So for a laugh, I paid a branding consultancy £12k…

Last night my husband brought to my attention the Steve Coogan audio book, Alan Partridge: Nomad.

In it, Alan describes the new logo he has designed with his branding agency.

It is quite frankly, the funniest thing I have heard in ages.

Well, they do say that there is nothing funnier than the truth, and although I haven’t had clients quite as prescriptive as Alan Partridge, I have had some that really should leave the designing to the designer and walk away.

Have a listen. Then imagine if you were being orchestrated by a client like that. Be kinder to designers.

Listen here:

Thank you Steve Coogan, you are amazing!!

New Year: a fresh perspective

I’m thinking of refreshing my logo. It’s been awhile, and with the change in my business, I think it is a good idea. Designing for myself, however, is a total nightmare. I’m a tricky customer to design for. It won’t happen anytime soon.

I often have clients come to me who are apologetic during the design stage of a logo. They hate to inconvenience me should a logo go through one or two rounds of development. It always makes me smile.

It is rare that a logo is created perfectly in the first draft*. Extremely rare. I often think the development phase is something we need, client and designer. The logo grows with us and, at the end, it should always be a something we both wanted.

This is why I HATE crowd designed logos, or ‘off the shelf’ logos. They sort of fill an initial hole but they will, like most cheap sugary things, leave you needing something more substantial.

So now comes the thorny question of cost. I recently had someone say that I was considered ‘too expensive’ because my designs were better than the ‘cheaper alternative’. I was never asked for a quote.

Wow, so I was too expensive because I was too good. I am, in fact, cheaper. I have no idea what the cheaper person was charging, but experience tells me that cheap means it will need doing again sooner. Lack of experience in design (cheap) can often lead to inconsistencies across a brand and a slap-dash approach.

A logo, in my opinion, shouldn’t be something that is redesigned every couple of years. How on earth can you gain any visual brand recognition if you do this?

So, if you are reading this and you have rejected a designer on looks alone as being too expensive, please please take the time to have a chat.

Don’t shop for design on price alone. You will just be wasting your money.

 

*This has happened to me. It was fabulous. I had a fantastic brief, and a great client team to work with. Kismet.

Goodbye 2016

So, 2016 is almost at an end, the studio shuts for Christmas next Tuesday anyhow.

It’s been a turbulent year, from Bowie dying (heartbroken), to the whole Brexit and Trump debacle.

This year, I had a few things I wanted to achieve in my business:

  1. Find some new networking groups
  2. Form a partnership with a web developer
  3. Decide how I’m going to move forward

Item 1 was soon achieved. I need to network, it is a great way to find work, and get me out of the studio and meet people. I found a BNI group in Derby that had the Graphic Design seat free, so I snapped that up. BNI has been great for me in the past, a great place to get referred work (the best type for me) and a great place to find new colleagues to partner with.

I loved the Derby group straightaway, we are in a great venue – the Velodrome, and it is mid-morning. This suits me, at the moment.

Item 2 on the list soon followed item 1. I had been starting to talk to VOX Digital about working together, so when I joined BNI and saw the Web seat was free I invited them. They are now too a member, and we try and work together as often as we can.

Item 3 is a lot trickier. With the help of my coach (agencyignite.co.uk – also a BNI member in Hertford), I have decided to be more transparent about what I do. I am NOT an agency, and after some thought I have decided I don’t want to do that. I love collaborating with lots of different creative people and don’t want to employ them.

Next year, I want to do some more smaller creative projects and, also throw myself into larger reports and presentations – which I really enjoy doing. These will hopefully allow me to get involved in some larger brand identity projects and audits (dream).

I hope 2016 has been kind to you too, and I wish you a prosperous 2017.

Using design to help sell a business

Recently it has struck me how many of my successful clients have sold their businesses 3-5 years after a full re-brand.

Goes to show how important a comprehensive brand identity can really bolster a business. I’m not going to claim that it is the be-all-and-end-all, the thing that sells a business, but it definitely has an impact. The hard work obviously comes from the team within the business, the strategies they put in place.

Many of these companies had their business exit at the forefront of their thoughts when we started working together. They were looking towards the future.

So how do I think that brand identity helps you get your business ready for an exit?

If you ‘look’ ready to do business, people will instantly feel comfortable with exploring your business further.

Brand identity, done well, with consultation with stakeholders, can do wonders for morale within the business. A business that looks together, visually, helps staff feel proud and motivates them as a team. Its subtle, but it works.

