This article addresses the most common challenges small-to-medium companies bump into while working with graphic designers, logo design freelancers and branding agencies.
Large corporations with deep pockets can afford and usually select vendors from a pool of well-known, renowned agencies thus eliminating most of the problems listed in this article. The reason is simple — renowned logo design agencies have proven methodology and processes while most freelancers don’t and very few small design firms care to concern themselves with “such rubbish” as a logo design framework.
A typical company logo design journey starts with a business owner’s dream to rebrand, refresh or create a new logo for their brand. Here is an article about the most common misconceptions about a custom logo design process and logo designers that inevitably lead to complications. These are the six most common misconceptions from this article.
6 common misconceptions of logo design process:
- There is a perfect logo somewhere out there.
- More logo design options are better.
- Unrealistic expectations in scope of work and its results.
- Desire to get a logo everyone will love.
- Perceive logo as a foundation.
- Firm belief that breaking the project into chunks is better and cheaper.
Knowing these most common misconceptions you will be able to counter issues that inevitably follow. But let’s move to strategies you can implement in order to avoid the deepest pitfalls in business logo design.
Avoid these 15 mistakes working with logo designers
At awezzom we have had enough experience, been through various circumstances and situations that led to complications with logo design. We understand most of the underlying reasons and know how to deal with common issues. We would like to share some of our expertise to help small businesses with logo design challenges.
This is a list of the most common pitfalls entrepreneurs and small business owners fall into when dealing with graphic designers, logo design freelancers and design agencies. You can avoid these mistakes and steer away from major issues if you take this information to heart.
1. Identify a priority.
The first of the most common mistakes on this list is losing focus of (or not having a clear definition in the first place) of what’s a priority. Business leaders should ask themselves this question and identify what is a real priority — a perfect logo or moving forward to more important business objectives.
What happens in reality — company leaders lose focus of what’s really important and try to perfect the logo to the taste of all stakeholders including their spouses. Things get out of control quickly as it is virtually impossible to satisfy everyone.
When you know that a company logo is just a milestone on the way to more important things: marketing and innovation, things become clear that company management shouldn’t devote more of their productive time than necessary.
When you have a good logo design option on the table, it should be more than enough. Focus on the priority and avoid the mistake of finding a perfect logo that doesn’t exist.
2. Avoid clichés.
Every effective logo has specific functions. One of them is to be memorable; another one — to be distinguishable. When you’re designing a logo for your brand make sure your team and your graphic designers avoid clichés.
For example, if your brand mark has to incorporate a shape of a leaf, instruct designers to find the kind of shape that isn’t in abundance yet meets the objective criteria of a well-designed mark.
3. Set a timeframe.
Your new company logo is just a milestone along the way toward more meaningful business objectives. It is by far more beneficial to have a deadline and stick to it than being wishy-washy, constantly pushing the end date further. Avoid the mistake of endless revisions and fluid deadlines. Get it done. There is no such thing as a perfect company logo.
4. Understand the process.
Your graphic designer should have a process that guarantees results. Ask them about it. Inquire about most common problems with similar projects and what strategies you might be able to implement to avoid generic mistakes. If there is no process in place the results will be hit or miss.
5. Dismiss subjectivity.
Refrain from personal preferences and subjectivity. A good and effective logo isn’t the one admired by everyone. It is impossible to make a brand mark or a logotype for all the people to fall in love with. Agree on objective criteria that will set a benchmark for the success of your brand logo design project.
For example, instead of “We’ll know what we want when we see it” approach set objective criteria such as: distinct from immediate competitors, aligned with our company’s positioning in the marketplace, memorable, etc.
At awezzom we have developed a special body of knowledge that includes more of the above mentioned objective criteria to guarantee success with company logo projects. We share this special knowledge exclusively with our clients.
6. Be realistic.
Adjust your expectations according to your budget. Business owners always want the best for themselves and their companies. But at the same time, to maximize profits, they tend to minimize costs by attempting to get services as cheap as possible. This approach — anticipating the best for the lowest price — never works.
Whenever we’re aiming at paying less — more so with services rather than products — we are inevitably inviting the consequences of the race to the bottom. The price will go down along with the quality.
How can you set realistic expectations for a subject you know little about? Here is a strategy you can use for logo design services — think in terms of hourly rates. In order for you to determine a benchmark for what might constitute a good quality company logo, establish how many hours you would expect a professional graphic designer to work at designing a logo for your brand. Multiply the time by an hourly rate of the service provider in your country.
Do this mental exercise — if your logo graphic designer charges $200 for a logo design, how much time (at her/his hourly rates) do you expect them to devote to your company’s brand mark? Is that satisfactory by your standards?
A junior logo designer from US might be OK with working at $20/hour for various reasons. Based on that you can expect them to allocate 10hr max. That’s just one day. Do you believe that it is possible to: do the research on your competition and their logos, create multiple good quality options and variations, and asses the appropriateness of the sketches to the industry and your company?
