Should you start your business without a professionally designed logo? The answer is a resounding No! There is absolutely no valid reason or excuse to shortchange your goals and dreams by starting your business without a professional logo. Here’s why:
If you launch a business without a logo, you are endangering the success of your business and your brand right out of the starting blocks. A brand is not a thing created solely by the customer, and it’s not just for the customer. Your brand is a conglomeration of the following things, in this order: an entrepreneur’s or company’s core values, your visual and verbal identity (including your logo, the cornerstone of your identity), customer service, product or service quality, and finally the customer’s experience. All of these elements combine to create perception, experience, and loyalty. Your logo plays a vital role in this mix, as the single most communicative and memorable ingredient.
Your logo serves a much larger role than “just” the meaningful identifier for your customers though. It is a daily signal to inspiration and motivation for you and your employees. Your logo is also the single fastest way to communicate your worthiness to angels and bankers, as well as your professionalism to vendors. Your logo and corporate identity set the tone for nearly all of your branding and marketing communications, including your website. If you don’t start with a professional logo, it is highly likely that you will end up with a mish-mash of mismatched marketing communications.
If you skip the critical step of designing a logo, you leave the customer, and all of the people your business relies on, to define their own picture of you. Some people will do this with their own visual cues, and some will not do it at all.
If you design your own logo, it is highly likely that you will want to redesign within 2-3 years. The simple reason for this is that pro designers simply think differently. They solve creative problems in different ways than non-designers. They design logos that stand the test of time. A good logo should last 10-20 years. If you change your logo after just two or three years, you will have to re-educate your customers, yourself, and your employees, and that costs a lot of money.
The most common thing I hear from clients after we complete a logo and identity design is that they now feel real and legitimate. How powerful is that? Super powerful.
Human beings process 80% of all information visually, so if you skip giving them a meaningful logo to remember, guess what? Chances are pretty high that they won’t remember your company. Instead, when they need your product or service again, they will Google it or try to locate it at a store. They may find you, or they may find one of your competitor’s products.
If you later decide to design a logo after launching your business, you have just created a massive disconnect for the customers who have already created their own picture of who you are, and you must now retrain their minds to discover your company all over again. That costs a significant chunk of change. And people don’t like change when it comes to their brands.
How to Get a Professional Logo On Budget and On Time
Three primary misconceptions hold small businesses back from designing a logo prior to launching their business:
1. Lack of money
2. Lack of time
3. Lack of a good graphic designer, also called disillusionment.
Small business owners and DIYers have a strong tendency to think that logo and identity design will cost too much, and they think it will take too long. If they manage to get past those two excuses, they often hire an inexperienced graphic designer who scares them away with poor design, and they get disillusioned and lose perspective. These are the three most common excuses business owners use to talk themselves out of launching their company with the single most compelling tool available (the logo). There are easy ways to get past all three of these misconceptions. Here they are:
1. Lack of Money – The money factor is the easiest one to conquer. You don’t need a small fortune to hire a competent graphic designer. It’s simply a question of finding the right designer. Set a realistic budget, and be completely up front about it with the designers you call. Avoid trying to get a deal because you’re likely to instead end up with less of a design than you deserve. If the idea for your product or business is great, it deserves to be well-represented. If it isn’t professional looking, that sends a message that your company or product isn’t up to snuff.
Avoid the temptation of trying to get a logo on the cheap from a bulk logo house. These companies have no interest in creating a logo that will truly represent your core characteristics and last you 10 or 20 years, and they can’t possibly help to give you the deeper understanding of your business that a competent designer can.
Interview 3-5 graphic designers on the phone or in person, and chances are you will find one who can work with your budget. You have to know where to look, but it’s not hard. If you call a designer or firm, and they tell you your budget is too low, don’t be offended. It’s not personal. Ask them for the name of a designer they know who can work with your budget. The good designers will want to help you.
When I take calls from people looking to hire me, I am very up front about our rates. I’ve done an extensive amount of work to devise ways to make working with smaller budgets profitable. Not everyone knows how to do that, so it really is important to make several calls and ask good questions, all with an open mind to the possibilities.
2. Lack of Time – Begin with the end in mind. The first thing you should do when you decide to start a company is call a professional graphic designer. Why? Design runs the world. Look at what mother nature did with design if you need an example to validate that claim. (Unfortunately, she’s not available.) If you are having trouble naming your company, some designers also do brand naming, and they can help. If you already have a great name, you have a head start.
If you have the time, get started with your graphic designer about 3-4 months ahead of your business launch. If you are short on time, find a designer who works extremely well under deadline pressure. They’re out there (not to plug myself, but I’m one of them). I’ve designed logos that lasted 15 years or more in literally hours, not days or weeks. It’s best not to count on instant turnaround, especially if the designer will be working with a committee for approval. 3-6 weeks is considered normal, but faster is certainly possible. The search for a designer should take a maximum of three half days, or 12 hours total. 12 hours to find a designer who fits your business like a glove is a bargain of time.
3. Lack of a good designer, or Disillusionment – This is another easy one to conquer. The best way to avoid getting poor graphic design that undermines your confidence in the power of great design is to get #1 right. Set a realistic budget, be up front about it, and find a designer who you really connect with in conversation. Are they asking relevant questions? Are they making you think? Are they paying attention? Make sure you like their logo design work. If they use a lot of photos as logos, keep searching. (Photos are used only when a designer is totally stumped, and photos make horrible logos because they are way too detailed to remember in the blink of an eye.)
Ask a lot of questions. Don’t ask which software they use because software has nothing to do with design – it’s simply a tool, like a hammer to a carpenter. Instead, focus on their design process. How will they start? What will be the project stages? What does their estimate include? Does the estimate include revisions? If the estimate doesn’t include revisions, that can be a red flag. Experienced designers know to include this on their estimates. When can you expect to see rough concepts? When will the project be completed? Ask as many questions as you need to feel totally good about the designer, then hire one.
Great! You’ve Hired a Designer. Now What?
Once you hire a designer, think of them as a trusted partner who is going to understand you and help express your innermost visions. Your expressed confidence gives the designer the freedom to do great work for you.
If you follow these three simple tasks, you will get the logo your business needs to launch well at a price you can afford.
Kelly Hobkirk - teaching marketers how to harness strategy, goals, reality, and purpose to connect and do better work.
Kelly Hobkirk has been helping companies succeed in creative ways for nearly 25 years. His work has been featured in Time Magazine, and books by Rockport and Rotovision. Get exclusive articles when you sign up for his monthly newsletter.