Is it worth paying for a logo & branding?

Friday 21 October 2016

Back in May this year I was interviewed about logos and branding by the lovely Mel at Work Your Words. Mel is a copywriter, so it should come as no surprise that she wrote our conversation up into a great interview, which I’m pleased to also be able to share with you here. This interview was originally published on Mel’s own blog.

Although I’m a copywriter, small business owners who call me sometimes need more than words. They’re often looking for a web designer too.

But the one thing they almost never ask about? Branding. Or logos. Which feels like a bit of a blunder in my humble opinion.

But as I’m not an expert on branding or logos, I thought I’d pick the brains of someone who’s proper good with all that creative art stuff.

Enter Sarah Cowan. She’s the freelance graphic designer, typographer, and creative brain behind Lettica. And she kindly let me ask her the kind of questions that business owners might be (or should be?) wrestling with.

What's the big deal about logos?

Your logo is going to be with you for a long time on your businesses journey. Getting it right from the outset means you will begin that journey with a logo that says to potential clients, ‘I am taking my business venture seriously, and so should you’.

Hmm, ok. So what do I need to think about when designing a business logo?

The aim when designing a logo is to create something that sums up everything you want to say about your business.

To achieve this you need to translate the essential attributes of your brand into an image that harnesses the power of the visual codes that we all understand.

Eeek, that sounds complicated. How will a designer help me do that?

Your designer will guide you through a broad range of questions in order to understand as much about your business as possible.

These can range from entirely practical things like what your business is called (so we know what wording needs to be included in the logo), to questions which are more about the aspirations of your business, like how you see your business in five years time.

This sort of question will help make sure that your identity will continue to work for you for a long time to come. It’s about identifying:

  • where your logo might need to be used
  • who your competitors might ultimately be (rather than who they are at the beginning)
  • whether your brand might need to work in another country or culture

You should also be ready to answer questions about things like:

  • your competitors
  • unique selling points
  • target audiences
  • customer profiles.

Don’t panic if these things sound off putting, if you find a good designer they’ll be able to guide you. And by making you think about your business in this way you’ll also come out of the process with a much clearer understanding of how you fit into the marketplace.

That all sounds good, but won’t it cost a fortune?

Well it won’t be free! But once you have professionally-designed branding then subsequent design projects will become much better, easier, and cheaper as whoever works on them will have professionally made ‘ingredients’ to work with.

But what about those ‘create your own logo’ sites, aren’t they just as good?

As a business owner it’s easy to become absorbed in the details and to lose sight of the bigger picture. If you create your own logo (regardless of how you do it) you are working in a vacuum without any of the advantages that a professional designer can offer.

The temptation might be to create something yourself when you start out, with a vague notion of asking a professional designer to look at your branding once you become established. There are three main problems with this approach:

Changing your logo costs ££££s

In the first few years you’ll be investing a lot of time and energy into getting people to recognise you and your business as the ‘go-to’ people in your niche. Your logo will appear everywhere from your web site to your packaging, or your uniform, etc.

Changing your logo once you are established will mean this effort will need to be repeated, and everything which features your logo, replaced.

Is your logo a bit, umm, Mickey Mouse?

You may also find that potential clients are less inclined to take you seriously if your logo doesn’t look professional. This may make your businesses journey a more difficult one.

What do you mean you can't embroider it?

You could discover that your logo just doesn’t work for certain applications.

Perhaps it’s not able to be scaled up without going all pixellated, or perhaps the kind people at the embroidery company will tell you your design isn’t suitable for stitching on your staff uniforms.

At this point you will end up changing your logo to work in each situation as it comes along, with the inevitable consequence that you will have no brand consistency.

So how to find a good graphic designer? Do I just choose a local one?

You need to find a professional designer who will work with you to make sure you end up with a brand which will present your business in the right way for many years to come. Importantly, they need to be someone that you are comfortable talking to.

Word of mouth is, undoubtedly, the best way to find a designer who is pleasant and easy to work with. Because the chances are, they are being recommended by someone who has experienced the behind-the-scenes process.

Alternatively, if you have seen some finished design work that you like the look of, asking who the designer was will give you a good lead.

Don’t feel you need to be limited to someone local. If you are happy to communicate via email and telephone then it is definitely possible for designers to work this way.

Whichever way you find your designer, my top tip would be to have a good look at their web site and social media accounts before getting in touch, to have a chat and ask any questions you have before committing yourself.

Designers often have their own ways of approaching projects and things like charging structures vary massively, so don’t be afraid to ask whether they charge by the hour, by the page, or on a project basis.

You’ll soon get a feel for whether you want to work with them, whether they respond promptly to your emails, and if they communicate with you clearly.

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Photograph of Sarah Cowan

Hello! I’m Sarah, an independent graphic designer & typographer, helping businesses to communicate their unique selling points through printed marketing and communications.

I’ve been sharing my knowledge about design, typography, marketing, branding and printing since 2014. I hope you enjoy reading my blog.

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Sarah Cowan