A Successful Logo Design Checklist: Does Your Design Pass the Test?

There are at least 5 top characteristics that make a good logo design:

Logo Checklist
Logo Checklist

1 Is your logo design readable at 1 inch big?

Does your logo design function well across both large and small mediums? If not, it’s not a good logo design. Believe it or not, a logo design has a specific job to convey to its audience in a minute amount of time. It’s not a decoration, it’s not something that needs to just look pretty. It also does not operate like a Picasso cubist painting; your audience does not have time to stand in front of it and decifer its meaning, and break down multiple elements or process an array of colors. I so often run into a client experience where they want to put as many elements into a logo design as possible, trying too hard, and not adhering to the “less is more” rule of thumb for design.

I recently had a client instruct me to illustrate a 6 bedroom house, equipped with spanish tiles, windows, sconces, a car in the driveway, trees, double doors and an ocean in the background for a logo design. This forced his real estate company name to take the back burner and only occupy 5% of the total real estate space of the logo design. When such a design is produced smaller on a business card at about .5 of an inch, his name, his brand would have been illegible. In addition, the house type would have also pigeon-holed some of his market into a specific home type sell. Always ensure the company name occupies a majority of the space of the design, a 90% logomark or icon and 10% company name, is NOT a good ratio.

2 Does your logo design appropriately address your target market and age group?

Is your age group mainly male, or both? Is it age 18-60 or more specific, only to millenials or baby boomers? Start the design process knowing who your audience is and reflect that vibe into your design elements whenever possible. You don’t want to turn off potential clients because the design feels unrelatable.

3 Do the colors used accurately reflect your brand? The psychology of color is mind-blowing to me. Banks and politicians are always using blue to convey trust. Pink is feminine, grays are strong and modern. Reds and greens are for foods and nature. Acknowledge that color plays a strong role in your brand. What if the Starbucks logo was pink? Ever notice the calming colors painted inside hospitals? Recognize the affect colors have on the brain and utilize them well into your logo design.

Oftentimes, some clients use their personal preferences to dictate their favorite color in business designs. “I really like purple”. Don’t let your home’s wall color dictate your business brand colors; separate the two at all times.

4 Is your design conceptual?

Is your design creative and of original thought? Does it say, “hey, I was made from scratch, out of love and care”, not a stock site…? Push the envelope and explore all objects, purge all items that may relate to your brand and utilize them in a unique fashion. Is there something in the negative space the viewer can see that carries out your message?

5 Is your logo design safe to use and protected?

Protect your new logo design by:
A. Take the time to write up brand guidelines that instruct your staff on proper and consistent usage, and enforce those rules among the staff and designers
B. Most importantly, file for copyright and trademark protection with the U.S. Copyright office as soon as your logo design is approved. I cannot stress this step enough.

A few years ago I did a character logo design of an animal for a small mom and pop company that was renting tubes to college kids in the Hill Country. He was adorable. He had huge teeth, hawaiian shorts, a red solo cup, and was holding an intertube with a river in the background. They loved the design since it was created exactly to match the vision they provided us. It was done and approved by the client. However, a rival company had filed for a trademark in the 90’s of a character that was a crayon sketch of a slightly similar animal, and no one would have know that, since that character was not used in any of their current branding, but they still had ownership of the child’s original sketch, and it just so happened to have 1 of the same qualities of the new character design. The client did NOT submit the new design for copyright prior to printing on signs and shirts, and was faced with a legal battle since they began to practice some similar techniques to a rival company, and had caused brand confusion with their similar business models. If they had submitted it, it would have come back not accepted and would have saved them ten of thousands of dollars in the long run.

Most logo design companies do not do both design and also trademark filing on all their logo designs. It’s usually up to the client to submit their business name, ID and design for approval, prior to utilizing it as their logo design for their brand.

Why Invest in a Quality Logo Design by a Local Designer?

I wanted to write an article addressing some of the issues I see my clients face when developing their new brand. Two obstacles I see them struggle with is (1) using online graphic design and logo contest sites and it resulting in a poor outcome and (2) not understanding why they should invest more into their logo design vs other areas of brand development. I’d say an estimated 10% of my clients come to me after using an online design site and don’t have a positive experience usually because the communication barrier muddles the process.

