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?