Readers respond: Dealing with “bad” logos

~ 12 May 2006 ~

Every so often I receive an email with a question that might best be answered by many instead of one. This week’s mail included one such question from a reader:

I am wondering if you might write a little bit on the topic of how you might approach the problem of a client coming to you for a web site design when they already have a logo… a terrible logo… and they want to incorporate it into your new design. (We’re talking a really ugly logo here.) —David

What say ye?



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1   Tom Watson ~ 12 May 2006 at 09:33 AM

This just happened to me yesterday. I’d love to hear what you have to say on the subject.

2   Scott M. ~ 12 May 2006 at 09:39 AM

Just happened to me as well. Like a tumor growing from my healthy new design…

3   Criss Ittermann ~ 12 May 2006 at 09:42 AM

I’ve had this happen. I found someone on the other side — who worked for the company in question — who also saw the logo as a poor choice. The one in question included 4 clip art horsemen in a line straight across.

Together we were able to convince the decision maker in question that a new design — essentially a new identity — would be a good idea, especially one with an eye towards scalability. The business in question attends conventions, so a booth banner would not be out of the question, for example. You can’t scale the tiny clip art horsemen up to banner size. I created something that looks good small, scales well, and really encapsulates the heart of the company and looks far more professional, and I think they’re happier.

Perhaps you can be somewhat candid in asking their opinion of the logo. If they really like it, then you’ll have to work with it. Otherwise you can compare it to their industry, and let them see how it stands up (or stands out) by itself; with all the recent talk about “ugly design” maybe they LIKE that it’s “different”?

Also, if you can find a technical reason there’s a problem with the logo — if you can present a rational logical case as to what is wrong with it that can’t easily be fixed, then maybe that’s the best way to go. Present a case, create a proposal about reworking the design, be specific about what problems your new design will address.

4   David Barrett ~ 12 May 2006 at 09:45 AM


It’s horrible when you have to design around a logo where the colours clash with themselves; eg: a vibrant greeny blue on top of a vibrant bluey green.

5   Mark ~ 12 May 2006 at 09:59 AM

I actually just finished a great web design based on a photograph of an old 1800’s globe.
I’ve now completed the implementation and I don’t know what to do about this freaking ugly thing that sticks out of the design like s sore thumb. I haven’t talked to him about it, but i think he made it in MS Publisher with some clip art.

The entire layout and navigation is beautiful but the company’s logo completely doesn’t ‘jive’ with the look.

If you’d like to see what I’m talking about, head to my blog ( and look for the link on the right under “Sites I’ve Designed”. The one I’m talking about is at the top of that list.

I’d rather not link it directly here since he might track down this site and see my comments.

I have a guy that offered to design him a new logo, but i don’t know how to approach it since he already has business cards made and literature, etc.

6   Dave Simon ~ 12 May 2006 at 10:08 AM

I’ve dealt with this a few times.

First, like Chris I. said, view this as a selling point for another projects. Sell them a new logo at the same time.

But be careful!! Many ugly logos were designed by the client themselves, their kid, cousin, wife or friend. I know this from experience! When pushing for a new logo at a tech company I worked for a few years ago, we started going through some old archives and found the company’s logo on a piece of paper with a note attached:

Original company logo by (CEO’s name). Do not destroy!!!!

So be sure to give rationale that the head honcho at your client will understand. Not “your logo is ugly” but “your logo has worked for you so far, but on the web, it doesn’t scale down very well.” Or “I think your company is about to really take off, which is why I’m excited about working on your project. But with a new website and new success, maybe you should consider updating your identity.”

If that is impossible or shot down, and you absolutely have to deal with it, try to minimize the logo’s impact on your design.

One way to do this is to make the logo a single color. Another is to limit its size. Both are even better. Usually, a company with a bad logo also doesn’t have standards for how it should be used. So look at that as an opportunity to change ugly colors and resize at will. :)

If possible, use the logo small and then do the name in some sort of attractive typesetting that you set up, giving yourself a pseudo-logo to work with.

The other option (which I have used) is to just not use their logo at all, but do something attractive enough they don’t see it as missing.

7   Cameron Moll ~ 12 May 2006 at 10:08 AM

Thanks, Criss. I’d like to see feedback along those lines from others — intelligent suggestions for dealing with the issue, attempting to understand both sides, etc.

8   Cameron Moll ~ 12 May 2006 at 10:09 AM

Ah, more good feedback, Dave. Just saw your comments.

9   Criss Ittermann ~ 12 May 2006 at 10:14 AM

Mark — I looked at the site and I think you’re a great sport for taking the clip art globe and incorporating it in a way that almost makes it look “natural” on the site. Congratulations!

You might want to ask whether it’s clip art, and point out (if it is) that it’s not original, and unless something is actively done to make it original, he can’t protect the logo from other people infringing on it. Perhaps that’s your best case against it? He would probably not be comfortable with another company in the same industry having the same logo.

