Nowadays it seems many people are claiming to have the knowledge and expertise available to design professional quality logos.
But the amount of work involved in creating a unique identity is often underestimated. It’s incredibly difficult to make a living as a freelance graphic designer when you’re charging a pittance for your work.
If someone claims to be able to provide you with a professional quality logo for £50 (or even lower), you have to question exactly how much time and effort is being spent on developing your design
Not a lot I’ll bet.
Why the quality of your logo matters
Your logo is what identifies your company and helps you stand out from the competition. It’s your first chance to make a good impression.
If it’s a cheap, dated, generic design, what does that say about your company?
When it comes to your branding it’s always best to seek the expertise of a professional, experienced graphic designer.
But with so many people claiming to be able to offer professional logo design at rock-bottom prices, how can you spot a bad logo design if you don’t know anything about graphic design yourself?
Here’s 10 things to look out for in a designers’ portfolio that may give away their lack of expertise.
1. Generic, unimaginative design
Be aware of literal, ‘obvious’ logos or those without any real idea behind them.
One of the first things you think of that relates to a hair salon is probably a pair of scissors, a library would likely be a book.
Has the designer done something clever or completely unexpected with the idea, or have they gone with an obvious or generic design?
2. Poor Typography
This the most common sign a designer lacks experience. A professional designer will pay close attention to details that you probably wouldn’t notice unless you were made aware of them.
One of the most important and time consuming processes is known as kerning. This involves manually adjusting the spacing between each letter, one at a time, to make the text a lot easier to read.
Here’s an example of un-kerned text. Notice the uneven spacing between some of the letters (particularly ‘been’).
Here’s some kerned text. Everything’s much tighter. The spacing between each letter appears much more equal.
You might not be able to notice a significant difference, but some some fonts have worse automatic kerning than others. If it’s not adjusted, the text can look ugly or even look like another word completely.
The word ‘click’ for example…
Or even worse, ‘CLINT’…
3. Poor choice of typeface
Would you even consider leaving a loved one in the hands of a funeral director who’s logo features their name in a cartoony font?
I know I wouldn’t.
Typefaces imply a tone of voice and help towards a feel or emotion related to your company. Ask yourself “What tone of voice does this logo convey?”
A poor choice here could be devastating for your brand.
4. Poor choice of colours
Colour is an important consideration in the logo design process. It can say a lot more about your company than you think.
There are many colours that work together and many more that don’t.
The colour can be affected by the paper stock being printed onto. The printing method can also affect the appearance of colour.
A professional designer will be able to advise you on colour values to use and which to avoid.
Basically, stay away from bright neon colours!
5. Pixelated edges
Logos that feature pixelated edges* could indicate the logo has been created in Photoshop or another software package that’s not intended for creating logos.
Photoshop produces raster images created from pixels (tiny squares), whereas a vector image is created through math.
Put simply, vector images can be scaled up or down to any size without losing quality or becoming pixelated. Raster images will not, and therefore you will find yourself with a logo that looks pixelated at any size other than the size it was created at.
* It’s entirely possible that the image itself is pixelated and not the design. I wouldn’t base your decision on this alone but certainly look for pixelation in any printed material.
6. Uses photographic images
A photograph is a raster image created from pixels. You therefore cannot change its scale without losing detail and causing pixelation.
Any logo that features photography is a clear sign the designer has no idea about logo design.
Stay well away.
7. Uses clip art
Copying an image from a website, slapping a company name on it and calling it done is not professional logo design. The abomination created is not a professional quality logo.
Don’t waste your money.
8. Reliant on effects
A good logo should work entirely in black and white, ideally without text (unless it’s a typographic logo of course).
Using subtle gradients on logos is a bit of a trend at the minute, but it’s important to remember that the logo must also work as a solid black shape without the effects applied
Here’s a ‘logo’ that has some ‘nice’ gradients and glass effects applied to it.
Here it is without the effects in pure black and white.
It’s basically just a circle above some text. It could be the logo of any company.
Not very interesting, unique or memorable is it?
9. ‘Familiar’ designs
Arguably the number one sign you should stay away from a designer.
If their portfolio features designs that are similar to existing logos or are based on concepts from recognisable brand identities, stay well away.
Should they design you a logo based on an already exiting logo that infringes copyright, then it will be you that’s hit with the legal difficulties, not the designer.
You can argue all you want that the designer is at fault, but the responsibility lies with you.
10. Extra clutter
An effective logo design relies on simplicity. It’s not about what you add, but what you take away.
Think of how simple some of the most iconic brand identities are; the McDonalds arches, the Nike tick, Apple’s apple…
These logos are great examples of effective design. They’re simple, memorable, describable, they work without colour and without text and you’d recognise them even at a smaller scale.
Extra ‘stuff’ just detracts the eye and cheapens the design. It also affects legibility at smaller scales.
Hopefully this post has given you an overview of what to look out for when viewing a designer’s portfolio.
There are many sites that claim to offer professional graphic design and will happily take your money and throw together a logo for you in a matter of hours. This is not what I would consider a professional service.
Understandably, everyone has a budget to stick to but it’s worth seeking out a true professional and getting your brand designed properly. Shop around for quotes from different designers.
Graphic design doesn’t have to be expensive, but typically you get what you pay for.
Your brand is the face of your company. Try to see it as an investment, not an afterthought.Image source.