Questions to ask before you design a new logo

Picture 1 Call it a creative brief.  Call it a discovery process.  Call it what you will…but be sure to do it, before you either hire a designer or try to design your own logo.

If you remember, a few weeks ago I did a call for companies who wanted to win a free logo design from LogoInn.com.  The catch was….you had to let your logo evolve right here on the blog, so everyone could learn as we went. Scads of entries came in and I want to thank everyone who entered. 

The final winner was actually not a for profit company but an organization — Colfax Main Street.  We'll learn more as we go.  We'll take a look at their answers to these questions as the first step in the process.

Okay….back to the creative brief.  No matter how small or large your organization….you need to be as objective as possible about your logo design.  This isn't about whether you like the color orange or think trapezoids are cool shapes. 

This is about trying to capture the spirit of your organization in a mark…to give people a clue as to what you do and what you're all about.

That's where the creative brief comes in.  This series of questions will guide you and the designer.  It will both illuminate and eliminate. 

You will see LogoInn.com's creative brief and then I've added some additional questions that I think are critical.  You'll also note that I've customized some of the questions specifically for Colfax Main Street.  You'll want to do the same for your business.

Logo Inn’s creative brief

  • Your company name
  • Describe your business (your product or service)
  • Website address
  • Who's your target audience
  • What colors do you require in the logo?
  • Do you have any preference for you logo regarding image and text style? 
  • Language you require in logo?
  • Any additional thoughts?

My additional questions

  • What, if anything, are you using for a logo now?
  • If you have a current logo, why are you looking to change it?
  • What word/words need to be included in your logo?
  • Who is your competition?  How are you different from them?
  • What is your brand promise/tagline? How do you bring that to life?
  • What are your organization's values/mission?
  • What words would people use to describe your organization/city BEFORE their first visit (in other words-what do they think/believe before they visit)
  • What words would people use to describe your organization/city AFTER their first visit (in other words-what do they think/believe after they visit)
  • Are there any iconic places, elements of architecture, design elements, landmarks that make Colfax unique?
  • Which of these words is a better fit for your brand?   Techno or Active
  • Which of these words is a better fit for your brand?   Warm or Progressive
  • Which of these words is a better fit for your brand?   Old Fashioned or Modern
  • Which of these words is a better fit for your brand?   High End or Cost Effective
  • Which of these words is a better fit for your brand?   Night Life or Early Morning
  • Who would have no interest in your city/brand?
  • Are there any color no no's?  Image no no's?
  • Competitors' marks (colors, shapes, concepts, ideas are already being used in the marketplace)
  • Where will the logo appear/primary usage — how will you use it?
  • Any other production considerations (must work extremely small, or will be usually be reproduced in single color etc.)

What do you think?  What else could or should we have asked? 

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41 comments on “Questions to ask before you design a new logo

  1. Jay Ehret says:

    Great stuff, Drew. I especially like your advice on including your brand promise/tagline in the creative brief.

    The only advice I would add is to not let the graphical/icon element of the logo be literal. For example a logo for pickup accessories shop should not contain a truck in the logo. For a logo to be memorable, it needs to engage the imagination. McDonald’s doesn’t have a burger in their logo, Google doesn’t have a search box, and Starbucks doesn’t have a coffee cup.

  2. I’ve always found logo redesigning quite interesting as there are so many things to take into consideration (which you did a great job listing, by the way).

    I think Jay in the above comment makes a fantastic point about obvious images in a logo. I hadn’t really thought of that before, but his examples are really useful.

    This is a great idea! I look forward to seeing this process evolve.

  3. BGmarketing says:

    This was a great structure. I wrote a couple questions down, great post. It is definitely more of a challenge changing someone else’s previous work. Thanks again for the sweet article.

  4. Barkri says:

    The perfect logo design for your business should achieve your goals for brand recognition, whether it appears in black and white or in color. Flexibility of design, especially when it comes to color, guarantees attractiveness regardless of the presentation.

    For specific advertising purposes, the colors that you choose for your logo are important because their shade, intensity, and fit with your specific type of business will determine the effectiveness of your graphic representation. Your choices should enhance your brand recognition power by matching your business and blending with selected icon and font to create a single, cohesive image.

    http://www.logoguru.co.uk

  5. Furniture says:

    Thank for so great information. those question are so helpful.