I recently had a client that operates a successful swimming company in Virginia Beach alert me that a designer from one of these online sites had copied our logo design we created for them years ago, in an online logo contest and the exact design we created, was replicated. We were both in shock. We both contacted the online site to alert them of the infringement and jumped through multiple hoops to even get someone to acknowledge our problem. The designer that replicated our logo design was based in Bangladesh, and the online site owner was based out of Australia, so they were not subject to U.S. Copyright laws. We were told (after days of no correspondence) that the designer was “sanctioned” and that, was that.

swim logo
Swim logo originaly created by Austin Logo Designs
logo
Logo design copied by an online design site

I also had another client come to me after using an online site for a beard oil company. He provided the online designer with a sample logo for them to use as inspiration. The online designer, based in another country, removed the product name and inserted the new client’s product name, kept the logo mark or icon and then provided my client that image as a logo proof, a clear example of logo infringement.

In another case of an online design site, the client was actually happy with the design process and has successfully closed out the job. Months later the online designer alerted him about a clause in the contract that ordered the client to pay the online designer a fee every time the logo was used, and the final dollar amount totaled into the tens of thousands of dollars.

I’m sure some customers have found success with some of those online sites, but please buyer beware.

Secondly, some of my clients don’t understand why the cost of a logo design is not less expensive. I’ve even heard a client say, “It’s only an inch big!” A logo design is the singlemost important investment you will make in your business’ brand and is always worth the cost and time. It will show on all platforms, print, web, social media, swag, and more, for hopefully the entire lifetime of your brand. It requires the designer to have technical skills in Illustrator, the creative mind to interpret your business feel and ensure it operates and functions properly on multiple platforms and sizes.

You also need to trademark your logo design after it’s approved. You can go online to submit to the U.S. Copyright office or you can use a local trademark attorney. It is a process that I deem mandatory. I believe the Keep Austin Weird creators did not trademark theirs and it was taken over by another group. If you create your logo design right the first time, you won’t have to redesign and resubmit for trademark as well, saving you time and headache.

You can always cut costs on other areas of your business launch, but a logo design is not one of them.

For instance, websites can be developed for free these days. We are now in an era where multiple platforms provided free website development software, such as SquareSpace, Wix and others. When I started out in design and saw the introduction of website development, they were quite costly. I’ve worked at big agencies that charged anywhere from $2000 to $200,000 for a website build. Yes, websites change every couple of years, they go through various designers, content changes, user ability changes, images, etc. But the logo design (hopefully) remains the same. How many times has Nike changed it’s logo since its original inception? Zero. But the branding has contantly changed, so doesn’t it make sense to invest in a local logo designer?

We are also in an era of affordable online printing. When I started as a designer in the late 90’s, you had to go to a designer to get a brochure printed or cards, and it was quite costly. Now, you can use a software program or template and upload your design, order and ship to yourself in minutes. Take advantage of these online sites, especially the ones that offer refunds if you’re not happy.

If you are developing a new startup, a new brand, the face of your new company, isn’t it worth the time and effort to meet a local graphic designer in person to talk one-on-one about your ideas, and know that designer is also just as invested in creating a creative and legit logo design?

Online Graphic Design sites vs. Your Local Graphic Designer: What You Should Know

Trademarks are the most valuable long term asset a company can have. That being said, many large companies overlook their importance.

I see it all too often: companies in the early stages of developing a brand identity willingly walk into future trademark and re-branding issues. Typically, a start-up will be operating in ‘boot strap mode’ in order to conserve funds; in trying to save a few hundred dollars, they turn to an internet stock photo company or low cost graphic design site rather than employing the services of a quality graphic designer.

I wanted to repost a very important article written recently by an Austin trademark attorney, Andrew Eisenberg. His blog article is a must-read for all business startups, large and small.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Trademarks: All About your Graphic Designer

by Andrew Eisenberg | Dec 10, 2016

While this will save money and therefore seems like a great idea at the time, it often results in brand issues down the track. The result? The company needs to re-brand just when it’s starting to make profits!

Internet based graphic design companies

Internet based logo design companies are everywhere – and their services are cheap. I am seeing an increasing number of start-ups utilizing these companies in order to acquire a graphic that can be then trademarked as a logo.

