Skip to main content

Does Your Logo Work Or Does It Just Look Pretty? 9 Design Questions You Never Thought To Ask

By January 29, 2014July 1st, 2015Branding & Design
Does Your Logo Work Or Does It Just Look Pretty? 9 Design Questions You Never Thought To Ask

You can get a logo designed for five bucks. Or ninety-nine. Or several – or many – thousands.

You’ll probably see a vast difference in quality, attention to detail, service and about a hundred other things, but logos of all styles and at all price points have one thing in common: they can all miss the mark completely.

Of course, if you paid five bucks you’ll be a little less heartbroken than if you just coughed up two grand, but the end result can still be something that might look pretty but fail to do its job.

What’s the job of a logo, you may ask?

Simple: it’s to be a visual representation of your brand and business.

We’re visual creatures. We recognize shapes and colors long before we can speak and we continue to identify with symbols throughout our entire lives.

So what your symbol says about your business is important. It will stick in people’s minds – or not. It will create a connection with your company – or not. And it will be part of your core identity – or not.

How you approach the design process is what matters. And it has a lot less to do with the pretty colors than you might think.

If you want an effective logo, here’s some homework for you. Answer these questions and if you can’t, stop until you can.

A logo isn’t your brand but it’s an integral visual component of it, so take the time to make sure yours speaks for you.

1. How Do You Want Your Name To Appear?

This may sound like a no-brainer but think about it: do you want your full company name? DBA? Is it important to include the LLC or Inc or is that overkill?

What about punctuation? I once went through about 6,982 revisions (or so it seemed) with a client who couldn’t decide if she wanted a period after the middle initial in the name in her logo.

Consider whether you’re willing to break up your business name onto multiple lines and stack it vertically or whether it’s important for you to keep it intact horizontally.

Sounds trivial until you start to consider the myriad permutations and how many (expensive) revisions you may have to go through unless you nail down the details first.

They matter to how you represent your business and the ultimate image you portray. It’s less a design choice and more of a business and branding decision.

A simple matter of a period vs. no period can mean the difference between a more contemporary image and one that’s solidly traditional.

2. What’s Your Tagline?

Don’t try to cram this in after the fact. You may want your tagline to be locked up with your logo so that they always appear together, or you may want to keep them separate but cohesive.

Decide what matters to your business and image. Consider whether you’re likely to change up your tagline twelve more times this year or if it’s truly part of your identity.

Either way, they should work in tandem so that you’re not sending conflicting messages or using conflicting colors, styles or typefaces.

3. What Products Or Services Do You Provide?

You’re going to be tempted to skip this question. Don’t! We’ve already established that the devil is in the details and it’s just as important to have clarity on what you’re selling. If you don’t know, you can’t represent it.

Your designer isn’t going to be intimately familiar with your business. It’s your job to fix that. And you can only do it if you’re clear on it yourself.

Figure out what you sell but just as importantly figure out what that means to your customers. Remember the old features vs. benefits exercise? Define clearly what benefit your customers get from doing business with you.

It may not be represented literally in your logo with a bit of clipart or a clever graphic but it will inspire style and direction.

4. What Do You Want Someone To Think Or Feel After Seeing Your Logo?

Again, we’re not looking for a literal representation but the feeling that your logo evokes and the emotional connection it makes with people.

You may think it sounds a little nuts to imagine being connected to a swish or a globe or an arch – yet we are. And while the logo doesn’t necessarily create the emotion – you do that as a brand and through your interactions with customers – the logo must represent that so your customers’ experience is consistent no matter how they engage with your company.

And yes, the logo can create its own emotional response. There are entire tomes and scientific studies done on how color impacts our decisions and how certain symbols evoke reactions we’re not even conscious of.

So instead of thinking, “I like green,” you should be thinking, “What color conveys the emotional response and reaction I would like to evoke in my customers?”

5. Who Are Your Customers?

It’s simple: you can’t design a logo that will convey anything or mean anything to anyone if you don’t know who those people are.

The age, socio-economic status, lifestyle and geographic location of your customers (or whatever other demographic factors may be relevant to you) will affect people’s perceptions.

What says “cozy” to one person may be “quaint” to another. Something “modern” to one can be perceived as “cold” by another.

Much like anything you do in marketing, starting with your customers is always a good bet.

6. Who Are Your Competitors?

Sometimes you want to borrow ideas from the competition, especially if they’re good ones. But what you never want to borrow – even inadvertently – is their logo.

Your logo should be separate and distinct from anyone else in you industry. Otherwise you risk losing, or not even having a chance to develop, your identity.

For that matter, do a little research into logos in general. There are some too-common graphical elements that seem to permeate any industry. And of course stay away from mimicking anything famous.

7. What Common Symbols Represent Your Industry?

Figure this out… then run the other way!

That doesn’t mean you can’t use some kind of literal representation (a flower if you’re a florist, for example) but do avoid clichés and overused symbols. How many globes or leaves or computer monitors can you see before they start to blend together?

If you’re going literal, do try to infuse something unique, creative or even abstract into the design so it looks more like your brand and less like clipart.

And I’m about to blow you mind so wait for it… you may not need any symbol. If you’re clear on your goals, customers and vision then you might decide that your company name designed with beautiful typography is exactly enough.

