Choosing the right logo design agency

what, why & how

Every time I hear “Logo design is easy” a part of my soul withers.  

Over the years numerous logo design agencies have heard the same thing – “But what’s the big deal? It’s just a logo. You are a professional right – so you could probably whip it up in an hour.” While I understand that people mean well and don’t want to sound disrespectful, it’s important to educate yourself as to why this type of discussion is at best a complete waste of time and at worst damaging your businesses from the offset.

Let us guide you through the problems you can face, questions you may need answers to and the golden rules to make sure you find the perfect logo design agency for your website.

Who’s this guide for? Anyone looking to find a logo design agency and wants to know the pitfalls and problems that can occur.

What is logo design and how is it different from branding or identity?

Logo design is concentrated on your business – it should work as an identifier – something your client’s picture when they talk about your products – your logo is the face of your business. It must be a symbol or icon that is as important as the name of your business, but without necessarily describing it in full detail – a simple, brief image, strongly connected with your area of expertise.

Branding – this is a term used to explain all of the materials that are connected to your business image – all of the parts that are connected to your business or products. Besides the graphic parts, the way users react to or interact with your business is important for your branding too – for example, lots of companies make these eco campaigns and start to use only recycled materials for their products/branding and thus making an image of sustainable company even though their services aren’t directly connected to saving the forests or cleaning the oceans from plastics.

Identity – this term is used to describe all of the visual aspects of your branding. This includes (but it’s not limited to) – your logo, your stationery design (letterheads, business cards, etc.), your product packaging (if you have any), your slogan, your business’s colours, your fonts, and all other materials that are somehow linked to your business (for example company T-shirts, keychains, pens…).

Why is choosing the right logo design agency important?

Only a graphic designer – or more importantly a logo and branding designer – can make the face of your company. Of course, you can always buy some graphics off a stock site and add the name of your business below, but the designer is the person who can actually speak to your audience. They know what colours will make the design more noticeable for your target group and only they can create a logo that works – a logo that interacts with your customers, a logo that will give a face to your business.

Why is logo design so important for an SME?

The logo becomes the face of your business – it’s what people will picture when talking about your product. More often than not SMEs choose to ignore the importance of a logo, especially as some alternatives provide a logo for £10.  I know that this must seem incredibly tempting but imagine the power you have when you’re an SME with a one of a kind logo just for your business.  Once you have a logo, you’re free to “talk” to your clients and make them a part of your branding and your vision.  Once they choose to identify with you and your product, then you have a loyal customer.

logo design agency questions that can help

  • What are the best ways to save money?:

    As always when we’re talking about design it pays to be prepared – in that case, if you hire a person to make a profile of your customers prior to hiring your designer, they’ll do a top notch work for far less time thus essentially saving you money. Also when you have a customer/user profile (that you can use for marketing strategies and campaigns, not just design), you can hire a freelancer (or a small agency) instead of a big agency and so you’ll pay a lot less.

  • Which areas should I be aware of that take the most amount of time?

    Useful rule of thumb when deciding on the time frame is: 10% for research (the designer need this time to see how your competitors logos look like and what your customers’ needs are), 15% for sketches and ideas – this is the part when they are brainstorming and flesh out the rough ideas; 25% initial logo drafts – here my professional opinion is that they should offer you between 3 and 5 different logo drafts at the beginning from which you can choose – more tend to be distracting. It’s very important that at this stage of the design process you choose only one of these drafts and work with it – this will increase the productivity tenfold. 20% for choosing a suitable font to go along with the chosen draft; 10% improving the chosen draft & the font; 10% for choosing a colour palette; 10% final finishing touches and exporting the logo in the right file formats. I would also advise that you keep this order of the stages for a flawless working process.

  • What should I do first to make sure I pick the right digital partner?

    It’s important to hire a specialist and not just any graphic designer – you need a professional who specialises in making logo and branding. You should also first decide on a budget and then start to look for a logo designer – it’s not very wise to choose a big agency that charges £500 for a logo when your budget is £200. Another useful method is to look around portfolio websites (such as Behance) where people show off their work or if you see a logo you really like you can contact the company and ask to get in touch with their designer. That way you can be sure that the graphic designer you choose works in a style similar to what you have in mind for your future logo.

  • What are the main pitfalls and problems?

    Except for the ones I have already mentioned, you should always consider pulling your deadline a couple of weeks sooner that you’ll need to have the logo. That way if something unexpected happens you’ll be prepared. You should also sign a contract before the start of the project where most of the possible problems are highlighted.

  • What can I do myself, if anything?

    One of the things you can do and will make your logo designers work easier is to look around for logo design samples that you like and send them to your designer. That way he or she will be prepared for the style you like and will make your logo more similar to what you’re expecting to see than if they try to shoot in the dark and guess what you like and what you don’t.

The main pitfalls and problems – before you hire a logo design agency

1

Wanting your logo to tell the whole story

Oddly enough this is the mortal sin that affects not only clients but most of the graphic designers as well. I hardly know about a professional that didn’t succumb at least once to the desire to tell everything in a single logo. And since graphic designers usually start their training with the creation of study logos, it’s a really common mistake. I vividly remember the first time I had to create a study logo and branding design – I chose to make an identity for a bakery with the colourful name “The Golden Gift”. I was so excited and I wanted to include everything in my logo – a name and a business like this offer a wide variation of graphic design elements to be included.

