stand for, what you want to achieve, etc. Make it concrete so you can start to get some visuals around the true core of your business. Good luck and if you do come up with something, let me know!

  • Fadderly says:

    interesting article. i’ve been thinking about a logo for awhile now. but, just can’t seem to come up with any decent. keeping in mind these points, going forward, though…

    • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

      It’s definitely not something you come up with on a whim. Glad to hear you’re really thinking about it, though. Good luck… keep focusing on your business, goals and values and you’ll hit on it.