Most logos are just plain terrible. The reason? Designing a good logo is seriously tough - and re-designing a logo is even tougher. We can all agree there’s a lot more to redesigning your logo than spending an afternoon messing around in Photoshop and calling it good.

It’s also getting harder for a logo to be unique in the digital age of design. Airbnb, Beats, and Flipboard recently received a lot of criticism online after someone found their exact logos in a 1989 design book. And even if the logo is unique, it’s still hard to win - major companies frequently get a huge backlash from social media after a logo redesign. Remember Uber's most recent logo redesign controversy? And who could forget ‘Red Cup Gate’ during the Starbucks 2015 holiday cup rebrand?

The good news: the negative Nancys usually forget about it just as fast as they get your logo trending. And unless you’re a multi-billion dollar company, your rebrand is unlikely to spark national outrage. You can prevent your business from becoming a logo fail meme with this how-to guide.

Starbucks received major criticism for their now-popular 2011 rebrand. Image by Aneil Lutchman via CestLaVibe.com

The life cycle of a logo.

Yes, logos have a life cycle. No, they don’t cocoon themselves and become butterflies in the end. But the metamorphosis process is actually a really good analogy for how your logo evolves over time. And like a little butterfly, your logo design won’t live on forever. (Sad but true.)

Phase 1: Egg → Pre-Design Discussion & Industry Research This is where you and your team talk about your existing logo style and future goals. (Hopefully by working with design pros - read on to learn why!) Now is the perfect time to talk about the direction of your company, future goals, competitor trends, and set a timeline.

Phase 2: Caterpillar → Design Concepts The fun part - working with a designer and getting some concepts going. This is where a pro designer will come up with ideas, create sketches and mood boards. Your team will evaluate the new design concepts at first impression. You might scrap all of the concepts and start over several times. This is normal and part of the creative process.

Phase 3: Pupa → Feedback & Review Now is time to focus on the stronger ideas from the long list of design concepts and get lots of feedback. Consider trying out a super low-cost online preference test. Compare the new logo with customer and competitor style. Go back and draft more revisions with the new feedback. Be open-minded and analytical.

Phase 4: Butterfly → Launch Voila! A new logo emerges. The company creates a schedule for updating marketing materials, vehicles, signs, and more with the new logo. The new logo is rolled out for use in the real world.

Very few designs are totally original.

Is your logo needing a refresh?

Just like fashion trends, the cool factor of your logo will probably fade over time. It's good to update your logo when this happens. You don’t always need to do a major revamp of your logo, but you want to show your customers that your company is evolving to solve today's problems. So how do you know if your logo is looking stale? If you answer 'yes' to a few of these questions, your logo might need a refresh:

  • Is my customer base really different than it used to be?

  • Does my logo look like my current competitors' logos?

  • Does my logo struggle to convey the company's style or vibe?

  • Is my logo more than ten years old?

  • Do I have problems scaling my logo across uniforms, billboards, vehicles, and signs?

  • Is my logo sometimes too expensive to print?

  • Does my logo look different across various online platforms?

  • Is the company expanding - geographically or into new products or services?

Food for thought: Some logos are (almost) timeless. Coca-Cola, Ford, GE, Apple, Louis Vuitton, and Nike all have logos that are defiant to change. Instead of a major redesign, these logos have been refreshed slightly many times. If your logo falls into this category, consider following the same approach, or refresh your brand in other ways. The appearance of your storefront, your slogan, print and radio advertising, and signing can all be updated to stay relevant.

Your logo needs to look amazing online and in real life.

Tips for redesigning your logo

There’s a lot that goes into a logo re-design, but it doesn’t have to be a confusing and frustrating process. Here are some of the most valuable tips that designers want you to know:

Designers gonna design.

1. Know your customer first.

If you're just using basic demographics and purchase histories to know your customer, you probably don't know them as well as you think. You can make your marketing dollars go farther by knowing your customer better. Don't redesign your logo until you know your customers inside and out. And the best ways to get to know them are the old fashioned way: one-on-one conversations, in person or online. Use your blog, social media and online reviews as conversation starters. Read their comments, and always respond to negative reviews.

