Started a business? Have an established business that needs a face-lift? Well, then your branding adventures have started!
Logos are a key part of your branding efforts and your business identity. They are the visual symbol of your company. Think of it as your business name in a picturesque form. A logo is clean, simple, and memorable.
Sounds simple right?
Sadly, too many people embark on the adventure of hiring a graphic designer to design their business logo and make a lot of mistakes along the way that result in a terrible logo. It makes we graphic designers cry and your customers walk away. I've come across my fair share of terrible logos and designed some gorgeous ones, so I know how to spot the mistakes before they happen. Here are the three biggest things you need to know to make sure you don't side-track your designer and wreck your logo.
Vector Verses Raster
When you hire a professional designer, they should give you a finished logo "package" at the end. What's in this package? Well, aside from instructions on the right and wrong way to use your logo (called a style guide), you should have two file types of your logo: vector and rastor.
Rastor is a fancy word for what you know very well and see every day. It's an image formed from thousands of tiny little rectangles of color called pixels, which together form your image. Your camera and your camera phone capture photos in pixels. These rastor images look wonderful, but they have a hidden negative trait. Unfortunately, they are limited by the total count of their pixels. If you enlarge the picture enough, you'll start to see those individual squares of color. Yuck! Trust me, that pretty photo on your iPhone will look like crap if you print it as a large poster or a banner.
So why do you want a rastor logo? It's handy for programs that don't work well with the other file format (more on vector in a moment) and it's easy for your in-house staff who aren't trained in graphic design to plop that logo on a letter head in Microsoft Word. You rarely need special software just to view raster files, as most computers these days have rastor viewing software already installed on them. Rastor files are also suitable to give to your web developer for placing your logo on your website. Rastor files are jpegs, tiffs, and pngs.
Vector, however, is the king of logo formats. Since it is made of mathematical lines and curves, you can enlarge your logo to fit the side of a whole building and you won't see pixels, because they just aren't there! Vector files are also much smaller in file memory, saving you space on your harddrives. One downside is that you usually need special software to view them, such as Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Illustrator. Vector is also a preferred format of graphic designers to make non-destructive edits to your logo (think rebrand) or for professional printing. Vector files are Ai and PDF.
If your designer only offers rastor (like a jpeg) or, worse, doesn't understand what vector is, run away screaming.
Before hiring a graphic designer, ask for both formats so that you have everything you need for years to come. If your designer only offers rastor (like a jpeg) or, worse, doesn't understand what vector is, run away screaming. That is a sure sign of a person who downloaded a program, started tinkering without any professional education, and is falsely marketing themselves as a professional.
Get the Fonts!
Unfortunately, I've seen even seasoned business people and marketing pros both forget about this one: asking for the logo fonts. I'll never forget my day as an intern trying to hunt down the font in my then-company's logo, only to find it cost $1000 to purchase it new because their graphic designer didn't package the font with the finished logo. Luckily for them, the designer had at least outlined the font in the logo itself, meaning that the font would always be there when I opened the logo in Illustrator. Their logo was safe, at least.
However, if the designer had not outlined the font, here is what would have happened when I opened the logo in Illustrator: the program would say that I didn't have the font and would substitute it with a default font, Myriad Pro. Unless you want the most boring sans serif font that can be found absolutely everywhere, make sure you are getting the fonts!
Before your logo is finished, be sure to discuss with your graphic designer what fonts are being used...
Sometimes a graphic designer can't send you the font because the licensing for that font requires that you own the font as well. You'll have to set aside extra in your budget to buy that font if you want it in your logo. Be prepared for good fonts to be a $1000 for a decent set. Some font licenses are so restrictive that a graphic designer is not allowed to outline your font without facing copyright infringement, putting them and you at risk of fines and court time. Before your logo is finished, be sure to discuss with your graphic designer what fonts are being used, what the license restrictions are and how much the font might cost if you need to purchase it yourself. If budget is a concern, express that to your designer so they can choose budget-friendly licensing.
Less Is More
Non-designers struggle with this...wanting to put everything on their logo. Their mascot, their building, their favorite color, their slogan, their website, their phone number; they ask for it all! More is not more in logo design. In fact, the more you cram onto your logo, the more cluttered, confusing and forgetful it becomes.
Don't believe me? Look at large successful companies. Picture the logos for HR Block, Apple, Coca-Cola, or the NFL. Do you see lots of details, illustrations, cute characters, their website url, or even their slogan? Nope!
Successful logos are like a first name. Your first name doesn't describe you in entirety, it's just a label to identify you. Does the name Bob tell you that he likes to fly-fish on the weekends, drives a collector car and is in his mid 50s? No, but everyone who knows Bob knows who you are talking about when you mention Bob. A logo works exactly the same way. It's a short visual identifier that people know, but it doesn't tell the whole story. It just helps your business stand out from the crowd.
Successful logos are like a first name. Your first name doesn't describe you in entirety, it's just a label to identify you.
Unless you want to waste your money, trust your designer and avoid cramming more than you need into your logo (yes, you don't need your website url in your logo). Similarly, don't add personal preference items into your logo, like your favorite colors. Let your designer brainstorm with you, research your customers, and learn your business so that they can incorporate only the items that will resonate with your customers. Because, in the end, who cares what your favorite color is if that color does not motivate your customers to buy your goods or services? I find the need to add personal items to a business logo the ultimate mistake of even seasoned business professionals.
Don't waste your money when you hire a designer to craft your logo. Know these three tips before hand, trust your designer, and you will be on your way to a successful part of your brand.