Some marketing actions you do every day. Launch a campaign, deliver collateral, and build a pitch. And you’ve likely built a set of best practices and experience on how to execute. But other activities are rare. Take launching a new corporate logo for your company – what do you look for when choosing a logo design vendor?

In addition to the experience of our team, we also did some searching for best practices in choosing a logo design vendor. We were surprised by the lack of information that was available. So here is our collection of tips for starting the process and narrowing the field of design agencies.

Start with Yourself

Choosing the right agency starts by looking internally. First, ask yourself why you want to change the logo in the first place. If you can’t point to a compelling reason to change, then there may not be a great story to be told in the re-design. It may be that your logo has simply drifted away from your focus or was never a good match in the first place. But change for change’s sake isn’t a great approach.

Next, ask yourself what you’re looking for. Logo redesign is generally part of a much larger conversation. After all, a logo is one element of how you message your offering. So, are you looking for a new logo, or are you after a design book, a complete look and feel re-design, new messaging, and a new website? Narrowing the focus to just the deliverables you need is important. I’ll focus on the logo image itself.

Learn the Language So You Can Communicate Your Needs

Logo designers can’t simply throw imagery at you and hope to hit the target. They need to start somewhere. And that place needs to be your company’s story. The logo is a reflection of the story you want to tell, so go over that story. If you’re an energy company, is your story about conservation, green approaches, power, or dependability? Make sure that you can tell your story succinctly and impactfully.

There are also many design galleries online. These websites provide a snapshot of the work of various designers, and can help you get a sense for characteristics of a logo that you want. If you’ve ever bought a bottle of wine, you know the challenge of asking for what you want. If you don’t know the terms to apply, it is a challenge to ask for what you want. But by looking at these design portfolios, you can get a better sense for the language you need to use to describe (or point to) the elements you want.

Getting a Long List of Possible Vendors

A great source of candidates will be who your peers have used. They will have gone through the process already, from selection to completion. Who did they like and how did they navigate the selection? Don’t have anyone in mind that could help? Try posting to your LinkedIn activity feed or LinkedIn groups, see which candidates you get back.

The design galleries I mentioned above are also a great source of candidate firms. You can take a look at many vendors at once and see which s offer the right tone, variety, and instant eye-catch that you are looking for.

Narrowing the Field

Does proximity matter to you? Much of telling a great story depends on the emotion that is conveyed. That can be difficult to do if you’re working across time zones. But you may not be in a location filled with agencies or designers that meet you other qualifications. So, ask yourself whether having a designer nearby who you can speak to in person matters.

Review their past work. Yes, it is obvious, but the most vital step. Look at their previous work with a critical eye towards:

  • Variety: Do you see the same style repeated in a number of ways as they reuse what worked in the past in different ways?
  • Style: Agencies often have a distinct language or set of imagery building blocks. For instance, some may have a sleek modern feel while others aim for a nostalgic look. Does the look match your story?
  • Vertical: If you are a packaged goods manufacturer, there will be a different design language than if you are a technology company. Do they have the right experience to speak your language?

Review the design firm’s logo. It will say a lot about their own firm and their ability to communicate their message. Is it overstyled for style’s sake, or do you immediately understand the ethos they are trying to project?

Interviewing Candidates

Once you’ve selected a few vendors to meet, the next step is to have the face to face. You’ve got a lot of ground to cover in your sessions. Where to start and what to ask?

Tell me a story. Every logo that is put up in front of you should have a story to tell. Why was a color chosen? Why was a specific image selected? Why did they cast out the previous logo? What is the final story being told? If the agency cannot retell you the story, how can they be expected to retell yours?

Watch for aesthetics over story telling. The logo is meant to tell the story of your business. But if the agency makes design choices that prioritize how a line ‘looks’ as opposed to how well it tells a story, then you’re an art project.

Ask about the discovery process. Getting from your story to a deliverable is not easy. But the magic that the design agency creates is not built on nothing. It comes from insight into your story. So, how do they extract the core of your story and convert it into something visual? They must have a process. This could be a questionnaire, role-playing, interviews, and more. What process do they have to get from A to B?

Understand the Process – and Price

Learn about the collaboration process. Once the agency has started, they need to be steered throughout the creative process to make sure that they are delivering what you need. So, does the process involve frequent check-in points where drafts and concepts are shown to you for feedback? How often are the checkpoints and what kind of feedback do they expect?

I’ll put price in the middle here. Price is always at the back of your mind. You can pay from $300 to $3 million, depending on the scale of what you’re looking for. You want to stay in budget, but remember that this image will one of the most visible elements of your company for a long time to come. Spend wisely.

How comfortable do you feel with the team? You need to provide the agency with candid feedback and speak in terms that may not be standard for you. So, it is important that you have a good rapport with the team.

Building a new logo is an exciting and potentially very impactful process. Make sure that the partner you take along for the ride has a shared vision for what you need and what will help you present the right visual story to your market.