Apple design Positioning Small Business

Choosing a logo is like choosing a spouse

If I had a dime for every time someone got on my case because my blog (much less my business) has no logo, I’d have a lot of dimes.

It isn’t because I don’t want one. It’s that logo selection is TOUGH.

Selecting a logo isn’t like deciding on a salad dressing for your lunch. It’s more like choosing a spouse or a business partner. It’s a decision that you have to like now, 10 years from now and under a ton of different conditions.

I can throw a salad away if I don’t like the dressing. It’s difficult and expensive to throw out a spouse or business partner…and likewise, a logo.

Putting it in context

Things to think about while falling in love with that incredibly cool, glossy metal-look electric blue logo that looks great as it fills the screen of a retina display iPad.

If only that was the only place they’d ever see it. But…it isn’t

A few questions to ask yourself (and perhaps, your designer):

  • How will the logo look in a large format? Consider a trade show booth, billboard, the side of a building, signage, private jet or blimp.
  • How will the logo look in a small format? A good example is a favicon (the icon you see on the address line on your browser) or avatar.
  • How will it look in a browser? Consider what it looks like at 72 DPI, properly sized with other content on a webpage.
  • How will it look in print? Think newspaper ad, magazine article, business card and  letterhead
  • How will it look on a button, such as an election campaign button?
  • How will it look on a mobile device or as an icon? Consider different sizes from retina iPad to Blackberry to Mac to Windows.
  • How will it look on a colorless device, like a regular Kindle?
  • How will it look on your products?
  • Is the style timeless or trendy? Does that matter to you? Will you be tempted to change it in 2-3-5 years if the logo’s style dates your business?
  • Is the logo complex? Does it have fine lines or high gloss? These things don’t always translate well when resized, printed, etc.

If these questions produce territorial, defensive, offended or angry responses from you, your staff or the designer, you have the wrong logo and/or the wrong designer.

Some bigger picture questions that might help you decide on a direction or between finalists on a list of logo concepts presented to you:

  • What does the logo say about you and your business?
  • What message does it send?
  • Does it need to send a message?
  • Is it consistent with your other materials?

That last one is really important. When you see something from Apple, you usually know it’s from them before you see the logo or company name. You’ve also seen inconsistent materials. Inconsistency is jarring. Uncomfortable. Is that what you want to do to people when they switch from a website to a brochure to a trade show booth? I don’t think so.

If the new logo is inconsistent with your current materials, that’s OK…if you are OK with changing your current materials. You’ll be tempted to use the existing supply until it’s gone. I understand that. I’ve done that. All I’ll suggest is that you consider where to use the existing materials and what impact that inconsistency may have.

Example: 10 boxes of letterhead with your old logo can be cut into notepad sizes piles in almost no time by a professional print shop. They can be bound on one edge like real bought-at-the-store note pads. Use them internally. Give them to a school, art project or senior home. Use one to level that annoying off-balance table at the local coffee shop. There’s a productive use for them.

Deadline decisions

These “bigger picture” questions are important to ask yourself because logos become unworkable at the worst possible time – right before a deadline. Examples include the run up to a trade show, product launch, strategic mailing or website design.

Deadlines often force last minute decisions that you later regret. They also have a price once you figure out what you really want.

Some of those things are why I don’t have one, but mostly because it hasn’t been important to my branding. For you, it might be huge.

A graphics person will ask you for colors, message, theme, whether or not you want words in the logo (go back to those first two questions on format). The more info you can give them about what you want, the better the outcome. If ” I don’t know” or “I don’t care” is your answer to the color/message/theme questions, it’s not a good start.

If you give your designer a blank sheet and just send them off to create something, I think you’ll be disappointed in the logo you get – no matter how good they are.

5 replies on “Choosing a logo is like choosing a spouse”

Loved the article. You gave some important guidelines I wish everyone would follow. No matter how great the designer is, she can’t design well in a vacuum. That’s why you need to give her as much information as you have about your company, your experiences, and your goals. Actually, she should give you a list of questions to answer ahead of any design meetings. Here’s a rule of thumb we use when having pre-design discussions: for every hour spent on pre-project prep, our clients save about two hours of design and copy writing time. Less design time, lower costs. Pretty good ROI, huh?

I think it is important to pick a logo for the long term. But I do think it is more changeable than a spouse should be. Especially for a business that isn’t too focused on image often spending the time and effort on the perfect logo isn’t the top priority. Once the business develops more resources can be devoted a great logo.

Of course some businesses do pretty well up front (it isn’t so surprising Apple did given Steve Jobs).

Mark, thank you for your insights. As someone who is now actively contemplating the logo journey, you’ve given me (and my prospective designer, whomever they might be) some really good stuff to consider. Most appreciated!!

Comments are closed.