Here are some more ways to get to know your customers:

  • Ask for reviews.

  • Do giveaways on social media.

  • Use a service that aggregates customer reviews.

  • Ask questions that start feel-good conversations on your blog or social media.

  • Make partnerships with other popular businesses in the community.

  • Get involved in local fundraising and charity opportunities.

  • Investigate your competitors’ customers.

  • Host or sponsor a community event.

  • See what they’re talking about on Quora.

Designers can keep you out of legal trouble over trademark or copyright issues.

2. Work with a design pro.

I cannot stress this one enough. Your logo design is not a place you should DIY to save a few bucks. And without a designer, you might end up paying way more if you wind up in a legal battle over copyright or trademark infringement. Save yourself a headache by hiring a professional designer who knows what they’re doing and has the portfolio to back it up. The higher quality your logo is, the longer it will stand the test of time as the face of your company.

Of course, there are many ways to go wrong when looking for a professional designer on Google. Be wary of online designers that promise to have your logo done in a couple of hours or less, or offer a "design package" for cheap. If your designer can't meet you in person, they should be setting up a time to talk through FaceTime, Skype or a phone call. A good designer wants to know your brand inside and out, and that's hard to do through just a few emails.

Professional designers take great pride in their work and should have an excellent website with brilliant, sleek design. Research design studios in your area to find a designer for your logo project. Or conduct interviews with freelance designers from freelance sites like Upwork.com.

Consider your brand when choosing color and typography.

3. Use color & typography psychology.

There is a method to the madness when it comes to choosing color and typography for your logo. Colors and typography influence perception and convey meaning - both consciously and subconsciously. Every color (including black and white) has design implications. The same is true with typography - just imagine seeing an ad for a mortician whose company name is written in Comic Sans. Here are some things you could be conveying to your customers with your logo colors or typography that you probably never thought about:

  • Serif fonts are considered more traditional, respectable and authoritative than sans serif fonts, which are perceived as simple and sensible.

  • Red implies power, passion, violence, and heat, and it is most commonly used in restaurant and food product logos because it has been found to stimulate appetite. It’s also considered lucky in China.

  • Script fonts, like those used by Instagram and Coca-Cola, are usually associated with friendliness, creativity, and femininity.

  • Blue is the most commonly used color in corporate logos, so customers associate it with professionalism and integrity. It’s also used in many financial and government logos.

  • The Catholic church has used purple for many years to convey the feeling of royalty, luxury, sacrifice, and tradition.

  • Multi-colored logos, like that of Google, Windows or eBay, usually indicate to the customer that the company offers a wide variety of services.

  • One in 12 people suffer from color blindness, so an emotional response to typography is more common.

Trendy logos are exciting, but they don't last over decades.

4. Avoid trends.

As tempting as it may be, try to avoid a trendy design if you want your logo to be around for the long haul. Professional designers study trends, so they're excellent at identifying design choices that will stick. You should also be an expert on your competitors' design choices and the future of your industry.

When you follow trends, you risk becoming a clone logo - a logo that feels familiar because you've seen it before a million times. If you see the same design over and over again, go ahead and remove that from your list of ideas. Your designer should be able to steer you away from generic or overused logo designs.

When you get a new logo, integrating it can take months.

5. Figure out a (realistic) integration plan.

Even for a small company, it can take around six months to fully integrate your new logo throughout all aspects of your business. Think of how many things your logo is printed on:

  • Billing stationery

  • Company signing

  • Uniforms

  • Equipment

  • Business cards

  • Company vehicles

  • Advertisements

  • Marketing emails

  • Social media

...the list goes on and on. The point: Be open-minded and realistic when figuring out a gameplan for integrating the new logo.

The scope of your integration gameplan can be far-reaching - it may even affect the date you make your new logo public. For example, it might be easier to transition your logo during the slow winter months, rather than in spring or around back to school time. You and your team should meet with your designer to make a realistic integration plan that takes into account your current and future workload.

Thanks for reading! Have you noticed a great logo lately? What made it great? Let me know in the comments below! And don’t forget to like us on Facebook to receive updates every time one of my awesome new posts goes live.