These internet based design companies work by matching overseas designers with companies in the US; the few US dollars these designers make for a job go a lot further in their home country and allow them to earn a decent living. These websites use terms and conditions that effectively transfer ownership from the designer to the startup – and these terms are based on US law.

While I think the acquisition of low-cost graphics is a good idea in most situations, I believe complications can arise when the start-up is planning to build a brand – which is an expensive and often difficult task – using these low-cost graphics.

So where does the issue arise? In many cases, the laws of the country in which the graphic designer lives often differ from US laws. In some cases when I’ve taken a closer look at the transfer of copyright ownership rights in the website’s terms and conditions, I’ve noticed that they were insufficient to enact a transfer in the designer’s home country.

Case study

In order to explain the issue with cut-price logos, I will use my friend Marshall as an example.

Marshall founded a company – and I took personal ownership interest in it. Being a start-up, Marshall was doing everything he could to save a couple of dollars, and when it came to branding he chose to acquire a logo through one of these design websites. The site he chose allowed designers from around the globe to submit graphics based on his brief; he saved about $400 by going down this path.

Once graphics were submitted, Marshall chose the best design and the designer was paid for their work. The logo looked great and everyone was happy – so Marshall went ahead and trademarked the graphic as the company logo. He then proceeded to build a brand around it.

A few months down the track (in hindsight, we were lucky it wasn’t a year or more later) Marshall received a letter from the graphic designer who created his logo. The letter contained a copyright license: Marshall could use the graphic in exchange for a $25 fee every time it was used. Being the trademark of the company, the logo was in heavy use.

Understandably, Marshall thought this was outrageous; he had paid for the logo and was provided with a copyright transfer from the website as part of the agreement. So what happened? Well, the copyright release in the website terms and conditions failed to meet the language of the designer’s country of citizenship/residency. Therefore, not all the rights were transferred. The designer was clearly aware of this situation and had decided to take advantage of it by sending out the copyright license.

Of course, if the logo only needed to be used once or twice, Marshall would have paid the money – $25 isn’t going to break the bank. However, the logo was inextricably linked with the company’s brand; Marshall needed to be able to use it on a constant basis and paying to do so would have put the company out of business. With no other viable option, Marshall was forced to re-brand. He lost more than the small fee he paid for the graphic initially – he lost money spent on advertising under the logo, trademarking the logo and also all the brand image and awareness he had been busy building over the preceding months.

Yes, Marshall’s situation is rare – but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Most of the time there is no issue when buying graphics via online design sites, but the cost of having to potentially re-brand down the track – especially if it happens at the wrong time – has the potential to kill a company. It’s not worth the risk.

What about using stock photos as a logo, brand identifier or trademark?

When low on cash, a popular choice for start-ups is to use a stock image from a stock photo site as a trademark or brand identifier. While it’s easy on the bank balance, there are a number of legal issues related to using a stock image as a trademark.

Many stock photo companies have terms and conditions that prevent you using images as trademarks or brand identifiers.

Ultimately, this means if you decide to use one of their stock images as a trademark, you will breach the contract with the company you purchased the image from. In this scenario, it’s possible the stock photo company could have claims to damages against you.

Why do stock photo companies have these terms and conditions? Simply put, they want to be able to sell as many copies of an image as possible. If you are able to trademark an image, they other customers who buy the image from the stock photo company can’t actually use it – thus, it would be bad for business in the eyes of the stock photo company!

Their terms and conditions preventing you trademarking an image is their way of protecting their business.

Even if you are granted a trademark, it’s possible the rights might be limited or the trademark might eventually be rendered invalid due to others using the mark.

If others start using the same image to promote a product that competes with your product – which is likely as they may have purchased the same image from the same stock photo company – then your competitor may have rights to continue using the trademark, even though you own in. In some cases, they may even be able to cancel your trademark.

Case study

Mary is the founder and owner of a company that currently has multiple million-dollar product lines.

During the course of building her many product lines, she used stock images on the labels. As her company grew and became more successful, she began to have issues with other companies using the same labels on sites such as Amazon. These products were knock-offs; another business was trying to pass their products off as Mary’s.

