Why a logo will do nothing for your business without branding guidelines

If you are in the market for a new logo, you might have come across a few designers offering branding but no logos. Have you stopped to wonder why that is? What is the difference between branding and a logo? Why does it matter? 

I was recently chatting with a good friend of mine who owns a fantastic business selling luxury food items. We were giving each other business ideas as fellow entrepreneurs in totally different fields. She proceeded to ask me - and quite rightly so - why I offer a branding package but not a logo for smaller price. Now as a designer who lives and breathes branding, it didn’t even occur to me that this is something that needs clarifying. In our various fields of expertise, there are bound to be notions that seem obvious to us but need a bit of explaining to others. 

Have you ever decided you needed a logo for a new business only to find that it’s hard to find someone respectable that will do a simple logo? Or do you wonder why logos are either so expensive or incredibly cheap with nothing in between? Have you ever wondered what brand guidelines are and why they matter? So, in this month’s blog post, I am going to shed some light on the notions of logo and brand guidelines and why you need to know what this is before you start branding your business. 


In order to do that, we need to define 2 terms first: 

LOGO / Also called logotype. A graphic representation or symbol of a company name, trademark, abbreviation, etc., often uniquely designed for ready recognition 

BRANDING GUIDELINES / Brand Guidelines (also commonly referred to as “brand standards”, “style guide” or “brand book”) are essentially a set of rules that explain how your brand works. 

Ok, so is that clear? I don’t what to be too simplistic but to cut a long story short, a logo is the symbol of a company name and branding guidelines are the stuff around it that make it work. To translate this visually, here are some examples:


Here is a stand-alone logo for a Winery called Motiv created by Ronnie Alley Design. 

Here is a stand-alone logo for a Winery called Motiv created by Ronnie Alley Design. 

Here is the full Motiv brand

Here is the full Motiv brand

Along with the label designs

Along with the label designs

Now you are got to agree with me that the magic of that branding doesn’t come from the logo itself but from the whole package which includes the logo but mainly colour, pattern and layout. Right? 

The logo mistakes

So now imagine for 2 seconds that you are a (non-designer) small business owner who has decided they need a new logo and you start researching logos. You put up a post on Facebook asking friends and colleagues if they can recommend someone who designs logos. In the responses are bound to be someone who suggests using Fiverr (where you pay $5 for a logo) or buying a stock logo online. 

If you don’t understand that a logo in itself is only just the tip of the iceberg, that might seem like a very reasonable solution compared to the hundreds – maybe thousands - some designer is offering. I mean you could save hundreds if you go for Fiverr, right? 

That is all well and good if you want just the logo. 

So, going back to our example, you are the owner of Motiv and you end up with the Motiv logo alone. And you have no idea how to use it! And if you run a winery like Motiv, chances are you are really good at making superb wines, but graphic design is not your specialty. So, once you have the logo in hand without any brand guidelines, you end up creating a pretty boring label that will not help your wine stand out from the crowd in a busy liquor store. 

Another option is that you get someone else to design your label, but they have no idea how to use your logo and end up taking it in a whole new visual direction. And every time you have a label designed it’s like starting over from scratch again. The designer has your logo to work with, but they don’t have any instructions on fonts, colours and patterns and it can all quickly become a big mess (especially the more products you have).

So, for a minute you feel like you helped yourself out by paying $5 for a logo but the loss of potential income from having a boring brand is immeasurably more. 

The branding difference

Now you have decided to go down the branding route. You realize you are going to have to spend thousands and that you get what you pay for. 

In this case, the designer starts by understanding you, your brand, your market and your ideal customer. You answer some questions; the designer does some significant research. Your designer brings up inspirations that go well and beyond your simple product or service such as architecture, food, fashion. You widen your horizons to understand your brand better. This is a lengthy process. It can take weeks of back and forth and sometimes it feels like it’s not really moving forward when in fact all these back and forth help build up what your brand is and what it isn’t. 

After weeks of work, you have a logo of course, but you also know exactly what fonts to use when writing a letter, what colours and textures tie everything in and nothing is left to chance. 

So, chances are you will probably want to keep working with the designer who set it up but if you want to work with someone else, no sweat. You take the cleverly written up branding guidelines that explain everything in great detail and pass that along to your new designer so that your new material is in keeping with the old one.

I really hope I’ve shed some light on this very crucial part of business communication and why I feel so passionate about it. In fact, I have stopped offering simple logos to people. Not only do I find that it will get them nowhere, I also cringe when I see the way my logo ends up being used when I wasn’t able to deliver branding guidelines with it. I really hope next time you need a logo you will think of this, and even better next time an acquaintance of yours on Facebook asks about having a logo designed, you set them on the right path! 

Have you had a logo designed for your business? Do you have branding guidelines? Are you happy with it? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic so please comment below. And if you are thinking you need a new logo, have a look at my branding package.