Time to show your brand character
Why read this? : We look at the meaning of character in telling your brand’s story. Learn why choices made under pressure define your true character.
Why read this? : We go through what logos mean for marketing and brand identity. Learn how they grab the customer’s attention and reinforce who you are and what you stand for. We outline the logo design process and how it helps you create and use your logo properly. Read this for ideas on how to make better use of logos.
How this guide raises your game :-
1. Learn the 6 key steps in the logo design process.
2. Understand the key areas of typography, icons and colours in logo development.
3. Be clear on how to link your final logo design to consistent brand identity and brand activation.
Your logo is a visual symbol of your brand, which appears on all your brand activation.
It has to concisely and consistently represent your brand in a way customers will understand, remember and like. Your logo has to be adaptable enough to appear in multiple contexts, from business cards to billboards, from T-shirts to websites.
And while doing ALL this, your logo also needs to help grow your brand equity and sales.
So quite a challenge when it comes to the logo design process then.
There are many different ways to create a logo.
But when you follow a logical logo design process, it’s more likely you’ll create a logo which meets all these business, brand and design challenges.
Imagine we gave you time and money to go out and buy a new outfit. Anything you want. The only limit is your imagination.
But there’s a catch.
Whatever outfit you choose, you have to wear that same outfit every day for at least the next 5 years. It’ll be the outfit people recognise you for. And it’ll have to work in every life situation. From job interview to wild night out with friends. From weddings and funerals to taking out the trash.
No opportunity to change it.
Quite a challenge, huh?
But for your business, that’s how your logo design works. It’s the ‘one outfit’ that fits around your brand all the time. It’s the visual symbol of who you are and what you stand for.
Your logo has a job to do in multiple situations and contexts. It needs to work on your packaging, your website and your business cards. It needs to work on advertising and sales promotion materials from matchboxes to giant billboards.
So, while there are quick and “off the shelf” logo development options like Canva or Hatchful, taking time to get your logo right is worth while. You should think carefully about how to make your logo deliver the most impact for your brand.
There are usually 6 key steps to the logo design process.
You start with the definition of the business need and the fit back to the brand identity.
Then you need to decide who’ll create the logo and create a brief for the design.
Next comes the process of developing the logo itself. The typography, any icons and the brand colour palette.
You then need to set the ‘rules’ for how the brand logo is to be used as part of your brand guidelines.
Then go push the logo out in all your brand activations.
And finally, some sort of evaluation to make sure the logo does what it’s supposed to.
So, there’s 2 main catalysts in most businesses for a logo design. Either it’s a new business and the brand owner recognises they need a logo to help customers identify the brand and make it distinctive against competitors. Or, it’s an existing business which already has a logo, but has identified an issue with it.
From that start point, you connect the logo design process to 2 key business need areas :-
For new businesses or brands, the need for logos often comes out working on the brand identity.
Brand identity is a mix of tangible and intangible assets. You can make the use of these assets mandatory (rules) or optional (playbooks).
Brand marketers and agencies uses these rules and playbooks to define how the brand looks, feels and acts.
Logos are tangible brand assets and are mandatory ‘rules’ for the brand.
These rules are designed to drive consistency. Consistent and repeated used of brand assets creates stronger associations in the minds of customers.
They help them identify, recognise and eventually trust the brand through its visual identity. Customers buy from brands they ‘know’ and one of the ways they ‘know’ brands are via logos.
Logos need to be memorable symbols of your business which help communicate your brand identity. Where possible the logo needs to feel connected to the intangible assets of the brand like its essence, values and personality. That’s not to say it needs to convey ALL those concepts. But it should feel connected to the overall brand identity.
If your brand is about trust and authenticity for example, your brand logo can’t feel fun and flippant. And if your brand identity is stylish and elegant, you don’t want a casual or fun logo.
Logo development should follow basic design principles. A good knowledge of typography and colours is also very helpful. In particular an understanding of the psychology of colour and the psychology of typography can help you link the design back to your brand identity.
The other key area to consider in terms of the business need for a logo is around your brand activation.
