Start Featherlight: Get your logo

Technically, this series is about Featherlight IT.  However, there are a number of other necessary start-up activities to be done that benefit from the same featherlight regard for saving cash.  So let’s take a take a break from IT and get your new logo.

First thing, you have choice to make.  You can work remotely with a company that handles everything through an account representative or you can work directly with graphic artists, a.k.a. creatives.  Both are in the same neighborhood with regard to cost.  Where and how your money is spent is the difference, and the degree to which you want to be involved.

Choice A:  The account representative

The account representative case is easy and should be the choice if you do not want to be involved.  You’ll get something and you might be happy with it.  This is the right choice for some personalities and if you are committed to keeping your time investment to less than a couple of hours.  I have little to add in terms of advice.  In fact, you can just call your credit card company and have their representative talk to the logo company’s account representative to arrange your logo — the jobs and the experience are mirror images.  And if you don’t like the logo product, you’ll have to talk to them anyway.

When asked to intervene on behalf an entrepreneur-executive with a project in the ‘ditch’ with this model, here is what the account representative told me:

“While the account managers have design expertise, creating the designs is not our function. The account manager is responsible for helping the customer through the process should they have difficulty with the online forms, or questions about the process.”

Help with online forms, there’s a waste.  Might as well call your ISP or computer vendor, they probably have better music on hold.

Choice B:  Working with the creatives

This case is more work on your part, but worth it. The reason is non-obvious:  you have to think at an abstract level about your company and what you are trying to create.  This is often a welcome and healthy respite from other start-up activities.

Web 2.0 has gifted us with a number of sites where creatives gather to work out in the open where you and other creatives can see the work.  The crowd’s wisdom can also be harnessed to solicit fast, broad feedback. Here’s the big picture of how they work:  you specify what you want, state how much you will pay for it (and pay it upfront to be held in escrow), a number of creatives submit designs that you and everyone can see, give your feedback, elect a winner, you get the logo and the creative gets paid. You’ll be amazed as talent from around the world will contribute.  The contributions will feed on one another, raising the quality and creativity of everyone.

Here are the steps to get the most out of it:

  1. Find a site where satisfied creatives gather.  The one I used is here and is listed on the Resources Page.  My experimental project for my personal blog is here.
  2. Write up a creative brief that states your company’s ambitions, ideals, and what you would like to express in the logo.  Say whether it is for the web, business cards, stationary, or any combination.  Say what you like in terms of designs and colors, and say the same about what you don’t like.  Link to examples you like as well as some noted as not to your taste.
  3. Research what the average payment is for the work you are requesting.  Offer at least that, and if you can manage it, offer more.  This is free enterprise in one of its purest forms and you will get more attention if you make it attractive.  Pause and reflect on just how little you are spending.  Chances are it is a fraction of traditional logo sources, including the account manager model above; then reflect on what you pay for an hour for mechanic work on your car or care for your lawn.  The point is, an extra $50 may put you well above the average and is a bargain in the grand scheme.
  4. Post your project, the brief, and select a deadline that creates a time period where you can get meaningful participation and feedback from your network.  In other words, make it more than a week and mind where the weekends fall — some of your creatives may be doing this on weekends and from vastly different time zones.
  5. Explore the other work on the site, and note the creatives who are producing work you like.  Contact them, tell what attracted your attention and invite them to look at your project.  This may take a couple of days, so it is important to set a realistic deadline.
  6. These sites rating systems and a means to leave feedback for the creative.  Use both often and conscientiously.  Avoid ‘grade inflation’ with the rating system, which is typically some scale like 1 – 5.  If you give every entry a 4 or 5, you are not communicating what you like and dislike.  Remember the project will be open for a week or more, and you want room to show the ratings going up on the concepts you like and things improve.
  7. Give feedback and an electronic note of thanks to everyone who contributes a design.  Everyone except the winner is contributing without any monetary compensation. A kind note and constructive feedback is small compensation, and absolutely the right thing to do.  Besides this is one of the first acts of your new company, and you should set the standards for good manners.  Other people will see your behavior, and you will get much more back in return.
  8. Invite your friends and people who may be involved in your new company to participate and give their feedback.  These sites often have a way for the ‘crowd’ to express its opinion — that is core to their value proposition.  This is an easy and fun way to engage with people who may be very important to you in the early phases of your company.  After all, you can tell them what your company is doing, why and when, all in the context of getting their feedback.
  9. Narrow your choices, and ask for the inevitable ‘tweaks’ from only those 1 or 2 you are reasonably sure you are going to choose.  Remember, everyone but the winner is working hard for free and demonstrate that you respect their efforts.
  10. Make your choice and award the job.  Check yourself on making a series of changes. Iterations chew up time and goodwill.  Anything beyond simple and one round, put into an additional paid work package.  Step back and think about what you are spending, and respect the creative.  It always comes back to you.
  11. Request the logo in the file formats you will need.  Remember to ask for the file in the format used to create it.

Enjoy the journey.  Chances are you just interacted with global talent to help your company and received a quality result for less than it costs for an average plumbing repair.  Done right, you let 20 or more people who are important to your company know what is happening.  db

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