How To Choose A Logo Designer

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A well-designed logo is probably one of the most important issues when it comes to design of corporate identity. The logo has to be describable, memorable, scalable and effective without color.

To fulfill these criterias is a quite hard task to accomplish which is why you need a professional logo designer to save your time and achieve best results up front. However, the choice of really good designers is quite time-consuming. What should you keep in mind in making your choice?

In this article David Airey1, a logo designer himself, offers his personal perspective on the selection of logo designers, provides some insights in his workflow and explains why you should think twice before choosing logo designers from the Google’s Results front page.

logo design crowd

by David Airey

It can’t be easy choosing a logo designer. There are thousands online, and only a handful are worth the money, so you need to be very careful when selecting the person to design your corporate identity.

There are some key aspects you need to look out for:

The strength of the logo design portfolio

Perhaps the most important of all aspects, when choosing a logo designer, is how good their past logos are. Don’t be fooled into thinking that just because a website contains hundreds of logos, that the company showing them is actually worth spending money on. What’s more important in a portfolio, 100 mediocre logo designs or 5 / 10 excellent ones?

As a logo designer myself I’m very selective about which designs I show in my logo design portfolio. There are times when a client is stubborn about using a design element that I don’t recommend, and in those cases, I present my reasoning as best I can, provide the client with what they want, and move on.

When I look through some logo design websites, I see many ideas I’d not be happy supplying a client with. There might be some gems hidden in there, amongst a raft of poor options, so why dilute the workmanship by pushing that quantity is better than quality?

A Google search for logo design, shows Logo Guru2 in the #1 spot, and here’s one of the very first portfolio examples I was greeted with on the Logo Guru homepage.

logo guru design

According to the guidelines in my article about what makes a great logo3 this one doesn’t fare too well. It’s over-complicated, and because of this, doesn’t scale well. Legibility suffers in black and white because of the low contrast and overlapping image / text, and to be honest, it looks like a mess.

I don’t mean to be over-critical of another business, and I hope I’m not coming across as too negative. To compensate, I searched the Logo Guru site until I found a more favourable logo design (below). I had to click through more than 10 pages to find it, which goes back to my point about diluting the quality. If you show poor designs, how does your client know that they won’t receive one?

logo guru design

The Serenex logo is a much better than the Blooming Boutique idea, although I always like to read why a particular logo is chosen. Too many logo design portfolios show the logo alone, without even a sentence to describe the design brief. This leaves the prospective client looking at your designs almost entirely from a subjective point of view. They have no idea if it actually works, or fulfils the criteria specified at the beginning of the project. That’s why every inclusion in my logo design portfolio is published as an individual blog post, allowing me to show specific information, design alternatives, a small sample of sketches, and for you to leave your thoughts (positive or negative) in the comment form.

How does the logo designer communicate?

With the growth of the online logo design industry, it’s becoming much less common for a client to meet face-to-face with their designer. So just how will you be communicating about your important project?

how can I help speech bubble

Before any money changes hands, be sure about the communication process, and how available your designer is across different timezones. On my contact page, I state the following:

I’m available by telephone, email, instant messaging (Skype or alternative IM software) and face-to-face if you’re based around Edinburgh, Scotland. I’ve also visited clients around the UK, and am more than happy to do so if the need arises.

You can tell a lot from the way in which someone expresses their thoughts. Grammar, spelling and punctuation can also give a snapshot into how knowledgable your prospective logo designer is (cue a reader comment pointing out a typo in this post).

Client testimonials

Who better to tell you about a particular logo designer than their previous clients? Sometimes a portfolio can tell you all you need to know, but even then, wouldn’t it be nice to read what other people think of your prospective designer?

When I’ve finished a project for a client, I make sure to ask for a testimonial. There hasn’t been one occasion where a recommendation was refused, and I show a few client comments on the ‘hire me’ page of my site4.

