I have a degree in graphic design. The subject matter is as you’d expect: design theory, logo design, building websites, designing for print, and the like. Only my field of study was not called “graphic design.” That is, in fact, the field of study that my degree is in—but the institution from which I earned my degree had a different term for that field of study.
What they called it was Visual Communication. So properly speaking, I have a degree in Visual Communication, not “graphic design.”
Why does this matter?
If a logo isn’t communicating, it isn’t working, and it ultimately isn’t going to help the brand.
It matters because graphic design is fundamentally communication, and whoever doesn’t understand that is destined to misuse it and misapply it. Design is supposed to say something, and it’s supposed to do that visually—with visuals rather than words. If design doesn’t say something, it’s not doing what it’s supposed to do. If it’s random or incidental, it isn’t communicating, and if it’s not communicating, it isn’t working.
Design that isn’t intentionally trying to say something is like letters that aren’t trying to spell anything. Omeinwru siustnsqzx ening rnmu restousleel chooimpt. That’s the equivalent of, for example, a logo that isn’t designed to communicate something specific. It’s meaningless and it doesn’t help anyone.
In other words, if your company logo doesn’t really say something, it’s not doing what it’s supposed to do, and it’s not helping you. It might even be hurting you.
Design is fundamentally communication. If it’s not communicating, it isn’t working, and it ultimately isn’t going to help your brand or business.
With that in mind, here are 5 fool-proof ways to guarantee that your logo design will be a failure and that it doesn’t help your brand at all.
1. Make sure your logo is all about what you like and what you think “looks cool”
Here’s a tip: Your logo is not about “looking cool,” it’s not about what you like. It should ‘look cool,’ and it should be something you like—but that shouldn’t be the goal. The goal of your logo is to accurately and attractively represent your brand to your target customers. (And here’s another secret: when it does that well, it’ll be ‘cool’ and you’ll really, really like it.)
To make sure that your logo completely undermines the appeal that you’re trying to make to potential customers, make it all about your personal preferences on what looks cool.
2. Make sure your designer’s #1 goal is to design a logo that “looks cool”
If a designer isn’t crystal clear on the fact that he or she is in the business of communicating, he or she shouldn’t be designing your logo. A designer’s job is not creating art. A designer isn’t an artist. A designer’s job is communicating, because design is fundamentally communication.
If you want to guarantee that your logo won’t help your brand at all, make sure you find a really creative designer who is completely oblivious to his or her responsibility to communicate.
3. Make sure you’re completely oblivious about who your target market is
You can’t say ‘circus’ to people who are looking for ‘professional integrity,’ or else they’ll hear ‘circus’ and keep right on walking without ever even thinking twice about it.
If your search for a logo design isn’t concretely tied to a clear understanding of what you do and who you do it for, it’s going to fail. It will completely miss the mark when it comes to communicating to the people you want to talk to.
Think about it: an English-speaking American is building a table, so you give him an instruction manual in Chinese—and the manual’s for a digital clock.
You have to say the right thing, to the right people, in a way that they’ll understand. To use our example from above, you can’t say ‘circus’ to people who are looking for ‘professional integrity,’ or else they’re going to see your logo and hear ‘circus’ and keep right on walking without ever even thinking twice about it.
They’ll pass you right on by without ever realizing it, and you won’t even be a blip on their radar.
If you want to make sure that your logo doesn’t attract a single customer, make sure that you pay absolutely no attention to your target market.
4. Make sure you’re trying to find the cheapest possible logo design option
This may seem unrelated, but hear me out.
If cost is reflective value, and wage is reflective skill, the cheapest possible option is usually the cheapest for a reason. Don’t miss this fact: “cheap” is the value of an inexpensive product. It’s cheap. That is its value. So, you can’t expect to find “good” when you’re looking for “cheap.” “Good” is a value that’s provided by the “good” product.
If cost is reflective value, and wage is reflective skill, the cheapest possible option is usually the cheapest for a reason.
Now, that doesn’t mean that your logo design needs to cost the GDP of a small nation. However, if even a “cheap” logo design is reasonably going to be in the neighborhood of $500 or more, why risk paying for it twice because the first attempted sucked and you’re getting it redesigned in 12 months?
So how does this relate to what we’re talking about? Answer: Good communication is a value of the “good” logo design options. Remember, wage is reflective of skill. Therefore, the very reason the “cheap” options are inexpensive is because you’re not paying for the skill of communication.
Listen, when they’re offering “quick and cheap,” that’s what you’re going to get because that is the value they’re offering you. If you want “good”—that is, if you really want your logo to accurately and powerfully communicate who you are to the people you’re trying to attract—you have to seek out the option that provides “good” as its primary value.
The point is this: If you want to make sure that your logo doesn’t do anything for your brand, find the cheapest possible option.
Have you been frustrated by a design process in which you weren’t heard, your objectives weren’t honored, your vision wasn’t captured, your logo was all wrong, and now you’re stuck with something you paid too much for that you can’t stand or don’t even use? It happens. Designers fail here all the time. Agencies are not uncommonly complicit, either.
We don’t go back and forth 50 times. We usually don’t go back and forth more than twice. That’s because we listen better than anyone else and get it right the first time.
We get it, and we sympathize. That’s why we work so hard to listen well and get it right the first time. We don’t go back and forth 50 times. We usually don’t go back and forth more than twice. Not because we’re so talented, but because we listen better than anyone else and get it right the first time.