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The Lessons We Can Learn From $5 Logos

This summer my family got away to Cabo, Mexico for summer vacation. We found an amazing resort towards San Jose del Cabo that made for a perfect summer getaway. We did the typical Cabo activities: deep sea fishing, ATVs and even found a secluded spot to do some hiking. One of my family’s favorite activities, however, is eating. We love good restaurants.

While Cabo has no shortage of restaurants, sorting through them to find the best options can be tricky. Reviews are definitely helpful, but being in another country had us visually relying on logos and branding much of the time.

For instance, here are four different restaurant logos in Cabo.

After looking at those four, let me put you through a bit of a quiz and see how many you can get right. Answer these questions:

  1. If you were looking for a nice dinner, which would you choose?
  2. If you were looking for the typical Cabo, bar, party scene, which do you pick?
  3. If you needed an allergy friendly restaurant, where would you go?
  4. If you just returned from a half a day of deep sea fishing and wanted to sit down for lunch, who do you choose?

Based on the logo alone, most of you probably got the answers right: (1) Baja Lobster Co; (2) Mango Dock; (3) Flora Farms; (4) Jack’s.

Cabo is a tourist environment. Restaurants know they often only have a few seconds visually to connect with possible guests. A logo must incorporate their style, personality, menu and preferences all at once. When you think about it, it’s actually amazing what we mentally process in a short period of time from a logo. Ultimately, it plays a large role in our decision making process.

So let’s talk about dental practice logos. The bad, the good and how to get one designed.

First, let’s talk about logo DON’TS.

1. No extracted teeth.

To some, this is obvious. However I find that many dentists still like the idea of a tooth as a logo. After all, you’re a dentist. You work on teeth. What else would you have in the logo? Seems straightforward enough.

Notice how none of the restaurant logos used food. Interesting, right? They’re a restaurant. They make food and yet, they don’t use food in their logos. Why? Because we already assume they’re a restaurant. That question has already been settled when people begin their search. They’re not competing on food.

Just for emphasis, let me stop and go back to that for a moment. Please catch the significance of this:

They’re not competing on food.

They’re competing on style, atmosphere, experience and service. That’s why their logos don’t show food. They are attempting to communicate what makes them different. As tourists are surveying the restaurant landscape, these logos are raising their hand and saying, “Here’s why we’re different! Pick us!”

2. No dental instruments.

Same argument as above. People assume you’re a dentist and you use dental instruments. Show them why you’re different from every other practice in their community.

3. Don’t try to say everything.

The logo’s job is to simply start the conversation. You don’t have to tell people up front that you’re a cosmetic, restorative and dental implant practice in the logo. You’ve got two seconds to connect with patients and you get to say about two things. You can pick the two things, but if you try to say more, you’ll end up not saying anything at all.

Next, let’s talk about what makes a GREAT logo.

1. Great logos start stories.

The Flora Farms logo above starts to tell a story of a farm-to-table style restaurant that has a good possibility of being allergy friendly. If your family has food allergies, this restaurant immediately jumps to the top. That’s what good logos do.

Take this Carnes Crossroads Dental logo for example:

Carnes Crossroads is a 15,000 person, master planned community outside of Charleston, South Carolina. The entire community is built around this old, historic barn. It sits in the middle of a roundabout at the entrance to this community. By working the barn into the logo, it communicates that this is the “official” dental practice of Carnes Crossroads. It visually communicates trust and a close connection to the community. The result is 15,000 potential patients in their backyard.

2. Great logos are simple and clear.

A general rule of logos is “less is more.” You have a few seconds to connect with a potential patient visually. Efficiency is key.

Here is a logo from a pediatric practice in my area:

I know the founding doctor and she’s a wonderful person, but the logo is trying to do too much. The toothbrush means it’s a dental practice. The princess communicates it’s for kids, but let’s have her playing baseball so that we include all the boys. The font choice says whimsical and children, but also include pediatric in the name, just to be clear.

It’s a fun logo for sure, but they recently built a new building and put this on their sign out front. When you’re driving by at 35 mph, it’s very difficult to read.

3. Communicates your style of dentistry.

When patients are trying to find a dentist, they are searching for one that meets their needs. Your logo should give them an immediate indication about your style of dentistry. Are you FFS, PPO, family, cosmetic, specialty, high-priced, economical, etc.

If I showed you this logo, what guesses would you make about this practice?

If you said mainly FFS, cosmetic focused and higher-priced, you’d be right. They don’t get as much “traffic” as other practices in their area, but that’s because the logo effectively matches them to their ideal patient. When patients see the logo, check out the website and then call for an appointment, they are pre-sold on their approach to dentistry.

These last two points are a bit technical, but super important to the longevity of a good logo.

4. Works in all color spaces.

Great logos must work in all color spaces — full color, grayscale, black and white. This is why we present logos to clients first in black and white. Then we show the color version. We want them to see both because it impacts the decision. A logo could look amazing when in full color, but what happens when you need to print it on a t-shirt or a tooth brush or get it embroidered on scrubs?

See how different this logo becomes when it converts to black and white. The client loved it in color, but decided against it because of the black and white version.

5. Works in all formats.

One more thing to keep in mind. Great logos must work in small format spaces (think business cards, stickers, chapstick, etc.) and they must also work in large format spaces (external signage, internal signage, banners, etc.).

When we present logos, we always include mock ups of how this logo will work within these spaces. It ensures that whatever the application, your logo will work great.

Last, there are three options for getting a logo designed.

1. Outsource Online

Outsourcing the design is your least expensive option. Companies like 99designs or Fiverr can usually get you dozens of ideas for a few hundred bucks. The downside is many of these designers are using templates and spending very little time on the creative. It’s a quantity game. Designers have to submit as many designs as possible to make any money. Once you have the logo, there’s no ongoing relationship.

2. Design Company

Finding a local design company is another option. Usually the company owner is also the designer working on the project. The upside is you can connect with someone who will spend more time on the creative and getting to know your practice. The downside is that you’re often limited to one person’s perspective and could end up with limited options. You should expect to pay $750 — $2,500 for a logo from a local design company.

3. Branding Agency

Branding agencies usually have more of a national presence. They have an established structure for branding that involves multiple designers and team members. Typically you walk away with finalized logo files, a style guide showing you how to use the logo and your identity system (letterhead, envelope, business cards, social media graphics, etc.). The advantage to hiring a branding company is their commitment to getting to know your story and then representing that visually. They also have multiple designers on the project which gives you different perspectives and options. While this is the most predictable way to get a great logo, it also costs the most. Expect to pay $5,000 — $12,000 for a good branding agency.

Hopefully, this article was helpful and gives you some important information for your logo design process. Obviously, Studio 8E8 falls into the Branding Agency category. I 100% believe it’s the best option for your practice. I definitely understand cash flow restrictions with startup practices, but I don’t believe you can undervalue logo creation. It’s the face of your business to the community for the next ten years. Even if you spent $10,000, I think it would be well worth it.

If you find yourself stuck in this process or if we can ever help, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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