Are you planning on selling the business in 3-5 years? Why bother with a rebrand? A new brand identity puts a solid line under your business, it says we care, we are reaching out to the market place and we are actively marketing. It is less likely that everything else is going to be chaos within the business. So it gives buyers confidence.

If you are interested in how a new or refreshed brand identity can make big changes in your business or begin the exit process, drop me a line and I will show you some examples of the businesses we have worked for that have recently sold.

Alltruck 2015 Culture Book

You may remember last year we showed you the Alltruck Culture Book, if you don’t, take a look and find out more about this remarkable company.

This year, Alltruck are 25! To celebrate, we helped them produce another Culture Book, taking a look back over those 25 years. See the new book here.

A huge achievement for a company these days, and this one is going from strength-to-strength.

Here’s to the next 25 years!

Branding, rebranding, blah, blah, blah!

Everyone keeps going on about their ‘brand’ don’t they? On and on and on. Why should you bother?

Over the years, I have been to quite a few business networking groups, and as soon as I mention the companies I have worked with to rebrand I see the eyes glazing over. This is often followed by the phrase, “well we don’t bother with marketing, it is an expensive waste of time, we have been going for XX years and still get business”. My response is usually, “marvellous, so glad to hear you are busy”, and I move on, exasperated.

So, why should we bother?

I don’t know about you, but when I get up in the morning I like to clean my teeth, have a shower, put on some make-up (gents you are excused from this, or maybe not), dress so I am not looking like a tramp, check it in the mirror, all before I start my day. Even if I don’t have plans to see anyone.

By doing this, I am outwardly showing people that I have some self-respect. Basic branding.

Branding your business is no different. The ‘Brand’ is the concept you want the world to grasp, your ideals and values, that’s the bit you do as it is all about you. The ‘Brand Identity’, the bit I like to do (the logo and marketing material), is the make-up and smart tailored suit.

It feels good to look good doesn’t it?

Sometimes life takes us in a different direction, so we need to visit our Tailor to get a new cut of suit, and chose a new shade of lippy. This arms us with the amo we need to take this new direction with vigour and determination. It’s a rebrand.

So when you find your business is going in a new direction, finding new business streams, moving into new markets, make sure people understand your offer and values. Hold up a mirror to your ‘brand’ and check it is still a look that is working for you. Or give me a call, and as your brand consultant I will help you with that.

Take care over logo shapes

Another day, another cock up by a multinational over their logo redesign.

This time it is Hersheys, the US chocolate company. They made the decision to bring their logo up-to-date by simplifying it. But in doing so they have unleashed a lot of comments about what is now looks like…ehem…take a look at this article on the Drum.

It just goes to show, that time, care and attention must be applied to logo design whether it is a new logo or a brand refresh. To me it looks like they did a quick job on this, and because they are a bit too close to the brand they just didn’t see anything wrong with it. I wonder if they used focus groups? That is certainly what they should have done when dabbling with an established brand. Ooops!

How to design a logo

A logo is the first thing anyone sees about your organisation. It has to get a lot across to the viewer in a very short space of time. It has to tell a story: Who you are, what you do and what your values are.

In this article I will guide you through the 5 steps of designing a logo. I can’t tell you how to design it yourself – you haven’t trained as a graphic designer, they are the professionals so it is best if you employ one!

Stage 1 – Do Your Research

At this stage your chosen designer would have assumed you have researched your new company/product name. If you haven’t we suggest you do. This is not hard to do and your accountant can also help you with this before you incorporate your company.

The first thing a designer will do is chat to you about your company to establish the following:

  • Where you think you are pitched in the market place,
  • Who your target market is, who are you main competitors,
  • Where is your business heading in the next 5 years.

It may seem a bit nosey, but all of these questions help to form a vision in the designer’s mind, to make sure they are not going to create the wrong image for your company.

With all this information collated, the designer can move forward to…

Stage 2 – Initial Concepts

This is the fun part for the logo designer. They get to explore the look and feel for your new logo. At this stage you will probably only be presented with 3-5 logo ideas (anymore and your designer really hasn’t been listening, they are firing off logos like bullets hoping one will hit the target).

The initial logo designs will probably be presented as 1 or 2 colours at this stage. This is OK, a well-designed logo should work in 1 colour – there are times where 1 colour is all you need.

Stage 3 – Development

After the initial presentation, where you will discuss the designer’s ideas, and get an idea of the story behind the logos, they will probably need to be developed over 2-4 sets of development.