I think it’s vital to include a name after the testimonial, and better yet, a link to their website, or their email address (of course you must ask permission before supplying any contact info). A photo is also a nice touch which I’ve seen implemented. I’ve seen a lot of fake testimonials, and they’re normally easy to spot (no name, no website).

Questions a logo designer asks

It’s impossible to design a logo that works, without answers. Questions that should be asked revolve around company history, the target market, what sets the business apart, the company goals, the service or product offered.

information

At present, there are a couple of options for my logo design clients to take. They can either receive my design questionnaire via email, whereby they type their answers below my questions and ping the email back, or they can complete my interactive PDF form, found on the ‘hire me’ page of my website. If you like to create a similar form for yourself, there are details here – how to create interactive PDF forms5.

The logo design process

What do you know about how your designer works? What steps are taken before and after a logo design has been chosen? Will you receive the file types needed for both print and web, at any size of reproduction?

logo design research

It goes without saying, that when you’re spending a large amount of your hard-earned cash, you want to know exactly what you’re paying for. My personal logo design process is available for all to see, and I aim to be as transparent as possible in my working practices, in order to build trust, and a lasting client relationship.

Timeframe for project completion

Good logo design takes time. A logo designer can’t simply jump in front of their computer, type your company name, add an icon and send the file. You should expect a quality outcome to take at least three days, and don’t forget any possible revisions that may be required.

clock hands

My estimated timeframe for logo design completion is usually five working days, following receipt of an initial downpayment. Be wary of companies who offer a 24 hour turnaround time. It’s simply not realistic, and shows that very little time is actually spent researching your business and competition. Research and brainstorming is an important part of the design process, and should never be overlooked.

To summarize

Next time you’re looking for a logo designer, think twice before choosing those on the front page of Google.

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://www.davidairey.com
  2. 2 http://www.logoguru.co.uk/index.php
  3. 3 http://www.davidairey.com/what-makes-a-good-logo/
  4. 4 http://www.davidairey.com/about/
  5. 5 http://www.davidairey.com/how-to-create-interactive-pdf-forms/

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  1. 1

    You Rock!, excellent article!,

    In my university we have that kind of discussion about how a logo work on different enviroments, and for 99% super illustrated logos don’t work in smaller version or in black and white.

    “Everyday smashing my brain!”

    3
  2. 2

    Awesome article David, its good to see you doing some guest posts on Smashing Magazine. Maybe you could stop by sometime on my site? Haha.

    0
  3. 3

    I’ll also ignore the fact that you are on the front page for “logo designers.”

    0
  4. 4

    Wow creating a logo in 5 working days! If you ask me that’s a miracle.
    I think David skips essential workflowelements, like questioning the target-group, making internal and external analyses. A logo created without this information isnt that deep.

    By the way, nice advertising method from SM!

    2
  5. 5

    Is it ok to put logo concepts on your portfolio that aren’t being used by a company?

    -1
  6. 6
  7. 7

    This seems like a paid advertisement. Come on Smashing, what happened to your great content, I click on your ads like 5 times a day.

    2
  8. 8

    A logo is only part of an overall Corporate Identity, but it is a big part. Great logos are not easy to do, nor is a great designer easy to find. Mr. Airey is obviously really talented (e.g. great) and definitely seasoned.

    I think the biggest thing is good communication right from the start… This is a really great read for both client and designer. Thanks!

    0
  9. 9

    This is basically just one big advert for this David guy, not only is the article linking to his website, it even includes an excerpt of his contact page. This is not the high standard I am used to from Smashing Magazine and I don’t appreciate such a high level of self promotion from a guest writer.

    5
  10. 10

    I’d have to agree. This is shameless self-promotion. Why would I, a designer, need to know how to find a good logo designer? I know what makes a good logo designer: me.