  6. Justin Brady says:

    Wow! That is ALL Logo Inn asks? The one mark and image that represents your company’s future is riding on some foreign website that asks 8 questions, 2 of which are valuable questions?

    Drew, your added questions are valuable, it is too bad Logo Inn doesn’t consider them. There is WAY more that goes into logo design than just making a pretty image. Many hours of research and work are needed to create the perfect logo. The biggest problem with the graphic design industry these days is that Pretty and flashy take precedence over functional and money-makin’.

    A logo is a critical step, it is an investment, not a price.

    These sites are great for people who want a logo with ONE qualification in mind. PRICE.

  7. Tom Porter says:

    Great questions, Drew. One more possibility that I have found to be helpful is asking the question, “Is your company’s brand male or female? The answer to that question has had a surprising impact not only on logo design, but in the tone of all communications for an organization, type style/face for all collateral materials, look & feel of the company’s website as well as selection of male or female voiceover talent for radio and television spots.

  8. Jessica Carter says:

    I love the exercise of choosing one word over another; it really forces you to focus on who/what you are, which ultimately helps you get the right message out. (And the male/female question is a great addition to that list!)

    Thanks for a great post; I can’t wait to see the entire process unfold.

  9. I am a branding expert and could write a book on this subject. There is so many things to take into consideration. One of the best ways to start is to create a matrix because as Drew did you really have to dig down to understand your message. It is like an iceberg where only 10% is above the surface. You really have to get to the 90% below.

    Branding is really what experience, what interaction, what feeling, what association do you want your audience to have with your product or service. It is really this message that is going to connect you to your customers. If you could only communicate one thing to your customer what would that be or what I would call a positional statement. What is your reason for being. What problem do you solve for your customer. Does your name fit what you do. Is it an abstract name that needs explanation of what you do so a tagline may be required. Is your name descriptive of what you do with very little explanation. Is is associative… Are you a luxury brand that promotes best in class, are you a hybrid, are you a low cost provider.

    This is just scratching the surface, but you can see how detailed the process should be to start uncovering the layers to find a logo and overall brand message you need to convey. To many companies just slap some things together and have 3 options and they pick one.

    A good brand will engage your audience and have started a blog about this http://tinyurl.com/ccqo4n

    Chad Rothschild
    http://employeeandclientengagement.wordpress.com/

  10. Kat says:

    I really like how you put that: “capture the spirit of the organization in a mark”. Its so true. As part of a web design company, I respect good logo work. When we build sites that is our foundation. A generic logo is just like a generic website, useless in the long run. If a logo doesn’t have impact and doesn’t say something about your company its not doing its job. Thanks for writing this, it was a great read.

  11. Jay,

    You raise an interesting point — how literal should we be in logo design. I think there are probably valid reasons on both sides of the debate.

    Depending on your audience, the complexity of what you do and how descriptive your name is — sometimes I think you do have to beat the “what we do” into the mark. But typically, I would err on your side of the decision. It’s more about the essence than the actual.

    One of the logo decisions that drives me nuts is when companies like Texas Construction (making it up to make a point) feel the burning need to include the outline of TX in their logo.

    Yuck.

    Drew

  12. Lisa,

    As I said to Jay in my comment…I think most of the time he is right. But every once in a while, obvious is called for.

    That’s the fun of designing logos. There is no single right answer.

    Drew

  13. BG —

    Glad you found the questions helpful. You point out something important — it is much harder to design for someone else.

    By default if you want to truly capture the spirit of the company — you have to ask a lot of questions to get that sort of feel/detail.

    Drew

  14. Barkri,

    I think we’re saying the same thing if you are saying a logo MUST work in black and white first. Then….you can use color to give it emotion and connotation.

    Drew

  15. Justin,

    Maybe LogoInn will adopt the rest of the questions, we’ll have to wait and see.

    One of the reasons I wanted to do this giveaway and series is to help companies who can’t afford to make an investment in a logo…but still need something done.

