Design Help Center

Startup: Before we design anything.

A series of Design Help tips, suggestions & practical advice assembled by designers in our studio. For more help features check out the Buyer’s Branding Tips category on our blog.

Do You Need A Logo?

Some straightforward questions may help you decide

The short answer is yes. Maybe. Maybe not. While this may seem somewhat odd, especially from someone who supposedly makes their living at selling graphic & logo design services, this is perhaps the most critical step to your overall brand development.

Ask yourself a few questions starting with these:

1) What are the short term, mid range and long-term goals of your company or the product/service you are developing?

2) Are you going to be competing for the attention of prospective clients and customers in a crowded marketplace?

3) Will you be entering an already thriving industry and – let’s not be coy – fighting to ‘steal’ business away from other, more established companies?

4) Do you need to get people’s attention – the “here I am, and here’s what I do” kind of attention?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, then you’ll probably need a logo and all that entails. Conversely, if you’re working for ‘the man’ during the day, and moonlighting to a few friends at night – say, accounting services come tax time – then you don’t one, simple as that. Word of mouth, and casual referrals are likely to keep you more than busy enough.

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More logo ‘bang’ than you need?

Sure, you may want something ‘nifty’ to doll up your invoices, but you can probably manage that on your own – using standard business software and the supplied logo templates. You may even be able to crank out your own rudimentary letterhead and business cards (Avery and other paper suppliers offer pre-cut material that can be printed on your personal printer.) As much as our design company (and any other graphic design professional) would love to work with you on your new identity, it’s probably more ‘bang’ than what you need for the expectations you have, and the goals you have set. If, on the other hand, your business aspirations are to develop your business further, more investigation is probably in order.

Advertisements definitely need a logo.

I’d say one of the litmus tests we can employ at this juncture would be this – if you’re planning to develop some brochures, maybe even an advertisement in the local paper – you might need a logo. You’ll notice that’s still a ‘might.’ Bulletin boards at the local supermarket are full of hand-posted ‘flyers’ – you will recognize them by the multitude of tiny ‘pull off strips’ with hand-written phone numbers, and while these advertisements might be more noticeable with a decent brand (sorry, couldn’t help myself,) they probably perform to the level that can be expected – a trickle of inquires and one or two solid leads. If that’s all that you’re after, then a full-blown logo design process is still more than what you need. However, if you’re planning to drop a few hundred on an ad that is to be featured on a newspaper page with a load of other ads, then yours better stand out (for the most part, classified ads still enjoy the ‘no logo needed’ status.) Yes, your deals are better. Yes, your service is faster. Hell, you’re even a nice person. But if people don’t notice your ad, who really cares? A version of the ‘if a tree falls in the forest’ and ‘the sound of one hand clapping’ arguments. Same goes for your website.

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The intangible feeling of unease.

Think of this – you’ve been looking for a product or service on the Internet. You’ve run into sites that sell what you’re looking for, but for one reason or another, you’ve chose to look elsewhere. Oh sure, it may have been price. But haven’t there been times when you’ve backed out of a web site because the website wasn’t ‘right?’ It didn’t ‘look’ as professional as the site that finally earned your business. Perhaps it ‘felt’ a little shady. Bad graphics. Spelling mistakes. And yes, it probably featured a bad logo, maybe even a hideous one. Pretty nebulous stuff. You probably couldn’t put your finger on it at the time. Trouble is, if your fledgling company or service is poorly presented, neither will your potential clients. They’ll just ‘feel’ that something’s not quite right about your business. And you’ll lose the sale.

Selling your company to strangers.

Once again, if you’re simply filing tax returns on behalf of friends and family for a few bucks on the side, none of this is an issue. Simply naming your company with a catchy descriptor should be enough. If, however, you’re trying to sell you services to strangers – and have but a few seconds to convince them that you are exactly what they’re looking for – you need to think about branding your company. Because that’s what a great logo (and related branding) is all about.
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Convincing strangers that you are very good at what you do.

Strangers you ask? Sure – let’s take another example. Let’s say your homemade chili was such a hit at family picnics you decided to sell it at the local farmer’s market for a few bucks a jar. You could probably still get by without a logo on the jar and your booth. Captive audience, word of mouth, returning customers and a limited production capacity (how big is that crock-pot really?) combine to render a logo less than critical. If I wanted to be a stickler here, I could also argue that if the chili is good, a good branding workup will help move it through some attention grabbing branding. I could also point out that if your chili is, in reality, simply mediocre – family members can be very forgiving – a good identity is practically a prerequisite. You’ll have few return clients and you’ll always be looking for new customers. It might also behoove you to have a flyer through which your word-of-mouth referrals can find you. I am, however, trying to avoid nuance here, so I’ll stick to my original black and white point.

The final decision.

So, while it’s true that not every company or business needs a logo, it can similarly be argued that in some instances a decent corporate identity is absolutely critical to the longevity and growth of others. And only by taking a long, hard look at what you want to accomplish with your entrepreneurial aspirations, can you decide which applies to you.

The Logo! Factor blog for designers & clients
The Logo! Factor is the official design blog of The Logo Factory, offering features for business owners and designers alike. To receive notifications of new releases, subscribe to our Design Dispatches mailing list.

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A collection of helpful and informative tutorials for designers, do-it-yourselfers and anyone interested in branding their company.


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"Before a designer takes pen to paper, or mouse to pixel, they need clear direction on what kind of logo you want to represent your company. Writing a creative brief isn’t rocket science, but a little more complicated than “I’ll know it when I see it..” Writing The Creative Brief

A practical approach

"Thinking of running a design contest for your new logo? You should probably read this contest primer first. A definitive look at the mechanics of design contests – why they work, some reasons why they don’t and some very real issues you should be aware of, but probably aren’t." A Design Contest Explainer

Taking your brand to the crowd

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