Rob Marsh
Filed under Design Process.

How to Work with a Graphic Designer—The Ultimate Guide

For the past 20 years I have worked closely with some of the best designers in the world, creating everything from logo designs to television ads, catalog pages to direct mailers. I’ve worked with them as a collaborator, partner, supervisor, and as a client. So when it comes to the proper care and feeding of designers, I’ve learned a thing or two.

But many people have never worked with a graphic designer before. Others have had a bad experience working with a designer in the past and don’t want to repeat it. We don’t blame you.

Working closely with a great designer can be a rewarding, fun experience. Sometimes it feels more like play, than work. Together you can create something amazing. But to make sure the process goes smoothly, there are a few things you might keep in mind to make sure the experience is a good one.

Here’s our list of “30 Things to Do when Working with a Designer”:

How to Work with a Designer #1. Be Prepared.
Before you even think of hiring a designer, you need to do some work first. Lo
oking for a logo? Then you need to know what your business or product will do. And you need a company name (naming isn’t something most designers do). If you a hiring a designer to create a website or brochure, you should have the copy already written and ready to go. Photos too, if you are providing them. If you have wireframes for your website, even better. The more information you can provide to your designer, the better.

#2. Know Your Target Market.
Before you talk to a designer, you need to know who will be using your product or service. Who is the design supposed to communicate with? Who will make the decision to buy your product? What exactly do you want your customer to do when they see the design? In order to create a design the delivers on your objectives, your designer will need to know about your buyers and what you want them to do.

#3. Know the Message You Want to Communicate.
If you need a logo, you need to share with your designer what you want your customers to think or feel when they see your logo design. For a brochure or website, your designer will need to know what message you are communicating and how you want your customers to feel when they see or read it. Your designer should have a creative brief that will help you determine this.

#4. Choose Your Designer Carefully.
This can be time consuming, but is worth the effort. Make sure you spend as much time as possible seeking out a designer who you admire. Look through lots of design portfolios (like the ones here at You’ll find some other good ones at Logo Lounge, Behance, and Dribble. Invest a few hours looking through the work of lots of designers. This will help you identify the kind of work you like, and it will help you find designers who can do what you need.

#5. Avoid Design Contest Sites.
There are several design sites that promise to deliver dozens or even hundreds of concepts for you to choose from when you post a job on their site. Before you go this route, you need to know that most of the designers who work on these projects don’t get paid for the work they give you. That often means that the designers working on your project don’t have any experience, or they post the same concept to different projects until they sell it (meaning it’s not original), and in some cases they plagiarize work from other designers and post it as their own. Do you really want to take that kind of risk on your project?

#6. Know Who Your Designer Is (If You Aren’t Working One-on-One).
If you are working with a design company or a team of designers, make sure you know who will be working on your project before you hire them. You don’t want to pick a design agency based on the work of the senior partners only to have an intern assigned to your project. If you don’t know who will be working on your project before you start, or if the company changes designers half-way through the process without your input, find another designer.

#7. Talk Directly with Your Designer.
It is critical that you can communicate directly with the designer working on your project—in person, on the phone, or via Skype. Too much nuance is lost in translation if you can’t talk directly whenever needed.

#8. Give Them Reference Materials.
As you and your designer talk about your target customers and what you want to accomplish with your design, be sure to share any reference materials you have with your designer. These may include previous marketing materials, samples of other websites or designs that you like, or anything else that may help the designer understand what you expect from the project.

#9. Don’t Expect Your Designer to Copy Other Work.
Although you should show your designers examples of other work that you like, don’t expect your designer to copy that work. (If they do, fire them and find a new designer). Your designer will use reference materials as a guide to create something similar, but a good designer will change and improve the designs to make them original to you and to better meet your specific needs.

Bad Design Advice: Surprise Me #10. Never Ask to be Surprised.
When giving direction to your designer, don’t say things like, “Surprise me,” or “I’ll know it when I see it.” This is almost always a dead-end and will lead to disappointment. You have to give your designer some direction as to what you want and a few limitations on what you don’t want to see. If you can’t do this, go back to #1 and think about it a bit longer. Even vague direction like, “Nothing cliché, I’d like something very different from my competitor” is better than nothing.

