You’ve hired a designer to create a logo for your company. Several weeks later, they return to you with a set of designs they’ve created for you to choose from.
There are two ways to approach your decision and depending on the designer’s process, the decision can be made very difficult or very simple.
The first way to approach your decision is the subjective approach.
In this scenario, most likely the designer has handed you a variety of designs to choose from and asks you to choose “which one you like the best.” You may have also agreed to a certain number of revisions as well, in which case you will likely ask the designer to see the designs with a different color, a different font, or other changes. You may even show the designs around to family members, coworkers, or anyone else you know to get their opinion on which ones they like the best. It is almost guaranteed that each person will come back with a different opinion and a different option that they prefer the best. What often happens at this point is that you may ask the designer to create a new logo that combines different elements of each design that different people like – or design by committee.
In the end, you will have put in a lot of time and work with the designer and likely not ended up with anything usable. This is not your fault, but rather the fault of the designer because they failed to implement a process that laid out any sort of criteria for measuring the success of their designs other than whether or not you or those who you chose to show them to “liked them”. This is not to take away liking your logo or feeling a connection with it as a criteria for whether or not it is right for your company, but it certainly should not be the only one. Each person’s taste in design are so vastly different, that to leave the decision only up to that one factor would be futile.
The second, and better approach for choosing a logo design is the objective approach.
If your designer utilizes a process to develop your logo in a way that takes into account your company’s brand strategy, then your decision can then be based on an objective assessment of how each element of the design most closely fits your company’s brand, rather than which one you like personally.
In order for this approach to work, a fair amount of preliminary work must be done prior to any work on the actual design. If your company hasn’t yet done any research or development to build their brand, your designer and marketing team should implement some strategies to do so.
A variety of questions should be asked of a variety of members of the company such as, “Who is your target audience?”, “What is your company’s mission statement?”, “How do you differentiate from your competitors?” and “Where do you see your company in 10 years?”
The information discovered through brand development can be translated by a designer into a visual identity – a visual representation of a company’s brand. Think of a company’s brand as their personality – their attitude, how they speak and act, their values. A brand is what your customers think about you. It’s a relationship and emotional connection. Their visual identity is their outward appearance – their clothing, hairstyle, makeup, their house and their car. The visual identity is what they see that helps them to visually interpret what they think about you. For your company, in order to be more effective at communicating to your customers, your brand and its visual identity should match.
When looking at how a visual identity fits with a brand, you can break down the elements that are used. These can include colors, fonts, typography, patterns, illustration, photography, music, sound effects (think Netflix’s “Ba-buuuum”), video, or any other assets that are combined to make up the design of a logo, website, brochure, tradeshow booth, etc…
In the case of a logo, it may use one or a combination of colors, fonts, and/or illustration (abstract or pictorial).
Numerous studies have been done on the psychology of color use in design. Research finds that different colors match better with different brand characteristics such as tone and energy or audience demographics such as age and gender. For example, the color blue has a closer association with trustworthiness and security and so can be seen frequently with companies that want to be taken more seriously in those areas. For example, banks, or law firms.
This is not to say that certain colors can only be associated with those specific brand attributes, especially considering that each culture around the world has different associations with each. However, when choosing a color for your logo, it is helpful to delve into color theory and psychology in order to determine which may best fit your company’s unique brand.
Font styles also have different associations for each. For example, serif fonts tend to have a greater association with reliability, dependability and tradition whereas sans serif fonts tend to pair well with logo designs that are meant to be modern, futuristic, or simple. A hand-drawn or brush stroke style font, such as in the case of Disney, can have the association of creativity, youthfulness or innocence. The weight of the font can also have an effect on perception of the brand. Bold can work well for a company that wants to portray strength or security, whereas a thinner style font may work well for a brand that wants to emphasize beauty or sophistication as is often seen with beauty product logos.
In the case of a logomark, an identifying mark or symbol that doesn’t contain the business’s name, the style in which it is created can be an indicator of the brand. For example, if the lines or shapes are designed in a playful way or look to be handmade, it likely represents a different type of company brand than if it uses simple, geometric shapes.
Bringing it all together
Utilizing knowledge of branding and psychology of colors, font and illustration styles, your designer should present to you a case for why they made each design decision for each logo concept that they present to you. There should be a logical connection between your business’s brand and the various elements utilized to make up your logo’s design. If your designer does not present a case for why they designed each logo concept and back their choices up with references to the design elements previously mentioned, then it makes it much more difficult to decide which one meets your branding and marketing goals. This inevitably leads to the choice being made with subjective criteria. For example, “which one uses your favorite color”, or “which one looks the nicest”. These are not criteria which should be used to achieve your branding goals.
In short, your logo is a key piece of your business’s visual identity. It is the one piece that sums up all aspect’s of your brand’s visual identity. If your designer asks you to choose it simply on subjective preference, then they have not fully done their job. It is part of the logo design process to fully comprehend a company’s brand and marketing goals and provide a well thought-out and objective analysis of each concept they present. Only then can you truly decide which logo design works best for your company.