I came to this conclusion after having quite a lengthy talk with a client that I’m very honoured to say is a close friend of mine. Essentially, I’ve been having a hell of a time working on his logo. The fact that there is a personal side to this project with him since we have this very “bromantic” relationship (those who watch How I Met Your Mother on CBS should enjoy that) makes it difficult to come up with something I know I can feel comfortable with handing off to him. Moreso because there is a sort of constrained creative freedom on this project with knowing his background and the symbolic elements I want to include in it for him.

Up until a couple of days ago, I felt that this was wrong on me. No. It’s not. It’s not wrong on my client either. Just because I spent a good deal of time working on a couple dozen concepts to show him doesn’t mean that I’m any less of a designer. I realized that since there was such freedom in the project that the brand needed to be further defined so the logo could take shape.

If we develop the brand now, the logo will come later.

Michael Masci

As a designer I’ve often found myself being asked to design logos. I don’t contend to be a logo designer by any means as what I always end up developing is a very distinct brand and style to my clients’ websites. I develop the brand, and the logo comes later. That doesn’t mean that I don’t design a logo-ish element in my design to represent the company, but by no means is that the final logo. It is after developing this brand and style that I know what direction the logo needs to go in.

So am I telling everyone to stop designing logos forever? Yes and no. Hear me out:

  • A logo is a part of the brand. If a brand isn’t defined and organized in terms of how it will be carried about in style and business strategy then the logo is useless.
  • I’ll ask you as I did in my previous article on DesignInformer to think about Apple. If we didn’t know Apple as a brand and only looked at their logo, we would say they were apple farmers in the U.S. It’s because we know their brand that we know what Apple is as a technology-related company. Similarly, all of Apple’s products have a distinct style to them that are known to be “Apple.” For example, if you were to dissect an iPod (prior to the touch) and show someone only the turnwheel who had been influenced at some point by Apple, they would know “that’s the controls on the iPod.” An effective brand is one that has many elements and that, even when separated, distinctly represents the company.
  • A logo is a very important first impression of a business. Much like us designers judge books by their covers, a logo is the first glimpse at the company through a client’s eyes. While I’m not saying we necessarily design logos that (like Apple’s) are completely off-track from what the company is all about, we need to ensure as well that the brand defines the company. Not just the logo.

What Do You Think?

What do you think of this idea? Do you think it’s more effective to design a logo than a brand? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

19 Comments

  1. m a r c o on | Reply

    Very interesting article. I always begin developing my logo using a concept, as supposed to something that may look pretty, but has nothing to relate with the company. Having created many logos for companies that have yet to develop any history (many start-ups and small businesses), the concept of “brand” is pretty idealized. It becomes like a “catch 22″. You are hired as a designer (by a start-up) to first design their identity, stationary, etc. The concept of a “brand” is related to people’s perception of your company, which in this case doesn’t exist… The development of a brand will be truly achieved IF every piece of the puzzle relates to each other: Logo, typefaces, imagery, theme, style, voice, etc. As designers we can achieve this by always doing an exceptional job and have those clients coming back so we can design their brochures, websites, stationary, etc. as well as their logos. It will then become a brand in people’s minds, regardless of the size of the company.

  2. Daniel Groves on | Reply

    Definitely something to take into account in the future while developing new client projects.
    Thanks for an interesting read!

  3. Miguel Vaca on | Reply

    For me this statement is very clear as i was teacher of corporate identity management. Right now i sale services with UX involved so my new motto is paraphrasing you: If we develop the communication strategy now, the website will come later

    Very clever.

  4. Aaron Vail on | Reply

    thanks for that post it was interesting! and very true

  5. Tony Naccarato on | Reply

    For some reason this topic is coming up a lot and I really believe that we are thinking about it way too much. I agree and disagree at the same time about your article. I think there needs to be more thought behind the brand of a company than just the logo, but if you wait and develop a logo after the brand is defined, some of our clients might not ever get to have a logo.

  6. Insaneman on | Reply

    well said, thanks for the knowledge!
    I’ll keep in mind for ever

  7. Anfex on | Reply

    Great article: short, smart and useful like i prefer most of the time :)

  8. Jason on | Reply

    I made a logo for a business called Fire Forensics and Safety Consulting. The logo was saying something to the clients: engineering and fire! For me it was simple in that I put fire together with a gear. I agree with what you are saying with the logo thing but sometimes if you just get the logo out there it will turn into something more than what you expected.

  9. Nikolas Allen on | Reply

    In my experience, it’s a lot easier to create effective branding signals (logos, websites, print collateral) for clients who have a good idea of what their brand is.

    Unfortunately, many clients are tight on time, patience and budget and they just want something that “looks good.”

    In either case, an essential question to ask the client is this: What is the ONE THING you want your company/product to stand for in the minds of your customer?

    Knowing the answer to this makes it easier to create design that will convey their desired brand promise.

  10. Dominique on | Reply

    I couldn’t agree more. I often send annoyed clients away from our “logo” meetings telling them to work on some brand building exercises first. Logos are quite late in the process. Especially for a new business.

  11. david on | Reply

    I developed my site and my brand for about 18 months before contacting a designer to help me come up with a logo.

    Now lots of people recognize the logo as part of my brand. This is a very good thing.

    Thanks for the great article.

  12. esmaeel on | Reply

    thanks alot very useful!

  13. Yan Hughes on | Reply

    So true so true!!

  14. sboyle on | Reply

    I disagree. Generally I design 3-5 drastically different logos for a client. Depending on what direction we go from that point can affect the “look” of everything from that point significantly.

  15. Alice Dagley on | Reply

    Thank you for the article! I share your opinion. Logo can’t be a separate product. It’s a part of your business style. And we can’t take it out of context. I realized it when I was working on one of my project. We designed a website and a logo for one of our client. The matter was that the website created one designer and the logo another. Both website and logo were great. And our client was delighted with our work. But at coding stage when we integrated the website and the logo together we realized that they contrasted with each other. We had to spend a lot of time to make them more blended. Now our designers work more closely with each other discussing together different points about fonts, graphics and whole style.
    I think that people make mistake when order website in one company, logo in the second and branding in the third one. Every designer has his own style and it’s difficult to imitate it correctly. So I, as a manager, advice our clients to think first about their business style or branding, and only after start to design logo and website to avoid tastelessness and clash.

  16. Daisy on | Reply

    Good article. Brand is a wide concept. If someone is asking us- what is your ‘personality’ – what we will say? Is it our looks, our mentality, or our abilities and talents..? When we are born, we will have a name- but that is not our personality. Just like that, Logo and names are the initial part of branding. It is an evolving process for a business.

    -Daisy

  17. hermes kelly bag on | Reply

    I disagree. Generally I design 3-5 drastically different logos for a client. Depending on what direction we go from that point can affect the “look” of everything from that point significantly.

  18. Brett Widmann on | Reply

    This is a great article! Definitely some stuff to keep in mind for the future.

  19. James Costa on | Reply

    I’m saying they need to develop the brand in general before they even design any visual elements. :-)

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