The key to a good logo is first knowing your product

When successful tech companies change or adapt their logos, they make headlines — even if it’s just Google adjusting the space between letters. However, most of these new designs are just a new iteration of whatever logo the company had when it launched.

At Gigaom’s Roadmap conference, letterer and type designer Jessica Hische stressed the importance of knowing your product before you build a logo, because that logo will stay with you for awhile.

“It’s too risky to completely overhaul your brand once you have success,” Hische said. “Once you have the first logo that you create, it influences everything after.”

Hische showed examples of how she adjusted Eventbrite’s logo to include more space when reproduced in small sizes (like on a pen versus on a billboard, she said) or how what look like subtle tweaks to MailChimp’s script logo make it more legible. Part of building your first logo is knowing your product, and not relying on a fantastic logo to carry the weight.

“No one downloads you’re app because they’re really into the logo,” Hische said. Startups have to understand and get to the core of the product before building a logo or typeface to reflect it.

Jessica Hische, Letterer and Type Designer, shows off the changes she made to MailChimp's logo.
Jessica Hische, Letterer and Type Designer, shows off the changes she made to MailChimp’s logo.

Companies have to be realistic about the challenges of a personalizing a typeface though. A custom display typeface can take one to three months to create and text type can take anywhere from three months to a year, Hische explained. There’s also a large financial undertaking to invest in a custom typeface — although if your company is large enough, a personalized typeface can be helpful to save money on licensing fees and build a brand. Sometimes, an oldie-but-goodie is all a startup needs.

“You don’t have to feel guilty at all for using an existing typeface,” Hische said. “Just remember they are made by humans.”

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