As a business owner, one of the most important business decisions you’ll make is choosing the design of your logo. Whether you design the logo yourself or hire a designer, you’ll have to make some decisions during the design process.

But you want to make sure that the logo you decide on will work well. Many business owners make the mistake of basing their logo choices on their personal preferences. But your ‘likes’ should have very little to do with your logo design.

Before I go into why this is the case, let me tell you a story of the most difficult logo designs that I ever did. This logo was for an entrepreneur who was running a very small spa.

Now, this project didn’t start out difficult. I’d done several logos for spas in the past and during the course of those projects I had learned a lot about the industry. The business also had a good, solid brand definition, and the business owner had filled out my branding worksheet thoroughly. So I thought that the project would go smoothly and that I’d create a fabulous logo for her in no time.

I designed her first round of the logo to reflect the brand that she’d been setting up for herself. But, when she got the initial designs, I got an almost immediate call back — she hated them! We talked a bit about her brand, her clients and their tastes, and all of the things that I take into consideration when designing a brand. And we talked about how the sketches reflected those considerations. But then the real problem came out — she actually had a bigger vision for her logo.

 

She wanted to have the final logo tattooed onto her hip!

She wasn’t just looking at the business effectiveness of this logo — she wanted a sexy personal symbol! This was a whole different challenge.

She was set on designing a ‘tattoo’ logo, even though I didn’t recommend it. We wound up taking a whole different approach to the project and we did come up with a logo that she loves. Luckily her clients still react well to the finished logo, so it works for her business. But if you design your logo from your personal perspective, instead of taking your clients’ viewpoints in mind, you might be setting yourself up for disaster.

So, what’s the best way to decide on your logo design?

  • First, define your business’ brand.Your Brand Definition will guide the design of all of your brand identity materials, starting with your logo. The most important things to determine before designing your logo will be:
    • Who You Are, your business’ mission, vision and purpose.
    • What You Do, the products and services that you deliver.
    • Who You Can Best Help, or your target audience.
  • Then boil your full Brand Definition down to the most essential elements. Logos are small. Creating a clean and straightforward logo is essential to making sure that it communicates well. Most Brand Definitions are complex. Trying to pack too many details into a logo can create a muddled mess. You want to make sure that you narrow yours down to the few most important characteristics. That will enable you to create a concise, focused logo design that will tell your business’ story clearly.
  • Keep your Brand Definition in mind as you design your logo. Weigh your designs against the characteristics you’ve chosen. Think about every choice you make and how it affects your logo’s icon, font choice and color scheme. The most important piece of the Brand Definition in this step is “Who You Can Best Help”. Your logo has to connect with your clients. The design and overall feel of the logo has to communicate to them. Their perspective is the most important. If you’re targeting clients who are similar to you, then it might be okay to design the logo for yourself, but often that’s not the case. Be sure you’re designing for them and not just for you. You may even ask some of your clients about your logo options to make sure that the final logo works for them.

Going through this process doesn’t always result in a logo you’ll love. For example I don’t love my logo. But it communicates what I do — creating designs that help small businesses stand out from the competition. And my clients get the message (or a message that’s close enough and still works!). They like my logo so it does its job. Of course, I never wanted to get it tattooed on myself!

About the Author

Erin Ferree is a brand identity and marketing design strategist who creates big visibility for small businesses. Through her customized marketing and brand identity packages, Erin helps her clients discover their brand differentiators, then designs logos, business cards, and other marketing materials and websites to reflect that differentiation, as well as to increase credibility and memorability. As the owner of elf design, Erin is passionate about helping small business owners stand out in front of their competition and attract more clients. Hundreds of small business owners across the US and Canada have relied on Erin to create content and visuals that support their brands.