Everyone tells you that you need a startup logo, but nobody tells you how to make one. They just throw you to the metaphorical wolves, leaving you to learn the hard way about a whole universe of design terminology and tactics.
This post isn't going to teach you those terms or tactics either (sorry). It takes years of training to fully understand the finer points of graphic design, and if you're running a startup, you don't have years to get a graphic design degree.
What you need is a working knowledge of the logo design process. Once you learn these six essential steps, you'll be well on your way to creating the perfect logo for your brand—regardless of your level of design experience.
Do Your Research
Before you can design an effective logo (or do any marketing, for that matter), you have to do market research. This means studying your competitors to see what's working for them and studying your target audience to see what they want from a company.
You can conduct your own market research by studying other people's published results or surveying your target audience. If it's your first time doing market research, consider hiring a firm that can help you. They will know which questions to ask, and they can teach you how to analyze the findings.
When you're done, you will know all about your target audience—age, gender, jobs, education, hobbies, preferences, and buying habits—and how your competitors are reaching them.
Now it's time to plan how your research will impact your design. Start by looking at logos that are geared toward your target audience, take note of the colors, shapes, and symbols they're using. What seems to be working for those companies? How can you improve on what they are doing?
That said, your logo won't stand out from the crowd if you copy the competition exactly. It's important to study other sources and styles of logos into your search for inspiration to get a fresh perspective. You can find great ideas in online logo galleries, which usually feature logos from lots of different artists. Viewing well-known designer's portfolio like this one for David Airey is also a great way to learn what the best of the best are doing.
The final option would be to look a little closer to home. Your startup's name might convert easily to a symbol or color that you can use as the basis for your logo design.
Find a Designer
Remember what we said about not having time to get a graphic design degree? Lucky for you, there are people who have spent years studying graphic design and are more than capable of designing your logo. (If you really don't want to spend the money or you're just a glutton for punishment, you can design the logo yourself. It's not recommended, but you can.)
The reason it's not recommended is the same reason you shouldn't try to conduct market research on your own. You may be able to stumble through it, but you will miss some great branding opportunities simply because you don't have the discernment to know that this font is better than that one or that the color green you've chosen is two shades too dark.
It might be more cost effective to hire an individual designer or a small agency for a reasonable rate, and most of them offer relatively short timelines for turn around. Freelancers are also a great if you're looking to have a more personal relationship with a specific designer.
Create a First Draft
Once you decide who's designing the logo, share your market research and inspiration with them. They will then start to narrow down the design elements that work best for your brand and target audience by using design psychology. This is the field of study that explains how colors, shapes, and fonts create meaning and convey a brand's message.
For instance, fast food restaurants like KFC and Wendy's use red because this color increases the appetite. Automakers like Ford and BMW use round logos to create a sense of symmetry, comfort, and community among drivers. Children's brands like Barbie and Lego tend to use playful display fonts that are kid-friendly.
Understanding design psychology is important regardless of who's creating your logo. If you've gone the DIY route, you'll need to study up so you don't make any design mistakes. And if you're working with a designer, it's good to build up your knowledge so you can provide intelligent feedback later.
The design community is full of horror stories about clients from hell—people who give vague instructions like “make it pop” or bring their mother in to give feedback. There are whole websites dedicated to all the obnoxious things clients do.
Don't be that client! Your job is not to stand around making obtuse observations; your job is to provide intelligent feedback based on your brand's goals. Telling a designer you “don't like that color pink” doesn't give them direction. It's more productive to talk about the design as it relates to your brand goals such as, “We're marketing to career-oriented women, so using very bright pink might be too childish.”
If you're creating your own logo, collaborating well means that you will need to find others who can provide feedback about the design you've made. Your job at this point is to listen and take their constructive criticism because—let's be real here—you probably didn't get your logo perfect the first time.
Get It Out There
You will probably go through a few rounds of feedback and revisions before your logo is ready to go. But once those revisions are complete, you'll come out of the design process with a real, live logo that's perfect for your brand. Make sure to place your logo on all of your social media outlets and printed material so you can start building brand recognition.