8. What Words Describe Your Company?

Take a moment to put words to your company’s brand and personality. Think in opposing pairs.

Contemporary or traditional?

Fun or serious?

Modern or retro?

Elegant or down-to-earth?

Progressive or nostalgic?

With a little bit of brainstorming you can come up with any number of words. Keep them positive! If you come up with a pair of words like “forward thinking or stuffy” you’re going to gravitate toward the positive even if it’s not true. Describe your brand personality the way you would describe a person. Then use that to help craft the look and feel of your logo.

9. What Are The Possible Uses For Your Logo?

Considering the uses of your logo can help you avoid some unpleasant scenarios.

For example, if you plan to stick your logo on a pen but it’s stacked as tall as a three-story building then that could be a problem.

You can’t account for all the scenarios but you can think about what are the most important uses – most likely your website, perhaps a print piece or business card.

For one of our clients it was very important that their logo was crystal clear and noticeable splashed across the side of their delivery trucks. That had an impact on the fonts and the symbols we chose. If you need to read something from across the street it makes a difference!

Be mindful that you will likely be seeing your logo smaller rather than larger – for example, on your business cards or in that miniscule Twitter profile photo. When you see the artwork it may be presented to you in a nice, big PDF or JPG. It may look perfect.

Now scale it down to a fraction of the size… squeeze it onto a two-inch scrap of cardboard. Still looking good? Or is it all crammed in there and losing the details?

Famous Last Words: Think First, Do Second

You may think that when it comes to design you can jump right in and start sketching. We hear plenty of clients say things like, “Just show me a few ideas.”

But… a few ideas for what? For what message? What type of company? With what branding parameters? In what style? Oh, the questions!

So thinking before designing (or before paying someone for hours of their design time) can go a long way to helping you develop a logo that means something and doesn’t just sit there looking randomly pretty.

And now you know where to start asking!

What do you think? Have you ever designed a logo quickly or “because you needed one” and then repented later? How well does your logo represent your company now? I’d love to hear your logo story if you’ve got one! And of course, if you need help developing the story or the logo, we can help. Just give us a shout.

Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • Hi Carol,
    I haven’t done a logo yet, but I do have a banner on my website and I could certainly relate to a lot of your comments. When I had the banner created I was going off in one direction and now my business is headed somewhere else. I will certainly be thinking about your questions as my website goes through its upcoming metamorphosis. Thanks for sharing!

    • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

      It’s always good to be thinking 🙂 And even then, things change. We had the same thing happen… we started working on rebranding and then we went in a whole different direction and just kept going. But the important thing is to plan what you’re doing and make smart choices!

  • Hey Carol,

    I was trying to design a logo…but finally decided to go with plain text (I will be changing that of course…but, not now).

    Right now, I am focusing on building the blog – you know, getting traffic and so forth.

    And, I really don’t know whether I will change my direction later on…I do have a plan on where I should go. This year for instance, I am planning to write a few eBooks (writing isn’t too bad….it’s the editing that gets me!), start offering services and perhaps launch my first product (I am still working on this…I do have a few ideas, not particularly related to my blog per se, but can help others).

    So, my schedule is kind of hectic…but, I think it’s possible (of course, I don’t succeed with all of these…failures are alright…I could learn from them and repeat the process again next year :D).

    Back to logos – yeah, because of all this, I can’t finalize on a logo (Plus, I really want to make one of my own, instead of hiring someone to do it).

    Anyways, thank you for sharing these questions, Carol 🙂 I have bookmarked the page…it will be a helpful reference for the future.

    Hope you are enjoying your weekend!

  • I loved the motivation I got as I was reading this Carol. I’m excited that I could answer all these questions clearly and decisively. YEAH! But, it took lots of thinking and time during the development. I’ve asked some I work with if they were love what they do to where they could marry it? It gets their minds stirring to the creating of what it is they really want. Isn’t it crazy what love does? LOL


    • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

      Sometimes it does feel as though you’re married to your business, doesn’t it!? I’m glad you had a “yeah!” moment about your own logo. It all boils down to the thinking!

  • deborahmain says:

    Hi Carol. I’m in process of rebranding of sorts. Not a huge change but one I’ve put a lot of thought into. I’ve had a trademarked logo for 10 years that i have loved and has worked very well for my business. I just launched a new website and am moving toward re branding as Deborah Main. Design house will still be herr but my work is now more widely recognizex by my name only. It’s not necessarily a re brand but just moving away from speaking about studio to using just my name as the brand. There are logical reasons I am moving in this direction. So I want a new, more contemporary logo and have been thinking thru this a lot. Your post is first one I’ve seen really devote the attention and important factors that go into developing a logo. Thank u for taking time to break down the important steps in the prep process of new logo development. It will help me take my thinking one step further. Great post!!!

    • Carol Lynn Rivera says:

      Hi Deborah, I’m glad to hear that you’re putting a lot of thought into your direction and that I could help you think some more 🙂 It seems so simple when you first start – a logo, how complicated could it be? But when you realize it really does reflect your brand in an immediate and visual way – any may very well be the first impression someone has of your company – you start to take it a little more seriously. Good luck with your sort-of rebrand and let me know when you’re done, I would love to see it!