#11. Avoid Vague Feedback Like “Make it Pop!”
Having said that, when you review the work you get from your designer, you’ll want to be as specific as possible about what you like and don’t like. Feedback like “Make it pop!” isn’t very helpful. Same goes for, “I’m not sure, but it just doesn’t’ feel right.” Try something more like, “The headline seems to get lost against that background. Is there a way to make it stand out better so it is more readable?” or “Can we try different colors, these colors don’t feel friendly enough.”

#12. Be Available to Provide Feedback.
Throughout the design process, your designer will be doing research and trying to figure things out. A good designer will think deeply about your project and will undoubtedly have questions about all kinds of thing—your customers, images that might work best, what your competitors are doing, better ways to communicate your ideas, and so on. Make sure you are there to answer questions as soon as possible. Sometimes your designer needs more information before they can explore an idea further or finish up a revision.

#13. Don’t Rush the Process.
Although it often looks easy, design takes time. The designer needs time to try several different directions, figure out which ones work and which ones don’t, then optimize and perfect the best options. This almost always takes a few days and can sometimes be as long as a week or more, depending on the scope of the work being done. If your designer says it will take a few days, don’t push them to deliver it sooner or you may not get their best work.

#14. Insist on Seeing Work in Progress.
While this isn’t always appropriate, and some designers will hate this request, you should ask to see work in progress—especially if the work is complex, like a multi-page website. Make sure you see a comp or two of a home page, before your designer goes to the work of creating the whole site. It is also appropriate to see comps for a logo project to make sure you and your designer are on the same page. Feedback early on in the process will save your designer hours of work down the road.

#15. When You Review, Remember Your Customer.
As you review the initial ideas your designer presents to you, remember who the designs are supposed to appeal to—your customers. Too often business owners give feedback based on their own preferences, rather than what their customers will be looking for. Before you do, take a step back and remember the purpose you are trying to communicate and who it is for (probably not you).

#16. Don’t Make Changes One by One.

When you provide feedback to your designer, it will save you time and money to provide as much as you can at once. Don’t send one revision today, another later this afternoon, and still another tomorrow. Each time your designer needs to make a change, they startup their design software, load your project and the associated images and fonts, and then start addressing your input. Providing all your feedback at once will save your designer a lot of time (and you a lot of money).

#17. Know What You Are Asking For.
If it feels like designers have their own language, it’s because they do: masks, outlines, layers, gradients, PNGs—the list is a long one. We recently heard of a client who asked for a section of his website to be put in Italian. After assuring the designer that is what he wanted, the designer dutifully translated the text to Italian. Upon seeing this, the client was upset: “Why isn’t it slanting like I asked?” He wanted Italics, not Italian (there’s a big difference). When talking with your designer, make sure you know what you are asking for. If you don’t, talk it out with your designer. They are there to help you figure it out.

#18. Trust Your Designer’s Advice.
Almost nobody second-guesses a heart doctor when he suggests you might need a particular test. And you probably don’t tell your accountant that she should fill out your tax documents in a different color or format because you like it better that way. Assuming your designer has a bit of experience under his or her belt, trust that they know what they are doing. They should welcome your feedback, but don’t tell them how to do their job.

How to Work with a Designer: Don't Backseat Drive #19. Don’t Back-Seat Drive.
If you did your homework when searching for the right designer (see #4), then your designer should know what they are doing. Don’t ask to sit over their shoulder while they work on compositions or make revisions. Don’t second-guess design elements without a good reason. Let them do what you hired them to do.

#20. Be Clear about Deadlines and Costs.
If you need something done by Friday, don’t wait until Thursday night to let your designer know. (Also know that there is a difference between final files ready to print and comps ready for a presentation—make sure your designer knows which ones you need.) If you only have a limited budget for your project, tell your designer before you start. They will figure out exactly what they can provide and let you know what they can deliver for your budget.