From the overall direction of the marketing plan, you’ll understand the key marketing mix activities you have to do to drive your business over the next 6-18 months. Your logo plays a key role in many of these areas.
The logo is part of your product offer. In particular, you need to consider how and where a logo needs to appear on packaging, and if it needs to appear on the product itself. This can help customers find the brand quickly in-store. But it also has practical uses before the product even gets to store.
As per our packaging development guide, packaging also needs to help products move safely and securely through supply chains. Your logo on the outer packaging helps with this. It can make your products easier to find and select in warehouses and in shipping containers, for example.
Your logo also has multiple uses in your sales promotion and communication plans.
When you advertise, your logo helps customers connect the advertising message back to your brand identity.
On your website, your logo helps reinforce the message that customers are spending time in the brand’s online “home”.
And in activities where you ave less control such as PR events or trade sales promotions, your logo makes your brand more identifiable and distinctive.
With these 2 business needs of brand identity and brand activation in mind, the next step would be to write a brief. You want a single page document to set the requirements for the logo development.
How complex or detailed you make that brief depends on the size and nature of the business, the budget available and the available skills and relative understanding of the logo design process.
Ideally, your logo design process brief would follow a similar format to the communication brief format we outline in our brand activation guide.
Your logo design needs to connect to key intangible brand assets like the brand vision, essence, personality and values from the brand identity, so these should be included in the brief.
Then, it should cover the business opportunity, marketing challenge and growth target. These will have come out of your marketing plan.
What is it you need the logo design process to deliver for your business?
The brief should then cover the communication challenge that you identified during your marketing planning. It should include the brand rationale from the segmentation, targeting and positioning process and finish with the key project specifications. How long do you have to do it? What’s the budget? How will it be measured? Who’s the project lead?
Writing a brief for the logo design helps to organise and structure your thoughts.
It makes sure the design will connect back to the brand identity, and the business need. But you also need to decide ‘how’ the logo itself will be developed, and importantly ‘who’ will develop it. You have three options. You can do it yourself with a logo template platform. You can hire a freelancer to do it. Or you can use a specialist or marketing agency.
For a completely new business or start-up already working on a tight budget, the logo design process may not be a high priority.
So, from a purely practical point of view, the quickest, cheapest and easiest way to create a logo would be to use an “off the shelf” platform like Canva or Hatchful.
On these platforms, you input a few variables like your brand name, your key brand message and choose a “style” from a list of pre-selected logo design templates.
These platforms then generate a list of potential options of logos for your business.
Because these templates are usually based on good design principles, you can in the space of a few minutes have a logo that looks professional.
As you can see from these options we generated on Hatchful, most of these designs look quite professional.
But look at bit closer and some of them don’t make sense. The middle logo for example has a spaceman. No connection to our brand. The middle right logo has a runner. Again, no connection to our brand.
You can go on to adjust key elements like the background image, the colours and the typography, to make it feel more like “your” design.
This mock-up for the Sydney Pineapple Pizza Company example that we use as a case study in other guides only took a few minutes to churn out on Canva for example. It’s more specific to “pineapple” and “pizza”.
All good, so far?
… if it’s quick and cheap / free, why doesn’t everyone just use these services?
Well, in fact many businesses, particularly new and smaller businesses DO use these services.
And that’s where the biggest challenge to use these platforms comes from.
Because, so many businesses use them, the designs they generate can all start to look really similar. There’s only a limited range of designs and options to choose from.
And the software itself is designed to be useable by beginners, so it has far less options than you’ll find on professional graphic design tools like Adobe Illustrator. You can’t finesse or tweak it too much.
With these limits, it can be a challenge to create a logo that really stands out from the crowd. You run the risk of creating a logo that lacks originality and fades into the background.
So if you want something more creative and original, you’ll likely need to use a professional graphic designer to take your logo to the next level. You can either hire a freelancer or go through a marketing agency.
If you want to move away from the standardised approach of logo template platforms, you can hire a Freelance graphic designer. This will give you the opportunity to create a more bespoke and customised design.
