Let’s start with the basics.
As a reminder, this quarter I’m walking you step-by-step through a studio brand refresh so you can get a behind-the-scenes look at what it means to go through the branding process. My hope is that it takes the guess work out of the branding experience and helps you decide whether or not you can do it yourself.
Do I have to hire a logo designer if I’m just starting out?
Quick answer, no!
If you’re just starting out, you may not have enough data to make the branding process successful. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait to have good style. My opinion is that branding becomes increasingly important as you gain momentum. There is a little sweet spot in the beginning when you’re more or less beta-testing your idea and you don’t necessarily need to be completely dialed.
But after you work with your first wave of clients and customers, it’s important to build trust with a wider audience by looking more professional.
And as your client list and reputation keep growing, it becomes absolutely necessary to make a name for yourself within your industry by having a solid brand.
So if you’re just starting out? I’d focus on a consistent style that will resonate with your first customer or client. You can find so many logo templates on Creative Market that will definitely help you put your idea out there in style.
What does my logo need to do?
This (also) depends on the stage of your business.
Just starting or in your first year of business? Your logo just needs to clearly show what you do and who you do it for. It’s amazing how much you can communicate just by picking the right font and colors! You can build trust, establish a style, and gain a lot of traction without having to go super custom from day one.
Feeling a bit seasoned and have a sense of what you bring to the table? It’s time to build a visual reputation. Your logo needs to stand out from the competitors, be recognizable online, easily shine in lots of different contexts, attract your ideal audience, and most importantly, tell a story.
In my first year (back when I was called DesignbyKadie) I typeset my business name in my favorite font at the time (Adobe Garamond Pro). It felt classic and relevant to my style.
I didn’t end up changing it until I changed my business name to Drop Cap Design three years in. This is when I first designed my signature monogram drop cap, which has been great for the past few years as the studio has grown.
However, in this rebrand, I want to design some different logo layouts to give me more flexibility and refresh the monogram so that it has just a little bit more balance and symmetry.
What does a logo concept look like?
So you might be wondering what goes into a logo concept.
When I’m working with a client, I like to present three concepts, or directions, that we could go in for the logo. I base each one of the concepts on the moodboard (which is why it’s such an important part of the process!) If you accidentally skipped that step, you can learn more about creating your brand’s moodboard in post No. 77.
The reason I shoot for three is that I think it give a balanced perspective and also invites my client to collaborate in the process. It also challenges me to not just go with my first idea, but continue to dig deeper and explore even more options.
Here is one of the design concepts that was the closest to my original brand look. If you’re on my email list, you’ll get to see the other two directions, and weigh in on the final choice!
Warning: this phase takes the longest, and I would encourage you to give it a lot of space. It can be really easy to get overwhelmed and stop here, which is why a lot of people opt for hiring a designer. But when you’re doing it yourself, just blocking out a little bit of time over the course of two weeks or so will help you continue to see your designs with fresh eyes. I wouldn’t get feedback from friends or family while you’re creating the designs. Let your mind just wander for awhile, this is the creation part of things.
What am I looking for when I give feedback?
When giving feedback to a designer, you’re offering your opinion on why it’s working or not working. The biggest trap you can fall into here is just saying “I don’t like it, but I don’t know why” and stopping there. It’s a dead end.
This is another instance when it’s great to have a story and moodboard to come back to. Saying something like,
I don’t really like the font because it feels too young, and I’m trying to talk to an older audience of moms with kids going into college. Maybe we could try for a style that has more of an academic feel to it.
I don’t really like the illustration because it’s too specific and would only be recognizable to others in my industry, but my clients might not catch the reference. Could we either generalize the illustration or make it even more abstract so it doesn’t feel confusing?
I might have an idea of what I like best, but I want to know what’s going to actually work. So I’m sending all three concepts to my email list today to get feedback on which is working best and why.
How do I use the different logo files?
After your project, you’re going to find yourself with several different logo layouts, as well as several different file formats. Let’s chat through how to use them.
Primary logo: this is the logo that’s going to give a first impression to a cold audience. You want it to clearly state what you do, either in your business name or tagline.
Secondary logo: this logo usually is a simpler version of the primary logo that doesn’t require so much space, especially if there are lots of different elements going on.
Logo mark/monogram: this is a symbol of your brand that doesn’t have the full brand name. I like the use the mark or monogram as the social media profile image because your handle is most likely going to be your business name, and the profile image is kinda small so it works nicely.
Crest: some brands have a crest, or contained logo. This could be in a box, circle, shield, etc. It can be a really great format for stickers or a watermark if you’re a photographer.
Typelock: if you have illustration in your logo, you might want a version that just has the typography. It’s a good option for the footer of an email, documents, or small spaces where lots of illustration could get cluttered.
Stacked: if your logo relies on a lot of horizontal space, you might want an option that works better in a square or if you have a really tall spot. You want logos that use the most of the real estate available, so having different formats means you never miss a press opportunity.
Stamp: sometimes I’ll create a brand stamp if it works well with the mark or monogram. This is a similar idea to the crest, where I put the mark or monogram in a circle, square, or some other contained shape.
So now let’s talk about file formats:
Ai: if you work with a designer, they’re most likely going to create your logo in Adobe Illustrator. The Ai file is the Illustrator design file and is really handy if you ever work with another designer or go through a brand refinement and need to easily edit your logo.
Application: print • Resolution: infinite • Color Mode: CMYK • Background: transparent
EPS: this is the vector format of your logo and is usually easier to send to a printer than the Ai file. Vector means that it won’t look pixelated if someone needs it to be larger, and can scale to any size and look great! However, it is a larger file so it’s not a great option for web.
Application: print • Resolution: infinite • Color Mode: CMYK • Background: transparent
JPG: hopefully, you’ll have two versions of a JPG logo – one for print and one for web. The main difference is the resolution and the color mode. For web, it’s better to have a medium resolution image than a high-resolution image because of loading times. Computer screens also use a different way of processing color than printers, so you’ll want RGB instead of CMYK. The main difference between a JPG and an EPS or PNG file is that the background will always be white instead of transparent. So if you’re wanting to print your logo and need to remove the “white box”, then either use the EPS version of your logo if it’s going through a printer, or the PNG version of your logo if it’s going on a website.
JPG Print – Application: print • Resolution: 300 dpi • Color Mode: CMYK • Background: white
JPG Web – Application: digital • Resolution: 150dpi • Color Mode: RGB • Background: white
PNG: the PNG version of your logo is medium-resolution, so it’s great for loading times on websites, but it also has a transparent background so you can put it over images without the “white box.”
Application: digital • Resolution: 150dpi • Color Mode: RGB • Background: transparent
Rock the [Logo] Vote
Want to see all three concepts and be a part of the final decision?
Jump on the email list and cast your vote!