10   Reuben Whitehouse ~ 12 May 2006 at 10:29 AM

I’ve had this on a couple of recent freelance projects. These logo’s were less than awesome(!) but the clients loved them. So what I did was to compromise by telling them that in order for the logo to ‘work in a web context’ it would need to be ‘modified’. I then redrew the logo’s to be crisper and slightly re-arranged them to be at least more legible and definately more professional. This seemed to work. I think the concept of totally changing the logo can be too much, particularly to someone on a low budget. I also think that there’s a lot of value in compromise in a service provider-client relationship.

If you can take that nasty logo and make it work then everyone’s happy (admittedly the designer - me - wasn’t quite as happy as if they’d used the sweet new one I’d done!).

11   Christina ~ 12 May 2006 at 10:45 AM

Ah yes, I’ve been approached by someone who needs his site on Google, and in search engines in general. The site was “designed” (if you can call it that) years ago, and and all the photos are pixelated now, on our high-res screens. The client says “but they’re perfectly clear on my OLD computer”. Yes, well. The logo is the worst part - it is in that Neon Lights font, is all grainy, and has an two animated gifs flanking it, and he INSISTS on keeping it. Oh dear! I have found the original font, but the first and last letters in his logo look different from the Neon Lights font, and he doesn’t have the original logo anymore. I can’t budge him and wonder whether all this stress is worth my time. I’m certainly NOT going to put my name on his site as having reworked it!

12   Josh ~ 12 May 2006 at 10:46 AM

I echo what’s already been said, with special emphasis on stepping lightly and avoiding the phrase “your logo is ugly”. Ugly is a relative/subjective term.

Often times companies will just not have it in the budget to do a redesign of their logo as well. Avoid the temptation to redesign it for free, or close to free (unless there is a solid business benefit for you).

I also agree, stripping the color from a logo or “recoloring” it can often times fix part of the problem.

Finally, if the client won’t allow you to mess with their logo take heart… nobody will blame you for wrapping an ugly logo in an otherwise fantastic site design and if the client is pleased with your work the odds are you will be called on for the logo redesign project in the future.

13   Carolyn Wood ~ 12 May 2006 at 10:49 AM

In my limited logo-related experience, I discovered that if you just bring up the idea of a new logo design, the response is blank stares. They haven’t studied logo design, branding, etc., and are happy with their little man holding a chainsaw or whatever. So, if the situation is desperate, which, alas, it always seems to be, it is sometimes worth taking the risk of just designing a new logo or even just an improved version. Then you might say, “I was just playing around with some ideas, looking for something that seemed to better reflect how great your company is, and thought you might want to see, just for fun, how the logo looks within the new site design. If you like it, we can talk about the additional costs.” This has worked for me for logos and for some other design-related issues, though I must add that I’m not designing logos at the level of, say, a Cameron Moll. I’m not designing logos for the Big Boys or spending many hours crafting a Mollian logo. But, for the little guy, it’s been enough to at least move the logo from the butt-ugly category to the doesn’t reach out and slap you in the face level. I also wouldn’t take this risk if I didn’t have a good relationship with the client already and know that I’ll definitely be paid if they use the logo.

14   Bruce Halliday ~ 12 May 2006 at 10:57 AM

Because something like a logo re-design or god forbid a re-branding exercise has a large impact on the scope of a project, I find it’s a conversation that is most easily tackled at the start of a project. If a client is willing to go down the re-design or re-branding path there are a couple of things that you need to take into consideration;

First, if you’ve pitched them on the idea of a new logo, be willing to not be the designer to redo it. Sometimes your sales pitch will be so good, they’ll go to another shop. If that is the case, you need to find out from your client who is doing the logo and set up a meeting find out which direction they are going. Planting the seeds of logo redesign may not fully flower until after your design shows the glaring atrocity of their current logo. The more you know about what direction the logo is going the better you can design the site to seamlessly fit in with the new logo. Believe me, when you have a design that is suited for a horizontal logo and the client comes to you with a nice, big, shiny vertical logo you’re going to need another bottle of whisky to get through that one, especially if the site is 3/4 populated with content already.

Secondly, it’s not just the website that the new/old logo impacts, any existing stationary, letter heads, business cards, etc will also need to be updated. If you pitch the client on a new logo, let them know that there will be consequences down the line, this may be a deal breaker, but at least you will show the client that you’re focused on their needs, not just your designers ego.

Lastly, remember you are a designer, work within your constraints even if it is a eyesore of a logo. The suggestions made earlier about making it one color or decreasing the size are great points, but when was the last you heard a client say “I love how small my logo is” usually it is the same old, same old. I would take caution in adding a word-mark to someone’s existing logo, there are some branding infringements and toes that may get stepped on.

Be honest with your client, humble with your ego and things should work out.

15   Mark ~ 12 May 2006 at 11:14 AM


Thanks for the positive feedback. He DID give me permission to change colors and sizes of the logo.

The original was actually square with that diamond inside it. I stripped out the corners of the square and gave it a bit of a glow to try and blend it into the design.

…now I just need to collect on the account. (*rolls eyes*) That’s the worst part.