In our guide to graphic design for your business, we cover the process of how to find and work with freelancers through sites like Fiverr and Upwork.
The quality and originality of the logo you end up with should be much higher than if you choose a logo template platform. You’ll work with a professionally trained designer after all. But you also need to balance out the extra time and cost. You’ll need to find the freelancer. Brief them. Review and feedback on their work. And get the final files from them. Those steps can take time, and you pay for the freelancer’s time to complete the job.
Logo design is a popular niche on the freelance sites. It’s an interesting job to carry out from a design point of view and has high levels of visibility. If you find the right designer, you can end up with high quality work that stands out and is distinctive. But of course, the challenge is to find the right designer.
Your final option is to use a specialist logo design business. Or engage the creative team at an agency you already work with, such as the ones who handle your advertising or packaging development.
Theoretically, this should generate the highest quality and most original output for your brand identity.
For a start, if the creative team are already familiar with your brand and what it stands for, they are more likely to come up with ideas that feel more relevant and closer to who you are and what you stand for.
They aren’t starting from scratch like a freelancer has to. The agency will also have solid understanding of how and where the logos need to be used. So from a practical point of view, when you use an agency. it ties up the “admin” of the project quite neatly.
However, while the quality and originality of the outcome goes up, that also likely means the cost and time associated with the project also go up. The agency will want to spend time coming up with multiple ideas and options. You’re likely to spend much more time finessing over the details. And when it comes to agencies, this “time” will essentially become “cost”. It’s not unusual for the logo design costs with the biggest agencies to run to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
So, in terms of the brief and who it goes to, there’s a trade-off you need to make.
If you want to keep the costs low, and create the logo quickly, then logo template platforms are your best bet.
However, if quality and originality are bigger drivers and you have more budget or time, then specialist or marketing agencies will be the best bet.
And freelancers have the best and worst of both worlds. You will get more original designs from them and they’ll be cheaper and faster than agencies.
But you won’t always get as good quality, original outcomes as you would get from dedicated agencies.
So, with business need and brief in hand, how are logos actually developed?
There’s no one single process that everyone follows. But most will likely follow a variation on 4 key steps.
You’d normally start looking at typography options.
Then, you’d look at icon and text combination ideas.
You’d then identify the winning idea.
And as the final step you refine the idea to work in multiple contexts and formats.
Let’s look at each of those steps in more detail.
For this part of the logo design process, it’s common to start with the typography. Look at key elements of the brief like the values and personality. Look for fonts that feel like they “fit” to those values. Go to online font resources like fontsquirrel or dafont for inspiration on new and unusual fonts.
As per our article on the psychology of typography, choose the style of the typography you need to create the right mental associations with your brand identity.
Serif fonts for example have an old-fashioned but authentic and long-lasting association. This would be important for a brand that wants to be credible and trusted.
Sans serif fonts feel more modern and minimalist. This would be important for brands that want to create more of a contemporary or future-focussed feel.
Script and special fonts can feel more stylish and unique. They also benefit from being more unusual and distinctive so they can help your name stand out more.
You want to make connections between the typography and your brand identity. They need to “fit” together.
We recommend you look at multiple options. And also look in different weights and styles like bold or italic, and in both lower case and upper case. Try to get a feel for which font style works best for you. At this stage, you want to narrow down the options to a short list of fonts that feel close to what you need.
As you can see in our example above, we had 14 different font options for the Three-Brains logo on our original list. These were mostly sans serif fonts as we wanted more of a cleaner and contemporary feel. But we did also look at a couple of serif options.
And we tried them out in other varieties like bold and italic to see what difference this made. We looked at whether the typography also worked in lower-case, CAPITALS or was adaptable enough for both.
Of course, typography is more than just the font choice, it’s also adjusting how the letters and characters fit together.
So, you can also look to adjust the kerning (the space between characters horizontally) and leading (the space between characters vertically) to see if this makes a difference.
Look at how close together the letters are in this Marvel logo for example.
Only the “L” stands alone, with all other letters joined together. That’s a clear design choice to keep the logo looking ‘tight’.
The next key stage of logo development is then to look at icons and graphics and how these might work with the typography options you’ve identified.
