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How to Choose the Right Designer (and Avoid a Branding Nightmare!)

Logo Design Blog

When you hire a brand designer, you’re not just paying for someone who knows how to use Photoshop and Illustrator; you’re making an investment in the future of your business.

To ensure a successful outcome that benefits your brand both now and in the future, you need someone who can fully understand your business, your purpose, your values, your products and services, then interpret all that information into a visual identity that resonates with your target audience.

In this guide, we’ll explain how to make sure your designer is the right fit for the job, why it’s so important, and what can go wrong if you miss the mark.

In this article:

The importance of choosing the right designer

Branding isn't a logo, website or business cards; it's a feeling, an emotional connection, a declaration of identity. When done well, it can lead to a loyal relationship, increasing the lifetime value of each customer that engages with your brand.

Choosing the wrong designer or going for a quick fix can therefore have a long-lasting negative impact on brand perception, customer relationships and, ultimately, your bottom line. Branding is an important investment in the future of your business and shouldn’t be treated as a box-ticking exercise or a series of nice-to-haves.

The right designer will know how to uncover the important elements of your brand identity, business goals and customer profiles, before distilling them into a unique visual representation that resonates with your audience.

The power of a strong brand

powerful branding apple

When you think of ‘brands’ who or what do you think of? Big names like McDonalds, Apple and Disney might be a few that come to mind, but there was once a time when these brands were completely unknown.

This type of brand recognition doesn’t happen overnight; there’s a lot of work and strategy involved in turning a business into a household name. However, these examples serve as a reminder that, when done well, strong branding can make your business instantly recognisable and help you to position yourself in your market.

Here are just a few of the benefits of creating a strong brand identity for your business.

Boost brand trust

If we’re honest, we all judge books by their covers. If your branding is sloppy and unprofessional, people will assume that your business is the same. Attractive, high-quality designs help to build trust and encourage customers to invest their time and money.

Develop brand loyalty

Humans are hardwired to form emotional connections, and branding is a great way to turn this natural desire into profitability. By developing a brand identity that customers identify with, you can form a lasting relationship that brings in more money over time.

Build brand recognition

As well as making sure your company looks the part, using your branding consistently can help to build brand recognition. From your online presence to in-store signage, promotional items and packaging, every touch point should be instantly recognisable to consumers.

Distinguish your brand

Whatever your products and services, chances are you’re not the only one offering them. By helping you to stand out in your market, great branding encourages customers to choose you instead of your competitors.

Increase your profits

From targeting the right demographic to encouraging repeat custom and increasing the lifetime value of each customer, a strong brand identity can help you to bring in more money so you can achieve your business goals.

The hidden cost of getting it wrong

costly branding mistakes

Professional branding can be a substantial financial commitment, especially when you’re first starting out. However, it’s a necessary cost if you’re serious about investing in your business, and one that will pay dividends quickly if done right.

Conversely, getting your branding wrong can be hugely detrimental to your business, costing time, money and even your reputation. If the identity isn’t right, it can cost thousands of dollars to reproduce any physical materials like business cards and signage with your updated designs, never mind the financial impact of lost sales and damage to your brand.

While it may be tempting to opt for a cheaper brand design service, even if it’s just a stopgap solution until you can afford something more in depth, you risk falling foul of the old adage buy cheap, buy twice.

Common branding mistakes you need to avoid

Putting your business in the hands of an experienced, trustworthy and professional designer will give you the best chance to nail your brand identity and ensure a successful outcome.

Working with the right person will help you to avoid these common branding mistakes that are often made by low-cost or inexperienced designers.

Plagiarising from another business

In order to charge clients a lower price, some unethical designers will copy the exact design of a similar business and pass it off as their own original work. Aside from putting you at risk of legal ramifications, this approach means that your unique business needs haven’t been considered at all. Even if you did use this logo, it wouldn’t perform as well as a bespoke solution.

Using an unlicensed font

Sometimes, an inexperienced designer may use a font in your logo that they don’t realise requires licensing for commercial use. This can get you in trouble if it’s discovered by the original font designer, and they may take legal action against you unless you remove it from your logo. Otherwise, you may have to pay a one-off fee or ongoing costs for as long as you use the font.

Unintended symbolism and hidden meanings

You might be surprised how often designs are found to contain unintended symbolism or accidentally depict something inappropriate that sparks outrage. From inappropriate racial symbolism to inadvertently explicit shapes, there are unfortunately lots of ways for a logo design to backfire and ruin your company’s reputation. We’ve put together a few examples of brands getting it wrong later on in this article.

Lack of adaptability

Experienced designers consider the adaptability of a design, ensuring that your brand looks its best across all touchpoints. Cost-cutting designers often neglect this important attention to detail, delivering a single solution that hasn’t been fully realised to work in all applications. For example, a logo that looks great on a business card might not work well on a website, while one designed in a horizontal format won’t suit applications with a vertical format, resulting in an unprofessional appearance for your brand.