A professional logo designer with 20 years of experience in the industry might be able to accomplish this in less amount of time (probably having a great logo up their sleeve from previous engagements). But you can’t expect them to charge at the same rate as junior designers. Read the story about Paula Scher (founder of Pentagram) designing a logo for Citibank on a napkin in 5 minutes for 1.5 million USD.
Take the fair rate of a professional logo design expert from your country and multiply that by the hours you’d want them to devote to meet your company’s requirements. That’s how you can set a benchmark for what to realistically expect from logo design services. Take a look at this logo design calculator to estimate the logo costs for your brand.
7. Don’t compare potatoes to hot air balloon flights
We’ve found that business leaders are often tempted to compare prices disregarding the process. A big mistake. Shopping for logo design services is not the same as buying potatoes in a local market.
The usual argument between a small business owner and a graphic designer goes like this: “We have offers from other logo designers who will charge us $200 for our company logo. Your offer is for $2,000. We would like to work with you if you were to bring the price down. Other vendors are offering a reasonable price — it’s just a logo.”
Keep in mind that different vendors have different methodologies and processes. Some have none at all. Some low-price designers use AI logo generators and submit the results as their own. Some use Google image search and submit that. You’re getting what you’re paying for.
Determine your budget and ask your graphic designer what’s doable within its limits. Pick three to five logo designers (or agencies) and ask them how they would approach the design challenge. Select the one you feel most comfortable working with.
Don’t haggle over pennies. Don’t pick the cheapest option that is different from other vendor’s by more than a factor of two. Don’t shop for potatoes. A great company logo is a result of a process that feels like a hot air balloon flight — an awesome experience with memorable deliverables.
8. Explore some options
If your budget has room for more research, allow your logo designer to explore more design options. A good, creative graphic designer will be drawn toward this opportunity to explore more.
We had found that the optimum number of options you want to explore is three to five. One option isn’t enough to choose from. Two options — and most business leaders aren’t happy. More than five options and the decision gets postponed; frustrations start to build up too. So stick to 3-5 logo design options (directions) and you’ll be golden.
9. Do not denigrate the design process
The process is a crucial prerequisite of good results. We heard some clients say: “We don’t care about the process — we want results,” or “The implementation of the process is up to the vendor as long as we don’t have to pay for it.”
You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have the results without the process. If you are paying for results (logo designs) you have to pay for the process as well. The process is the means by which results are achieved.
The only vendor who’d be able to meet your peculiar expectations is a snake oil salesman.Imagine asking your dentist to perform an implant surgery without cutting the gum, removing the damaged tooth and drilling into the bone because all of that is painful and you want none of that. All you want is a result — a new tooth. How likely are you to get what you want? The only vendor who’d be able to meet your peculiar expectations is a snake oil salesman.
There are two ways how you can attain an effective logo for your brand: by chance and through the process based on methodology, experience and industry best practices. Make a choice.
10. Avoid committees
Some clients believe that including more people in the decision making process concerning the company logo is the right way to go. It is not. Unless the people involved are experts in graphic design with real world logo design experience.
Whenever there is a group of partners, employees or even their spouses involved, that’s a sure sign of trouble. A committee will never come to an agreement about things were subjectivity and egos play a huge part.
Perception of logos (especially new, unheard-of logos) is always subjective. Personal preferences will get in the way. Without objective criteria in place members of the committee will wrangle weeks over months without coming to a decision. Avoid this trap at all costs.
11. Define the result
Prior to hiring a logo design agency you should clarify what is it that you want as a result. Do you want a good-looking company logo or do you want to have a logo that works? Do you want your logo to be aligned with your brand’s story? Do you want your logo to stand the test of time (how many years)?
The problem with what qualifies a good-looking logo is that it could be shallow or ambiguous in its meaning. Take simple shapes such as circles or triangles which are usually perceived as good-looking. If a simple shape is offered as a brand mark, not only is it in abundance and is barely defensible legally, it is also very ambiguous in its meaning. You can fit almost any idea into a simple shape.
For example, a circle can be interpreted as: a dot, a point, a world, a planet, wholeness, the sun, a face, smoothness, a circle of life, inclusivity, a team, efficiency and so on. A triangle can symbolize: areas of expertise, sharpness, a team, a structure, a direction, a point, combination, synergy and so forth.
The more specific about what you want from your company logo the better results you’ll get.
12. Avoid opinions
Be careful of listening (too closely) to your employees’ (and your spouse’s for that matter) opinions. If such advisors don’t have graphic design skills and experience they could barely contribute to the project. They can only provide a subjective opinion. But you should aim at getting professional, external analysis.
Consider what sort of opinion you’d get from your employees if their default modus operandi is not to upset the boss. Who knows how it might affect their careers if they don’t say what they think you want them to say.
13. Choose your experts carefully
It’s usually a good idea to have a second opinion. Two heads are better than one they say. Especially when the second head rests on the shoulders of an expert. But not all experts are made equal.
In our practice we have witnessed clients referring and quoting experts who had voiced their opinions about logo design based on personal preferences. We had a client who asked (what they thought) an industry veteran with 15-year experience for a logo review. The so-called expert gave the following comment: “This blue-greenish colour reminds me of pharmacy, so definitely don’t use it.”
