Shopping for a logo is one of the most important marketing steps for your new venture. You’ve never shopped for a logo before. You’re in unknown territory, and you’re not comfortable. (Explicit)
And because you’re in unknown territory, you’re tempted to give this important design job to someone because “he’s good with the computer” or because “she did such a nice job of picking paint colors at church.”
Fight that urge. Stay uncomfortable.
Give this graphic design job to a professional graphic designer. Why? Because you don’t want to waste this opportunity — or compromise your business success — because you decided to cheap out or weren’t comfortable.
The stealthy advantage of professional design
Graphic design can do a lot — and the beautiful thing about graphic design from a business perspective is that it can do it all under the radar. Before a prospective customer sets foot in your shop, the graphic design you adopt can:
- Set the tone for customers’ expectations;
- Hint at what your items cost;
- Differentiate your product or service from your competition; and
- It can even describe the benefits of using your product.
But when you hire an amateur graphic designer, you set yourself up for all kinds of problems:
- Customers wonder why your stuff is so expensive because your promotional materials look cheap;
- People don’t know why they should choose you over your competition because your design is too generic;
- You get work in a format your printer can’t use — necessitating a costly redo;
- The design quickly looks out-of-date which demands a drastic new look, alienating your customers; and
- Your message is drowned out by busy backgrounds and decorative typefaces.
With so much potential (a thriving business) — and so much at stake (your startup money) — it’s a good idea to review what not to do when choosing a graphic designer.
Don’t choose a designer who can’t show you samples of their work.
Designers with experience are ready to show you their portfolio. A designer with no portfolio is all talk but no action. And if all they can do is talk in the early stages, what makes you think they can deliver the goods once you’ve given them the project?
These portfolio samples need to be for real situations. After all, you want your designer to work on a real business — yours — with real limitations: time, money, and production. A designer still showing school projects ten years after graduation should raise a red flag.
Don’t choose a designer because you think their work looks good.
Yes, you read that correctly. Don’t choose a designer because you think their work looks good because this is about more than looking good. This is about building a successful business. This is about being remembered in the minds of the public. Pretty colors and nifty typefaces are enough only if they plant your business into the brains of the public.
Professionals use a series of tests to see if their design work will build your business. And the “pretty test” isn’t one of them.
Don’t choose a designer who isn’t using graphic design software.
You can rest easy when you get your work done by a knowledgeable designer using professional software. That’s because printers and website hosting services know what to do with files created in the major software — and what to watch out for.
What’s professional software? In general, designers use software from Adobe: Illustrator (logo design), InDesign (page layout), Photoshop (image enhancement), and Acrobat Professional (prepress). There’s other professional software out there, but we’re leaving them off the list to make things simple for you.
If it’s from Microsoft, it’s not professional design software. That doesn’t mean Microsoft doesn’t make good software; it just means that the software isn’t created for the printing and Internet industries.
Don’t ask a designer to create work “on spec”.
Designers sometimes get asked to do speculative work, or work “on spec”. Here’s what we hear: “We want to hire someone for this project. Give us some ideas for free and if we like them, we’ll hire you.”
Professional graphic design can tell your prospects things about you that would be too awkward to tell them in words. Things like “trust us”, or “we’re competent”.
We know that hiring a designer entails a bit of risk: You might not like the ideas they present. But designers have ways to reduce your risk. First of all, you can look at their portfolios — for free. A portfolio gives you a very good idea of what the designer’s work for you will look like.
An experienced designer will also have a “termination fee” in their contract with you. This is a fee you pay upfront to have them come up with ideas for your project. If you don’t like the ideas, you can ask for more ideas at an additional charge, or you can move on.
We’ve worked on design projects where the great ideas started coming only after eight hours of work. No designer is going to spend eight hours working for free.
(And don’t even think about having a contest.)
Don’t choose a designer who doesn’t think about systems.
The best designers want to make a long-lasting contribution to your enterprise. And to do that, they are constantly seeking to connect their work with what your company does.
Right now you might be looking only for a logo, but a sensitive designer creates your logo and imagines the implications of that design on all areas of your visual identity: website, signage, company vehicles, packaging, even the audio in your TV ads — and designs your logo accordingly.
Amateur designers are thinking only about the project you’re asking them to do. For the best value, find a graphic designer who is thinking about systems.
Don’t go with someone who doesn’t do research.
A good designer is curious about your company and will ask questions that pay you dividends down the road — questions like:
- If you could tell potential customers one thing about your business, what would it be?
- What sets your company apart from the rest?
- Where do you see your company in five years?
- What does your competitors’ advertising look like?
- How do most of your customers find out about your company?
Pitchgreen has a questionnaire to help us learn more about you before we ever put pencil to paper. The answers to these questions help us develop work that takes your enterprise in the right direction.