    LogoInn doesn’t make any bones about the fact that they’re doing inexpensive logos. But in some cases, that may be all someone can afford. So the key is…given that someone is paying $200 or less — how can they get the best logo for that money?

    I think one of the ways is to ask more, smarter questions. Which is sort of the message in this post. Hopefully it will mean that Colfax Main Street (who is answering the questions now) will get the best of what LogoInn has to offer.

    Drew

  16. Tom,

    You are so right…we use that question all the time in our brand discovery process. It would be an excellent one to add here too.

    Drew

  17. Jessica,

    The either/or sorts of questions do force us to categorize and prioritize our brand attributes, you’re right about that. Branding is as much about what we are not as it is about what we are.

    I agree Tom’s question is a very smart addition to the list.

    Drew

  18. Chad,

    No one who has been reading this blog for more than two weeks will argue with your definition of brand.

    My goal in this exercise is to help companies who are going to hire companies like Logo Inn to do work for them. I want to teach them how to begin to think about their brand more holistically, even if they only have $200 to spend on their logo.

    Drew

  19. Kat,

    Ahh, so true. The logo does provide a big part of the foundation for all other design for the company — be it a website, brochure or even what your signage might look like outside of a building.

    All the more reason, as you suggest, to invest the time and money to do it well.

    Drew

  20. frasi says:

    A logo is the most important thing you’ll design for your company. It’s what customers, prospects and competitors will identify you with.

  21. Logo definitely highlights our brand quality. Logo should be designed in such a way that it’s not bloated and delivers a crystal clear message (whatever their message is) from the company.

  22. Night Life says:

    Hello mate, I want to thank you for this nice blog. Would you mind telling me some secrets for a succesful blog ? Which could attract some visitors than it normally does. Please come visit my site FreeAdultEntertainment when you got time.

  23. These are nice questions to ask to ourselves. I think your posts will really help me for the work I am going to do in few days. Thanks.

  24. Audrey says:

    Hello Drew,
    You’ve posted the tips on how to create a Logo.
    here’s another thing that has something to do with the logo.
    Thanks for posting this. Sometimes we really have to asked ourselves first on how and what.
    We have so many things to consider before we finally design a logo, and our aim is to make it presentable to the audience.

  25. Audrey says:

    Hello Drew,
    You’ve posted the tips on how to create a Logo.
    here’s another thing that has something to do with the logo.
    Thanks for posting this. Sometimes we really have to asked ourselves first on how and what.
    We have so many things to consider before we finally design a logo, and our aim is to make it presentable to the audience.

  26. Audrey says:

    Hello Drew,
    You’ve posted the tips on how to create a Logo.
    here’s another thing that has something to do with the logo.
    Thanks for posting this. Sometimes we really have to asked ourselves first on how and what.
    We have so many things to consider before we finally design a logo, and our aim is to make it presentable to the audience.

  27. Audrey says:

    Hello Drew,
    You’ve posted the tips on how to create a Logo.
    here’s another thing that has something to do with the logo.
    Thanks for posting this. Sometimes we really have to asked ourselves first on how and what.
    We have so many things to consider before we finally design a logo, and our aim is to make it presentable to the audience.

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  33. Kenny says:

    Thank for so great information.

  34. brainstrom says:

    One of the logo decisions that drives me nuts is when companies like Texas Construction (making it up to make a point) feel the burning need to include the outline of TX in their logo

    brainstrom

  35. It is really this message that is going to connect you to your customers. If you could only communicate one thing to your customer what would that be or what I would call a positional statement. What is your reason for being. What problem do you solve for your customer. Does your name fit what you do. Is it an abstract name that needs explanation of what you do so a tagline may be required. Is your name descriptive of what you do with very little explanation.

  36. SEO says:

    Is having eagle as a logo for the start up firm a good sign?

  37. Ive been following your blogs about logo design – thanks for sharing this information. I hadn’t considered how people view my company before visiting.

  38. Logo Design says:

    Thanks for sharing such a great stuff, i was just passing by to this post. This blog is really great, i love it.

  39. I’ve never thought about asking questions before designing a logo. I suppose the logo has to answer a series of questions – so always did this phase subconsciously.

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