I’ve designed over 100 logos in my life; mostly for entrepreneurs. I’ve modified hundreds of logos when ownership decided they were dated or needed an upgrade. I’m not a logo scientist, but I do believe I’m an empath for the feeling logos evoke. Typography, color trends, and imagery have a language all their own.
Let’s be real. When a client comes to you for identity design, what is she really asking for? She isn’t asking for a design that momentarily shocks the market, wins an award, or has a plethora of features that blow up her checkbook. Identity products like logos are a careful balance of language, art, and budgetary restrictions that can hit later down the line. The client is asking not for a logo, but that effect on their business that they desire from that logo.
A person drives to the hardware store not for a hammer, but in order to put a picture up on his wall, and even more concisely, to put a hole in said wall. We must as professionals read through the service request and distill down what it is that the client is truly asking us for. If the client’s main way of exposing his business is his vehicle, then the logo you produce must be reproducible in outdoor applications. It should also look perfect in just black and white because there will be a myriad of internal items such as invoices that will sport that logo every single day.
I realize I’m a geek, but I have always felt that identity design, from an accounting standpoint, should be amortizable as intellectual property. The life of a logo (in my humble opinion) is generally 3-7 years, with the best of them getting remakes about every 5 years. That means that a logo that costs you $500 has a depreciation rate of approximately $500/1825 days, or .27 a day. If you divide also by the multiplicity of times the logo is used, the number becomes infinitesimally cheap.
The average logo for a small business or entrepreneurial startup, in my experience, takes 8 to 13 hours of processing time on a designer’s part to fully refine it. If I don’t put that time in, the logo is proverbially premature, half-baked, or not ready for ‘primetime’. In this market, there are many “plug-in” logos which we marketing folks used to affectionately call donuts. The design is premade, and you simply plug in the name and slogan. Etsy is literally filled with such logos, and the free market of web and design has opened many doorways for startups seeking a fast, cheap solution.
I’m not knocking these products since they allow us to move quickly into some other marketing gadgetry that actually may bring the client revenue if cost parameters need to be extremely low. Such logos generally are thought out and refined by their makers; therefore they are potentially better than ill-conceived custom designs. National launches clearly are not using this category of logo, since their competitive environments will tolerate nothing short of genius, but the local service industries (real estate, hair salons, and consultants) can now get along fine for a finite period with one of these easy to access design products.
The point of this article is to take apart the concept of identity design and place it in its rightful classification: a ‘hammer’ of sorts to accomplish a hole on the wall. Logos are extremely important in the feeling and confidence emitted to the consumer. They are not exactly the same as branding, but a component of branding. Branding is an all-encompassing feat of magic; a logo or identity design is an important slice of that pie.
In choosing a designer or marketer to implement your outcome, choose wisely. It is best to retain an experienced person with the business acumen to understand what it is you are asking for; that is, your hammer to accomplish your hole in the wall. To clarify, interview a few people and assess whether there is a true understanding of your business and what it needs to “say” to bring sustainable goodwill for your service or product.
This is a large order, but easily achievable by a ‘woke’ professional. I don’t really look at what I do as art; in fact, it’s a skillful rendering of an intangible business product. I do look at what I produce as intellectual property. Identity outcomes are mystic alchemies of psychology, emotion, and color. I believe that the further we move away from ‘what everyone else is doing’ the closer we get to the real magic.
So go out there and get your logo, but be fully cognizant of what it is supposed to do for your business. It’s not a hammer, it’s your hole in the wall; it’s not your new suit; it’s what your appearance says to others. Draw yourself closer to the outcome and you’ll gain a sustainable asset that costs pennies compared to the rest of what you had to buy this month to stay open.