On logos and fonts

Branding in today's market

If you’ve started a business, or you’re thinking of rebranding, you know there are a lot of potential avenues for a new logo. How do you pick the right one?

In this article I'll give you some insight into the ideas behind branding, and some of the options available in the marketplace. I hope to show you that the thinking and strategy behind a logo is the most valuable part. Everything following that is simple repetition.

What is a logo?

A logo, at it's simplest, is a consistent shape or type-style that is used to differentiate your product. Logos and distinguishing marks have been with us in some form or another all through-out civilization. But the modern product logo stems from the introduction of mass-production. Factories and mills wanted to mark their products with a badge of superiority in order to sell at a premium price to the generics in the market-place. They had a product which was superior, and if customers could identify it, they would choose it against its lesser-quality peers. Thus, the modern logo was born, and it proved to be a competitive advantage for those firms which invested in creating a superior product.

Today, the logo sits at the centre of what's colloquially known as 'branding'. Branding is the make-up of all the aspects by which a company distinguishes itself. It may include a logo, a specific colour, a type-style or proprietary font. Patterns and motifs are common in some industries, as are characters and audio 'jingles' in others. Branding can extend into the tone-of-voice and personality that a company presents to the world, and may even inform the causes a company supports, or the culture the company curates.

Branding asks the question: if this company were a person, who would they be and what traits would they have? The answer to that question defines the brand.

In the past, merely having a logo on your product was enough to give you competitive advantage. This soon gave way to every company using this tactic, and exhausting some of its effectiveness. In today's market with branding so prevalent, companies have to become more sophisticated in the scope and fidelity of their branding to out-compete their peers.

A logo, albeit not the magic bullet it once was, is still useful for differentiating a product or service. But a modern business will need to think beyond the logo to their greater 'brand' in order to be most competitive in the marketplace.

The dark art of pricing

This is one of those thorny and mysterious issues that crop up when you’re talking about creating something new, that doesn’t exist yet. How long will it take? Who should make it? What’s an appropriate cost for this thing, anyway?

In the following text I’ll break down what you’re likely to receive at different price-points. I hope this arms you with the information you need to make the best choice for your business.

Free Plus

At the low-end of the pile are the free and near free options. These include opening up Microsoft Word and writing your company name in a font of your choosing (not a bad option for some), next you have online contests/auctions. These promise quality logos at cheap prices. The problem you run into is a lack of benefit for the participants. Spending time on a logo design with no guarantee of compensation, or very low compensation, is a recipe for financial disaster for any designer. As such, these websites attract less scrupulous operators who will present, with minimal modification, work that has already been sold repeatedly (clipart), or worse, logos of existing companies which are already under trademark (stolen). It's very difficult to tell who you're dealing with in this scenario, and because they're largely anonymous, these services are magnets for crooks. Your company is ultimately on the hook for the legal costs and expense of changing your logo on all of your marketing that arises from a copyright or trademark dispute, so these services may be a penny-wise, pound foolish approach.

Beyond the horror-stories of bad-guy designers, you give up what is arguably the most valuable part of the design process --the strategic insights and the crafting of a story that extends beyond the logo to all parts of your brand. When done well, this amplifies your communications and makes them resonate with the same voice. And because it takes work, it's something that you just won't find in a contest.

Sign Shop

Next up are small printers/sign shops. These companies tend to have a less experienced designer on staff who can make you a company logo for a few hundred dollars. Typically they won’t spend a great deal of time on these, and they may employ clip-art libraries for their artwork. These suit a small mom & pop operation well, but the lack of trademark ability really rules out their use for businesses that intend to grow, as name protection becomes much more important. Additionally, this tier will almost certainly lack the strategic planning and insights on offer from a more costly provider.


A good freelancers is a great option. A bad freelancer (bad logo) has a multiplier effect in that everything you put the bad logo on is decreased in value. Choose wisely, use your best judgement, and look at their portfolio to get a sense of what style and quality of work they provide. Very important with a freelancer is to review their contract. If they have not explicitly transferred rights to you in their contract (maybe they’re pretty informal about it all), you do not own your logo! The way copyright works is that the creator retains all rights to a work that are not explicitly transferred. This legal snafu might explain why A well known running shoe company initially paid just $35 for it’s logo, then $1,000,000 five years later when they IPO'd. If the company hadn’t secured all the rights, they might have had to buy them out. (Note: the company says this was a good-will gesture rather than a rights purchase).

Smaller Design Firms

Small design firm. Like a good freelancer, the small design firm is a great place to find value for your money. Choose based on their portfolio of work, and your confidence that they understand your business and market. The best design firms spend a great deal of time researching and understanding your market, your competitors, and the things that make your company unique so they have a measure of what’s appropriate for your business. They’ll then develop many many options and present you with only a few. Maybe only one, along with the rationale for why they judge this logo as the best for you. You can expect to work with your design firm to refine aspects of the logo until it is fine-tuned and works well across all media. The very best design firms tend to not do a logo in isolation, but will also extend the design process to include a Corporate Identity which defines the application of the logo and associated elements with type styles, corporate colours, imagery criteria and tone-of-voice for written communication. This ensures that a great logo isn't held back by poor application, and that the full benefit of all the research and concept development is transferred to your brand.

Larger Design Firms

Large design firms build upon the services that smaller firms offer. Larger firms may offer deeper insights and private knowledge developed through research and experimentation. International firms may have superior ability to adapt your brand to markets around the world across different cultures and laws. They may have access to more specialized practitioners and strategists, and they may take on a broader scope of work when they engage a company. They would typically work with larger, established organizations with greater business risk involved in changes to their brand, and would charge a commensurately higher fee.

What's right for my company?

Your logo is an asset that will live on for many years. A good logo might last 20 years or more before technology or trends make it ill-suited for further use, and even then a minor edit may be all that's needed. Over those years, you'll apply your logo to everything your business does and spend many thousands if not millions of dollars on applications of your logo. As it spreads, it will become tougher and more costly to change. Because of this, we think that a business should give careful consideration and planning to their logo and brand. The result of that planning will be that the business can move forward with a consistent, recognizable brand that speaks with the same voice for years to come.

About us.

At Hi. Creative Agency, we want your customers to fall in love with your business. We know that through the design of your customer’s experience, we can weight the averages in your favour and lead to improved customer loyalty, and profitability. In short, design can help your customers to fall in love.

Give us a call and find out how