Starting Up? Don’t Get Sucked Into the Logo Design Vortex

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Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

And don’t underestimate the real costs in time and dollars

You’re a startup. You need a logo. But remember, the biggest success stories in tech started with cheap, often hideous logos. I’ve seen too many early stage companies tie up crazy amounts of money and human costs in making decisions about a little picture or block of text.

Nightmare number one: Using an agency

When you are starting out, one sure way to waste a ton of time and money is to hire an agency to create your brand. The old school agencies are experts at sucking every dollar possible out of you while brainwashing you into the entire branding mythology. Just remember, virtually no major tech brand was created by an agency. Jobs made up Apple, Google was a take on googleplex, an incredibly large number, that Page and Brin made up to reference the amount of information their algorithm could crawl and organize. Microsoft was a made-up word from William Gibson’s groundbreaking cyber novel Neuromancer. And on and on.

Nightmare number two: The internal branding meeting(s)

You decide not to go the agency route. You look for an independent designer you can afford. This can work very well. Nike got the Swoosh for seventy-five bucks. It is now the most recognized mark on the planet (the designer was given some early stock that made her wealthy, but it didn’t cost the founders anything at that point). You look at the designer’s work and/or get some referrals, outline your ideas and what your business does, agree on a price (keep it under a thousand for 2–3 concepts) and she comes into the office to present her work.

Nightmare number three: The costs you aren’t considering

One of the reasons to keep the process between a few key people and to put a limit on how much discussion there is is the fact that these meetings cost money and distract from more important early stage work, like customer discovery or getting the product to actually work.


The acronym means Keep It Simple Stupid and it applies here. 95% of the time a simple type treatment is best. The common solution is one syllable or word in one color and font and the other in a complimentary color and font. Give the designer some leeway. Go the type route and you can add a visual element later. Remember the purpose here is to create a memorable brand which is, at its core, a word conveying an idea.

A note about those dirt cheap logo designers: A designer needs to be a partner

There are multiple sites online where you can get a handful of logos for virtually nothing, a few dollars each. Two years ago, during a brand update for a client, I gave myself a budget of about a hundred dollars and tried these cheap design sites to see what they came up with. I think I ended up with ten logos from two designers, both based in India. None were usable. I can see where you might get lucky and get a decent one but having a relationship with a designer is for more than the logo. Stationary, signage, conference displays, website design, packaging, video animation…all of these things need to be coordinated down the road. Developing a working relationship with a designer who understands what you are going for and has a vision of it, is going to make all of these production challenges much easier.

Written by

Novelist, Tech Marketing Writer, Growth Consultant. I have been a professional writer for over 20 years- 8 non-fiction books and 1 novel, many articles, etc.

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