#21. Meet Your Deadlines.
Obviously you should expect your designer to meet the deadlines they promise. But you need to meet your deadlines too. If your designer needs the text for your website by Wednesday so they can complete the designs by Friday, then make sure they have it on time, so they can finish the work they’ve promised to deliver.

#22. Put Everything in Writing.
Your designer should have a standard design contract that they use to outline what the deliverables are for your project, what it will cost, when you can expect to see them, who owns the final artwork, kill fees, and more. This protects you as much as it protects them. Make sure you put it all down in a signed document.

#23. Don’t Design by Committee.
Because design can be subjective and everyone has a slightly different idea of what they want, trying to make design decisions in a committee is very difficult. And sending feedback to your designer from more than one person often ends up in the designer making a change for one person, then changing it back to make the next person happy. If there is more than one decision maker, make sure they get together to provide feedback to your designer.

#24. Be Prepared to Sell the Designs.
If your job is to work with a designer to come up with something to present to your boss or someone else, then be prepared to help sell the designs you’ve asked your designer to create. Remember to share who the customer is, what the design is supposed to accomplish, and what you and the designer have done so far to create a design that will work. Don’t leave it to your designer to sell the work. As an outsider, they’ll need your help to get approvals.

#25. Don’t Forward Comps without Explanation.
When your designer sends compositions or revisions to you, don’t forward them on to someone else without explaining the process so far and what you’ve done to get the designs to this point. Asking someone who has no understanding of the project to respond to a design is a recipe for rework, revision, and going over budget.

#26. Don’t Expect Quick Turn-Arounds.
If you’re working with a good designer, they no doubt have other clients and projects. Don’t expect them to be able to drop everything to turn around a project for you without notice. If you need this kind of service, talk to them before hand (it will generally require you to pay a retainer). In general, your designer will do everything they can to get your work done as quickly as possible.

#27. Don’t Be a Jerk.
This goes without saying. Your designer is human. They will occasionally make mistakes or not understand your direction. Saying things like, “My eighth grade daughter can do that,” will almost always cause more harm than good. Try to be understanding as you work together. Good designers will do the same for you.

#28. Pay Them Promptly.
When you hire a designer, you are paying for design—which means the payment is due when the design is delivered, not when the site goes live, or when the printed material is mailed, or when you make your first sale. Pay your designer as soon as you receive the final design files.

#29. Don’t Change Your Design Too Soon.
Too many businesses get bored with their designs or logo because they see it so often. They get tired of it long before their customers do and they want to change it. This is good for designers who then get another project (and another paycheck). But it’s not always good for your business. Stick with your designs until they stop working, not until they feel boring.

#30. Enjoy the Process,
Being part of the creative process, solving marketing problems, creating design solutions that work is fun and exciting. We call it work, but in a lot of ways, it’s like play. It’s meant to be enjoyable, so have fun while working with your designer.


Can you think of any advice we missed? Add it in the comments:


Rob Marsh
Filed under Logo Design 101, Logos.

Forget Telling a Story! Your Logo Design Needs to Appeal to Everyone.

Last week we argued that your logo should tell a story. And while that can be a good thing (depending on the kind of business you run), it may be a better idea to forget telling a story all together. Forget having your logo communicate anything at all. Let it just be a logo.

In fact, if we hadn’t written that previous post, we’d be tempted to say that having a logo that tells a story is bad advice.

Here’s why:

Brands are complex creatures. Most of them have a meaning or story to us that can be captured in a logo. But your relationship with a brand is different from my relationship with the same brand. So which story goes in the logo?

Let’s take car rental brands for example.

Pretend for a moment that you really like the Avis car rental company.

Avis Logo Design

You like Avis because their location at your airport is easy to get to (and is closer than Budget) and there’s rarely a wait for a car. In addition, you travel often enough that the people at your local office remember you when you stop by to get a car, and great you with a friendly smile.

Now, how should Avis tell that story in a logo design?

Do you add a map to the type showing the location is close to the airport? Do you add a smiley face to the logo to show customers that the people there are always friendly? (And if you do, what happens when an employee has a bad day and forgets to be friendly?)


Probably not.

This idea is even worse when you remember that not everyone likes Avis because of the friendly service.

