When you start a business there can be a lot of expenses and it can be hard to decide which purchases to prioritise. Do you need a website first? Should you be consulting a marketing professional, or getting promotional photos taken or videos made? Is it worth paying someone to design you a logo, or would a plain piece of typed text do the job?
When it comes to logos the answer is this: it isn’t necessarily essential to have a ‘logo’ from the outset in order for your business to succeed. But what IS crucial is to consider the visual identity of your business as a whole, and have enough understanding on the subject to be able to make informed choices that won’t damage your reputation.
What makes up a visual identity?
The visual identity of your business is what it looks like on screen (your website and social media) and in print (business cards, signage, brochures etc). It isn’t the written content of these things, but the typefaces, colours, layouts and images you use that make up the look and feel of the page or item. A logo can play a leading role in this as an instantly recognisable icon, but it can also take a back bench if necessary in the early stages of your business before you identify your brand values and have a budget available.
Why is visual identity important?
Think about the first point of contact your potential client might have with your business - might they see you on social media and head to your website? Might you offer them a business card, or do you have an advert they might see? In all these cases making a good first impression is crucial. Whether we like it or not we all make quick judgements about the businesses we come across based on what they ‘look like’. Does this company look reliable? Is this person on my wavelength? Do they meet my expectations? Be it consciously or subconsciously we dismiss companies that don’t visually attract and engage us, often before we even find out much about them.
How can I get my visual identity right?
Consider your own company’s visual identity. You want it to appeal to your target audience, and to convey the right impressions about the type of business you are: are you modern or traditional, vibrant or subtle, natural or high tech? How do you know where to start? These are the kind of considerations that a professional designer has experience communicating visually, but if you’re taking matters into your own hands your best bet is to play it safe.
What are the safest options?
If in doubt: less is more. Think white backgrounds, straightforward fonts like Times or Helvetica, not more than 2 or 3 colours across the brand, plenty of white space, simple and clean looking photography. You could chose a plain typeface and colour for your logo, or create a simple, temporary logo on the Vistaprint website* and use it as the basis for your colours and fonts for a cohesive look. I would suggest you make yourself a set of rules: ‘when I design for my brand I use only these 3 colours, these 2 fonts, this type of pictures’ and so on. This will help create a consistent look and feel that your customers will recognise, and it will make your brand seem more professional. Canva is a another good, free, online platform for creating professional looking marketing materials, although I wouldn’t recommend you create a logo here as the legality of some of the clip art elements can be easily misinterpreted and the file types supplied for logos are for on screen use only. If you are in Brighton and keen to learn how to use Canva to create professional looking marketing materials then Social Brighton can get you started.
Can I really design my own visual identity?
As a starting point a plain, simple DIY visual identity might be all you need to get your business off the ground, but once you have got a firm feel for what your brand is all about, putting your visual identity into the hands of a professional will ensure your brand values are communicated. The limitation of taking the ‘play it safe’ approach to your visual identity in the long run is that it won’t stand out from the crowd. Playing it safe inevitably leads to generic looking designs that, although perfectly acceptable, won’t communicate much to your audience beyond the actual written content of the item. Your business could end up looking much like everyone else's.
What can be gained by employing a professional to create a logo?
A logo is the perfect starting point for establishing a meaningful visual identity. A good designer will take time getting to know and understand your business and your target audience, and will help you clarify your brand values. They will be able to communicate these visually in a way that gets the attention of your potential customers and draws them in to your content. They will create brand guidelines so that you can have a consistent, appropriate look and feel across all your communications, whether you are putting them together yourself or outsourcing them. Ultimately they will create a mark for you that sets you apart from your competitors and gives you a head start building a relationship with your clients.
Would a plain piece of typed text do the job instead? It would, but it would be a huge missed opportunity to tell people more about who you are and what you do, at a glance.
* Logos created on Vistaprint are perfectly legal to use but you do not own the copyright, meaning someone else could potentially create the exact same logo and legally use it for their own business. Watch out for more on this topic coming soon.