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 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?