Logo Development. What is a first impression worth to you?

Marni MacLeod

Our corporate identity packages (logo + basic stationary) start at $3,500 + HST.  I often hear a sharp intake of breath when taking phone inquiries on the matter.  But let me ask you this…what is a first impression worth to you? In this case, you almost always get what you pay for.

Your logo is a key element of your overall brand. Your brand is what people think about, good or bad, when they think about you. As your corporate visual identifier it is often the first look a client gets at “the whites of your eyes” – so to speak. What’s that your granny used to harp on about… “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

Note: 1o tips for logo project management are below…I promise.

For law firms a logo is often limited to the name of the firm in a distinctive type face (a word mark). There’s nothing wrong with this if that is where your comfort level lies. However, a logo can also include an icon (think Nike swoosh) and a tagline (e.g., Volkswagen’s “Das Auto”). Your logo and your brand colours are then incorporated into your corporate identity (stationary, business collateral) and form the starting point for designing your online presence which can include websites, blogs, Linkedin company pages, Facebook pages and so on.  In short, your firm logo is the keystone in the overall look and feel of your brand and should be kept consistent across your marketing mix. Hence, it’s important not to bugger about and do your best to get it right the first time. Similarly, a solid logo helps tremendously to reinforce your key messages. It acts as a visual nudge to reinforce a particular message or feeling that you are trying to associate with your firm.

Our standard logo development package gets you 2-3 logo options, two different colour palettes, and development of a standard stationary package (business cards, letterhead, envelope, folder). However, it is important to understand that before we present logo options there is a significant amount of background conceptual work that takes place before our creative team takes a first crack at some designs.  Before the design process begins we take great care to canvass our client’s key messaging, their design likes and dislikes and whether the logo is part of a larger website development project. The next step is to work up a series of designs (anywhere from 4-8)  that we review internally both for design aesthetic and for consistency with what we understand to be the firm’s brand messaging. From this batch of hopefuls we select what we think are the most promising 2 or 3 (sometimes 4) to show to the client. We often provide a mock business card so the client can see what the logo will look like in actual size.

We send along the logo options in two colour palettes, in black and white, and in a reversed out version. We do this because it is often the case that corporate promotional items can only be printed in a single screen print. If the logo looks decent reversed out this can resolve that issue.  I encourage clients to try to stick to a two colour logo whenever possible – it’s not that I don’t like lots of colour, I do, it’s more that I’m thinking about printing budgets and what it’s going to cost to use the logo in other marketing pieces.

It is usually the case (almost always in fact) that a client wants a bit of Version 1, the colour from Version 2 and the icon from Version 3 (but rotated, flipped, left aligned etc). Sometimes a third round of refinements is required. Occasionally further rounds are required.

10 tips to keep in mind when embarking on developing a new logo for your firm:

  1. Keep your design committee small (3-5 max) and select only one point of contact for your designer.  While it’s laudable to be inclusive the reality is that design by committee is both a nightmare for whoever is in charge on the client side and tends to produce mediocre results. It’s a bit like when you were a kid playing with all the colours in your water colour set.  Eventually you end up with a rather unattractive, muddy brown. Don’t let this happen to your logo. Just don’t. It is also much more efficient to designate one person to provide instructions and approvals to your designers. If you allow all committee members to send input independently you put your designer in the position of having to figure out who has the last say on behalf of your firm in the case of conflicting instructions.
  2. Be clear about your messaging. It is very helpful to graphic designers to have a clear idea of what the key messages are for your firm. Ideally your logo should support your messaging.
  3. Convey your likes and dislikes to your graphic designerclearly.  Have each logo committee member choose 3 logos they like from any industry sector and 2 colour palettes. It is equally important to flag logos that are verbotten and any colours that are a clear “no go” e.g., colour palettes used by your direct competitors.
  4. Provide detailed feedback on logo options. “We’ll know it when we see it” is not adequate – unless you are prepared to pay for extra rounds of logos. Graphic designers are not mind readers. If you hate something be prepared to say why (what emotion is it evoking or what does it remind you of).  If you like part of a logo try to articulate why. This information is very helpful and will ultimately make the process move forward more efficiently. The “We’ll know it when we see it” tack is a clear sign that you have not really nailed down the look and feel you want for your firm which is usually related to uncertainty around what the firm is all about. This isn’t a bad thing. It just means you have some internal work to do so that everyone is rowing in the same direction…it beats the hell out of going in circles.
  5. Try to keep your logo to 2 colours or make sure it looks good reversed out. The more colours you have the higher your printing costs will be and the more expensive it will be to produce corporate promotional items that are often limited to a single screen print (thus the reason for the reversed out version).
  6. Always ask to see your logo in black and white. You want to see how your firm looks if someone photocopies your lovely offset printed letterhead or if your correspondence is faxed.
  7. Letterhead looks best when it’s printed offset. The problem with digital printing is that when you rerun the pages through your local printer the heat from the printer can smudge the digital image. This looks bad. Just trust me on this.
  8. Do not cheap out on paper stock for your business cards. Even the most spectacular logo will look like dreck if it’s printed on cheapo shiny cardboard. Again, it’s a first impression thing with a quality subtext. 
  9. Get your logo in multiple file formats (e.g., .ai, .eps, ,jpeg, pdf and it colour, black and white, reversed out) and ask you designer to give them to you on a disk. Then make several copies of that disk and keep one original safe. Anytime a supplier needs a logo file give them a copy of the disk – whatever file format they need they should be able to extract. If they can’t it’s a red flag you are dealing with someone who may not know what they are doing. One rather important practice point – make sure you own your logo free and clear once you pay our designer’s invoices.
  10. Ask your designer to do up a simple  brand standards sheet for your logo. This document should contain information on your brand colours (Pantones, CMYK, RGB, percentages of black), typefaces and fonts, size of logo, positioning of logo in promotional items and general advice on the proper use of your logo. Make sure you provide this document to your suppliers and be vigilant about making sure your logo is applied consistently – this means ALWAYS requesting a soft proof. The point is to develop a cohesive and consistent brand identity so that your message is clearly reinforced.

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