What’s in a logo

December 30th, 2014


Logo design, and for that matter brand design, are not cookie-cutter solutions.

Sure, an agency can state that they have stock imagery that gets “close” to a logo design that captures the essence of your business. That’s like trying to be authentic by hanging a box-store piece of art in your living room, knowing that somewhere out there, thousands of other living rooms are donning the same badge of “authenticity”.

At Treefrog, we’re very passionate about design. It’s what makes us unique. Our attention to artistic creativity and visual impact is what sets us apart from other agencies.

We are also passionate about defending the work that goes into good design.

There’s been an emergence of online stock design companies recently. These companies create tension in the market because it makes people think that a brand is something you can just choose and move on. As if you could pick your corporate identity off a shelf and carry it to the checkout line.

What’s in a logo, really? It’s just a graphic that identifies your company brand. What’s so complicated about that? Anyone can create a logo. Right?

Some may think so, but then you have to ask yourself why so many high profile companies spend so much on logo design.

What makes a powerful company logo? Why do some logos stick out from others? What makes us remember them? If they’re so simple that just anyone could do them, then why doesn’t every company have an unforgettable logo?

Consider that your logo is a tactical piece of a brand. A logo is not a brand. If a company comes to Treefrog asking for a new brand, expecting only a new logo, we’ll challenge their thinking.

The fact is, if your company is in need of a brand revamp, you’re not going to fix the problem with a logo. Don’t confuse an iconic symbol of your business as being the entirety of your brand identity. There’s far more to the concept of brand than a logo.

That is not to say that a logo is not an important part of your brand; quite the contrary. This is partly because of the fact that people can immediately tell a shoddy logo from one that’s quality. Your logo can immediately cause people to identify your company as either slapdash, or serious. That’s a pretty powerful sentiment to leave people with as a first impression.

Ideally, the logo will convey a feeling. Maybe it’s powerful enough to spark a memory. It needs the depth of meaning in order to foster an emotional attachment with people.

Keep in mind that a brand encapsulates all the pieces that a company uses to communicate with the world; from business cards, letterhead, brochures, colour uses, typography and image choice. A logo is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to establishing a brand.

The Potato Factor

Gaby Hart, a faculty member at Georgian College for design, summed up logo design succinctly by saying: “A logo is a mark that a company can be remembered by; it should be so simple that you could draw it in the sand with a stick.”

In a similar vein, at Treefrog, we say that you should be able to cut your logo out of a potato. Think of all the things you want to do with your logo—feature it on print pages, your website, have it emblazoned on T-shirts and display it on trade show booth signs that need to be visible from hundreds of yards away. Who knows, you may actually want to have your logo in potato form.

Your logo should be able to stand out in a group of other logos listed on a partner webpage. It should be clear, definitive, and identifiable. There’s a lot of thinking that goes into the development of a logo, word mark or brand identity.

One of the many things we pride ourselves on as an agency is our personal touch. We want to spend time with you to understand your business and how you operate. Is the cost going to be higher than simply picking a logo off a shelf of dozens more like it? Sure. But you get the benefit of a team of experienced designers working with you on your brand rejuvenation.

We want to show off your logo as an emblem of our successful partnership. After all, the best logo designs are derived from collaboration, and a deep understanding of what makes your company unique.

Online Agencies: The Bargain Bin of Logo Design

Some wonder why there are agencies who charge premium amounts for logo design, when there are companies on the web kicking them out for a hundred bucks a piece. The question usually gets around to: what are you actually paying for in a logo design?

First of all, your business has its own unique identity, something that gives people the perception of character. You’ve put time and energy into your business and your brand. Would you really want to hire a stock logo company to shoehorn a look into your corporate identity? Think of it this way: who would you rather have write your autobiography, someone you know, or someone you just found online?

When your company wants a new logo, you have a few options.

1) You can go to a stock logo company.

Right away, the terms, conditions and deliverables are likely going to be different for each one you find. These companies often offer a fast turn around, and a handful of concepts for you to choose from. They may also allow you to make a number of revisions, depending on the price level you choose. Once approved, your logo may be sent to you in a variety of file formats that you will need for printing.

