Why so many logos are a waste of time, money & effort (and what to do instead)

March 11, 2019

It happens so often. People just starting out in business, not sure yet how they're going to sell their thing or who their audience is, and what do they tell me?

"I need a logo."

But do you really? Is that actually what you need?

Almost always, that's a no. What you need is clarity. Clarity is the foundation of good design. Without it, that pretty logo is empty, meaningless. It's probably going to have to be thrown away and redone within a year, maybe even less.

Something else, too: a logo isn't what you need, but it also isn't really what you’re looking for. Most often, what you're looking for is a stamp of legitimacy. For a face to put on for the world, one that looks better than you think you are.

You're trying to put on the outer trappings of a success you don't really think you deserve.

Can great design elevate your business? Absolutely. But not by leaping ahead to a stage you're not ready for. By seeing the greatness that's already in you, the great results you're already getting for your clients, the great gifts you are already embodying in the world. Getting clarity on what that looks like takes time to do right, and you get there by doing your thing, not by waiting till you have the perfect logo, the perfect website.

Just start. Start where you are.

Why getting a logo designed might be a waste of your resources

(My awesome business coach talks about ROR - return on resources - vs. ROI, return on investment, and I'm going to borrow her thinking here.

Too often, people think about money as the main thing they invest, forgetting all about time and energy. Energy and money are renewable, but time isn't. Time is your most precious resource. So even if you go the DIY route to save money, spending a lot of time agonizing over a logo design when you're not even serving clients yet is a huge waste.

Sounds like I'm belittling my own profession, right? Design is a waste of money, don't bother...? What? We know that isn't true. Whether it's your book cover, your brand, or your website, design that visually represents how you show up in your work is going to help you attract your perfect-fit people. There's no question about that

But if you haven't been at it long enough to develop a clear understanding of those two elements - how you show up, and who those people are - you're guessing. That's great! Guessing is exactly the right thing to do when you need new info. That's how you experiment. Think of something you're willing to try, and try it. Just don't put a lot of resources into branding your guess before you'll do anything with it. That's procrastination, and it won't get you the information you need.

Guess on a smaller scale, go for it long enough to see what happens and how you feel about it, question your assumptions. Learn about yourself, the people you like to work with, the problems you like to solve. New insights will develop. They always do.

So how do you know when it IS time for a pro-designed logo/brand/website?

And do you have to settle for fugly in the meantime? (Spoiler alert: I will never ask you to settle for fugly.)

There's more than one kind of logo design, and when I say you probably don't need a logo, I mean the specific kind most people are thinking of when they tell me they need a logo designed.

Ready to wade through a little jargon with me? Let's go!

First, there's the wordmark. My digivisual design logo is a wordmark, pretty much.

Essentially, this is just your business name. You can get fancy and super custom with it - and we already know I'm obsessed with typography, so I love to do custom wordmarks - but you can also start with a very simple DIY wordmark, and it will be perfectly effective until you're ready for an upgrade. Use a mood board to figure out what fonts and colors work with how you show up and who you show up for, and use those fonts and colors to type your business name. Boom. There's your logo.

Next, there's the logomark, which is a symbol that represents your brand without words.

A logomark often looks pretty simple, like this icon I developed for a client. But it takes time to develop an effective one.

Finally, there's the lockup, which is a wordmark and a logomark "locked" together, sometimes with a tagline.

99% of the time, this is what people are looking for when they ask for a logo design. And it does look super professional when done well. But pretty often, it's more than they really need.

Just about the worst thing you can do here is grab a piece of clip art and stick it next to your name. FUGLY. Yet that's what too many small business owners think their "logo" is supposed to be.

I'm not saying you never need a logomark or a lockup. Sometimes there's a reason to start out with something like that right away, like another client of mine, whose logo will serve as a mark of approval for products that meet their rigorous safety criteria. But for most internet entrepreneurs, anything beyond a wordmark belongs lower on the list of priorities, and it's possible it may never get to the top of the list at all.

Start with a wordmark. Figure out what fonts and colors work with how you show up and who you show up for, and use them. Boom

If you need help with that, I've got you. Contact me and let's talk about my half-day VIP service where we build your brand style together - something that will work for you NOW, that's also a base you can grow on when the time is right.

Sign up for my free 2-week email series to take your logo from amateur to awesome!

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