Some customers like the kinds of cars Avis offers. Others like the price they charge. While still others like the Preferred Club membership benefits, or the cleanliness of the cars. And some potential customer like Avis’ competitors.

No logo can tell all of these stories.

At least, not without becoming a meaningless mess.

Imagine an Avis logo that contains the company name, a smiling face, a map, two or three cars, and a club icon. That logo tells a lot of stories.

And it’s a mess.

To show you what that looks like in a real example, check out this logo concept for the Casper Volleyball Tournament (it was just a concept and never got to the final stages):

Crawded Casper Volleyball Logo


We imagine the designer thinking something like this: “First, it’s a volleyball tournament so it needs to say that and show a volleyball. And since we’re in Casper, I should probably show some stuff that relates to the area, like the mountains and an oil drill. And since we’ve got that big Elk arch here in the city, I better put in some antlers—maybe a good four or five point rack. And we need a sponsor’s logo included in it somewhere, so I’ll tuck it into the bottom of the volleyball.”

Rightly the client said, the logo had too much going on.

Smart client.

A logo design that doesn’t tell a specific story allows the customer bring their own story to the logo. Take this logo for Quantum, designed by Luke Baker, one of’s Portfolio members.

Quantum Logo Design


If you like Quantum because their product matches your expectation, this logo design works. And if you like their friendly customer service, this logo works. If they solve your problem, this logo works. In fact, no matter what your experience with this company, its logo can represent that interaction and help you remember them.

Some of the best logos don’t try to tell you what to think.

Need another example? How about a two more…


Coca-Cola Logo Design


Coca-cola’s logo has become its own icon that represents the positive feelings you have associated with the drink. There’s no picture of a glass of soda, or family gatherings, or guys playing football, or any of the millions of things you could do while enjoying a Coke. The logo is simple enough to represent any experience you have with the brand.

Disney Logo Design

Disney’s logo design is similarly diverse. Whether in a theme park, in a movie, on a video, or on packaging for their toys and books, this logo is plain enough to tell hundreds of stories related to the Disney entertainment empire. Do you have a favorite Disney story or experience? You probably think of it just about every time you see this logo.

So should your logo tell a story? 

Not if it needs to represent a variety of different customer experiences. In that case, you’re better off with a logo that is simple enough to represent everyone’s experience with your brand.

What do you think? Should a logo be plain or say something?



Rob Marsh
Filed under Design, Logo Design 101.

Your Logo Design Should Tell A Story

One of the most important purposes of a logo is to communicate a particular message or story with customers.

That’s a lot of work for a single image and a word or two, but the very best logo designs tell a story.

Sometimes the logo’s story is obvious. Like the “jump man” logo used by Nike for the Air Jordan brand. This logo is silhouette of Michael Jordan flying through the air with a ball in his hand, on his way to a thundering dunk:


Air Jordan Logo Design


The Air Jordan logo’s story is obvious: the products marked with this logo design help people accomplish amazing athletic feats. This icon is so good at telling its story, that you don’t even need to see the words “Nike” or “Air Jordan” to get the message, or to recognize the brand.

Another, more subtle example is the Amazon logo. At first, the logo appears simply to be a word mark with an underline icon underneath the first part of the word. But it tells a great story.


Amazon Logo Design


Notice that the underline is an arrow that goes from A to Z. This isn’t an accident. Amazon wants to communicate that the place to find everything from A to Z online is Great story. But it gets better. The underline is also a smile—which presumably represents how you feel when you use Amazon to find what you’re looking for. All that from the company name and a simple underline.

Let’s take a look at an example from Jerron Ames, a portfolio member. He created the Chart Monster logo, which tells an easy to recognize story. The icon is obviously a Loch Ness-type monster. But notice the way the monster creates a bar chart, moving up and to the right, showing positive growth. It’s a fantastic example of an icon that quickly demonstrates the product’s story.