For days I tried to include an actual gift, bread, muffins, gold (or at least some sparkle and stars!) and wheat. All of it in a nice, tight circle (well I had to make them interact somehow and I wanted them to look professional – so you know I cheated a bit and just put all of these together, snuggling tightly in a group surrounded by a circle). As you can guess that idea didn’t quite work well – to be honest, it was a complete disaster! It looked pretty good as an illustration, but quite terrible as a logo. All of these symbols clashed horribly together and the result was a graphic “noise” – the logo had so many “voices” it confused the user.

My professor saved my back then – he helped me clean the message and leave only the most important symbols (I left only the wheat and choose a croissant instead of bread and muffins). He even let me keep the circle but not as a single line trapping everything together in hell and instead as the general form of the logo. The result was magnificent – the crops and the croissant gently completed each other in sort of yin and yang kind of relationship, forming the circle of manufacturing of baked goods. The message was clear and available to the end user, the symbol was distinguishable and memorable.

This was the moment I learned the most important rule in logo design – less is more. Just like a woman going to a fancy event – choosing a daring outfit that reveals almost everything to the spectators might make her interesting for a while (or if the combination is absurd or she’s revealing too much that will make people think less of her). But if she chooses a dress that only highlights her best features this will make her the star of the evening – and everyone will think she has an impeccable taste and looks a lot better than everyone else. If you apply the same approach to logo design – choose only one message and keep only a few of the suitable elements, you’ll be sure that your logo will work.

2

Thinking that colours are not that important

I’ve had numerous clients who when asked “Do you have a preferred colour choice?” answered with something along the lines of “Make the logo blue because my wife like blue”. Now, there’s nothing wrong with having preferences about your logo and the way it looks, and very often blue is indeed a suitable option, but when a designer chooses a colour palette it’s usually about what the colours “tell” to your audience.

Colours have a specific impact on the viewer so it’s crucial to choose yours according to that. For example, red is considered aggressive and competitive, while blue calms down people and is associated with stability. Different demographic groups also like different colours – for example, kids are often attracted by bright colours and it’s not wise to make a toy greyish dark green and mud-orange.

3

Wanting the most modern logo

Usually, when creating a design, the client wants (and should want) the most modern looking product possible. And why not – a modern website will generate a lot more traffic, the latest trend brochure will increase the chances that customers will look through it, etc. But when we’re talking about logos a client should aim for something a bit modern yet timeless.

The logo should look like it’s been made recently but it should look equally good in the next 5-10 years. Of course, all logos undergo regular upgrades in the forms of revamping and modernising them a bit every once in a while (about once every five to seven years). But it’s unhealthy and far too expensive (especially if you’re an SME) to do this every year. More important – your logo is your business’s face – and how will people recognise you if you keep getting plastic surgery?

4

Wanting to have a logo just like (insert famous brand here)

This is a problem that occurs somewhat often – either the client wants something that looks like someone else’s logo or the designer unintentionally copied someone else’s work. It happens – with the amount of visual information we are fed every day, it’s not uncommon for a designer to make a logo that looks a bit too familiar. And if it’s created by initials the risk is even greater – the designer can rediscover on their own a logo that already existed – just because it looks good with these particular letters. Usually, it’s completely by mistake and to avoid misunderstandings like that it’s enough to include a clause in your contract about the measures taken in case something like this happens.

The other option – a client asking for their logo to look like someone else’s is a bit more troublesome. As I mentioned, in the beginning, a logo is not only about how it looks. To be fair it’s not even completely necessary to be pretty or good looking – it’s absolutely enough to be functional. And a logo that looks like a cheap rip-off is not going to work. Remember that popular girl in your school? Everyone wanted to look like her and copy her style. Sadly enough that didn’t make them popular too – it just made them copycats and seem somewhat desperate to get attention.

Same thing with a logo – if you copy someone else’s theme you’re product stops looking genuine and starts looking cheap and generic. Be original, have an original and well-suited working logo and the others will want to be like you, not the other way around.

Golden Rules – before you hire a logo design agency

Before you hire a logo design company you must remember to follow a few golden rules.

1

Make your logo brief and to the point

Don’t make your logo too “talkative”, don’t try to tell the whole story though your logo, choose one simple message that you want to get across to your audience, choose a limited number of symbols that can actually interact with each other.

2

Choose your colours carefully

Your colours must be appropriate and help the shape of the logo to convey the message, not fight with it; the colours must be suitable for your target audience.

3

Timeless beauty

Your logo should look modern and good enough for the next several years (usually for about 5 to 10 years). A logo is a long-term investment that should withstand the test of time – so don’t rely too much on the latest trends – they come and go (sometimes for good) and you have to make sure that the design will look equally good when the trend is over.

4

No more copycats

Try to find your unique voice in the crowd instead of ripping off someone else. You’ll gain a lot more that way.

5

Don’t try to please everyone with the design

If you try to make your design appeal to everyone, you’ll end up with a design nobody likes. Your logo should be made especially for your customers and it’s not at all necessary for your mother or your niece to like it too. Remember if you want to test the new logo, try asking your actual clients, not random people around you – they probably won’t like it anyway because it’s not made for them.