Where you may run into trouble: these are often online companies, i.e. they may not be locally based, so you can’t pop over to discuss your concept with the designer. They may even be in a completely different country, and there may be a language barrier. Discussing logos can often be a very abstract process and be quite an emotional experience. Email often doesn’t work when conveying emotion. Clients often cannot easily verbalize what is bugging them about a concept. A face-to-face meeting with a designer who can help you through the design jargon to focus in on the key areas can be very useful. Furthermore, with an online stock logo company, once you’ve maxed out your number of revisions, that’s it. If you’re not happy, then you have to pay for more revisions.

2) You can use a competitive design website.

These are sites where a client can post their project and the specifications and state how much they want to pay the designer. Designers then can “bid” on the job and post their ideas. After a predefined amount of time, the client then chooses which design they like most, pay the designer and the logo file is supplied.

Again, there are problems inherent in this method. This puts a lot of responsibility in the client’s hand, they have to be able to cohesively communicate the requirements of the project to a broad audience. A lot of people aren’t creatively minded, nor do they really know how to communicate what they really want. What you put in the brief will be taken literally by the designers on the site. If you’re not clear on what you want, then it’s highly likely that you won’t get what you want.

Also, since graphic design is not currently regulated by an authoritative body that checks that designers are at a particular level, ANYONE can post a design on a competitive design website. There is no regulation for quality or skill level. You may have to scroll through thousands of sub-par designs in the hope of finding your new logo. What if no one submits a design in response to your brief? That logo you desperately need will not get done until a designer, wherever they may be in the world, decides to do it.

As for revisions, it all depends on whether they were negotiated when you submitted the brief. The designer may provide the logo “as is” in which case you’d better be happy with what you got. Who knows whether the artwork file will even be constructed properly for a printer?

Here’s an analogy: imagine having a plumbing issue in your house. You know what’s wrong, but you don’t know the source of the problem. You describe the issue to the best of your ability on a website, say how much you’re willing to pay, and hit “submit”. Then you sit and wait for a plumber to come fix your problem. When (or more accurately if) that plumber arrives, you have no idea of their skill level, whether they are a legitimate plumber (maybe they do it part-time, maybe they’re a student!), whether they have any work experience and if they even know what they’re doing. The end result? Your plumbing issue might be fixed, or it might not, and you may have just flooded your house and be down $500.

3) You work with Treefrog or another Graphic Design/Branding company.

First off, you can go look at our website, get to know us, look at our portfolio of work, come meet with us and check that we’re real human beings. If you’re then happy to partner with us, you’ll soon be sitting down with our Art Director and a Designer to discuss your new logo, and the goals of your project. This is usually an in-person meeting and can be an hour or more of in-depth discussion about your company, your long term and short term goals, your likes and dislikes as well as your target market and applications.

After this meeting our designers will work on your logo. We have a team of designers and we will often work collaboratively on a project to refine ideas and come up with a wide range of concepts. Our designers have all had at minimum four years of Graphic Design training prior to working with Treefrog, and are all Graduates of recognized educational institutions. Our designers also have a wide range of skills, with backgrounds in illustration, fashion design, and editorial design—not to mention being skilled web designers. Our Art Director will work with the design team to refine your logo concepts until we’re sure they’re at the level of excellence that we aspire to here at Treefrog. These concepts will take into account your target market, the goals and future extensibility of the brand as well as adaptations for alternative printing techniques (such an embroidering on a T-shirt).

After presenting you with the concepts, we will plan another meeting, sometimes over the phone or in person (your choice) to discuss your thoughts on the presented ideas. We will then work closely with you to refine the logo concept to the final piece, until you are 100% happy. After the logo is approved we will save out a wide range of file formats and colour options to suit most, if not all possible ways that you may need the logo in the future. If you lose these files, we’ll always have backups to send to you if you need them.

At Treefrog, personality is very important. We know your company has a story, and we’d love to help you tell it. We also know that budget is a factor. But the good thing about working with an actual agency, is that we can work with you directly, and not expect you to have to conform to a rigid price structure or process for what should be a rewarding creative experience.

The point is, a brand and a logo are made up of so much more than just a stock image or your company name in a font.

What’s in a logo? You are.