ChartMonster Logo Design


One last example to reinforce the point—the logo design for Le Tour de France. Cycling fans will readily recognize the logo featuring the name of the world’s biggest bicycle race and a blotch of yellow (yellow is the color most closely associated with the race). Notice how the yellow ball is also the front wheel of a bicycle, and the R becomes the rider of a bike made by the O and U in the logo. Anyone who sees this logo immediately knows that the Tour de France has something to do with cycling.


Tour de Fance Logo Design


A logo that tells a compelling story will help your company or brand stand out from the competition in your marketplace.

Need help finding a designer who can create this kind of logo for you? Check out our directory of awesome designers, then reach out to the one who’s work you admire most.

Do you have a logo that tells a great story? Have you designed one or seen one? Tell us about it in the comments.

And if you think this whole idea is a load of bollocks, check out this post: Your Logo Shouldn’t Tell a Story.



Rob Marsh
Filed under Logos, Small Business.

Introducing the All New!

Welcome to—the best place on earth to search for, connect with, and hire great logo designers.

Our mission is to help you find a talented designer who you can work closely with to develop a unique logo identity for your business or product. And our directory of designers features some of the world’s best—artists who have worked on hundreds of logo projects over the years.

We’ve tried to make finding them easy—if you know their name, you can simply search for their name. If you are looking for a particular style of work, you can search for that too. Want to work with someone nearby? Search by location. Or simple browse through the samples and portfolios featured on the site until you find a designer who’s work you love. Then email them, text them, tweet them, call them, or reach out to them in whatever way works best for you. Is Not a Design Firm

This site is a directory of logo designers. We’ve made it easy to connect with them by listing links to their portfolios, their social media pages, and their personal websites. Because of this, you’ll find a wide range of designers with varying talent levels and price ranges. Once you find a designer who’s work you like, we encourage you to reach out to them for additional information about availability, price ranges, and working arrangements. Is Not a Contest Site

It seems the latest online design rage is the design contest site, where you share a few ideas about what you’re looking for, pay $99 (or a little more or less, depending on the site), and then have a group of inexperienced designers show you ideas. If that’s what you need, you’ll have better results elsewhere. Instead, we focus on connecting you with experienced designers to work with one-on-one. Why? Because that’s the best way to get a logo and a consistent, lasting look and feel for your project, product, or business. Is the Best Way to Find A Logo Designer for Your Project

We’ve made it easy to find them. Now it’s time to take a look and give them a try. Simple click here to start browsing through their work.

And if you’re a logo designer who wants to share their work on our site, click here.




Designer, My Profile

The 7 Biggest Logo Events in 2013

This year has seen a lot of big happenings in the logo design field. Yes, it’s been a crazy year, with no shortage of topics to buzz about. The best way to sum it up is that the year was simultaneously amazing and disappointing. We saw a lot of great design happen, and there were glimpses of a world starting to recognize the value of great logo branding. But we also saw companies unveil logos that look like a committee created it, and got frustrated during the revision process, ultimately finalizing on ineffective, unattractive design.

1. Google Freshens Up


One trend we saw a lot of was simplification. Many companies realized that a good way to refresh their image was to remove the gradients, drop shadows and other unnecessary elements from their logo.

Google cut the fat out, and came out with a simple, clean look for their logo and application bar. Experienced designers cheered, and the Bevel/Emboss function took Drop Shadow’s hand and slunk into a hidden background layer.


They obviously learned from the positive response to last year’s Chrome upgrade. The logo looks so much better with fewer gradients and effects.

google old

What a refreshing change from their earlier logo! Business world, take heed!





2. Appalachian State Forgets What A Logo Is


Sluggishly waking from their post-turkey stupor, App State revealed its new logo the day after Thanksgiving. Yes, that’s the new logo on the bottom. It took many people a while to realize they weren’t kidding, because just look at it. He is named “Victory Yosef”.


With a straight face, Mountaineers director of athletics Charlie Cobb announced “The excitement that Victory Yosef has generated among our students, alumni and fans since we introduced it as a throwback logo last fall has been overwhelming. Due to its popularity, it only made sense to make Victory Yosef a permanent part of our branding. We hope that it endures as a recognizable mark of Appalachian athletics for years to come.”

