Welcome to part II of my roller derby logo series. If you missed part I, where I focused on the pitfalls of logo contests and the importance of recruiting a designer into a league, you can read it here. Before a logo comes into fruition, there is a lot to consider before a pencil touches paper or a hand touches a mouse. So while I bring up points to consider if you’re hosting a logo contest, many of these apply if you’re going to contract an individual to create your brand as well. Logo design takes some thinking on your part, beyond what favourite colours you want to use.
“But I reeeeeaaaaallllllyyyy want to do a logo contest”
Let’s say your league lives in a mecca of design schools and artisans and you’re certain you’ll have a good number of logo submissions for a contest. Before you announce it, you need to think up some smart rules and guidelines. There are lots of contests online that you can use their rules as a template to write your own, but you want to make sure you have the following bases covered. Read on.
Communicate how you want to be portrayed as best you can
Many contests include the organization’s mission statement and goals to help the designer get a feel for their brand. But also include important details like if your league is co-ed or if your team’s theme is flirty, killer or sexy. Be sure to provide a guideline so you aren’t faced with 20 pinup girl logos when you wanted a flesh-eating zombie. Be specific in how you want text to appear on the logo too, particularly if you have a team name that contains unusual spelling.
Brainstorm with your league and write key words that best describe you and include them in the contest write up. Go through a thesaurus and come up with more. (See how a professional could be helpful here?) Keep it open, but provide a theme. The more information you provide about who you are and why you are there (and how much ass you want to kick) the less disappointed you will be with what gets submitted.
If you’re working with a designer as opposed to hosting a contest, the designer may ask you questions like, “Who is your target market or audience? Who are your competitors? Where and how will it be used? What is your expected life-cycle of this brand? (Logos evolve over time.) If someone were to look at your logo, what do you want their first impression to be? What is your budget?” Consider all these questions as well when introducing your contest.
Provide a realistic contest end date
Some may disagree with me, but I would be more inclined to participate in a contest that had a few weeks turnaround as opposed to a few months.
When I read a logo contest announcement, if an idea comes immediately to mind, I have time and I support the organization, I consider participating in it. If I see the deadline date as three months from now, I think to myself, “I have lots of time, I’ll do that next week.”
And then I see a squirrel and forget about it.
But a contest with a two-week turnaround, for example, puts a fire under me to do it that weekend. But that’s just how I operate.
If you’re hiring someone to create your logo, you want to give them time, which is why thinking about it early is a good idea. A designer will look at the market you’re in, see what others are doing, consider the conversations you’ve had and put it all into a visual. Sometimes, they may give you two or three rough sketches for you to choose one from and expand on. As I mentioned in my first post, logo design involves tweaking and revising so make sure you are realistic with your expectations and remember that they have more than just you as a client. Don’t be surprised if they take a couple weeks to draw up a first concept.
Specify the logo requirements
For judging, having artists submit a jpeg rendering of their art is just fine. But you should also let the entrants know you will be expecting a high-res raster or vector (preferred) file if their logo is chosen as a winner. (Not sure what any of this means? Stay tuned for my next post where I will talk about it!)
A good artist considers all the potential mediums the logo could appear on before they begin a design. But you may have an amateur designer who doesn’t understand the production process for a professional printer or t-shirts. If they create a winning design but it falls within a two-by-two inch wide space at 72 dpi, they will have to recreate everything after the contest in a high res format. Be clear at the start to avoid this.
Do you have a plan in place if you get hand-drawn submissions? You will need to figure out how to convert it to a digital format and possibly digitally colourize.
Has your team already chosen colours? Be sure to list them… and don’t just say ‘red and black’ because one person’s red is another person’s burgundy. Be specific and provide a CMYK breakdown or Pantone colour.
Will this logo be used in black and white? What about in a reverse format (white logo on a dark background)? A good designer will provide a logo in multiple colour schemes… full colour, spot colour, black and white and reverse, so their client won’t have to touch the final design in any way. Will you require your contest entrants to provide those options? Consider it if you have no one within your league to alter the logo for different colour schemes.
Speaking of formats; file formats such as tifs, jpegs, gifs and eps’s all have specific uses. If your winner provides you only with a gif as the final version of your logo, you’re going to have a hard time. Again, I’ll be talking about the difference between all these in my next post.
Do you want the shape your logo to fall within a square area? Vertical rectangle? Horizontal rectangle? Observe how other logos look when applied to t-shirts, water bottles, stickers, etc. If you don’t want the logo to be a specific shape, be sure to advise what shapes you do want. For example, an extreme horizontal logo may be difficult to work with on a uniform or bout poster, but would look great placed vertically on a water bottle.
Related to that, communicate how the logo will be used. It’s helpful to know the smallest and largest possible size the logo will run and what mediums it will be reproduced on so the artist can design accordingly. For example, a logo with a grunge-style typeface looks great when reproduced large, but turns into a blobby mess when reduced in a small format. If your logo has colour gradients and complex details, it may not reproduce well on a photocopied bout program. Again, that’s when a professional is really helpful because they look at how logo will be used before they draw it.
