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Bad Design Advice You Can Safely Ignore

Bad Design AdviceThis is going to sound like we’re picking a fight.

We’re not.

First, let me say, we love designers. We’ve worked with hundreds of them. They are some of the most talented people in the world. They make work fun and interesting. And they created every one of the 10,000 icons in our logo design software.

But we have to disagree with some potentially bad design advice passed on by our friends at businesslogos.com. They linked to a short video of designer Melanie Spring who offers the following advice to people starting a new business:

“…particularly businesses get the logo wrong. When they start their business, they just throw up something just to have something. And one thing I try to tell all business owners is if you are going to put any money anywhere, put it into your logo because a really good logo on a white sheet of paper or a white website will look really, really good and it’ll stand the test of time as you’re growing. You can refine it and change it, but being able to put that money into that logo piece, if nothing else, will be able to get you launched a lot quicker than if you just try to throw your money in lots of little places.”

We suppose that if your marketing plan consists entirely of showing people how good your logo looks on a white sheet of paper, this is good advice.

But if your plan for finding customers is a bit more complex, then this may be very bad design advice.

Allow us to explain.

Having a logo doesn’t launch your business. No matter how good your logo is, if you don’t have a plan and the money to get your product or service in front of your customers, your logo is worthless.

A new business owner needs to spend money on the things that get the product or service in front of potential customers. A logo doesn’t do this.

But the reason this is bad advice comes down to money.

A few years ago, when we worked for Hewlett-Packard, we saw lots of research about the courageous men and women who start their own businesses and how much money they had to do it.

The typical person starting a new business is not wealthy. They don’t have venture funding. Many don’t even qualify for an SBA loan. Instead, they drain their savings, take out a second mortgage, or borrow from family. Often they put everything on a credit card.

They live on ramen (or cheesy mac) just to make ends meet while they put all of their money into their new venture.

On average, they have about $500 to spend on marketing. Including the logo.

We’re pretty sure you can’t get a logo design from Ms. Spring’s shop for that.

And that $500 also has to buy business cards and a website. It’s not enough, to be sure, but to recommend spending it all on a logo is just wrong. Better to start with a “good enough” logo design until you know your business is going to succeed.

Of course there are exceptions:

• If your new business needs a trendy retail location—like a restaurant or a bar—you need to spend more on the logo and look of your store (called environmental graphics). $500 is probably not enough to start this type of business.

• If you are well-funded and have thousands of dollars to put into your marketing plan, then by all means, spend a few thousand on a custom logo that will grow with your business.

• If your new business is arts or design related, then you should spend more on your logo to reflect that.

But, if you don’t know yet if your business will succeed, or you’re just trying to get off the ground with a tiny budget, you’re much better off with a low-cost or do-it-yourself logo design for something like $49.

After you’ve proven the idea, if your logo needs updating, then “refine it” or “change it” as Ms. Spring advises.

Until then, you’ve got more important things to spend your money on.


Note: Just to be clear, we would bet that Ms. Spring is not advising businesses with small budgets to blow it all on a logo. She is likely talking to well-funded ventures who can afford the kind of services her firm offers. But the way she said what she says above doesn’t make this clear. Our customers are more like the under-funded go-getters who are willing to take the risks to start a business, for whom this would be bad advice. Hence today’s post. And if you have $400-500 budgeted for a custom logo, you could do worse than contact the guys at logodesign.com.

Photo credit: laughlin via photopin cc