Misrepresentation of your products, services and ethos

On a subconscious level, the look and feel of a brand will spark emotions, memories and desires in your audience. Notice the subtle changes in how you think and feel when looking at a prestigious, luxury brand logo like Rolex or Gucci versus how you think and feel when seeing the yellow McDonald’s arches, or trendy Nike sportswear. If your business is all about luxury, you don’t want to look cheap. If your core company value is empathy, a skull and crossbones design won’t resonate with your target audience.

Red flags to look out for when choosing a designer

Bad designer red flags

When you’re looking through the websites and profiles of the vast number of graphic designers, brand agencies and logo design services available on the internet, there are a few red flags you should keep an eye out for.

Spot any of these and you should probably take your business elsewhere.

Outsourcing to a low-cost third party

Make sure the designer you choose is actually the person who will be carrying out the work. It’s surprisingly common for unscrupulous design agencies to outsource work to low-cost third parties in other countries.

This means that, as a customer, you’re paying a premium price for something that you could source yourself on Fiverr for a few bucks. Of course, low cost means low effort, so you’re unlikely to get good results for your business from this approach even directly.

No examples of past work

If a designer isn’t showing off examples of their past work, this could mean that:

  • They don’t have any past work and are inexperienced
  • They plagiarise designs and don’t want them to be found
  • Their work is low quality

A diverse portfolio shows that a brand designer is competent in a variety of disciplines. Finding someone with experience in your sector is particularly beneficial, as they will already have an understanding of the specific requirements of your business and its customers.

As well as giving you an idea of a designer’s creative ability, portfolios and case studies help you to get a feel for their process. A brand’s job is more complex than just looking pretty; to work well, it needs to be tailored to the client and their needs, offering a strategic approach that solves a problem.

Vague testimonials and reviews

Reviews and testimonials are an important part of the decision-making process when paying for a product or service. Choosing a designer with lots of great reviews is a smart move, but only if they’re actually genuine. Take time to read the reviews and you’ll be able to get a feel for how legitimate they are.

Five-star reviews with no comments, or low-effort one-liners like “Did a good job” and “Would recommend” should be taken with a pinch of salt. Look for reviews that talk about the designer’s service, process and communication in detail, and pay attention to how the designer responds to both positive and negative customer reviews. In-depth case studies that the designer has written themselves are also a good indication that they are willing to put in the time and effort required to achieve great results for your business.

Impossible to get hold of

While many people prefer online communication to picking up the phone, not having a phone number (or not answering when you call) can be a red flag. Communication is extremely important to ensure that the branding project runs smoothly, and someone who is actively discouraging you from contacting them is unlikely to communicate well throughout the design process.

Not being able to contact them directly also means that you’re never sure exactly who you’re working with, and makes it difficult to ask questions or check in on their progress. Look for a designer who is happy to jump on the phone or meet you face-to-face, encourages you to get in touch throughout the project, and actively keeps you informed.

Not asking you any questions

To design a brand that will work for you, a designer needs to know about your business in detail. They should be asking what your goals are, what problems you’re looking to solve, who your ideal customer is… Basically, they should always be asking you questions.

While some designers use a questionnaire to get this information, this one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t yield the detailed, in-depth insights required to do your branding justice. They should also be thinking beyond just your logo, working with you to make sure this small piece of the branding puzzle fits into your overall marketing and business strategy to achieve the best results.

Questions to ask your designer before committing

Not just any designer is right for the job of visualising and ideating your company's brand. To make sure you get the best results, take the time to speak to a few different people to get a feel for their process, their abilities and whether they're the right fit for your business.

By asking questions like these, you can separate the people who just know how to use the tools from the highly experienced branding experts who are able to interpret and visualise how your business should portray itself.

Their experience

  1. What experience do you have in branding specifically?
  2. Could you show me some real-world examples of successful brands you have created?
  3. Do you have client testimonials and case studies that I can read?

Their process

  1. Will my project be done by your team in-house or outsourced to a third party? 
  2. What is your design process and what is my role in it?
  3. Do you consider the varying usage and application requirements of my logo?
  4. Do you ensure that all fonts used are licensed for commercial use?
  5. Will my logo be original work?
  6. Do you ensure that my logo accurately represents my company's values/ethos/services?
  7. How long is the project turnaround time?
  8. What will my brand identity package include?
  9. Will you consider my brand collateral beyond just the logo?
  10. Do you offer payment plans?

Their perspective

  1. Why do you feel you're the right choice for this project?
  2. What excites you about working on my project?
  3. Who will be working on my project and will I get to speak to them directly?
  4. What is your interpretation of what I've told you about the business?

