This Was Almost My Logo. (And the Question That Changed Everything.)

It’s a popular time of year for refreshing things in your business.

For me, it’s my website that needs a bit of renewal, and I’ve been working on new copy and a slight visual update across the board.

My mind is consumed with design and website thinking right now, which got me remembering the first time I went through this process…. A little behind the scenes story I thought I’d share with you about the logo that might have been.

When I created my site and logo four years ago, the idea of a personal brand online was still pretty rare. My designer was completely unfamiliar with the idea, and wanted examples, so I dug up anybody I could find: Marie Forleo, Danielle LaPorte, Alexandra Franzen, and Jennifer Lee. These were my early personal branding role models… but the truth is, my personality isn’t really like any of them.

So we had nothing to really emulate, and I’d never really been a person with a strong sense of my own personal style. (I attribute this to growing up in a small town where Northern Reflections and Sears were where I did my back-to-school shopping.)

Things could have gone really wrong, really easily.

I sent her away with five keywords: Simplistic, Provoking, Inspiring, Refreshing, and Supportive, then waited anxiously to see what came up.

I was not disappointed! And after a little back and forth, we settled on two possibilities, to which we applied some colour. (I mention this because you should design logos in pure black and white first, without the added influence of colour.)

It came down to these:

The story of my logo (and the one question that changed everything.)

The first option was very close to what I have now. It only took minor tweaks to finalize it into the logo that I’ve sported happily for over four years. It’s clean, simplistic, and refreshing.

At the time, though, my eye was caught mostly by the second option. This option was more fun, high energy, and bold (leaning toward the ‘provoking’ word, I imagine.)

It reflected who I wished I was.

Lesson #1: Your visual brand should represent who you actually are, not who you wish you were.

So I started asking people for feedback. (It’s what we do, right?)

Can you guess which of the two logos almost everyone preferred? The same one! They liked the one that was more impressive upon first glance, with the higher eye-candy factor. Even the people who knew me best pointed me in this direction.

So, at this point, you’d think that the decision was obvious, right?

Lesson #2: Popular taste and opinion doesn’t translate into a strategically thought out brand (or a unique one.)

Never ask people which option they like the most (that doesn’t matter)… ask them which one is most [enter brand keyword here.]

I was still feeling torn. There was something telling me to sit with it a while longer and get back in touch with what I was truly trying to do. I came up with one more test to make sure this was a strategically right decision.

I call it the “benchmark brand.”

It answers: What brand, or combo of brands, feels almost exactly like how you want your brand to feel to your customers?

It shouldn’t be a brand in your industry… that’s a recipe for losing your originality. Choose a brand from somewhere else – music, art, athletics, fashion, etc.

I knew I wanted my brand to feel like a place where time slows down. I wanted it to feel clear, spacious, and uplifting. So the benchmark brand I chose for myself at that time was Lululemon.

You don’t have to love everything about the business or brand you choose… just know that the way they make you feel is a match to your desired emotional impact.

When you have a benchmark brand, you can ease many of your tough design decisions simply by asking “What would [enter your benchmark brand] do?”

So tell me, which one would Lululemon use?

In my eyes (and that’s what matters when you’re creating a brand that reflects your vision) it was a clear, and surprising, choice.

And the minute I made it, I felt a huge sigh of relief. I had always known that this was the one, but my ego had been spinning tempting tales of being something “better.”

Lesson #3: Have strategic “anchors” – like a benchmark brand – to make decision making easier and to keep you tapped into your true, pure intentions.

Your ego will always tease you with ideas of being “more” of something you’re not when you’re going through this process. It will try hard to lead you astray if you don’t have some strong strategies to anchor you as you venture into the creation of a logo, a website, or even a product.

So be ready for it!

Figure out what benchmark brand will keep you anchored through your own refresh projects. And, if you’re looking for more strategies to anchor you, you can try tapping back into “what” you are, or making sure you’re really clear on your craft.

Stay true!

Big, loving shout out to my designer in those early days, Asma Inam. She no longer designs freelance, but she’s also an incredible artist and illustrator.