The former logo, a beautiful, iconic mountain man, had been used for 14 years. It’s style is fairly common, but it communicates quickly the idea with interesting shading and highlights. Now the athletes get to wear a child’s drawing of Popeye Abe Lincoln on their helmets.


3. Yahoo Insults The Entire Graphic Design Industry

yahoo copy

Too many people think graphic design is not a specialized profession, but something anyone can do, because the tools to make decent-looking Web pages, fliers, business cards, etc. are readily available. But is design the act of putting something on a page?

After months of teases and false alarms, Yahoo! finally unveiled the overworked and distorted nightmare that is their new logo. Were we taught in school not to distort a beautiful typeface like Optima, because a lot of thought was put into its’ architecture? Yes.

Does the CEO, Marissa Mayer, think that anyone can do design? Yes, and that’s a common misconception that we urgently need to fight. According to her blog, she “rolled up her sleeves, and dove into the trenches with (her) logo design team” and spent the “majority of Saturday and Sunday” designing the logo “from start to finish”. There’s so many things wrong with this post, it brings tears to my eyes.

This debacle represents the worst aspects of someone who doesn’t understand or accept that typography and graphic design in general are professions that benefit from years or decades of training. She shows a love for design, while implying that she is equally qualified to participate in it without mastering the process. Which annoyed a lot of professionals that have.

4. Philips Re-Invents The Logo Reveal

phillsreveal philstweet

The marketing team at Philips really know the value of the slow reveal; it created a teaser social media campaign that allowed anyone to “claim” any of the 50,000 pixels in an image of the new logo by signing in with Facebook or Twitter and specific hashtag.

In this way, the shape and colors of the new identity were gradually revealed. On November 13, they officially launched their brand after engaging thousands of people and making sure their logo was talked about in all the right circles.




The reworked enclosure-style logo is cleaner, and works better at small sizes. It’s formerly thin lines are now stronger and the top is subtly rounded and friendlier. Even a novice can appreciate it’s clean lines and easy readability.










5. The National Reconnaissance Office Goes With The Octopus


Should the agency that operates America’s spy satellites be a little more subtle? Especially in this age of concern of individual privacy and paranoia?  “Nothing is beyond our reach.” Ha!

After unleashing this terrifying logo for one of their spy satellites, a spokewoman explained: “NROL-39 is represented by the octopus, a versatile, adaptable, and highly intelligent creature. Emblematically, enemies of the United States can be reached no matter where they choose to hide.”

OK, great that we’re striking fear in the hearts of our nation’s enemies, but it also gives us a little glimpse into the agency’s mindset, that apparently is that they can strangle, devour or make little octopus babies with every soul on earth.




6. Farmers Strips Down


How many discussions have we had with clients about the concept of “less is more”? Keep this image somewhere safe, so you can quickly illustrate your point.

They lost the tagline and found new respect in the design world by letting the text breathe while still retaining it’s essence; a sunrise and shield.

“The new logo captures our belief that by helping customers make more informed insurance decisions, we can provide them with greater knowledge, confidence and security,” says Mike Linton, farmers’ chief marketing officer. “The new logo is part of the Farmers transformation to an organization that not only serves our customers better, but also helps empower them.”

Yes, it gained an ink color. The logo makes up for that in white space and simplicity. Well done, Lippincott design agency, and well done, Farmers.



7. Miami Dolphins Now Swimming Without Head Protection


Much like Stephen Colbert’s painting of himself in front of a painting of himself, the original logo for the Miami Football helmets featured a dolphin who himself wears a helmet. Whenever I saw it, I wished it had a smaller dolphin on the dolphin’s helmet.

For the first time in 4 logo versions, the dolphin’s head was let loose, allowing the dolphin to swim naturally and show off its artistic curves.  Instead of making the dolphin jumping out of the water, the animal is in a “more powerful and ascending position”, according to Claudia Lezcano, the Dolphins’ chief marketing officer. She stated. “We wanted to have a look toward the future but be anchored in our iconic past.”

When you look back on 2013, what stands out in your mind? Did you create something that makes you burst with pride? Did any of your design views change? Hopefully 2014 will be a year of growth and development for all of us.