It’s okay for your logo to be ugly. Really.

This is an excerpt from a presentation to a group that were looking to start new businesses – recorded at the SmartHub Rockhampton in November 2021.


When you’re kicking things off, a lot of people also get really hung up on their logo.

Got two jars of pasta sauce here. Hands up, who’d buy that one? Yep. Who’d buy that one? All right.

There’s no right or wrong answer to that question but here’s the thing. Everybody made a decision.

What’s in the jar?

We haven’t looked at the ingredients, they could be out of the same factory. The jar, the contents could be identical but the labels on the jars was enough for us to make a choice.

Now, we like to think that as smart, intelligent people, we’re all rational and we make educated decisions, but we don’t.

So they were very intentional with how they’ve designed those labels.

Here’s another example. Who loves these logos? They’re beautiful aren’t they? Nobody’s agreeing with me strangely enough.

Let’s face it, they’re ugly. By any accounts, they’re ugly.

But when you look at those, what do you think? Cheap? Pretty much. Do you reckon that’s what they were going for? You bet your life that’s what they were going for. These are very good logos. They’re kinda ugly but for the brands that these guys are trying to develop, they are very good.

You know, you go into Chemist Warehouse and you’ve got the narrow isles and their tall and it looks a bit claustrophobic and it feels cheap. You walk in a JB Hi-Fi and there’s the big sheets of paper with like the handwritten sales stuff on it. That’s not by accident.

You know, they’ve thought about who their customers are, what their customers want.

How do we need to look? What first impression do we need to set here?

So many people want their logo to be beautiful and my favorite color is blue and nobody cares. You care, nobody else does.

‘Cause a first impression, whilst you can overcome it, is difficult. The saying never judge a book by its cover exists because we all do it. We all do it.

So before you think about what your favorite color is in your logo, think about how do you want people to feel about this when they first see it?

You know, which jar are you?

And again, a lot of people we talk to when we sort of, you know, how do you want to position yourself? I’m gonna be fairly inexpensive, you know. I’m gonna be cheaper than these other guys. Okay, so you want your logo to look like that or you look like that. Oh no, no, no, no.

So make sure that the visual aspect of what you do lines up with how you want to position yourself, how you want people to feel when they first see it.

‘Cause otherwise you’ve just got to work really hard to overcome that initial impression.

How well can you see this at the back? I love this one. So this is a heavy metal poster from somewhere over in America. And you look at all these band logos. And aside from the fact that I can’t read a single one, they’re all really samey aren’t they? Except for this one. Now I Googled this, that’s a real band. This is legit. You can find them on Spotify if your into that kind of thing.

But you think about the industry and all of these logos are all looking a bit samey. What stands out to you?

So again, when you’re thinking about the visual aspect of your brand, what’s common in your industry. Have a think about doing the opposite of that.

My cop-out answer is it depends. And that comes back to thinking about, you know, who your customer is. You know, when they’re walking past, like people put their hand up for that one. So that is not always the right answer because people in this room put their hand up for that one because they don’t want all that information. They think that looks like it’d be a bit spicy or a bit more tasty or a little bit more exotic or whatever the, you know, whatever the reason. So, and that comes back to a little bit about these guys. Like you might look at those and think those logos are horrible, but for what they’re trying to do, they’re completely right.

[Woman] It may be part of you comes though with that too. Like if you’re a color person, you know something colorful. Even though you’ve gotta think about your market.

But is that what your customers are looking for?

[Woman] Yeah.

Yeah. So in terms of the choices you make here, you’ve gotta live up to this.

Like if these guys had these logos, but they didn’t then follow through with the rest of their stores in the way they felt, it’s all a bit superficial and it doesn’t really work.

So, you know, if you wanna position yourself as being the upmarket choice or the budget choice or the knowledgeable choice or whatever it happens to be, you need to be able to follow through and deliver on that.

So it’s important that you can, you know, this is something that you’re comfortable, you know, as a representation of your business, but at the same time, just picking your logo because blue’s your favorite color is not a great idea. Well, yeah. Well, that’s the thing.

There’s lots of nuance in this. So it would depend on what the other color was and maybe it makes sense. I guess the main point with this is don’t just by default, fall back to what your industry does and look like everybody else in your industry. You know, it may be that there’s no alternatives.

Like I was saying before, sometimes pushing things to the edge takes some bravery. Like do you reckon these guys had a few arguments in the band after a few drinks about picking that one? Probably, but it stands out. Yeah. While I was being polite but-

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