Podcast: Branding & Logos – Starting Out Right

A business startup is not the time to take shortcuts

Rush Transcript: Many people, when they’re planning to design a logo, or have a logo designed for their company, decide that they’re going to save money, and time, and develop a ‘ah, that will do’ idea. They’re willing to put up with a bad logo that they’ve designed themselves, or one that’s not terribly effective, and use it until they’ve become more established, or a little bit more well known. They have in their back of their mind that they can change their logo in the future.

Trouble is, this isn’t going to work.

The whole idea of a logo is that it’s supposed to be associated with your company. That’s it’s job, and pretty much the entire concept of what a logo is. The problem is, a bad logo associates with your company just as easily as a good one does. If you start with a really bad logo, and begin to put it on your letterhead, business cards, and other stationery, that logo begins to become associated with you. When you finally do decide, down the road perhaps, that you’re going to brand professionally, you already have a problem. You have a logo that is associated strongly with you, and you have to start from scratch. Again. You have to re-develop the entire look and feel to your logo, redo your stationary, letterheads, put it on the side of a truck, pens, mugs, and wherever else that you have used it. In order to save a couple of hundred dollars in the beginning of your company’s life, what you’ve actually done is messed yourself for a year from now, or two years from now, or whenever it is that you decide to re-brand. Most people don’t approach their re-branding lightly. Sure, large companies do it, but it’s always after very careful market research, and not something that is approached lightly.

One of the ways to think about this is that, if you’re starting out, start out right. Don’t look at your logo as an expense, look at it as an investment. You are investing in your company. It’s the same approach as you’d take when buying the best computer equipment, the best cameras, the best in machines and tools. Look at investing in your logo with the same principles. This logo is going to do you for years, and it’s going to serve you well. Shaving off a couple hundred dollars in the beginning, or wanting something done ‘yesterday’, is going to bite you in the end.

So I’ll say it again. Start out right.

When we talk about starting out right, a lot of people go and jump on the internet. It’s probably where you found The Logo Factory. All over the internet are methods that can save you money. If you search in Google, you’ll see advertisements for logos for as little as fifty dollars. Five even. However, if you ‘look under the hood’ so to speak, you’ll see that these are gimmicks, or ‘slap-dash’’ ways to take a couple of dollars out of your pocket. It’s not a very good way to develop your logo. One of the big money-savers is ‘template’ logos. Basically what you do is look at a number of pre-designed template logos that you can download, and type in your company name. This is really not a good idea. At some point down the road, you are going to have to change it. And you’re now using a logo which a multitude of other people are using. This doesn’t make sense, as the whole point of a logo is to be unique.

These companies will tell you that the colors are different, or that the text is different, but that doesn’t matter. Whenever you’re using a template, you’re going to be using a logo that other people are using. There’s also an issue of where a lot of this artwork comes from. We’ve seen a lot of our artwork show up in the libraries of quote ‘template logos’ – we even have examples of this on our website. We’ve had to send out cease and desist letters, and have actually go after people who have downloaded them, and used them for their company logo. The bottom line is – these logos (on our and other designer’s websites) are not for sale. These are someone else’s property. We are not saying that all template logo companies are like this, but you do run the risk. A big risk.

I’ve actually bought a logo that someone else was selling, that was one of our logos, taken right off our website. Even wrote a hilarious blog post about it. What one has to remember, is that this sort of thing happens all the time. There are other high profile companies that use Flash-based logo generator software that’s fancy and gimmicky, but they’re the same deal. They’ll tell you, written right across the top of their home page, that their logos aren’t clip art, but the trouble is clip art means one thing, and one thing only – it’s artwork that’s made available for a multitude of people to use. Nowadays, they can download it from a Flash-driven website, but it was originally found in these big books and was cut out with scissors. That’s why it’s called clip art in the first place.

There’s some very good clip art, and there’s some very bad clip art. Rather than a design style, clip art is actually a licensing agreement. When people say they are not selling clip art, yes, in fact they are. You go in their spiffy Flash logo generator, you type in your text, you move things around, and these companies will tell you that this is unique and original. No it’s not. The business model of companies like this is to sell each particular logo over and over again. They wouldn’t be in business very long if they couldn’t.

The idea of buying a logo that someone else is using, and that you don’t know how many people are using, is counter productive to the entire function of a logo. As I’ve already stated, it is always better to start out right and work with a designer. Come to my shop, or someone else’s, it really doesn’t matter, but find someone who’s work you like, who’s style you like, and work with them from the start. From scratch. You’ll end up with a logo that is decent, and that will serve you for quite some time.

Steve Douglas

Creative Director

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