So, in our examples above, we looked at some graphic options to symbolise the head, the heart and the gut. As you can read in our about us story, these come from the theory of three brains that gave our business its name.
We also looked to create an icon that made a character ‘face’ to bring three symbols together. Note, the heart shape of the face for example.
And we also looked at options that included a T-shirt design in the “T” of Three-Brains as we have a shop that sells Print on Demand t-shirts as part of our e-Commerce expertise.
But ultimately, the logo symbol we ended up with was based on just 3 circles, with each circle having 3 lines. These circle and lines represented both the 3 brains of head, heart and gut. But also the 3 business skill areas we focus on as marketing, creative and e-commerce.
To create these types of icons and combinations, you need the right graphic design tool like Adobe Illustrator or one to its alternatives like Affinity Designer or Inkscape. Once you have a layout that feels close to what you need, you can also then start to add in colour options.
Your aim is to get to a final winning ‘idea’ that you think fits back to the brand identity. And it needs to be unique and distinctive enough to meet the business need.
At this stage, you have an overall ‘idea’ for the final logo design. But you still need to test it out and refine it to get to the final designs. You need to consider how to make the brand stand out, yet still feel consistent with the brand identity. And how it’ll fit into the key brand activation areas.
To help with stand-out, explore adding stylising and effects to the icon and typography to create more uniqueness.
Graphic design tools like Adobe Illustrator and its alternatives offer options to add effects like textures and gradients. The aim is to pick 1 or 2 strong design elements without overcomplicating the design and making it look busy.
So, on our logo for example, we played around with the effects on the font to add a drop curve on it. We added an Illustrator drawn bottom of a triangle underneath. Our aim was to have a triangular type feel built in to the logo as triangles obviously relate back to the “three” in our brand identity.
Then, we also took the 3 circles with 3 lines idea and worked with it further to create a more cohesive and polished single item logo.
For example, we added circles at the join point between each of the three cut-out circles. And added a zig zag effect to create what looked like mini “exploding” circles.
These symbolise the connections in the brain when different neurons connect together.
But the 3 circles also form what looks like eyes and a mouth. So that overall, the symbol has a sort of sci-fi helmet look.
Which we felt was a good fit back to the ‘brain’ theme.
If you can use symbols and shapes to have a meaningful connection to the history or vision of your brand, it creates a great story and deeper connection to your brand.
Take the iconic Mercedes logo for example.
The Mercedes 3 pointed star logo for example was originally created to symbolise the superiority of Mercedes engines on the land, in the sea and in the air.
Each point of the star represents one of the original areas of the business. That’s a great connection back to the origin of the business.
You may well have already picked out colour for your brand as part of your overall brand identity. You can read about how we picked out our brand colours in this article. But you need to look at options for how those colours will work with your logo design elements.
So for us, the Japanese Violet is suitably dark for the icon, and the Air Superiority Blue and Ruby Red give a good contrast on the text. You can read more about the importance and role of contrast in our design principles guide.
And it’s also worth remembering, colours also have psychological associations.
You can use these in your choice of brand colours and on your logo to create more connections back to the intangible assets in your brand identity.
Our colours of red, purple and blue play to associations of strength, authority and trust.
But your logo shouldn’t be solely dependent on colour.
Because there may be situations where the logo only appears in black and white, such as in newspaper printing. Or it may have limited colour options such as when printing on merchandise.
You should have outlined these types of brand activation in the brief. You or your logo designer should test whether the logo actually works without colour.
As a final step, you should also check back to your list of brand activation areas. Where will your logo design be used? Check to see for example whether the logo can be adapted into different space dimensions.
For example, on social media platforms, your profile picture needs to be square. But on your website navigation bar, the area for your logo is normally rectangular. So, your design needs to be able to work in multiple formats and dimensions.
You or your logo designer needs to make sure the logo is adaptable enough to appear in multiple formats. Whether that’s a 200px x 50px slot on your website header to a 1080px x 1080px Instagram format to being dropped in to an advert or a point of sale item.
