5 ways marketers go astray when developing a logo

Color sends psychological and cultural messages, and trendy designs might not stand the test of time. Here’s guidance on branding with an eye to audience identification and company values.

Logo design tips

Few elements of brand identity are as crucial—yet as deceivingly simple—as a logo.

After choosing a name, creating a memorable logo is among the first things any marketer or small-business owner launching or relaunching a company or product will do. In the eagerness to jump in and get started selling, it can be tempting to skip steps, cut corners and move so fast that you fall prey to common missteps.

Here are five mistakes likely to trip you up—and how to avoid them—when developing a logo:

Simply choosing colors based on personal preferences. Individual colors and color combinations evoke different emotional experiences and reactions in your customers, so understanding the psychology of color should play a key role.

Consider the ability of blue to instill confidence and calm, or yellow and orange to spark youthful energy and enthusiasm, for example.

However, despite this, 65% of small-business owners surveyed cited “personal taste and preference” as the primary factor in choosing colors for their logos. Avoid this trap by thinking about the emotional connection you want consumers to have with your brand, and proceed accordingly.

Skipping the upfront work of defining your brand—before engaging with a designer. Choosing logo colors and shapes according to audience projections, and the response you hope to elicit, should be part of a much broader strategy.

To avoid multiple time-consuming (and costly) iterations, it’s best to invest the time up front defining your overall brand strategy: what you stand for (mission, core values), your point(s) of differentiation and market positioning, and your target audience. Addressing these points will help you create a blueprint from which to build all the individual brand identity elements.

Failing to think about how your logo will look on different channels and platforms. Logos are no longer a simple, standalone element for business cards and elements of your website. Today, a logo must translate and communicate to your key audiences across mobile, social, packaging, outdoor messaging and much more. Rebranding in recent years by companies such as Instagram and Pandora, for example, has been inspired by the need to create mobile app icons that will be instantly recognizable for users on a touchscreen.

Falling into the “too trendy” trap. Of course it’s important to be aware of design trends when choosing a logo; staying current and modern helps inspire consumer confidence in your brand.

Yet some marketers latch onto fads blindly, and they risk losing an equally essential trait: timelessness. Logos demand a longer shelf life than other elements of your brand identity, such as packaging or even a website.

If you go too trendy, you risk looking dated sooner than you want, requiring a makeover.

Consider brands whose iconic logos have changed little, if at all, over several decades: Nike, Target, NBC.

Being a copycat. There’s nothing wrong with drawing inspiration from brand elements of companies and products you admire as a starting point when working with a designer. However, there is a fine line between inspiration and imitation.

By all means, stay in touch with what your competitors and industry leaders are doing to succeed—and learn from their efforts—but don’t be so attached to their ideas that you miss the opportunity to capitalize on your own unique attributes.

Pam Webber is COO of 99designs. A version of this article first appeared on MediaPost.

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