Recently, I was asked to write a few words for Mashable on logo and identity design, but it appears I missed the deadline. As I spent some time doing them, I felt it would be worth sharing them with you. So here are some of my answers to one of the questions asked. I will cover the other questions in forthcoming posts.
The answers are more of a summary, than a detailed response due to copy length restrictions, but they cover the main points, from my point of view of course.
Question : What's the first thing (or things) a small business owner should do when deciding to create the visual component of a brand (i.e. logo, signage, website)?
The answer can vary greatly depending on the particular circumstances of the owner, where they are at in terms of the business, is it a new business, is it a refresh of an existing business. So many variables that it can be challenging to come up with a one size fit’s all answer.
Taking a stab, a good place to start is ensuring you have a solid idea of what the business is about, it’s heart and soul, to totally understand the very essence of whatever it is you are launching, to intimately know to whom you will be targeting it. All this ought to be part of the initial business plan, but quite often it’s not. It sounds a rather obvious statement, but on occasion, what I see is quite the opposite.
I come across clients that when they are asked to fill in my logo design brief, they often have little idea about the real core values, it’s like they just have this superficial understanding. A little like wanting to get married but not actually knowing the inner workings of that person you want to spend your life with.
I try to help them go back a few steps and we look at the business in a more meaningful, almost soulful way. The aim is to create a personality profile of the business etc. In order for me to understand the business to put a personality/identity to it, so must the client have this understanding. If they do not, it's pretty tricky for me to learn from them. Often then, my role is not just as a designer, but almost like a visual therapist.
Having some knowledge of psychology can be really advantageous for a designing dealing with brand identities.
An appropriate name
Once you have this deep understanding, it’s usual to want to find a name. And this is where it can often go wrong. A solid name for a business, one that is appropriate for the industry is crucial. On occasion I will be approached to design a logo, but the company name leaves me scratching my head just a little. It’s either cliche, overused, random, sounds odd to say and/or just doesn’t inspire the values that they seemingly want the logo to portray. I read the brief and the practical aspects of the business sounds marvelous, very inspiring, but the name just feels totally out of place. And this is a great shame.
An inappropriate name can just make it so much harder to market and publicize a company. With a new business launch, you want to hit the ground running with a name and visual identity that seemingly were conceived at the same time. You see this much more with the big brand roll-outs, where a brand new company approaches a respected agency and the whole identity is created, the name, the personality, the values, the identity everything to do with the heart and soul.
With smaller companies and individuals, this concept of treating the identity as a ‘whole’ is seemingly not a consideration.
The order of things is all out of whack, and usually the logo and identity design is the last thing to be thought off. What logo designer has not heard the familiar statement, “we don’t have much money or time as we are launching in two weeks.” We do moan about it a lot, but with very good reason I feel. It’s not that these business owners did it deliberately, it’s more just a lack of understanding with the dynamics of identity and branding part of launching a company.
The logo is often viewed as a reluctant expense to be rushed through as the last bit of the jigsaw.
If this business is to be someones lively hood, you would assume that they would do all they can to ensure they have all the bases covered, but this is often not the case.
To sum up
When a business owner gets that spark of a new idea, before rushing into naming, consult one of many logo or brand identity designers out there. Many will be able to help with the naming and the creation of a tag line.
With a deep understanding of the business personality, with a name and tag line, we are much closer to defining the very essence of this new business and making sure it ties in nicely with the visual identity process.
If you already have a name, then try your best to get on board with a designer as soon as possible to get the visual aspect started. It's very counter productive to leave it to the last few weeks, it really does the business more harm than many appreciate. Some of my logo projects run into several months and I will not often take on a project where the deadline falls into a week or two.
Leave ample time for the creation of your logo and/or identity. 1 month is a reasonable period, more is better. 1-2 weeks is really not useful for you or the designer.
All the visual aspects should be run in parallel with the birth and growth of the business or product: business values, the logo, the website, signage, advertising, marketing and promotional materials. Only then will the end result have the unified look and feel so important in a new business launch, rather than it look and feeling like it’s been cobbled out of spare patchwork.
When you think of that new business idea, this is when you ought to start thinking about the logo and identity design.
It takes time, research, brainstorming and doodling for a designer to become fully 'aware' of the personality they are tasked with visualising. It's just not a quick process. A designer has to get to know you, the business/service if they are to really capture the soul and essence required to capture potential clients/customers imagination.
A logo is often not 'just' a logo. It is a personality.
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