As a final step before you approve the final logo design, you should check back to the brief and the key business needs of brand identity and brand activation. Does the logo design meet the objectives you set?
You could even carry out qualitative or quantitative research with consumers to get direct feedback if your project budget includes provision for that.
But there are also some simple design-led questions you can use to evaluate whether the logo is good from a design as well as a business point of view.
Because, almost as much as advertising, opinions about logos can be very divisive.
We recently came across a set of criteria from one of the world’s best known logo designers, Rand Paul, who outlines a seven step set of questions to review whether a logo design is doing the job it needs to. The first six questions should all be scored out of 10, and the final question – is it simple, is scored out of 15.
A 75 is perfect and anything below a 60, you probably want to go back and fix it or start again. Is your logo …
You should also think about basic design principles like contrast and alignment. Do the symbols, typography and other visual elements sit well together? If you remove elements of the logo, is it still identifiable as the company? You can read more about these in our guide to design principles in marketing.
Once you have approved the final logo design, you need to create a document that sets out the ‘rules’ for how it is to be used. This document is usually a set out in a style guide or brand book. These are brand guidelines that cover the whole brand identity and key brand activation principles.
For all future designers who will use the logo, this sets standards and creates consistency of how and where to use the logo. For example, it defines the typography, colours and any allowed and non-allowed variations.
The guidelines should specify which versions of the logo to use in different space dimensions (e.g. square vs rectangle). They should specify where the logo must appeal in full or where only parts of the logo can appear (e.g. when it is OK to just use the icon?).
It should also be clear from the guidelines who has final authority over any changes to the logo design. These brand guidelines can then be given to any designer who’ll work on the logo or brand identity.
Your logo needs to last a long time. Once you add your logo to products and communications, it becomes part of your brand identity. Once embedded with consumers, it becomes harder and more expensive to change in the long run.
You will certainly have spent time and most likely money putting your logo together. So you, want to maximise the value of that work, by using the logo as consistently and widely as possible.
This is what your style guide / brand book helps you to do.
The final 2 stages are really where your logo comes to life for your target audience. It’s when you integrate the logo design graphic files into your key brand activation touchpoints,
So, from a product point of view, you add the logo to your packaging. From a communications point of view, you include it in your advertising, on your website and in your social media platforms.
This is where you start to see the value of the logo design process. Because the combined effect of using the logo across all these touchpoints is that consumers will start to recognise it as the symbol for your brand.
You should build in to your market research plans how you will evaluate the impact and effectiveness of your new logo. Most likely, this will be a quantitative and continuous research project. You’ll want to track how brand equity measures have changed from before the new logo to after the new logo. Do consumers remember and recognise your brand more easily? Do they have stronger associations with the key values you represent? When you follow a good logo design process, these are the sorts of brand benefits you should look for.
The world’s biggest brands are easily recognisable through their logo. Whatever your favourite brand is, be it Marvel, Starbucks, Nike or Apple, when you hear the name of that brand, you instantly form a mental picture of it, that includes its logo.
That’s really your challenge when it comes to the logo design process, is you want a logo that’s as easily identifiable and meaningful for your target audience.
You can read more content on logo design by reading our blog post on the world of logo design. It covers the additional topic of what consumers actually need logos to do for them.
We are not a dedicated graphic design agency as our focus is on marketing and e-Commerce coaching. But we have picked up a lot of knowledge on this topic. And this means that we can and often do include graphic design as an important element of our overall business service.
We specialise is coaching and advising on how to best meet your graphic design needs, either using graphic designers, managing it in-house or building your own graphic design skills to make your creative more impactful and more efficient.
If you want to know more about how we can work with you on your graphic design needs to grow your business through our coaching and consulting services, click the button below to send us a message.
Design principles in marketing
Why read this? : We look at the meaning of character in telling your brand’s story. Learn why choices made under pressure define your true character.
Why read this? : We look at where fear of creativity comes from, and the impact it has on new ideas. Then, we show why
Why read this? : We share 5 top-of-mind thoughts about thinking as we go into 2023. Learn how to smarten up your thinking with thoughtful