Do I need pro branding and logo design?
There is no simple answer to this loaded question. Designers and marketers will obviously tell you a hard YES with a bunch of good reasons why. A lot of startup blogs and entrepreneurs say to concentrate on getting the clients/business first before committing to the investment of professional branding. For me, and for a lot of small business owners/start ups, I was in a bit of a quandary about this catch 22 scenario.
I need business to afford professional branding but I can’t get business if my logo looks shite (to an extent).
The Easy and Cheap Solution
Luckily there are tons of free design websites out there as well as stock photo companies. My favourites for design are Google Drawings and Canva. The aptly named Death to the Stock Photo is an awesome free stock footage site that really does prove that stock photos don’t have to involve some cheesy, overly diverse business-people shaking hands or high-fiving!
Between these fantastic free sources, even the least design savvy person can use drag and drop templates to create something easy-on-the-eyes designs in a matter of minutes.
The plan for my company was to get something reasonable together myself to put on social media, email signatures and of course my website followed by a professional ‘rebrand’ whenever I could afford it. This meant that for now, I needed an avatar (a simple icon that is used for user profiles, favicons etc.) and a nice logotype (text) for the company name and tagline. These are the very basics of branding and in an ideal world there’s a bunch of other knick-knacks that are created to build upon the brand image and message (more on this later). I put these extras on the back burner at first and put together the graphic below:
Time for the Pro’s
While these logos are just fine and look far better than the cringe-worthy logos I was creating using WordArt (does that still exist?) in the early 2000’s, I wanted more! My clients in the production and advertising industry are, for the most part, the creative types. The roles I frequently deal with are Executive Producers, Creative Directors, and Producers. These are the people that put pen to paper, they think of the ideas and make it happen. The recent 84 lumber Superbowl Commercial for example was thought of by a Creative Director and executed by Producers (among many other people). When these type of people see my website and branding, they need to know I’m serious about what I do and consider me another 'Creative'. It’s a little ostentatious for an audio production company to want or need a flashy logo but I know that if I have a crappy site and a low budget look, it will reflect badly on the way these clients see my company and me.
The next stages of the logo design are what I really want to talk about and the process of getting a professional to do branding for my company.
After a bit of cash started coming in, I reached out to a couple of designer friends putting the feelers out for how much this was really going to cost me. I first thought ‘well how much time and effort can a simple logo take?’. I already knew roughly what I wanted so it was just a case of tidying up what I had already. Or so I thought…it turns out there is a lot more to branding than just a logo. Not just the amount of elements you need but the creativity and messaging behind the imagery that is produced. This is how one designer explained it to me:
The Logo - The face of your brand
- Logotype (Text)
- Logomark (Icon)
Graphic Assets - Additional artwork that can be applied to brand collateral & promo stuff to spice it up and make people smile
Brand Collateral - The end product where the logo and graphic assets will be applied
- Business Cards
- Email Signature
- Other fun stuff
I toyed with using companies like 99Designs, which actually seem to offer a great service. You can pay different amounts depending on budget and the more you pay, the more professional designers will bid for the work ultimately providing you with a better end result. My reason for not using them was after researching, I realized I did need more than just a logo. I was happy with my Squarespace site but I wanted expert advice on how to portray my company mission statement in images. That may seem a little strange but think about this; you’re not going to see a lawyer firm with a whacky bubble typeface to represent their professional and lawful business services. You would look at it and think they’re cowboys. A kids birthday company wouldn’t have a boring Sans Serif font, it would be something bright and fun. A logo and typeface depict, at a glance, what a company stands for.
FedEx has the subtle arrow buried in the typeface…ever noticed that? In 1994 the guys at Linden Leader & Landor Associates thought long and hard about how to portray speed and precision subliminally in the logo. It’s so subtle that most people don’t notice it…or do they? It’s deep and psychological which is what a lot of logos are comprised of.
Another reason for using a pro is finding someone that understands the brand and will do their research rather than just throw together random elements. In my case, there were several different messages I wanted to output from my branding:
- Represent audio post production and the technology behind the industry
- Show creativity in the work we do
- Keep a relaxed and often tongue-in-cheek tone of voice
- Advertise localization and the sense of community in Brooklyn
- Outline my personal roots and sense of grounding from my British background
- Portray our simple and professional mission statement
That’s a lot to put into one concept. It’s time to introduce my designer, Dan Fleming. A melting pot of Aussie/Brit/Yank, Dan is an old friend from a summer camp we worked at in New Hampshire years ago. He’s one of the most creative guys I know with a true passion for design. His style of design is literally and figuratively iconic using simple line techniques to create powerful and intelligent imagery.
I knew using this guy would cover all the points listed above…and he did. Over about a two-month period, we had many discussions on how he could keep my tone, creativity and British-ness all in one place. We went back and fourth with my crazy ramblings of what I envisioned vs. what is realistic. I kept throwing this poor guy curve balls and he kept hitting home runs.
Here are a few ideas that were great but had to get thrown out because they just weren’t working as a whole with other elements of the branding. Individually they may have been ok but Dan explained that it wouldn’t look consistent using some of these ideas next to others.
The Final Product
A big justification for using a professional over 'making-do' came with the tagline Dan came up with. Based off of what I had originally written: “Born in England, Defined in Brooklyn”, he sent me the basis of what is now the final logo. As soon as I saw it I said “That’s it!” and immediately showed my friends at the bar.
“Britain Born, Brooklyn Based” is genius on many levels. The alliteration works with not only 4 B’s but 2 Br’s. It mirrors the syllables for each word. It nails the localization and grounding that I wanted. It’s simple and literal plus it looks damn sexy in writing! It’s thoughtfulness and class like this that you pay for, in my opinion. I like to think comparatively I offer the same service to my clients. Going the extra mile and exceeding expectations is what brings people back but more importantly, spreads the word as I’m doing now!
After agreeing on the final fonts, colour scheme, logo, typeface, tagline and a ton of other elements like monograms and icons to represent ‘what we do’ on the website, I was sent a final package from Dan. Another professionalism trait that I admire and offer my clients is clear and concise file labeling and proper digital housekeeping of all the relevant folders and files. Within the folder was a style guide with instructions on what was included, how to use each element, hex and RGB colour codes, font styling, business card layouts as well as a ‘what not to do’ page. This was much needed since a lot of the files meant nothing to me (vector files and so on).
Overall, the experience couldn’t have been better. I had a huge advantage that a friend was able to help out but I would advise getting a professional designer as soon as you can afford it. I now have a solid brand that I’m proud of with consistent elements across the breadth of my company brand. It’s getting the reactions from the people I want to impress which is the most important part to branding. To answer the opening question...YES you do need a professional logo and branding designed (but only when you're good and ready!).