This is where the designer can iron out form they don’t like, build on the concepts to fit in with your vision and look at colours more closely.

Design Tip:

If you ever feel bogged down or overwhelmed by the design process put the logo visuals away for a few days. When you bring them out again, the fog will begin to clear and you should get a gut feeling about which way you want to go.

Don’t ignore your gut feeling, and remember; you are the one who has to live and work with this new logo for many years to come. Take your time and you will get to the right result.

Stage 4 – Implementation

Usually when the final logo has been approved, or is close to approval, the designer will apply it to stationery design so you can see what it looks like in situ. This will give you a better idea of whether you can work with it or not.

Stage 5 – Delivery

You have chosen your final logo. Amazing feeling! You have successfully recruited a graphic designer who has fully understood and bought into your vision. From there they have created a unique logo just for you!

No picking one off a website, or going through a crowd sourcing website where ‘designers’ have no loyalty or real understanding about you and your company – you will find that you will start to see the same old logos all over place as people try to save money this way.

Now your final logo design is chosen the graphic designer will probably put together a brief set of guidelines about your logo. This should include:

  • How the logo can be used in different settings: against different backgrounds etc
  • The colours in the logo: a full breakdown on the colour in Pantone reference and CMYK (print), RGB (office), HEX (web).
  • The font: what fonts you should use to support the logo and begin to create a brand identity.

These guidelines are set for a reason, make sure all your staff get a copy and understand how to use them. It really helps as your company grows to develop consistency across your brand.

Should You Use a Free Logo Design Service?

Picture the scene. A packed flight, flying over the ocean, on it’s way to somewhere exotic. Suddenly a man grabs his chest and collapses to the floor. He is having a heart attack. The flight attendant shouts to the passengers, “is there a dentist on board?”

What?! Well, her logic could be that a dentist is a bit medical so might be able to help.

So what does this have to do with logo design? Well what if we used someone who was a bit good at design…

Another scenario for you – a man decides to start a new, innovative business. He has found an accountant, who is recommended, to handle the finances. He has had contracts checked over by a lawyer he has had recommended. His business plan for the next 12 months has been thought through. He is ready to start his business.

Marketing, ah yes, he will have to market his business. His excitingly named business needs a logo, but where should he go for a company logo design? Then he remembers, his nephew has a computer with some graphic design software on and he is quite good at art. He will ask him.

Weeks later and with lots of hand holding over many evenings he has a logo. It is OK. It will do. It’s not that bad. It was done on a computer so it looks finished, now he can get his business cards printed and start to market his business.

Does this sound familiar? Why would this be the wrong approach?

A company logo is more than just a pretty face: your company logo is the first impression that a customer gets when they start to look at your company. It has to convey your professionalism, expertise and make you stand above your competitors. A potential customer needs to feel confident BEFORE they approach you as a business.

A designer is more than a mouse and software: it is too easy these days with free software to think we are masters of everything we try. You are not a designer just because you push a mouse around. A graphic designer looks at your logo as a problem that needs a solution. All good graphic designers are good listeners and problem solvers, not artists.

How can you tell if a graphic designer is right for you? Get recommendations first. If you see something you like, ask who did it. Then have a look at their portfolio online. Take time to meet the designer. A graphic designer can take a better logo design brief if they have met you face-to-face. You will usually need to get on, if you don’t then they won’t be able to design for you – I don’t know why but I can’t design for you if we don’t gel. I love all my clients.

What happens next? The chosen graphic designer will take a brief, and come back to you with 3-5 logo designs. Any more then they weren’t listening, and you probably won’t like what they have done. A smaller selection will help you both to understand each other and take the project forward to the next stage. There is usually 2-3 sets of development until you reach the final solution. You will then have a logo that you can use on all your literature and website – and try and stick with that designer for those items if you can. They know you now.You are building a relationship that should last for years.

How should I use my new logo? Speak to your designer, a good graphic designer would have designed a basic set of brand guidelines to accompany your logo. This will talk about how the logo should be used, what fonts you should use for consistency across your new brand, what colours are used and how you can recreate them across a host of media. Your designer, once you have paid them, will also supply you with the logo in various formats so you can put them on your email, website, word documents and any signage you may need to get you started.

Finally, I should point out, the whole process although more detailed than using your nephew in his bedroom, will be a much quicker and pleasurable experience. Once you have found a graphic designer, who has taken the time to understand you and your business, they will become an invaluable member of your team.