A logo is not a brand….
So you have had that break through eureka moment or you have finally had the courage and support system to go for it. Be a business owner! It’s an exciting time, and from personal experience - a relief. After thinking about something for so long you are finally doing it. But that is just the beginning...
Putting 15 years in the corporate world behind me, I finally ventured into being my own boss. I trained as a graphic designer, and following this did postgraduate study in Enterprise and Management for the creative arts back in 2006. Clearly, I always intended to make this step, but it’s taken me a while to get here. Straight out of university I started out designing catalogue layouts at one of the worlds most prestigious auction houses, and during an interesting period, when they rebranded themselves. My first taste of what that entails. Through study specialised in sports branding and consequently became a creative services coordinator at Chelsea Football Club. Not a bad start. Then making a huge leap, literally! I went from London to Switzerland, to brand manage and design for no less than the marketing agency for the UEFA Champions league. 10 years being at the centre of sports events and branding across the world, working with some of the best agencies and the best sports and event organisations. A professional luxury to gain such incredible experience and knowledge.
"A brand is a gut feeling"
I gained an understanding of what a brand is first hand. It’s not just a logo, a product, a service or an organisation. A brand is a gut feeling. How you are perceived by others. Establishing a mission, vision & values and being true to that, by respecting the visual elements of that brand, whether it be a logo, colours, typography or a comprehensive visual identity. Above all, practicing those values every day. Setting out on the path to being an independent consultant and service provider, these principles are second nature to me, but it quickly came apparent, that this may not be the case for most new business owners and start-ups. I have worked freelance for a number of years on and off, picking up the odd project now and again, and it wasn’t till recently I was reminded of how important it is to ensure a new business owner is well informed and takes the right first steps, when it comes to the discussion of logos, visual concepts and building a brand using these tools. People often believe the first step to creating a brand or a business, is getting a logo made. So if you aren’t lucky enough to be friends with a designer, you visit online ‘logo creators’ or get a plethora of designers to offer their services. Even in the corporate world, often logos are commissioned to their detriment, as a consequence of nepotism. Some of the time these options can produce excellent results as vested interest can have its benefits, but that isn’t always the case. So my message and advice to a new business owner is, STOP! Step back for a moment and take a breath. Everyday I see entrepreneurs post on social media their new logos and ask for advice or feedback on whether it looks good. I can see why they do this, but first and foremost, how can you value the opinion of complete strangers who know nothing of your mission, vision, values and your plan for your business? There is a lot more to a logo than first meets the eye. You don’t want people to necessarily love your logo, you want them to value your brand and your product. If you want constructive advice you can try focus groups. It's so easy these days to create a survey online and target specific markets to gain some feedback. But make sure you ask relevent and constructive questions.
..."you want them to value your brand and your product"
Lets now go back a step. So automated websites offering logo designs. Churning them out for pennies like a factory floor. How can this process be automated? It requires a human to listen to you. Listen to you telling your story about your enterprise and what your dreams are. A good designer will step into your shoes and imagine where you will be in 6 days, 6 weeks, 6 months and 6 years and come up with a solution with longevity. Something that is a true expression of your aspirations for your business. First, find a designer that listens and asks a lot of questions. Someone who has the time to get to know you and what you stand for. If they do this, then they don’t need to waste their time and your money coming up with 5 designs to pick from. They will be able to come up with 1 inspired solution, 2 at the very most. 3 or more and they don’t fully comprehend what you are about. I managed the process UEFA took, when they turned the UEFA Cup into the UEFA Europa League in 2009. Processes like this involve a pitch. We tell our story to several creative agencies and they all propose 1 idea, 2 at the most. The best one wins, and even then that logo would take months to perfect and deliver. Now you may think you are not comparable to such a huge event and federation, but a small business wants the same thing that this event wanted to achieve. Going from being the under dog, to gaining greatness and respect.
"Going from being the under dog, to gaining greatness and respect"
Being client side for so many years was invaluable. It meant I can now see from their perspective. I spent much time organising these tender processes and worked closely with a host of top level design agencies, creatively directing their solutions to fit with our event or brand requirements. So now offering creative services myself, I understand the clients strengths and weaknesses. As a new business owner you have passion and knowledge for your sector, but your weakness is, you are not a designer and no one expects you to be. You don’t have to invest millions or even thousands, but you do need to invest a little. A logo for a new business needs to last, you can’t risk having to change it later and set you back growing your brand.
"Do not let your logo dominate, let the quality of your product and services be the one to shine"
Finally when you are briefing your designer, a word of advice. Think about having something simple, clean and restrained. If you look at a lot of the biggest brands in the world they have all evolved their logos to become more and more simple over time. The likes of adidas, google, Microsoft, amazon, and pepsi. Believe it or not, even apple managed to make an apple simpler! Do not let your logo dominate, let the quality of your product and services be the one to shine - and good luck!