When it comes to logo design, a good artist will think backwards and essentially reverse-engineer it based on that information. With all this technical jargon you may think putting all this information in your rules may confuse people and keep them from entering your contest. There are pros and cons to being specific.
If you neglect listing this information, you may end up having to hire someone to make your logo usable after the contest. At the same time, listing this information will show you are taking this contest very seriously and know what you’re talking about. Artists may appreciate the detail and put in the effort to help you by entering.
And if you’re hiring a designer, don’t sweat it. They are paid to know all this stuff. But depending on the experience of your designer, it may be helpful to make sure they have all of the above covered.
Don’t forget the legal stuff
You ultimately want control of the logo. Down the road you may need to change a colour or tweak a design as your league evolves. Contests may have your winning designer from out of town or even the country which would make future revisions difficult to maintain. Be up front about ownership rights in your contest rules. Consider including a clause giving your team ownership rights and intellectual property of the winning design. That way, you can reserve the right to alter or modify your logo down the road if you need to make minor adjustments. Do you want the winner to be available to make those adjustments for you? You’ll want to discuss that. Some designers may not be keen in handing off their work solely to you. Be clear about your desire for ownership up front.
Also important is a clause in your rules saying that logos may not contain copyright material and entrants must be able to verify they are the creator of the piece. This is important. It would be terrible to choose a logo and find out later the artwork is part of the Microsoft Office clipart gallery. Or worse; directly ripped off from another designer.
When you’re hiring a designer, they should have a contract that will specify your usage rights on payment. When I create a logo for a client, part of their fee includes full usage rights and I provide all the formats they need based on what mediums they will be reproducing it on. Meaning, once I hand it off the files to them, it’s theirs forever. Pay attention to those agreements because every designer is different. A good designer will also provide brand standards with recommendations on how to properly use and reproduce the logo to maintain consistency.
The contract may not allow you to alter the logo, which you need to consider down the road. If you call up your designer asking for the original layered file so you can make some changes to it, don’t be surprised if they say no. But speak to your designer regarding future alterations and decide together how to proceed. Some may be happy to make adjustments as part of the service. Others may ask for a new contract and fee.
Outline how the winner will be chosen
When is the contest deadline? Who will judge the contest? How and when will winners be notified? Will you have a first, second and third place? Or only one final winner? What if you don’t like any of the submissions? Be sure you specify what will happen at the end of the contest if no winner is chosen. Think about managing your reputation as a league. If you get 20 submissions from local artists and you don’t like any of them and keep the prize for yourself, will that showcase your team in a positive light? Will those artists support you when you need their help to design a poster? Probably not. Give a prize away by random draw if there is no winner so you don’t burn any bridges. And speaking of prizes…
Make the prize worthwhile
I hope with all the information above, I’ve illustrated how highly skilled and knowledgeable artists and designers need to be for logo design. The saying ‘you get what you pay for’ applies here. If the prize for winning the contest is a t-shirt, you’ve just agreed to award someone the equivalent of $10. It’s a slap in the face, even if you’re not a professional designer. So make it good.
Bout tickets or even a season pass doesn’t cost you anything up front but is worth more in retail compared to a t-shirt. Better yet, recruit that winning designer by making the prize a pair of roller skates. (Heck yes, I would enter that!) A decent pair retail is still below what a designer would normally charge for the service. Or tap into your sponsorship pool and award $500 in gift certificates. Not only will that help keep your logo submissions local, you’ll be giving your sponsors shout outs within the contest promotion and you’ll drive new customers to them when the winner uses the certificates. Plus, if you have an awesome, legitimate prize, the professionals may be more inclined to enter which will increase your chances of a beautiful and technical-ready logo.
If your prize is payment because you’ve hired the designer, don’t balk at the price. You’re paying for a piece of art that will be reproduced over and over again and frankly, you’ll be making money from it. The Nike logo was designed for $35 in 1975 and that brand brings the company millions. (Thankfully, the artist got additional compensation through stock options later. Click here to see how much other famous logos have cost to create as part of a branding package.)
At the same time, make sure you are 100% happy with your logo before completing your agreement. Your designer is there to advise you on best practices for logo design. But if you think the derby girl’s boobs are too big in the logo, say so. Also expect the designer to educate you why some design decisions are better than others. Actively listen to their recommendations and be open to their suggestions because they know what they are doing. Finally, don’t be a douche. Pay your bill.
If you dive into the logo contest realm or are about to work one-on-one with a designer, I hope this information has been helpful to you. As always, I welcome comments to help educate the derby world, so please share your thoughts. In part three of my series on roller derby logo design, I will explain some of the technical jargon in dealing with logos: resolution and why it is important; the difference between raster and vector; colour in logo design, brand standards and more! This information will give you knowledge in how to have your brand reproduced in the best quality possible!
Final thought: If you’re a for-profit business and you host a logo contest, you’re doing it wrong. Hire yourself a professional.