How to (and how not to) design a logo (3 Months as an Entrepreneur)

This week, though productive in many areas, was dwarfed by what some would call ‘busy work’ and I would call being ‘productively unproductive’. The reason for that was the company logo…

What went well (or badly):

So, this has been our company logo for the past month or so:

Pretty nice, huh? So while I was searching on Crunchbase (a website for listing startups for funding purposes), I was shocked to find the following:

Pretty darn similar, right? Alas, the company was founded several months before ours so it was one of those unfortunate consistencies that popped up (great minds think alike). It had taken me ages to get to the original logo, so it was really upsetting to fill like I was at step one.

For those that don’t know me, I love logos. In fact, when it comes to branding I normally prefer to come up with names before working out what the business would be… However, graphic design isn’t my full-time job, so although I love seeing beautiful logos, I’m not the best at it (I’m not terrible though). There is a great interview with Ira Glass (the ‘This American Life’ host), which I think says my views on this better than any other way:

Highly recommend watching the above for anyone in the Creative Arts

So after spending a considerable amount of more time trying out logos, I came up with a few but still wasn’t happy. So I decided to try out 99Designs, a site where designers submit designs for you, you pick the one you want and that designer gets the money. Great idea, and rewarding people for doing great jobs as well. So I opened the contest and I got a fair few submissions, here are my favourites:

I sent these to some friends to find out which they liked and found that pretty much no one agreed about which one was the best (and most didn’t choose my favourites). The reason I sent it around was that I wasn’t sure which one I liked the best because none of them were quite what I was after or hoping for. They’re nice, but they’re not quite the professional look I was going for.

At drinks, where I was complaining about how much time I was spending giving feedback to the designers and time I was wasting just looking through them a friend said:

At the end of the day, the logo is really only important to you. It’s there to make you feel excited about your company.

This is obviously even worse when you really care about design and fonts, but I realised that I was probably only going to be happy designing my own. So I promised myself I would have my logo done on Saturday night… So here is what I’ve come up with and will be pushing out to all our sites shortly:

Is it perfect? Definitely not. Is it unique enough that it won’t be confused with others, professional enough that people will give us their money and do I like enough that I can leave this alone — I hope so.

Hopefully the next time I need/want to do a logo I’ll have enough money to get a professional designer to do it. Although, who knows, maybe this logo will be around for many years to come?

What I’ve learned this week

  • Some things matter to me that don’t matter to others: There is a great line from Steve Jobs about how he ended up taking calligraphy at university (unofficially) and that lead to the importance of different fonts in the Mac. Many people at Apple said this wasn’t important, but Steve was adamant about it. Honestly computers, the web and now your phones are significantly better for it (and more beautiful because of it). I care about how Merlin looks, and that’s a good thing.
  • Delegation requires plenty of thought: Although people think of passing things off to others to save time, often this can end up taking longer than doing it yourself. The reason for this is that you need to explain what the limits are. By that I mean, these things can change, these can’t, these things need to be like this, these things can vary this amount. Yes, this requires upfront thought and work, but afterwards, it will help. We paid an external agency to help with a part of Merlin, and they did something very different than I was expecting because I didn’t do this. It’s always best to spend the extra few minutes thinking and writing more information than less I think.
  • I should check the goals and stats more: Looking below I realise that I completely forgot about the goals of this week. I’m going to get these on post-it notes and display them above my monitor to get these top of mind from now on.

My weekly stats

  • Meditation: 0/7
  • Exercise: 6/7
  • Code Written: 14 hours
  • Merlin Beta Users: 55
  • Time spent on YT/Video Games: 5hours
  • Time spent reading: 1 hours
  • Productive time on computer: 59% (-2% from last week)

Last week’s goals

  • Message 50 VCs/Angels (from last week) — 30% — Didn’t have this as a priority, mainly as I start to think about my other options, which is to say could Merlin work without additional money? Maybe… and we’re not at the point to make this decision yet.
  • Implement new onboarding Flows (from last week) — 30% — We have made a number of UI changes to make Merlin easier, but it’s still not quite there yet in the way we want it to be.
  • Get the 3 major new features out the door: — 50% — All 3 are pretty close but not launched yet, they will be available at the end of this week.

This week’s goals

  • Read 2 Business Books: A strange one given the amount of work I have to do, but actually I think it’s key to Merlin’s success is thinking through 2 major aspects: How to get users to love Merlin (Hooked), and how we get it to the market (Growth Engines)
  • Get on Production Servers: We’ve been waiting awhile to move our test solution onto MerlinOnboarding.com so I’m really looking forward to finally getting this done.
  • Start our SMB Solution (Part 1): SMBs (Small & Medium businesses) are very different from the enterprise, but their benefit is the speed of acquisition and conversion. This is how Slack went to market, and we have a number of different features and ideas to help SMBs get the most of Merlin. Watch this space.

Have a great week everyone, keep hustling and again any comments/suggestions appreciated!

Charles Douglas-Osborn

CEO of MerlinOnboarding