Creating a brand from scratch is a daunting task with no real prescription for how to do it right. In some ways, a brand is like art—the only true test of it’s worth is time, which you probably don’t have. So what can you do to start immediately building the most honest and relevant brand possible?
The primary attributes of a brand are name, logo, product, packaging, imagery, color palette, and brand voice. After your brand name, your logo is probably the most important and more permanent aspect of your brand. While many of the brand attributes are easily updated, your company name and logo are going to be with you for a while, so it’s worth spending the time and money to get it right.
How do you develop a logo that works for you? The simple answer is you don’t. Your logo is an investment in your business that should not be taken lightly and it’s one of the few things even the most creative person can’t do nearly half as well as a trained and experienced designer. The point of this post is not to teach you how to design a logo, but to prepare you to get the most out of working with a professional designer as you work together to create your logo.
Before running off and hiring a designer, you need to spend some time seriously considering your entire brand and how you’re going to express your brand vision to your designer so that she can put her skill to work bringing your brand to life.
There are three primary things you need to consider, which we’ll walk through below:
- How does your logo fit into the landscape of brands that already exist?
- What is the significance behind your logo?
- How will your logo be put into use in all its variations?
The exercises below walk you through creating a series of mood boards or contact sheets. I recommend creating a series of Pinterest boards with clear descriptions of the function of each board as well as notes on the images you pin. It’ll be easy to share these boards with your designer once you’re ready.
The first thing you’ll want to do is start researching logos that already exist to better understand how your new brand will fit into the current landscape.
Start by creating three Pinterest boards and labeling them:
- Similar product brands
- Similar brand categories
- Aspirational brands
On the first board, collect logos of other brands which are in your same product category (i.e. watch brands or women’s activewear brands) On the second board, place logos that are within your brand genre (i.e. other luxury brands or hunting and fishing brands). And on the third page, place logos of brands you highly admire regardless of their relationship to your own company.
Spend some time on this first activity and try to collect 20 – 30 logos for each board. Once you’ve gathered the logos, begin assessing them to discover trends and characteristics that may be similar. Is there a theme that seems to be consistent within each category? Are there any logos that seem to represent their brand the best? Any that are worse than others. Try to be very specific about what you like and don’t like. But more importantly, look for trends that seem to be popping up. This will be important in helping you to decide how much you want to follow a trend or steer away from one.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- How far do you want to go in the direction of or against a trend or pattern you see emerging?
- What is a component you feel you must have included in your logo design?
- Is there anything you feel you need to stay away from?
- For the logos you like, what specifically do you like about them?
- What do you specifically dislike about certain logos?
For the above, stay away from discussion around color and try to consider the logo as a black and white image. Focus on shape, typography, balance, composition, space, and texture.
After giving thoughtful consideration to the world of logos that already exist within your brand and product category, you’ll want to spend some time thinking about what your brand should represent both to you and to your intended audience. In this next exercise, collect images that represent various aspects of your brand and categorize under the following themes:
- Skill or trade
- Ideal customer
- Location or heritage
- Culture & lifestyle
For each image, search for a specific symbol or object that says something about either your trade, customer, company history or culture and describe its significance to your brand. Look for things like tools and equipment, accessories, heirlooms, posters, etc… Anything that says something about the associations of your brand.
Finally, you’ll want to consider the function and intended use of your logo. This will help your designer understand not just the spatial limitations required for the primary logo, but how the logo may need to be represented in its variations for different media. The obvious things to include are website and business cards. But move beyond this and collected samples of all the ways in which you may use your logo.
This may include:
- Signage (i.e. building, tradeshow, pop-up shop, table-top, etc…)
- Clothing tags
- Hang tags
- Line sheets
- Promotional items
Don’t forget the most important branding applications: how it will be represented on your product itself. In most cases you’ll want to consider how your logo looks as a symbol (think Nike swoosh or Adidas stripes), as a word-mark and as a combination of the two. Think about having a logo that’s flexible with various applications for types of products.
Far too often I find brands that have given very little or a very myopic consideration to their logo. Worse yet, are the logos that are clearly not created by a professional designer. Just as important as investing in equipment and materials for your business is the need to invest both time and money in designing a brand that will be relevant, authentic and long lasting.
Finally, once you’ve worked with your designer to develop some logo options, ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I being truly thoughtful about each aspect of my brand and is that thought reflected here?
- Is it an honest reflection of the product and business I want to create?
- Does it have the potential to mean something to me and others now and well into the future?