    3
  11. 11

    cemiotika, Dustin, moriah,

    Thanks very much for your comments, and I’m glad you both liked the article. The fact that I’m on the 1st page of Google for ‘logo designer’ is irrelevant to the main point of my write-up. Before hiring anyone, myself included, you should always be aware of the work of a specific designer, and the criteria that a good logo design should employ. ;)

    Brad,

    The ‘how to’ is a good idea for a blog post, and I appreciate you looking at my article from the light I intended it to be.

    I was going to publish this post on my own blog, and would’ve been happy to have this content on my own domain, but I thought I’d run it past Vitaly to see if he was interested in it. He said he was, so here we are.

    Stefan,

    You’re absolutely right that a logo created in 5 days is very short. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but for the prices I charge, it’s simply not realistic to conduct extensive focus groups. I’m young, relatively new to the industry, and have a lot to learn. I do appreciate you commenting though. The vast majority of my design projects for logos last between 2 and 4 weeks.

    Dylan,

    Yes, it’s fine to put logo ideas in your portfolio that aren’t actually used. You spent the time creating them, so it’s representative of what you can achieve. This is very relevant, and is what potential clients will want to see.

    Brent,

    Thanks for that. It means a lot.

    Lauren,

    Very kind of you to comment in my defense. I also thought that this article would be helpful for business people in search of logo designers. I’d have been just as happy to publish it on my own blog, to point future clients towards. Now, however, I don’t want to point them here due to some of the comments, which is unfortunate. That’s not to say I’m not very appreciative of Sven, Vitaly, and anyone else who thought my writing was worthy enough to be published here. I am.

    Mark,

    That’s fantastic that you’d think to consider me, or someont like me, were you not already happy with your designer. Good of you to say so.

    It’s vital for a designer to educate their clients, and you’re right to expect it.

    0
  12. 12

    i really liked to tut, it gave a lot of good advice to people who aren’t experienced in the logo field. i could see many people jumping to the first logo company they see without really knowing what to look for or if the company will fulfill their business needs. this was good information for people who aren’t very familiar with the design world. and so what if smashing magazine recommends this guy? it’s probably because he’s good and deserves the credit.

    6
  13. 13

    (insert good tip here)

    then

    (insert shameless self-promo here)

    repeat.

    tsk tsk, smashing magazine… tsk tsk

    -1
  14. 14

    Thanks for a good article. I feel the presentation comes from an “I do good work, see what I think sets my work apart” perspective. Yes, it is self-promoting, but it also has some incidental insights. Like implying the fee is large enough to cover travel expenses. Like establishing both the format of the online questionnaire, the fact that working up a design brief includes a questionnaire process, and the implication that the questionnaire is proprietary. The fact that the questionnaire is proprietary shouldn’t be a surprise, but the reminder is useful. Just as protecting client interests is important.

    I admit I came to this article looking for more of a how-to to do logo design (after reading a criticism of NBC’s all green peacock), but this article on the preparation to get started, it is still useful to me.

    Thanks.

    2
  15. 15

    this really is crap…..

    -2
  16. 16

    Aaron :: miLienzo.com

    November 10, 2007 8:14 am

    Nice article David – was pleasantly surprised to see your name popping up on my Smashing Magazine RSS feed, if slightly confusing. I think this article is very different to the usual SM link-bait, digg-friendly exhaustive top fifty list type of article, that peraps it’s a bit too different for some of the regulars round here. A bit like walking in to some of pubs round my way. Don’t worry mate, I got your back ;)

    0
  17. 17

    I second “LaurenMarie – Creative Curio” comments, David is a very modest guy read. Check out his blog for some great content.

    Jamie

    0
  18. 18

    Brent the Closet Geek

    November 10, 2007 3:33 am

    I found this article really helpful, it’s something I’ve been wondering of late since my own graphic design skills are lackluster and everyone of my attempts at a logo fails.

    And I don’t get all the people whining about self-promotion, I didn’t read any self-promotion in the article. Sure you use yourself as an example of a good logo designer, but without explaining your own prowess how are we to know your giving good advice? I say ignore the whiny trolls.

