As we’ve covered before (check out “Creating Your Business’ Brand Message”), branding is one of the most effective methods to creating a positive association with your customers and the marketplace.  But you may be wondering how to get it all done, especially on a budget?  In this article, we’ll take a look at what steps startups can manage on a shoestring.

What Type of Logo?

Before deciding which route to go, whether designing it yourself or hiring someone else, make sure you know what type of logo and branding you’re looking for.  Let’s take a look at the different types of logos that can suit your business:

Pictorial logos are illustrated symbols, often immediately recognizable, though they may not draw an immediate connection to the type of product or service offered.  Examples include Playboy (a black-and-white bunny), Starbucks (a topless mermaid wearing a crown), and Android (a green robot).

Letterform logos are comprised of a single letter, often referring back to the company’s name.  Examples include McDonald’s (the “Golden Arches” in the shape of an ‘M’), Uber (a ‘U’), and Honda (a stylized ‘H’)

Wordmark logos are standalone words or abbreviations.  Examples include Amazon, eBay, CNN, Coca-Cola, and Tesla

Abstract logos are related to pictorial logos, but have no inherent meaning and can be related to abstract art.  Examples include Nike’s “swoosh”, BP’s green and yellow circle, and Audi’s four joined rings.

Picking what logo best works for your company is a process of trial and error.  Short company names work better for wordmarks, but don’t be afraid to experiment and try different varieties to suit your business.  Many companies, including Starbucks, refined their logos as their product became more popular and the brand expanded.

Assess the Competition

Take a look at the competition and see which logos and branding really stand out.  How do the logos convey to the consumer what the brand is all about?  Sometimes, the logo may be unrelated to the product or service itself, but be such a cohesive representation that clues the consumer into certain attributes.  Rosella Food’s ( parakeet logo is a good example—the company certainly doesn’t sell canned songbirds, right?  However, as that type of parakeet is common to Australia, the association of common ubiquity is what the logo is trying to convey.

Try to not to mimic the competition, as it confuses customers and makes your product seem second-rate to an already-established brand in the marketplace.  For instance, imagine if you were trying to market your brand of beer as a competitor to Foster’s.  If you had a logo comprised of a single letter and the same gold, blue, and red color scheme, it would be easy to assume your company was—at best—misguided, and  at worst, a cheap knock-off, even if the product itself was superior.

Mock It Up

Just like writing out a business plan (if you need some guidance “Tools to Help Create A Business Plan”) , you’ll need to put your ideas into action.  Once you’ve established an idea of what type of logo suits your company, start drawing a variety of mockups, or visual rough drafts, of your logo.  Fear not non-creative types, these drawings don’t have to be perfect. Experimentation is key, but you should have an idea of what your company’s logo would look like.  When you’ve come up with a few designs, scan the images and be ready to send them to potential designers.  Do be prepared for a designer to change the design of your mockups, even drastically so, but that’s part of the process.

To DIY or Not To DIY, That is the Question

Now that you have some idea on what type of logo you’d be interested in designing, you have some decisions to make.  Do you do it yourself, or do you hire a designer?

Even if you have to bootstrap your business in the beginning, try to calculate how much your time is worth.  Would hiring someone else save you lots of time that, say learning an entire suite of programs (not just Photoshop), might bog you down in the future?

This decision is up to you, of course, and your artistic abilities, but the main drawback of doing it yourself is the lack of “distance” from the source material that you’ve created.  Are you aware of all the concerns that a graphic designer may be familiar with?  Some of the criteria may not be apparent—is your logo scalable/vector?  Are there other logos that may be similar and thus cause legal scenarios down the road?  Would mass production of your design be costly to reproduce due to the array of colors?  There’s many things to take into consideration.

Of course, if you’re a bootstrapper, follow many of the step-by-step guides out there.  This article ( is a fairly comprehensive starting point.  And, if you’re up to it, here’s sixty-five tips to creating a great logo (  Again, there’s much to consider!

The alternative is to hire someone else.  Companies have realised the importance of logo design and branding, so if your budget can account for some of the services, consider looking into Magicdust (, Aussie Logos (, and Logo Inn (  These companies tend to offer graded packages for affordable rates—some start as low as $45.

If you’d like to go cheaper and perhaps build a relationship for future employees, make sure to scout out your local universities.  Many offer graphic design programs with a marketing/advertising division to meet the need of businesses.  What students at this level lack is real-world portfolio examples.  By posting fliers or contacting the heads of the department, you may find a student who is willing to work on your project, and maybe work with your company for the long-term.

Now, you may be curious to outsource your logo design to websites like Upwork, Fiverr, and so forth, but be forewarned that with the proliferation of pirated software and low accountability, it may not be the route to take.  If you’re interested in the finer points, including the pitfalls, that lie in the process of hiring outsourced labor on, check out this article (  Of course, results vary, and as it goes with most things, you pay for what you get.

One thing to consider with having someone else design your logo is that you can use multiple sources.  Submit your ideas around—not everyone’s concept will be pleasing to you, so it’s good to have multiple examples from different artists to pick from.  Remember, your logo will be featured everywhere in your business—best to not be reminded of having spent too little time on it when it graces every email, memo, and even your fleet of vehicles.