This week, I finally gave a client a logo I started working on—yes—one year ago.
Want to know why? Because I am not a professional designer.
Why, you may ask, would I create a logo for a client if I am not a designer?
The answer can be found somewhere in the neighborhood of “enthusiasm” and “curiosity.” Cross street: “naïveté.”
When I began freelancing (as a copywriter, not a designer) in 2016, I quickly decided that I wanted to learn how to use Adobe Illustrator (and maybe a few other applications in Adobe Suite). I started watching instructional videos and practicing and slowly, slowly acquiring knowledge.
But I realized I needed a professional to occasionally lean over my shoulder and give me some guidance. So when a “branding design” class opened up nearby—taught by a creative director I really admire—I paid for it within approximately two minutes and eagerly awaited the first class.
I was going to get to work on logos! Color palettes! Typography! With professional guidance!
The class convened. And it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. We focused a lot on positioning and strategic branding. We worked on articulating brands with words much more than with design.
But at a certain point, I was given the assignment to develop a brand, complete with logo.
Rather than work for an imaginary client, I thought I’d try to help out a nonprofit. I found one right in my town, met with the managing director, and got going. After some preliminary work, it came time to create … the logo.
The creative director/teacher of my branding class gave me very friendly feedback on the designs I shared, but I could tell he was being way too forgiving. I knew I wasn’t finished with the logo by the time the class concluded.
I kept working. I got help from several designer friends. And eventually, with MUCH assistance, I came up with half a dozen logos. The client chose one, and just this week, I finished creating all the requisite formats, zipped the file, and sent it off. Ta-da!
Now, let me say that part of this year-long logo turnaround has to do with the nonprofit I worked with—how infrequently their board meets, and a definite lack of urgency on their end. But a big part of it has to do with how freaking difficult it is for a non-designer to create a logo.
Yes, I’ve worked closely with professional designers for 30 years. I’ve attended countless design conferences and events. I’m a member of AIGA. I know *something* about design. But I did not earn a degree in design. And this became painfully obvious. Because designing a logo is challenging in about a dozen different ways. And every challenge was amplified by my ignorance.
I learned a lot from this adventure, to be sure. But I won’t enumerate all the lessons I absorbed about typography alignment and CMYK values and Pantone workarounds and EPS files. Instead, I want to tell you my most important takeaways from my Very Challenging Logo Project.
My Three Commandments for Hiring Designers
I’ve felt all of these things throughout my career. But never so strongly as I do now.
1) Give designers plenty of time.
Most non-designers have a drastically skewed view of how long it takes to do anything design-wise. The advent of Photoshop contributed to this misperception. Non-designers think everything should take just a few keystrokes to accomplish. Never assume any such thing. Every aspect of design—researching, concepting, creating, tweaking, reviewing, etc.—takes time. Practice saying this with me now so you can say it to your designer later: “How much time do you need?”
2) Give designers plenty of money.
If you are a non-designer, I promise you this: Your designer knows more than you do about design. Designers have worked hard to become educated and savvy professionals. They are artists. They are technicians. They are problem-solvers and problem-preventers. They know how to help you. They are worth every penny. Pay them. Pay them well. Pay them on time.
3) Give designers plenty of respect.
I’ve been in the advertising/marketing business long enough to know that this needs saying. Repeating. Yelling. It’s closely tied with items #1 and #2 above. Don’t impose ridiculous deadlines. Don’t ignore invoices. Don’t wait until the last minute to answer questions. Don’t request changes because your wife doesn’t care for the color green. In fact, if you’re going to request any changes, preface them with this: “Let me know if you think this will compromise what you’re trying to accomplish with your design. If so, let me know. Please tell me what you think.”
Now. Does anyone need a logo? Because I know quite a few designers I’d be happy to recommend.