Unfortunately, when Mary looked into trademarks and legal protections against these knock-off products, it turned out she was actually the one in the wrong. When she purchased the stock images she had actually agreed not to use them as trademarks or register them with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Ultimately, there was little Mary could do about the knock-off products.

This left Mary with two options: rebrand or put up with the sales lost through knock-offs. While neither were good options, Mary decided that the best option long-term was to rebrand – she did so with a designer who could create custom work she was able to trademark.

What about utilizing stock photos as a basis for a logo, brand identifier, or trademark?

When companies end up in the same position as Mary – that is, with the option to either rebrand or deal with a ‘trademark’ that can be copied – I find that many decide to try and create a ‘unique’ brand identifier that is based on the old stock image. The idea is the company will end up with a ‘new’ trademark that still looks like the old one in the eyes of customers – thus avoiding confusion.

While this is good in theory, in reality it’s called derivative work and the contract signed with the stock photo company most likely prevents purchasers from creating such work. This means that the company is left with all the same issues as using the actual stock image.

The best way to overcome this is to hire a designer and then describe to them what you want – rather than show them the actual stock image – and then ask them to create something similar.

It’s always tempting to save money and use a stock image – especially when your start-up is in its early stages and money is tight. Go ahead and use a stock image on your website or advertising, however if you wish to use a stock image as part of your trademark or brand identity it’s best to reconsider. Not only do you risk other companies creating knock-offs, you may actually breach the contract you signed with the stock image company – and end up owing them money in damages!

For additional information regarding logo design and trademark protections, feel free to contact:

http://andreweisenberg.com/

Contact Andrew Eisenberg, Attorney

Address: 11501 Alterra Parkway,
Suit 450 – Austin, Texas 78758
Phone: 512-456-5140

Online-Only Logo Design Sites: Less Expensive, But Can You Trust Them?

A lot of my clients come to me after having a troublesome experience with online design sites. You know the ones… Online only and cheaper, with plans designed to hook small businesses. What I’d like to shed light on is the TRUE cost of hiring some of the cheaper sites.

I would say about 15% of my clients come to Austin Logo Designs after having a bad experience with specific design firms. While these sites seem to “guarantee” their customers will like their designs, some clients have encountered severe legal pitfalls that make these sites FAR more expensive than meets the eye.

One client came to me about a year ago, after using an online site to develop his beard oil company. He provided the online designer some samples of styles he liked, paid the online fee, and received his proofs. His designer – who worked overseas – had “created” a logo that precisely mirrored his competitors’ logo. The logo design proofs now looked exactly like his competitors’ design!

The designer, based abroad, had simply swapped out the name and placed the new beard oil company’s name. My client was taken aback. The amount of legal damages he would have incurred had chosen and used this design –had it miraculously even passed the copyright and trademark process – would have been in the tens of thousands of dollars!

But WHY would a designer do this? Is it not illegal?

Unfortunately, most of the designers on the online sites are overseas and are therefore not subject to the United States copyright laws. This is far more common than you’d think.

Recently, I had a conversation with my trademark attorney, who told me about another case he was working on where a client used an online design site, and fell into legal problems. The client had approved the online logo design provided by the overseas designer, and invested money to print the design on pricey signage, cards and other branding products.

The client was then sued for the design! In the end, the client was forced to take down all branding material, and was out the cost for the logo fee.

As if this was not enough, the client was sadly informed that the contract with the online designer had specified that the client had to pay the designer $150 EACH time the logo was displayed – on every business card, and in every medium! The client was not aware of that stipulation in the contract agreement with the online site. In the end, my attorney’s client had to pay the initial logo design fee, lawyer fees, and printing fees. Finally, the client was back to the drawing board.

But how can you protect yourself against problems with cheaper, online-only sites?

Always be aware of some of the potential pitfalls of these online design sites. Your logo is the face of your company – the one mark that interprets and sets the tone for your business, and is consistent through its life.

Take the time to consult with a designer in person, who cares for the well being of your company. It makes sense to invest in your brand and use a designer who conforms to the U.S. copyright laws. You can do this by meeting the designer in person and discussing your vision for your brand. Working together with someone who has YOUR best interest at heart can set your mind at ease.