    3
  19. 19

    LaurenMarie - Creative Curio

    November 10, 2007 3:51 am

    I know David via his blog and he is a very open, honest and professional designer. To me, this article seemed like his genuine take on the business end of the logo design process from the point of view of the designer. I think this would be very helpful to business people look for a designer. It’s important to know the points David stated, especially for those first-timers!

    I completely agree with Brent (and thanks for sticking up for David, Brent and Moriah. He really is a great guy). I didn’t see any shameless self promotion. Yes a mention that he is a logo designer, but of course! That’s the whole point! The article is written about the process from the designer’s POV.

    Congrats, David, on getting an article published with SM.

    @Brad K: head over to David’s blog if you want more useful logo resources. He often does a break down of his process for new logos he’s produced.

    @Dylan: of course! If they are works you are proud of.

    2
  20. 20

    Great article. i think great advice to people looking for a designer is seek out designers who are providing tons of great free information. This article is a great example. Although I personally have a graphic designer I love, if I had no contacts I would be partial to a designer like this who is educating me on how to shop for a designer. I know they will be also be more partial to educating me during the actual design process.

    2
  21. 21

    Very good article by a very good logo designer. I think the people saying this is self promotion completely missed the point of the article. I visit David’s blog frequently and have spoke with him on other occasions and he’s not the type to go around tooting his own horn. He doesn’t have to, his work speaks for itself.

    Keep up the good work David. You’ll never please everyone. :-)

    0
  22. 22

    I don’t know David at all but I liked the article very much…glad to see he’s got some good friends to watch his back in the comments…sheesh, rough crowd here sometimes.

    This article works well for more than just business folks. I used to design my own logos for the sites I developed. But after some time, I realized that I suck at logo design and I don’t like it either. I’m great at UI design and server side coding but not logos. So, this article is useful for developers or site architects who might need to find a logo designer every so often.

    Keep your head up, David. Great job!

    0
  23. 23

    DAVID, I don’t understand, your site ( http://www.davidairey.com/ ) looks good, and is very well SEO’d and is XHTML / CSS, but the top!!! It’s a huge image. The top banner image behind your logo represents no content, and therefore should be brought in using CSS, … AND!!!, you should have an h1 replace for your logo so that blind people can see it too.

    This is the code for an XHTML h1 logo replace.

    Name of Company

    /* This doesn’t account for positioning of the h1 or classes or ids */

    h1 {
    display: block
    width: ??px;
    height: ??px;
    }

    h1 a {
    display: block
    width: ??px;
    height: ??px;
    float: left;
    position: relative;
    background: transparent url (“http://www.url.com/images/logo.png”) top left no-repeat;
    }

    h1 a span {
    display: none;
    }

    0
  24. 24

    I read David’s articles regularly and find his design process clear and logical.

    I am not sure why SM reader want to slam him for linking back to his site, as doing a guest post is a good way to promote yourself while providing good information.

    0
  25. 25

    Honestly there are not many quality blogs left on the internet where every single post is a (pardon the pun) smashing success. However while I can excuse the normal site editors for trying something different, this guest post is both a blatent linkbait attempt and a critical slam on the hard work of anyone at Logo Guru. There is nothing smashing at all about that…

    I really hope the editors of this blog know what they are getting into with these guest writers. Great blogs have been and will continue to be ruined by an influx of guest writers. I hope this blog isn’t one of them.

    Good Luck ( I still love the site! )

    0
  26. 26

    Man…the comments here are like Digg! Get over yourselves, guys.

    Like Aaron, I was pleasantly surprised to see David’s name here. He’s an awesome guy, who works hard at what he does. He will continue to be a success, simply because he believes in what he does, and tries to achieve the best every time.

    2
  27. 27

    Michael (Boicozine)

    November 10, 2007 8:52 pm

    A ‘logo designer’ is just another name for a graphic designer who has failed to understand the greater complexities of creating company identities. Hiring a ‘logo designer’ instead of a fully fledged ‘graphic designer’ might seem easier by you won’t get the full service your business requires… all you’ll end up with is a mark.