The problem with this statement (coming from a supposed expert) is that it has nothing to do with expertise. It’s personal taste. A real expert will follow a procedure, state facts about observations, point out industry best practices and mistakes. A good expert will point out potential problems and possible solutions; will refrain from such words as: never use this, always do that, I don’t like this.
The goal of any expert is to guide clients — not to place them in a box and put it on a conveyor belt.You can ask for their personal opinion and a real expert will be able to provide it with a disclaimer. The goal of any expert is to guide clients, not to place them in the box putting it on the conveyor belt. Great experts don’t force decisions onto clients.
14. Avoid vendor price wars
There is an opinion that in order to get the best deal one should let competitors fight it out. The one who brings down the price most wins. While this might be the case in some situations (e.g., car dealerships) it is certainly not so with creative services such as branding, graphic design and logo design. The price can always be lower. But the quality will always follow suit.
If you had agreed to hire a logo designer to do the job for 2,000 USD and then for one reason or another argue to bring the price down because there are other designers who had offered the same service for 200 USD, what you communicate is this — “we couldn’t care less about your services, we want the lowest price for this level of quality”. The problem of course is that clients like that want the best for peanuts. They also usually have no clue what this level of quality actually is.
When your graphic designer or logo design agency agrees to work on the project for specific amount of money, they have an estimate of how many man-hours will go into this work. If the client insists on lowering the price, the vendor has to recalculate the costs and adjust the scope of work. The same happens when clients ask for additional design options and revisions.
There is a linear connection: the lower the budget, the less time there is for designers to devote to research, explorations, sketches, presentations, explanations and revisions — the lower the quality of your company logo. When you encourage vendors to partake in price wars you’re setting everyone up for the race to the bottom.
15. Know your limitations
Set your logo budget in accordance with you capabilities: funds, timeframe, available project manager and knowledge base. A typical small business with 20 employees and 2,000,000 USD annual revenue should aim at allocating two to three weeks for a logo design project, assign one project manager and a budget of up to 10,000 USD.
In case of a company with annual revenue of about 300,000 USD a sensible logo budget would be 300-600 USD. But it is often the case that companies of this size are OK with spending 1,000-1,500 USD while simultaneously expecting unlimited options, endless revisions, research, reasoning and presentations. This is unrealistic for such a low budget.
If you want to know more, read this article about how company logo design pricing works.
13 steps to create an effective logo for your brand:
Follow this process if you want to create a professional, well-designed, good-quality logo and avoid most common logo mistakes.
- Come up with a budget for your company logo design project and discuss it with the vendor.
- Tell graphic designers how many options (or design concepts) you would like to evaluate.
- Communicate your preferences: things you generally like and dislike about other companies’ logos, what you would prefer for your business logo and some red lines if any exist.
- Be as specific and outspoken as possible about your vision for the company logo.
- Tell about your expectations: business objectives, research, timeframe, number of options, number of revisions and marketing budget.
- Set criteria for success. Discuss what will constitute success and failure for this custom logo design project.
- Receive and examine logo drafts and sketches. Ask logo designers to explain their reasoning behind particular decisions they made.
- Communicate clearly what you see, what you like and what you dislike, what it reminds you of and how you feel about it. But do not let your emotions and personal preferences get in the way of logo design process.
- Ask your graphic designer whether your personal tastes have any relevance to the design challenges.
- Asking for a logo revision, make sure to request what changes were made and why.
- If you feel like you need a second opinion, hire an expert who can analyze the work that has already been done and provide objective comments. Dismiss subjectivity and personal taste.
- Stick to the agreed timeline. If you can’t make up your mind on which of the company logo options works best, ask your logo designer to rank them based on their knowledge.
- Don’t go into a rabbit hole of exploring more options. Pick one of the created logo options and move forward.
Remember, if you can’t be specific about your specs, if you can’t point out what doesn’t feel right, let the professional logo designer do their job and do not interfere. Let the service provider explain you what works, what doesn’t work and why. Avoid subjective opinions and lean toward objective criteria such as industry best practices.
Is this all awezzom knows about company logo design?
It isn’t our primary focus at awezzom to create remarkable company logos. There are renowned agencies that are more versed in the subject. However, our philosophy is to do the job exceptionally well; if we can’t do our best we won’t get engaged. In such a case we can recommend the world’s best logo design agencies for your brand.
Over the years awezzom has accrued a special body of knowledge that allows us to achieve great results based on methodology, framework and industry best practices. You will get a great logo for your brand in a matter of weeks while your competitors continue squabbling. Get yourself an unfair but well-deserved advantage.
If you feel like creating a smashing logo for your brand — the kind of logo that works and follows all the golden rules of an effective logo design, contact awezzom Marketing consultancy firm from New York to get started on this thrilling project. Our logo design engagement usually starts at 2,000 USD for a small business with $1M in annual revenue.
The awezzom question of the day:
Are we OK with following an established, designer-lead process or do we know any better?