Predictions: 2016 Logo Design Trends

I wanted to document what I anticipate as the top six logo design trends for 2016. There are few new design firms out there predicting some trends that I feel are either inaccurate or too amateur in thought.

1.) The Ombre Gradient Approach:
One of the trends I see is ditching the traditional gradient approach to color used in the past, in leui of a new color trend treatment. Utilizing a horizontal shading from left to right, or vice versa, to create more of an ombre fade and transition.

See recent logo design we created recently for a client below:

ombre logo design
Example of new gradient ombre treatment trend for a logo design.

2.) Geometric Infographics
I see geometric, linear graphics being utilized more in logo design and branding. It appears to reflect the world around us with its open, modern lines, as seen in the latest architecture and home designs. It’s a bolder and more forward interpretation on the image depicted.

See recent logo design comp below for a recent client:
geometric-linear-logo-graphic

3.) Hand-Lettering
I remember learning calligraphy in my early teens. I recall sketching numbers by hand in English honors class in high-school. It’s been refreshing to see that resurgence of custom, hand-lettered type within the last year or so. I can see bigger brands like motor companies and the food industry utilizing that type of custom feel to convey a warmer, personal feel.

See recent logo design comp below for a recent bar:

120-logo

4.) Metallics on Black

I’ve been psychotically obsessed with rose gold and bright metallic golds on black fabrics and matte paper. I’ve witnessed this growing design trend on business cards and other materials. I anticipate this high-contrast, rich treatment to flood into the fashion realm, site design and packaging.

See various photos below I’ve snapped while out and about:

gold on black logo design
Metallic gold popping off rich black packaging.
gold logo
Rose gold logo design on tshirt via pinterest.
gold logo on black packaging

Gold metallic on bags seen at department store.

gold business card

The MOO Blog | Spotlight: Tangram Studio loves our Gold Foil | MOO (United States)
3d

5.) Vintage

The vintage approach has been here for a few years. We see the downtown hipsters strutting their classic Metallica shirt. We see Miller Light and Budweiser trying to cash in on that vintage feel with throwback beer can designs to target a younger market. The ode to an era, that was pure and simple will reign with logo designs for some time.

See Miller Lite’s vintage shirt-inspired design inspired by our friends at Fine Southern Gentlemen in East Austin:

vintage shirt beer
example of vintage beer shirt from Fine Southern Gentlemen in Austin, tx

6.) Pantone Black
I forsee the use of a deep, rich use of blacks in logo design. I see us ditching neutral grays and going towards the end of the spectrum for more impact. I see the use of black against brighter whites for a modern and classic feel, all in one.

black pantone
black

Really Modern Trends Surging for Real Estate Logo Design

Working in Austin brings a lot of real estate agents, home builders, home advisors, housing developers, and other agents to my door. The recent boom in real estate development has caused a huge demand in a newer, fresher, more modern logo and signage design. In a highly competitive market, agents are desperately trying to stand out with fresher graphics and more unique names. Gone are the old trends of stuffy type-only based logo treatments and white only backgrounds. The colors are brighter, bolder and more reflective of the local aesthetics. I’m seeing a lot of requests for black, glossy backgrounds and edgier modern, sans serif fonts.

See just a few logo, sign and business card designs completed recently for some of our favorite local clients:

Recent logo and graphic designs created for various real estate agencies, builders and living complexes in Austin, TX,
Recent logo and graphic designs created for various real estate agencies, builders and living complexes in Austin, TX,

icon-only

Tiny-Home-Final-Logo

NP-logo

Privity-Logo

The-Walsh-Circle-Logo

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 2.08.44 PM

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 2.08.59 PM

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 2.03.16 PM

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 2.30.14 PM

Latest Logo Trend: The Baseball Swoosh

I admit. I’m guilty of using the latest logo design element almost ad nauseam – the baseball swoosh . It’s an instant way to integrate that original vintage feel, in a clean simple manner.

It’s no longer associated directly with baseball and sporting events. You see it featured on beer logos, swag, festival event logos, and more. I have myself integrated it into a vintage architectural firm logo, as well as my own. (But again, I change my logo as many times as I change shoes.)

