Call it a side effect of social media. There’s a constant stream of people, on Facebook especially, posting up three or four versions of a logo and throwing this question out into the general population: Which logo do you like best?
Don’t raise your hand if you’ve done this – I won’t make you. Just cringe a little inside because I want to tell you why that’s a bad idea and what you should be doing instead.
The Problem With Asking For Opinions
There are a few (bad) reasons why people ask for opinions about their logos in the first place, and this is part of a bigger problem that should be addressed before a single shade of color or slant of font is discussed.
Asking for opinions says, “I’m designing this myself but I don’t really know what to do so… help!”
Asking for opinions says, “I hired a cheap designer and I can’t keep asking for revisions so… help!”
Asking for opinions says, “I hired a designer but I don’t really trust him so… help!”
I’m not saying this to be critical. I’m saying it because I want your logo to be better than that. Because if you feel any one of the above then it’s time to stop and rethink your approach. Nobody’s opinion will help if you find yourself in one of those scenarios. There are better ways to design (and even ask for opinions about) a logo, especially since it’s going to be around representing you for a long time.
I Don’t Matter
Unless I fit your avatar and you fully expect that with just the right green and the perfect symbol I’ll be flinging money at you to buy your thing or your service, then why do you care what I think of your logo?
Why do you care what Fat Aunt Bertha, your old high school buddy, that one chick you dated in junior high but she’s sooo hot so you’re still “friends” with her and the 749 other people you “know” think?
I’d bet my next bowl of ice cream that most of these people are not the people who are in your business demographic.
I’d bet a month’s worth of hot fudge that most of those people have a different opinion, anyway.
Are you just going for a majority vote?
Aunt Bertha likes Version A, two of your high school buddies like B, the hot chick likes C and you’re left… where?
Logo death by committee.
Creating an effective logo for your business should not come down to a popularity contest – especially among people who probably don’t really understand what you do and wouldn’t buy it if they did.
What to do instead: Don’t ask. Or, if you must, put together a strategic focus group of people who do fit your avatar and get their feedback. At least you won’t be basing the future of your business on someone’s Facebook opinion du jour.
“I Like It” Is Not A Helpful Response
Here’s what inevitably happens when someone asks people to “pick a version”: they do.
A little of A plus the green thing from C.
This is helpful in no way whatsoever.
“Liking” a logo is not part of the equation. I like cute little seagulls but that would certainly not make a good logo for my business.
Besides, liking something is 100% subjective. And we’re back to choosing a logo based on a popularity contest.
What to do instead: Don’t ask. But if you must, skip the “Which one do you like?” question and ask people about their perceptions, instead. Which logo makes you feel confident? Which logo says “earth friendly”? Which logo conveys tradition? See if your message is on the mark rather than just pleasing to the hot-chick-from-junior-high.
Marginal Differences Compound The Problem
Sometimes people show three or four versions of a logo that are essentially the same except for a small nuance. One is a darker shade of green. One has an extra swishy line. One has a fatter font.
Now we’re talking really subjective and even subconscious. Maybe Fat Aunt Bertha doesn’t appreciate that skinny little font, but that has nothing to do with the integrity of your logo.
What to do instead: Don’t ask. But if you must, don’t let people off the hook with a multiple choice question. Ask them to explain their answer so you can understand whether they – or your designer – are missing the point. “The skinny font is too hard to read,” is a lot more helpful than, “B.”
People You Should Never, Ever Ask
I mentioned Facebook earlier because this is the most common place I see people asking for opinions. But it’s not the only place by a long shot. Even before social media existed, people were getting logo comps from their designers and doing the same thing.
My company designs logos for clients and we’ve got some seriously talented designers. But that doesn’t mean we’ve never had to go back to the drawing board when Joe from Widgets USA took his logo comps to “ask for an opinion” then came back with twelve conflicting directives.
Few things are as frustrating as watching a client pull apart a logo that works because his wife just isn’t really a purple person.
Which leads to the first person you should never ask… your spouse or significant other, unless you are business partners and making the decision together.
Otherwise you’re falling into all of the same traps as the people who post their logos on Facebook. But worse. Because you probably actually really care what your significant other says, so if she really, really hates purple it probably doesn’t matter how well it works for your business. The purple is going to go.
Other people not to ask: your best friend. Your drinking buddy. Your kid. Your mother. Some guy you know who is a really great artist and totally has an eye for color.
What to do instead: Don’t ask. No, seriously. Just don’t. Even if one of these people were in your business demographic chances are they are either going to be too critical in the name of being helpful or they are going to be too kind in the name of being helpful. Because they really do want to be helpful. So just don’t ask.
“Like” Is A Facebook Action. Not A Reason To Choose A Logo.
Let’s be honest, nobody wants to hate their logo. Nobody wants to feel mildly indifferent toward their logo.
You want something you can enjoy, something that you’re happy with, something you’re proud of.
So when I say that you don’t have to like you logo, I don’t mean that you should give up and do whatever your designer says.
But I do think that the conversation has to start with what works. What are you trying to represent and convey about your business? What colors, fonts, symbols and styles do that? If you focus on the message then you’re not going to find yourself picking colors and other things that you hate.