    0
  28. 28

    Nur Ahmad Furlong

    November 10, 2007 9:56 pm

    Having focussed on my logo design offering heavily over the last few weeks and coming across david’s writing it’s nice to see this type of article on Smashing Mag.

    I just had the worst experience with a logo design project which I invested a huge amount of effort and time on and the client rejected all options. What’s worse is that they refuse to tell me why they don’t like the logos and expect me to start from scratch without any information other than their comanies’ names.

    I’m running a {Logo Design Questions & Answers competition} on my site where those who ask can WIN a logo design. The questions have been good so far and it shows that logo designers need to be strategizing and educating people about the nitty gritty of logo design. Thanks for all your great writing david, I’m gonna be doing my own logo design questionaire inspired by yours.

    0
  29. 29

    excellent articles. thanks

    0
  30. 30

    It’s nice if you add some in depth info about branding, but overall… it’s a nice post…

    0
  31. 31

    I think it is unfair to call this piece “shameless self promotion” simply because David includes a link to his site and some info on how he approaches the business of designing a logo. The thought process behind choosing a ‘logo designer’ could also be applied to choosing almost any service, simply by being on the front of the google results page for a popular phrase doesn’t mean you going to get the best designer/company/service.

    One point i do have to make is that i don’t agree with the fact that David actually named the design company in question (Logo Guru), that feels a little unethical, but apart from that i thought the article would be beneficial for small business owners and those in search of what to look for when choosing a logo designer. I am a regular reader of David’s blog and his articles are always insightful and interesting!

    0
  32. 32

    Sorry to be a pedant, but it’s one criterion, two criteria. So “To fulfill these criteriA is a quite hard …”, but “To fulfill these criteriaS is …” just wrong!

    0
  33. 33

    hi everybody .. i´m fine with the self promo fot the article author .. i think this is fair and in the context to advertising right. But i think the quality of the artcle is very basic and for real or advanced designers it contains less or nothing on information. I would expect something more innovative and more deep going not so much traditional thinking, because i think with old ways of thinking you don´t gain unique “new” solutions for your audience.

    keep real quality alive, stop repeating … greetings, max

    0
  34. 34

    Agree with MikeMike, this article was pointless self promotion with little to educate anybody, least of all SM’s target audience. Shame.

    -2
  35. 35

    I am a bit buggered by the lack of defining the value of Branding in your article. Just the title How to choose a logo designer is a… is a misnomer. It should be How to choose a designer period.

    Identity design is a minor aspect of a much larger picture. Quality designers create brands, companies that cannot afford a brand style guide and a solid creative direction those companies look for bargain bin solutions. And thats when you have people looking for logo designers ( I create logos too, but I never leave my clients with just a mark. I admit I used too when I was just starting out.. but then what happen is the mark get’s reproduced ten thousand times and everytime after that the mark gets replaced edited reworked messed up etc. etc. and that just the mark’s integrity, that doesn’t even get into communication, or market placement, or trying to create a style guide to target certain demographics etc. ) . Logo design is filled with hacks, your article at least addresses this. But what it doesn’t encompass is that good designers do way more than just create a logo.

    They create a look a feel a system to keep it’s integrity and……
    They create a messaging system that communicates to potential clients and at best create emotional responses that are preplanned. And more talented brand managers, can find ways to place value on these identities. It’s a really interesting field that is not nearly as narrow as just.. Logo Design.

    Joseph Maguire

    0
  36. 36

    As stated by Jack Smith

    This is not the high standard I am used to from Smashing Magazine and I don’t appreciate such a high level of self promotion from a guest writer.

    I agree with him.

    0
  37. 37

    It’s a good read, but the summary looks too mean.

    0
  38. 38

    “In this article.. by David Airey, we’ve got an interview with David Airey”
    Spam!