I love seeing so many elements brought back from my childhood (texture, tomato red and weathered creme colors). Growing up, my father had a cabin on a river, with our uncle’s cabin next door. As kids, we would play “bartender” upstairs with water, in an old wooden, makeshift kitchen area. I distinctly recall these gorgeous creme colored Pearl beer coasters. Today, they still seem to resonate on so many mediums.

I’ve collected just a handful of samples via pinterest.com below:

Screen shot 2014-08-28 at 8.38.01 PM

Screen shot 2014-08-28 at 8.19.20 PM

Screen shot 2014-08-28 at 8.19.28 PM

Screen shot 2014-08-28 at 8.19.48 PM

Screen shot 2014-08-28 at 8.07.50 PM

Screen shot 2014-08-28 at 8.34.13 PM

Screen shot 2014-08-28 at 8.35.11 PM

Iconography in a Fast-Paced World

I’ve noticed lately that clients have abandoded photos and clip art to depict certain subjects.
It seems that icons are heavily favored to convey various services and subjects.

A client of mine relies on such icons for their trucks, shirts, and business cards, so we created custom icons for each service:

Screen shot 2014-08-14 at 8.05.40 AMScreen shot 2014-08-14 at 8.10.39 AM

Screen shot 2014-08-14 at 8.10.42 AM

Screen shot 2014-08-14 at 8.10.49 AM

These icons translate easier on mobile devices, as favicons, as bullets for copy, easily read on vehicles traveling at 45 mph, etc.

Barely Legal: The Logo Edition

Every designer is constantly trying to integrate the latest design trends these days. Our inboxes are inundated with subject lines featuring the newest technique or design approach.

Yet, I haven’t seen any articles about how design trends are evolving for specific fields, specifically law firms. How may stale law firm logos have we seen with the scale of justice, Lady Justice, a gavel? Ick. The same regurgitated imagery, with a new law firm name inserted (that is always 8 last names too long)…

However, recently I’ve been fortunate enough to do several logo designs for various law firms and the latest trend appears to be a more fresh, modern and contemporary approach to law firm logo design. Firms are coming to me – not wanting hunter greens, woodsy browns and burgandy – but purple, or orange. The elements or icons used are hardly legal in concept, but more iconic or typography based…barely legal at all.

It’s a new, refreshing take on the stale and conservative approach. The new vibe is bolder with colors that pop; A new design challenge I think logo designers should embrace and enjoy.

BELOW: A FEW LOGO COMPS AND APPROVED DESIGNS FOR VARIOUS LAW FIRM CLIENTS.

Law-logos

Finding Retro & Vintage Logo Inspiration in Austin, TX

I consider myself extremely lucky to live in such a vivacious, edgy city as Austin, Tx. – A city where its normal to be riding a unicycle while flaunting a hundred tattoos and piercings; normal to jog the greenbelt with blue hair pushing a stroller with a chihuahua nestled inside; and normal to have a minimum of 50 different beers on tap at any number of local eateries.

But one of the most fascinating and stimulating visuals this city has to offer myself, is it’s consistent ability to stay on the latest branding trends with its wide array of typography displays.

Vintage and retro logos are, have been and may well always be on trend. They offer versatile elements you can split up to design various promotional materials (growlers, t-shirts, stickers, menu design and more).

I’ve attached a few samples of snapshots I’ve taken around my time in Austin, that I keep in my “logo inspiration bank”:

Vintage-Logos

The formula is quite simple:
1.) FONT: Find and tweak or tailor a unique vintage, hand-written font.
2.) ELEMENTS: Any small graphics to center the name are vital. Stars, scrolls, ribbons, swirls, shapes of Texas/states, etc are crucial.
3.) COLOR: I find a black color, coupled with a rusted gold or white color – scream vintage.
4.) SHAPE: Adding a logo version that can be housed in a nice circle offers a nice label affect.

Here are a few vintage/retro logo designs we have completed and/or proposed for our beloved clients.

retro logo
vintage logo

retro logo 2
square peg logo
vintage logo
blue chip motors logo

old looking logo
white label logo

Beer logo
vintage beer logo

retro logo 9
vintage logo 9

vintage logo 10
retro logo 10

————————————————————-

Keep your eyes open around your city. Vintage typographic inspiration comes in all forms. All cities have old rusted, metal signs that utilized unique font treatments. What treatment can you apply to your next design?