Why you should have a logo designed professionally

Why pay good money for a logo?
Launch Word and type your company name. Select the text and choose a fancy font. Make the first letter bigger and bold so it stands out more.
Remember to use four or five colors because black logos are boring. Not bad, you are half way there.
Now add an image. Just import a funny clipart that comes with Word. There, the logo is done! And it didn't cost you anything.

You may be amused by this description but this is the process used by many small companies when they realize they need a logo.
True, small companies, especially if they are just starting out, don't have much money to invest in quality design.
Professional logo design can be perceived like an avoidable expense but a do-it-yourself approach can be counterproductive and costly in the long run. Why?

When our do-it-yourself business owner stops at the print shop to have business cards made he is suddenly confronted with the fact that the printer can't make cards from a Word document. The print shop will redesign the logo and will add the cost to the total. But there's more.

What if the small business needs a large sign or billboard? The billboard company will often redesign the logo once again, probably with slightly different colors and fonts that may not exactly match the originals.

These inconsistencies when summed up over time, may damage the image of quality and professionalism that small companies strive to build in the marketplace. Competition can be hard, why make it harder by looking unprofessional?

But what are the elements that make a logo look professional?
Let's look at three of them:

  1. a good logo differentiates your company from the competitors
  2. it's well executed
  3. it looks good in different media and formats

1) A good logo differentiates your company from your competitors

Your company doesn't operate alone in the marketplace. You have competitors that go after your same audience and the primary job of your logo is to make you stand out from the crowd.
The logo should set you apart by using images, colors and typography that are different from the ones used by your direct competitors.
It doesn't matter how much you like one of your competitor's logo, you have to be different so your customers don't get confused.

Are your competitors' logos mainly blue? You may want to use brown instead. Do they use straight lines? Maybe you should consider using curves.
But don't go too far from what your audience expects.
There is a reason why bank logos are mainly blue and black. These colors are associated with seriousness and trust and all banks want to appear trustworthy. Unless there's a good reason to do so, for example a bank that wants to look young and dynamic, they usually stay away from bright colors.

2) Execution looks professional in every detail

We all have seen logos that look amateurish. Small companies' logos often fall in this category. Maybe they include a cheap clip art or they are set in fonts that are poorly legible.
Sometimes a subtle detail like the incorrect spacing between words, although not consciously detected by non professionals, still gives a sense that something is wrong.
The quality of execution in a logo is critical. If the logo is perceived as professional there is a good chance that the same quality is transferred upon the company as well.

The components of the logo where quality of design is crucial are the graphic symbol and the typography.
Symbols should be simple, clean and polished and their position should be balanced correctly in the logo. Many good designers also tweak the typography slightly to increase legibility and portray a distinctive look.

3) It looks good when reproduced in different media

Logos have several uses. They are printed in full color on stationary and business cards but also in only black ink in the phone book. They appear on huge signs and on low resolution computer screens. They end up enlarged on the side of the van and in a very small size on the company checks.

Many logos that look good at a standard size can hardly be recognized when they are reproduced very small. Or they look odd when enlarged on a trade show booth. Sometimes, the fine details of a logo get lost when it's printed in a newspaper ad due to the low quality of the paper or the lack of colors beyond black.
That's why most professional logos are very simple in shape and use very legible fonts.
A good designer will always provide several versions of the logo, at the very least a color and a black only version, for different uses.
Often, versions of the logo where the elements are arranged differently are also provided to be used in tight or vertical spaces.

To summarize:

  • a do-it-yourself logo can be cheap but can look very unprofessional and reduce your company's impact in the marketplace
  • it can also cost you extra money when stationary, signs or other marketing material need to be printed
  • when judging a logo, take into account three elements of good logo design: uniqueness, quality of execution, versatility of reproduction

The job of a logo is mainly to make your company recognizable in the marketplace and needs to differentiate you from the crowd of your competitors. But if it's done poorly and looks amateurish it can cost you money and credibility for many years to come.