    -2
  39. 39

    For the love of donuts!!! It’s amazing to me how many tard-spanks will get on great blogs like this and just whine and complain about nothing. I visit this site almost daily and I found this article quite helpful. Who cares if it linked back to his site? Most of you guys post personal websites in your comments when the article isn’t even about you! All I have to say is grow up and get over yourselves!

    To David, Great article! Being a designer, it really helped me understand some of the important basic principles of good logo design such as simplicity and whether or not it looks good black and white. I was also glad to see how long it takes other designers to do certain jobs so that I can gauge my own progress. Just want you to know that I appreciate the time you took to write this article.

    2
  40. 40

    Бизнес-идеи

    November 18, 2007 6:05 am

    The often evil: many companies CEOs think that design can help them even if their products and services are awfull.

    Design can attract attantion, but it cant replace the quality of working.

    0
  41. 41

    Thanks so much to Vitaly and Sven for letting me guest author on Smashing Magazine. I’m grateful to have this opportunity to reach a wider audience.

    Thanks also, to every one of you who posted positive or constructive comments about my short article. I’m very sorry I can’t mention you individually, as I’m quite pushed for time before I take a break from work and blogging, but I do really appreciate your kind words.

    Should you have any questions, or think that I can be of assistance in any way, please get in touch. I’ll do all I can to help.

    0
  42. 42

    Shameless self promotion yes, but at least hes doing something for himself. Its a good read for people new to the craft. On the flip side of this article, here is a story about getting the most from your client”.

    0
  43. 43

    I think you focused the article from a wrong point of view… I think you should save the parts where you tell us how good you are and how bad your competitors are.

    Nice article but bad marketing strategy mate :(

    0
  44. 44

    How to realize IDEA become good logo, that the main point ;)

    0
  45. 45

    Good Post Regarding Logos.. keep it up and please check out mine also

    0
  46. 46

    hmm….helpful but I expected more….

    0
  47. 47

    David. Did you mean? Logo Guru sucks……….

    0
  48. 48

    Hi David Airey. Of course. LogoDesignGuru and LogoGuru, both are, bogus and fraudulent companies that fools people by design low quality logos. I ordered their “superior” package and I was very frustrated with their designs. When I complained them, probably I got reply from their ESL support who did not even understand what I exactly want! This company obviously sucks… Be aware.

    0
  49. 49

    Nice article…Thank you very Much

    0
  50. 50

    does anyone love the google ads that are for companies this article says to avoid. hehe

    0
  51. 51

    Very well done on this post. I should contact you for a critique of my logos, I am interested in what you would say!

    0
  52. 52

    Good stuff…for both business and graphic designers.

    it’s always helpful to see how the pros approach and deal with their projects. That’s how you learn. Not only does he give tips about what sort of graphic designer to look for but this tutorial is almost a step by step process on how he would deal with his customers. I’d say write down these tips and use ‘em….and quit the complaining.

    0
  53. 53

    Great advice! Well – written David! I do agree the fact that hundreds of logo portfolio on a website does not mean they are good and professional. I Google search for logo design and found lots and lots of website that offers affordable logo designs. I have no idea which is the best. I always thought logo design company sitting on top of the list on Google were the best, but apparently not. It took me awhile to decide on a company. I finally decide on Logo Design Creation. Their portfolio work win me over! I did not regret choosing them. They were affordable and most importantly professional and creative!

    I would love to share some free deals with you guys. I’ve been given a $10 gift certificate from them awhile back. Just thought I share it with you guys here, since I won’t be needing it. If you’re looking for a well-designed, affordable logo, then you might be interested in this offer. Just use this $10 gift cert code on their website: 6it2ylf3xy

    Give them a shot! you won’t regret it :)

    0
  54. 54

    Nice article, but at the end the client himself determines the logo like what he likes.
    No matter whether he understood the concept of a good logo or not. It is very troublesome.
    Can you give some advice?

    0

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