Because of the front-and-center accessibility and intimacy of the logo as a concept, logo design is an area where people who haven’t yet thought about practical logo design parameters feel comfortable weighing in with very specific feedback:
“Let’s see what happens when you make this a dotted line.”
“Try using an image of a starfish holding a crossbow, and he’s grinning.”
“Maybe try making this part transparent instead. And glowing. With some smoke.”
Specific design revision instructions like this are as inspired and well-intentioned as they are potentially detrimental to project success. The above examples, while slightly melodramatic, aren’t that far off from some of the requests I’ve had. I’ve parted ways before with business owners who brought an ostensibly important project to a grinding halt by bringing too many non-stakeholders into the design feedback loop. I refuse to waste their time (which is money) by indulging impractical requests.
Great logo ideas are not the exclusive province of graphic designers; some of the best marks in the business probably began as some CEO’s absent-minded doodle on a the back of an envelope. However, in the context of a logo design initiative for a smaller business who has outsourced the task to a fully-qualified vendor, it really doesn’t pay to be very hands-on.
The fact is that a client’s over-reaching involvement in an outsourced design project jeopardizes that client’s return on their investment. As if it weren’t hard enough already to get metrics on the ROI of a design overhaul initiative, someone who pulls the trigger on an expensive design project makes it even more complicated by getting too involved.
As a business owner, your priorities should guide the direction of the ship; “what” vs. “how”. Every second, every ounce of energy focused on low-value minutia is time and energy taken away from high-value tasks. Thomas Jefferson spoke of his admiration for Franklin and Washington, who “…laid their shoulders to the great points, knowing the smaller ones would follow of themselves.” A more recently elected U.S. President, while campaigning, was heard to have objected to his campaign’s innovative logo design, but quickly moved on citing “…bigger fish to fry.” This hyper-focus on the big picture is commendable.
“But the logo is the first thing people see…it’s critical for us to have the right logo.”
I appreciate that sentiment, and as a professional designer I respect each and every client’s paid prerogative. The logo itself, though, is NOT your brand. Your brand is the entirety of efforts; your organization’s body of work, the value you have delivered and will deliver, and the impact your product or service has on the world…these things are what give your logo mark its meaning, and not the other way around. Before the color green meant “go” it meant something else. The designations of universal traffic colors have rather arbitrary origins that by virtue of their use have come to acquire their present meaning.
“How am I supposed to go with a logo I don’t like?”
Put your priorities in the right place and this becomes moot. Businesses live and die by what they do and how well they do it. The best way to build a brand is to be #1 in the field, better than the rest without question. If you hire someone competent to design you a logo, let them do it and be done with it so you can return focus to the future of your business. In order to be successful in business, you have to build a better mousetrap. You don’t need to build a better logo (unless your logo has major problems.)