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Creating A Logo For Your Business Does Not Have To End In Disaster

By February 11, 2013June 28th, 2015Branding & Design
Creating A Logo For Your Business Does Not Have To End In Disaster

A logo is a fundamental part of any brand’s overall marketing mix.

What isn’t usually recognized is that developing a quality logo is not easy or fast.

It can be a gut wrenching process. It requires that the business be in tune with itself and have a unified vision of its mission. You would be surprised by how many businesses I meet with that draw a blank when I ask, “What is the mission of this business?”

All of a sudden the “just make a logo” project turns into the “who are we” project.

This article isn’t about defining a mission or even really about how to design a logo. The purpose of this article is for me to share my experiences working with businesses on the creative process and where things have the potential to go awry, in the hopes that these experiences will make your logo development process smoother.

So how can developing a logo end up in disaster?

1. The Sales Department Has A Say

To be fair, you can replace “sales department” with any department that isn’t marketing.

The point here is that creating a logo is a process that should be driven by the marketing side of the business; whether that’s an in-house process or a process driven by an outside agency, the concept is the same. I’m not suggesting that “marketing” is better than “sales” or any other department, but every department has its function and typically the marketing department’s charge is to sculpt how the outside world perceives the business. It’s an entirely different set of very necessary skills.

What’s a better way?

Have your marketing department or external agency develop your logo based on criteria that meet your business goals. The bigger the team is the longer the process will take and the more likely you’ll end up with conflicting opinions. Ultimately, select a team that you trust and then trust them to do their job.

On top of that, getting input from more departments than necessary leads to…

2. “Too Many Chefs” Syndrome

Question: How many people does it take to bring a logo to a happy conclusion?

Answer: As few as possible.

A logo’s design should be driven by business needs and not by personal preference. One should never ask, “Do you like this logo?” The only question that should be asked is, “Does this logo represent our company, our core mission and values?”

Personal preference plays no role. I have seen companies stall on their logos over personal preferences that lead to squabbles. One person says, “I like blue” and another says, “I like red.” Which of them is right? Answer: Neither. It’s not about what they like.

What’s a better way?

Decide who the team will be that will be involved in developing and approving the logo. That team should be limited and small. Asking for people’s input may be fine as long as it does not derail the process. “Betty Sue from accounting doesn’t like blue,” isn’t a good reason to not use blue.

Also, don’t ask for people’s opinion on the logo. Ask them instead if they think the logo represents the business and its mission. You may be surprised to find that some people will say, “Yes, the logo is a very good representation of what we do, but I don’t like it.” This is ok.

3. Don’t Expect A Different Logo Design For Different Scenarios

A logo is a singular piece of artwork. When you buy an Apple product it has the Apple logo on it and on the box and in the documentation. Always the same logo.

I recently spoke with a company that hired us to develop a logo; the boss invited “sales” in on the meeting (see point #1) and they requested that a logo variation be developed for a specific state where they would be holding a trade show.

In other words, there would be the company logo, and the company logo for New Jersey, and the company logo for Virginia…

This doesn’t work. A business can never get their audience and customers to recognize its brand if the logo has so many variations that the brand and image becomes diluted and unclear.

What’s a better way?

Create one logo. Just one. And then put the full support of the business behind it.

Having unique and specific logos for different products is fine, but your business logo should be thought of as holy.

Consider Microsoft; they have a corporate logo, but also a logo for each individual product. The product logo is not a variation of the corporate logo; it is distinct.

4. Don’t Be Outwardly Open To Ideas, But Inwardly Not

I see this all the time. A company hires us and tells us right up front that they want to be “cutting edge” or “modern” or “future facing” and that they want to be open to “cool” ideas.

But in the end, what they really want is text in Arial that they can edit in Microsoft Word. It’s very easy to say, “I really love jazz music.” It’s an entirely different thing to sit through a collection of Thelonius Monk music. I use this as an example often because I find that a lot of people say they like jazz until they actually listen to it.

Similarly, I think that principals in business want to feel “creative” and “exciting” by putting on a front of openness and edgy creativity.

What’s a better way?

Be honest. The best thing a client ever said to me was “I’m a boring person and I have no creative talent or taste whatsoever. I’d be just as happy making my logo in Excel, but I know that’s not the right way. So come up with a few ideas that I’ll both hate and accept as what the business needs.”

Kudos to you, sir. He gets it.

5. “I Love It. Give Me A Few More Variations.”

Imagine if I said to my wife “I love you, but I just need a few more variations.” What a mixed signal that is.

If you love it, why do you need variations? When I hear this, I immediately ask, “What don’t you love about the logo?” This usually prompts enough commentary that it’s safe to say that perhaps the client didn’t like the logo after all, but perhaps liked the direction of the logo, but not in its entirety.

