You have a bunch of logo options in front of you, fresh from your graphic designer, and you don’t know which one to choose.

  • Which one looks good
  • Which one conveys the right message?
  • Which one will appeal to your customers?

As a graphic designer (the guy who makes these logos for you), I have to advice my client on which option works best for his situation and which one doesn’t. Despite the fact I was the person who created these logo options, there were many times, when I wasn’t able to help them choose one. Or I disagreed with the choices that they made, but wasn’t able to explain my reasoning effectively. 

A logo is never about preference

After experience with many different clients, choosing the best logo turned out be never about our personal preference. Your choice should not be a result of your taste. It should be a result of a critical analysis. But analysis of what, you might be asking right now. Where do you start? You start with your message. You start with your story.

So do you need a logo anyway?

 

Your logo is just a symbol. It is only a vessel for your message. Without a story, it is an empty vessel. Absolutely worthless.

This truth alone can save you possibly hundreds or thousands of dollars, and weeks and months of your life. Your logo is not your story. Your logo only refers to your story. If there is no story, your logo refers to nothing. So you don’t even need a logo, until you figure out the story of your business.

 

How to add substance to the vessel?

A logo refers to a story (your brand). It says very little in and of itself. It is meant to refer to an already understood idea (your brand). A LOGO DOES NOT TELL A STORY (a logo is not a brand). If there is no story, at best the logo can only serve to create a recognizable reference that might have meaning and context later – months or years from now.

—Andy Rutledge

 

What is your story? Very simply put, it is who you are, what you do, and how you are perceived by your customers. You can understand your story better by answering some questions about your business. A good start would be answering these:

  • What is our core idea, the reason we exist as a business?
    This is the main question you should be answering. Here you should focus on how you make your customer’s life better. Why do they choose you? See yourself from their perspective.
  • What does our business offer to our customers?
    Here you state what is the unique experience you are offering to your public. What is the reason they choose you, over your competition?
  • What personality traits does our business possess?
    As a mental experiment, try to treat your business, as if it were a person. What personality traits would he/she possess? How would you describe him/her?

I see how these questions might seem vague and hard to answer, but the good news is there is no wrong answer. Almost any answer would be better than none. At the very least it gives you a hypothesis you can experiment with, to see if it aligns with how you are perceived by your customers.

How to recognize the right logo option?

1.Does the logo refer to your story?

Now that you have a story, it is so much easier to assess whether your logo is the right fit for it. Does it hold characteristics, that are close to your busisess’ core idea, offer and personality traits?

You don’t drink whisky in a martini glass, and you don’t drink wine in a coffee mug.

If your business personality is cutting edge and hi-tech, you don’t go for the vintage logo with earthly tones and rounded edges, and vice-versa. These types of inconsistencies are misleading at best, and could lead to a lot of dissappointment for your customers, especially if they haven’t drunk from this vessel before (or haven’t experienced your brand in first person before).

2. Is the logo well executed?

This is a little bit harder to assess especially for a non-specialist, but general pointers should be:

  • Is the logo legible?
    Are you having difficulties distinguishing the shapes of the trademark symbol, or reading the brand name? Do you see symbols or shapes, which are not part of your intended message? This might mean that the particular option is not polished enough and might need more attention.
  • Is the logo simple? Is it memorable?
    Simplicity and memorability are almost always connected. If you consider something simple, that means, your brain takes less time to decipher it and to store it away for future reference. There are a lot of subtleties involved here, which would be hard for a non-specialist to detect. Simplicity is a blessing in this day and age of visual over-stimulation, but simple should never mean boring, or generic.
  • Is the logo adaptable?
  • Has your designer provided you with variants of the logo – single colored, flat colored, full color, positive, negative, stroke only?
    Of course you might not need all of them at once, and many logos do not have them all, but it is a general good practice for a logo to be easily translated to different media.
  • Has your designer provided you with different file formats, sizes, colour modes?
    This is very important, since you can use your logo in a variety of situations, which all have different requirements. You don’t use the same file for business cards, mugs, videos, and print media.

What if my customers don’t like my logo?

If all of the previous conditions are met – you have your story, a logo which is well executed and you think that refers to your story in the best way possible — then there may be two reasons why your customers don’t like it:

  • You have the wrong story.
    In most cases, your story actually does not connect with your customer. What you are offering does not click with them – they don’t see how it makes their lives better. In this case you are back to your drawing board and you need to think again about your priorities and what is your business about. As I said earlier – your story is just a hypothesis that you need to test. If it doesn’t pass the test, you need a new hypothesis, not a new logo. Your customers will either feel drawn to your story or not. The logo will not change that. Remember that the logo is just a vessel. If your public doesn’t get drawn to the substance that is inside the vessel, they won’t drink it, regardless of what vessel it is served in.
  • You are targeting the wrong people.
    In some cases you are just not targeting the right crowd. Are you receiving feedback from the people you are trying to attract or from random people, that have no interest in your work?

The wrong way is to go and ask random people if they like it or not—make polls, votes, etc. Another wrong way is to tell your story and then ask them if they can see it in the logo. A rookie mistake would be to ask them which one is more visually appealing to them.

A logo is not a painting, it is not there to make you feel good. It is more akin to a telegram – it is there to convey a specific message.

 

You communicate with your intended public. Listen to what they have to say. Ask them questions like:

  • What comes to mind, when you see this logo?
  • How would you describe this logo?
  • What do you see in this logo?

 

The answers would naturally vary. Answers may vary, but what happens is that, if you have the combination of the right story, logo, and intended public, different people start painting fragments, that overlap and connect to form the story you intended to communicate to them initially. There will always be outliers who’s opinion is completely different. Do not disregard this data. Listen to it and you may find that there is a miscommunication, which you are capable of fixing by polishing your story or your logo.

Where to go from here?

Now that you have a process which you can apply to your specific case, be sure to go through all of the steps, and make an informed decision about your logo options. Don’t waste your time and money, making assumptions based on personal taste. This will lead you to a lot of confusion and frustration on the long run.