And somewhere, somehow, no matter how much time, effort and money you put into a logo, there’s probably still someone who isn’t going to like it.
But if you don’t ask…
Join the discussion 9 Comments
OY. I just saw this in action in a Facebook group a few weeks ago. The person asked (Mistake #1) and the long thread of opinions starting rolling in — opinions as varied as human DNA.
One guy who responded was a reputable graphic designer so I’ll admit I was curious to read his remarks. Guess what? Although he offered one piece of technical advice that was spot on (something wasn’t centered/aligned properly), I disagreed with his opinion and his suggested changes. Am I a logo designing expert? Nope. I just felt what he suggested wasn’t really going to make a hill of beans difference for this particular small biz owner and her services.
Which brings me to this …
You’re right. A logo needs to hit the mark with your marketing “message”. Get that part right and you’re golden! Get it wrong and your ship is sunk … regardless of the cute little seagulls and seafoam green background. 😉
I’ve seen this explode in many ways. We all love to share an opinion and boy, do we share them! Honestly, I have either stopped commenting on stuff like that (I don’t feel it’s my place to do so) or I will if I know the context and the person and I always share WHY I made a choice. I think that is much more helpful than just picking an option. Nobody is going to agree on stuff like that.
Now you’ve done it, though… I want a logo with a seagull!
… and I want a logo with a lighthouse on it! Seriously. I love lighthouses. But somehow I don’t think prospective copy editing clients will see the connection. 😉
I will always voice my opinion IF and ONLY IF I feel I can add some value. Otherwise, I keep my nose out of it.
The “why” of the advice or suggestions you give others is most important. You should never just say things like “Change your font to navy blue” or “Trash this and start from scratch” and offer no explanation. As far as design in general, it’s not my area of expertise and I never feel qualified to give an opinion. It’s a hands off topic.
Offshoot thought …
Reminds me of what happened over at Ralph’s blog the other day. The text was so light, I honestly couldn’t see it. When I explained “why” I couldn’t read his pearls of wisdom, it was enough to get him to darken it. And he went ahead and increased the font size a tad, too, which really helped my old eyes. Sharing my opinion paid off. And he didn’t even ask for it! LOL!
This is a tough one. I think there is some value in gathering input vs none. While logos should never be developed in isolation without a marketing strategy, plan, understanding of brand, developed identity, brand architecture and the list goes on… the truth is most small biz owners simply don’t have the resources. They can’t afford to have someone do it the right way. Or they don’t have the time or whatever the reasons may be. So…. they get what they pay for.
I love getting feedback from my social community on design sometimes because my target demographic is in my set of Facebook friends, Twitter following etc.
I think it depends on so many factors and to tell people they can’t ask for input I think is not going to help them. My two cents… take it or leave it 😉
Hey Pam, you [marketing] nut! Great to see you here. I hope you’ll nudge your clan to get their butts over here and catch this podcast once in a while. No, Web.Search.Social didn’t pay me to say that (although an Oreo would be nice.) 😉
I think you and Carol Lynn are, essentially, on the same page about asking for input. When my good friend, Sharon Hurley Hall, had new photos taken, she posted them on Facebook and asked everyone to pick the one they liked best. Denise Wakeman has done that a time or two over the years, as well. It’s fun!
But when it comes to something as critical as your business logo …
Broad spectrum social media input isn’t going to be as worthwhile as going straight to the horse’s mouth. Asking for opinions outside the scope of your target audience regarding logo design is, in my estimation, a pretty futile undertaking. What Carol Lynn is suggesting makes good biz sense to me. Garner feedback from the folks who have a vested interest in your message — your email subscribers; colleagues; past, present, and prospective customers and/or clients. Otherwise, you’re apt to get a hodgepodge of opinions that really won’t serve you (or your bottom line!)
Just my nickel’s worth. Come back soon!
I do remember Sharon asking that and what’s funny is even then I couldn’t simply vote… I had to throw my 22 cents in about WHY I liked one photo and about a hundred nuances she may not wanted to have known 🙂
You can’t help it if you’re thorough, Caro Lynn. Partial, half-baked anything isn’t in your nature. 😉
I agree, there is value in gathering input if you’re gathering it from the right people. Social followers and wives/husbands don’t count! I’m also focusing on logos and not other artwork or design. If you’re designing a book cover, a popularity contest winner may be all you need (or maybe not, depending on the circumstances!) Or if you want someone to vote – as Melanie suggested – on their favorite photo of you, then have fun.
Logos, though, need to represent your business. Otherwise why have one? In my experience, businesses with even limited resources CAN afford a logo (and I’m not talking about fiverr). It’s that they choose not to. And in cases where they truly cannot, then I’ve seen businesses get along quite well with just their business name in a simple font. I’ve seen plenty of large and successful businesses do well with that, too! But choosing the DIY version (if you’re not a designer) or going for “cheap” will, as you pointed out, get you what you pay for. And no number of votes on the planet will change that. I vote for hiring smart or skipping the logo until you can. And along the way, be super smart about whose opinion you take.
By the way, if you don’t know, Melanie is our official Poet Laureate and though we haven’t paid her in even one Oreo, she does write some amazing poems for our podcast. We’re still planning the shrine…