What’s a better way?

A better approach would be to say “I love the direction this is going in, but there are some things I like and don’t like.” Try not to let your mixed emotions drive you. If you love it, then the process is done, but if you want revisions then perhaps you only partially love the logo.

Be honest with yourself and your designer. It’s easy to sculpt language to be diplomatic so you don’t hurt your designer’s feelings, but that’s not going to help anyone. If you want revisions, don’t try to make the designer feel better by telling him how much you love the logo because that will cause confusion that will only serve to hurt your business.

6. Be Radically Honest

Too many times I hear about someone who did not like the way their logo represented their business, but did not say anything to their designer. A logo is a big investment that transcends dollars. It’s going to represent your business for years, perhaps more. There is no room for silence during the process.

You should understand that your designer is listening to your input very carefully. He or she is interpreting everything you say about the logo. If you are not being honest with them, they will not know that. Then they are going to act based on what you said, not what you really felt. Designers are not mind readers.

Ultimately, the most important thing to recognize about your logo – and in many ways all of your marketing – is that the process is a creative one that is fluid and evolving. You do yourself no justice by treating it any other way.

Has your business had good or bad experiences while developing its logo?

Let me know in the comments.

Join the discussion 10 Comments

  • Hi Ralph,
    I never thought of how important it is to create a logo. If I needed to create one, I certainly wouldn’t do it myself even if I knew how. It is best to have a professional logo designer do it for me because they know that business and I do not.
    I was laughing when you shared some of your experiences with your clients. Especially the one that said something like “I love you but….” What a communication problem that is!
    When you mentioned the “boring fellow” I could resonate with that one. Getting together to create a logo must be difficult because that logo will brand you and of course you can only use ONE!

    I think of Nike’s swoosh logo. They use one we immediately know it is a Nike Brand.
    I haven’t done a logo yet, but I think it is a good idea as I develop my product.
    Thank you for all your information,

    • Hi Donna,

      I agree about hiring a professional. I do the same when it’s something that’s not within my area of expertise. I may be able to paint a room or fix a car engine but I leave those things to professionals who can do it efficiently and correctly. When it comes to something as important as what will represent you and your brand, it shouldn’t be a DIY project that someone tackles because they’re good with colors or have a good idea. Take those thoughts to someone who has studied design and knows how to translate business goals into artwork. It’s not an easy task!

  • Hi Ralph,

    To me it’s obvious that you would want to have only one logo, what the heck a logo for different states! Maybe those people didn’t get what a logo is all about.

    Talking about logo I though about McDonald they have the same logo world wide and they’re not about to change it either.

    I’ve been thinking about having a logo made for my business, but since I really have two niches I’ve been wondering if I’d needed two different logos. What do you think about that?

    Thanks for this informative article.

    • Hi Sylviane,

      Unless you are running two separate businesses then you only need one logo to represent your identity and your brand. Determine your business goals and values, what you want your logo to convey to people about you and your business, and then design from there. You can always use logo variations if you have multiple product lines. For instance, when you think of Microsoft, they have the Microsoft logo but they also have unique identifiers for Outlook, PowerPoint etc. But the overarching brand has one identity.

  • Adrienne says:

    Hey Ralph,

    I’m like the guy in #4… I’m boring, I don’t have a clue so give me your best shot. Seriously, we can all say we want this or that but obviously this is not our area of expertise which is why they call you right!

    I’ve never done a logo because I am my brand. I also admit early on really not understanding this concept as much, it took me a little longer I suppose. Hey, I’m not going to lie about it you know.

    I could never do what you do I can tell you that. But I do admire that you obviously have the patience to deal with your clients. I think I’d be pulling my hair out.

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us.


    • Hi Adrienne,

      If you find a good designer then that person will walk you through the process so you do understand. It’s not your job to know how to design a logo but it is your designer’s job to guide you to a result that is a good reflection of your business.

  • Great advice Ralph, I guess I never really thought about the process works I guess this is why we hire someone else to do it for us. You must have patients of a saint.. Thanks for sharing Chery 🙂

    • Hi Chery,

      It may seem like a simple thing but creating a logo is a challenge because a logo is going to represent your business for a long time. It has to reflect your goals, message and vision and not just a color preference!

  • Sue Price says:

    hi Ralph

    I have been in several different businesses with business partners and been through the process of creating a logo. We have always had them done professionally but it was not an easy process as we could never get everyone (meaning the owners) to agree.

    So I really get the too many chefs syndrome. I do not envy your role.
    Great advice


  • Dino Dogan says:

    This is too smart. You’re too smart. This whole courtroom is out of order. Wait…that didnt make any sense. I need to be smart. You you 🙂