Examples of branding gone wrong

Nailing your brand can be difficult, and even the biggest companies with multi-million dollar budgets have been known to get it wrong. They say that any press is good press, but brand disasters can have a huge negative impact that smaller, less established businesses may not be able to bounce back from.

So, what does it look like when brand designers don’t get it right? Here are a few examples of the disasters that could be waiting for you if you don’t do your homework.

Gap’s short-lived rebrand

Clothing brand Gap decided to redesign its iconic logo to something more modern in an attempt to boost sales after the 2008 recession. The project was given to Laird and Partners, a New York-based creative agency with a strong reputation, and cost around $100 million.

The new design was launched on October 6th 2010, replacing the classic ’90s vibe with something that would look more at home on an accountant’s website. Following a huge wave of backlash from consumers and brand experts alike, the old logo was reinstated just six days later. This example goes to show that even the best in the business can get it wrong if there’s no strategy behind the branding.

GAP branding disaster

Tropicana’s (also) short-lived rebrand

In 2009, global juice brand Tropicana made a similar expensive mistake when updating the packaging for their North American market. Another attempt to modernise the look and feel of the brand, this rebrand streamlined the logo and moved away from the image of an orange with a straw in it, instead showing a glass of the juice itself.

After investing $35 million in the campaign, the new branding fell completely flat. Despite its attempts to focus on the natural qualities of the juice, many felt that the previous concept of an orange with a straw in it better represented this. Such a drastic change in design also made it hard for consumers to locate Tropicana on the shelves and had a negative impact on their emotional bond with the brand. Sales dropped by 20%, representing a loss of $30 million, and the old design was reinstated after just a few weeks.

Tropicana branding disaster

The infamous London 2012 Olympics logo

The logo for the London 2012 Olympics was met with huge criticism when it was unveiled, for a number of reasons. Two of the key issues that people had with it was that it was overly jazzy, and that it had no obvious connection to either London or the Olympics.

However, another big concern was that the abstract jagged shapes forming the numbers ‘2012’ seemed to look like a variety of other unintentional things, none of which exactly embodied the Olympic spirit. With comparisons including a swastika, the word “zion” and Lisa Simpson performing a sex act, this logo was certainly memorable – but not for the right reasons.

London 2012 olympics branding disaster

Phallic logo for the Women’s Network

Australia’s Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet unveiled a new logo for the Women’s Network in 2022 but had to withdraw the design after it was (quite rightly) mocked for its phallic appearance.

Created as part of a rebranding effort to establish a consistent look and feel across staff diversity networks, the design at least got one thing right in retaining the lowercase ‘w’ icon that staff had been using for a number of years, helping to retain consistency. However, the unintended resemblance to male genitalia was particularly unfortunate within the context.

Women's network branding disaster
Source: Yahoo News

Carina’s experience hiring a brand designer

When looking to create a brand for her new business venture, Carina was at first sceptical about the cost. However, after being disappointed by low-cost alternatives, Carina came to Red Kite and was delighted by the difference in quality, communication and attention to detail compared to the cheaper services.


Highly recommend investing in a professional service like Chris' - worth every penny

After trying several designers that weren't quite hitting the mark, I was so happy I was referred to Chris. He was the first one who took the time to pick up a call and get a solid understanding of what I was looking to achieve, communicated openly and professionally throughout the whole process and worked efficiently to get a beautiful job done in only a couple of weeks. And that's with my slow responses as I couldn't decide what I liked, due to everything he produced being fabulous. Not a bad problem to have lol. Highly recommend investing in a professional service like Chris' - worth every penny.

Carina - Carina Chirila Fitness

Client Testimonial

Is Red Kite the right brand agency for you?

The only way to find out which brand agency is the right fit for you is to get in touch with them and discuss your design project. 

Speaking with someone in person, or at least over the phone, will help you to see what level of passion, enthusiasm and attention to detail you’ll get when working with them. This also gives you the opportunity to ask the pertinent questions we’ve looked at above, and get a sense of how well you would work together.

To find out whether Red Kite is the right choice to get the most out of your brand, contact us online or give us a call on 1300 383 146 and we’ll be more than happy to discuss your project with you. After the initial chat, we’d love to book a face-to-face meeting to really get to grips with what you’re looking for, and so you can get a better understanding of who we are and what we do.

Read next: What to Consider Before Hiring a Logo Designer



Chris Harris


Chris brings over a decade of industry experience to Red Kite working at design agencies in both the UK and Australia. Over the years he has accumulated a wealth of graphic design, strategic identity design and marketing experience. Chris is a hugely passionate identity designer endeavouring to offer the highest quality branding and logo design Brisbane and Australia wide. Chat to Chris about your branding.

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Chris Harris is a branding designer who helps businesses and brands grow by creating distinctive logos and brand identities, backed by strategy. Talk to Chris about your brand. 
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