This time I’d like to start with a disclaimer. My advice in this article is (obviously) given from my point of view as a designer and is based on my personal experience with clients and it probably has not touched upon all the important points, which is why one should make a broader research on the topic.
While making my personal research, I came across some articles from people who seemed rather hostile to designers and one could sense quite diminishing undertones. Whether this is due to the person’s negative experiences in the past or they just generally believe that everyone are out to get them and only after their money, it saddens me that so many people out there seem to view us this way. I believe that not just designers, but any forward thinking professional out there is interested in doing their best to help you, because they understand that doing great job for a client means a happy client who will not only return for more, but will also send others your way and that’s far more valuable than making a quick buck. That being said, yes, sure there’s also the other kind and some of them are pretty good at loudly marketing themselves, but, please don’t assume that’s all there is.
Ok, so what makes me write this post? Well as usual it is some personal experiences. It seems to me that many clients are often unprepared when they reach out to a designer, which makes it hard for us to do our job. Sending an email saying “Hey I need a logo for my newly opened pet shop, how much will it cost” is like going to a restaurant telling the waiter “I want to eat something, how much would that be?” If you consider getting a logo designed read on and I hope that this will help you in your process!
1. Make sure you need it
To some clients having a logo is like a fancy proof that “we are a real business now” and many rush into it as soon as they got their business idea. They want it done right NOW and don’t even think whether they need it or not at this point. I would argue that a logo is not your first priority when you are just starting. Your time and money will certainly be spent wiser on something else, like prototyping, customer validation and all those nice things we hear about. At this point designing a logo is more of a escape from the real world. In those early days a name typed in a nice professional font can be more than enough. Once things get going you may start to think about getting a logo.
2. Know your business
Another reason why I think a business that is just starting should wait with its logo design is the fact that it doesn’t quite have a personality yet. It is still more of a prototype of itself. You may think that a logo will look good on your website or a business card, but that’s just a sign that you are not aware of the actual purpose of a logo. It is not meant to be a decoration, it is meant to be your business made visual. Therefore you need to be very clear on what your business actually is, what it stands for, what your values are, what you hope to achieve. A business needs to reach a certain level of understanding for itself before it can make itself understandable to others. Isn’t it better to get a logo, which reflects your aspirations to make people’s lives more relaxed happy and colorful by bringing the fresh, vibrant vitality of nature to their homes, then one for a flower shop?
3. Make sure you can afford it
Logos are expensive and good ones even more so. But good logos are also an investment, together with all design work. When done correctly they are more of an invisible canvas, a frame that holds it all together. They are not there to be admired or even noticed, but to help the customer understand and trust your product or service. If you want to have more than an empty decoration for a logo make sure you are able to set aside the recourses it needs to come to life. Make a research on the cost of a logo design and figure out your range. Don’t ask for a great cheap logo, done fast, such thing does not exist! Understand what kind of value you are looking for and be prepared to pay for it.
4. Make sure you have the time
So often when I ask a client when their deadline is I get the obligatory as soon as possible and after digging a little deeper it turns out what they actually mean is that they need it done yesterday. I might be wrong, but I think nobody suddenly wakes up one day to realize they have to get a logo done. You wouldn’t start looking for a house the day you actually want to move in. Make design part of your business planning and give it the proper amount of time and this might mean months. As much as everyone are eager to see a finished product (a designer more than anyone, believe me) nothing good comes out of rushing and being nervous about it. I believe you are better off with a placeholder logo than with a rushed half a$$ed design, that you’ll need to redo in a year or two. And when you are already committed to the design process make time to communicate with the designer. Give feedback and be present, don’t just wait to receive it all done and perfect in your inbox one day.
5. Know what you want
In this case as in life in general you often get what you ask for. This is why it is so important to know what you want and to be able to communicate it clearly enough and in terms that will be understood by the designer, so that they can deliver it to you. Please avoid vague statements like “make it pop”, make it more edgy”, “I like it, but can you change it”. This means absolutely nothing to a designer and honestly I’m not sure it means anything to anyone. Instead say something more like “what if we make the text darker grey, I think it might give it better contrast, it will be more readable too”. There are also terms which are way too broad to define, like “modern”. Modernism dates as far back as the end of the 19th century, so anything between then and now can be considered “modern”. Furthermore every year there are at least 5 major trends going on, which one are you after? Making your own research can not only help the designer better understand what you like, but will also speed up the process. Browsing through galleries such as Logopond.com or even just Google images will broaden your horizons and make you more aware of what you like and dislike, so you are better able to communicate your wishes to a designer.
6. Make your research
Make a general research on the topic of logo design. I don’t know about you, but when I’m making a larger investment or purchase I like to learn more, so I can hope to make a good choice. If you spend time researching the next phone, TV or car you want to buy, you can spend a couple of hours on learning about logo design. Get to know the process a little better, educate yourself about prices, timeframes and other details (like contracts, copy rights etc.), of course this is when you also start looking for a designer to work on your project.
7. Check the designer’s portfolio
Once you have decided to have a logo designed for you, have set aside reasonable time (at least a month) and sufficient budget (at least 800$ – 1000$), are clear on what you do and what you want, it is time to select a designer. It’s likely that you’d first ask around the people you know or browse online. When you have some names look at their websites. Every designer (should) have one these days, or at least has a profile on a social website with the option for portfolio. A designer usually has a niche, a style or an industry they prefer, possibly know better and would be happier to work for. This might be visible through their portfolio. If 80- 90% of the logos are of coffee houses and you have a coffee place, it is likely that this will be a good match. This doesn’t mean that the designer has no interest in working with other businesses and if you enjoy the style you should still contact them with your project and see if they are interested. In any case your feelings towards a designer’s portfolio are a good indicator on whether the relationship has future.
8. Check the designer’s testimonials
Another thing to check would be previous client’s testimonials or LinkedIn recommendations. Does it sound like the designer did the job on time within budget and according to requirements.
9. Have more than one designer in mind
Have more than one designer in mind for the job. If your first choice doesn’t have the time to take your project or you can’t agree on the parameters of the job it’s always good to have a plan B. Also consider proximity. Although I’ve successfully worked with clients on the other side of the world, who I’ve never met, I still prefer the opportunity to meet and discuss the project in person. There’s no better way to know whether you have the right chemistry.
10. Be open to advice and suggestions
Once you decide to hire a designer for your logo design be prepared to listen to them. This doesn’t mean you should agree with everything the designer proposes, but giving them room to create and explore. This can only be beneficial. Coming with statements like “I know exactly what I want, I just need someone to put it together”, “I can help you with some sketches” is condescending and seen by many designers as a warning sign for future problems and it often is. Moreover a statement like this can kill the designer’s desire for creativity. If they fell that you’ll shoot down every proposal they came up with, because “you know what you want” they’ll just “put together what you want” and be done with it. This may rob you from a great idea, you haven’t thought about. At least in the beginning, share your preferences, but be careful not to set way too many boundaries if you don’t want to end up with a stale and boring design. The design process is not a power struggle between the client and the designer, but a conversation and a journey, which can lead to wonderful places if the two are open minded, patient and listen to each other.