16   gb ~ 12 May 2006 at 11:15 AM

I deal with it every day… our company logo is vile, but they just ordered 10,000 copies of our letter head… *cries inside*

17   Ballookey ~ 12 May 2006 at 11:18 AM

When I first started working for my current company, I was faced with a mountain of legacy artwork all sporting an absolutely revolting, outdated logo.

What I’ve done is to use only the logo type in all but the rarest occasions. I hate the font, but it’s amazing what can be accomplished by just resetting it with proper letter spacing and a little stylized touch. It’s downright acceptable now.

I NEVER use the full logo itself unless my boss specifically says to use it - which turns out to be pretty rare. Even then, I try and fudge if I can possibly get away with it. The old logo features a star, so I have on occasion gotten away with using JUST the star and not the rest of the cluttering garbage.

The problem is, they know the old logo’s ugly, but they think that if they change it, people won’t associate the new logo with their company. They’d rather have the legacy of the old logo than revamp it.

I’d like to point out that there is absolutly NO brand awareness attached to the existing logo whatsoever, so that entire argument is moot, but you know denial, rivers in Egypt, and all…

18   ..ak ~ 12 May 2006 at 11:18 AM

I take the approach of the client convincing themselves. I start by asking “how did you come up with the logo” and conceptual questions. As you go along they will offer you what they are want, then your respond with your recommendations disguised as recommendations. If they are willing to budge from the design, you will get a positive response. The client will realize they need to update the logo and you can remind them you can do that too.

19   Steve Mock ~ 12 May 2006 at 11:19 AM

Also keep in mind that said logo has perhaps been used on things other than this new website design. Retail packaging, for example. In that case there is real equity in this existing logo.

This happened to us recently as well, and we’ve had moderate success flipping a few colors and/or coming up with a reverse alternative.

Another good question for your client that implies a higher level of quality - while not being too adversarial - is: “Do you have a graphics standards manual or style guide for your company?”

Many times they will not. The absence of which could grant you some creative license.

20   Sherwin Techico ~ 12 May 2006 at 11:33 AM

Thanks for the great, constructive solutions all.

Being in the topic of customer-relation, I’m eager to see how everyone handles situations when a client just emails you some high-level info about their need for a site design/redesign, then ends with:

“So, how much will this all cost me?”

Then, you try replying back asking to maybe give you a bit more information so you may know more details about the project’s specs. Only to get a reply back to them with something along the lines of:

“Around how much will this cost before I answer these question. I have found a
designer to provide the services I need for an extremely reasonable price and I am
not willing to pay a steap price for a blog redesign?”

Oh woes me..

21   Dave ~ 12 May 2006 at 11:53 AM

Cutting a bad logo down to size:

1. Design your layout as you normally would, with the logo at a size you think works.
2. Shrink the logo in place to 40% of that size.
3. Present to client. Comment: “The logo looks really small. Can you make it bigger?”
4. Scale to 90% of desired size.
5. “That’s a lot better, but maybe just a little bigger?”
6. Scale to 100%, your original desired size.

Works like a charm.

22   Ryan Rumsey ~ 12 May 2006 at 11:57 AM

My favorite personal experience: informing a client the copywritten material in their logo will get them sued and that’s not a way to start out a new brand.

Their response, “But I love that shot of Marilyn Monroe.”

My reply, “And I’m sure the photographer who took it loves just as much.”

It was also an easy approach for removing a photograph from a logo without infringing on their creativity. We decided a new logo was best.

23   Charlie ~ 12 May 2006 at 12:39 PM

I’m with ye all. It’s happened to me a few times and each time I’ve simply said, “Hey, look, what say you I throw in a fresh new logo for $_____?” I’ve ended up doing it for free, all to save the final site’s integrity. Sometimes you can even milk it for an extra fee, which is no small feat with some clients.

I’ve also been asked to design a logo or three to match a pre-existing logo ensemble that was fairly lousy. That was even harder to get away from, as I felt I was stepping on a lot of other people’s toes.

24   Ty Hatch ~ 12 May 2006 at 01:20 PM

I’ve found that sometimes my clients don’t have a print version of their logo for me to work with, so I kindly ask if they wouldn’t mind me creating a “print version” of it for them. This way I’m able to fit it into the project at a minimal cost to them and usually make some improvements that they appreciate. Yeah I have to dealt with a couple of ulgy logos now and then, but I can at least have total control over it.

If it’s a new company I’m doing the work for—which often is the case—I’ll recommend adding a logo design phase to the project before doing the website. It then turns into a larger project and the client is usually much happier with the end result.

25   Scott Orchard ~ 12 May 2006 at 01:36 PM

We had a project at work last year where the client needed a redesign of their current site, yet their current logo was easy to work. Our design solutions incorporated the current logo, and the client seemed very pleased. Then for some reason, while we were about 80% done with the project, the client presented us with their new logo, which was not quite up to our standards.

Not only did the new logo clash with the design, the client wanted to keep it, no matter what we suggested. We may have hemmed and hawed in-house, but we made it work, although, it still sticks out like a sore thumb.

I think the most disappointing thing with the new logo we were given wasn’t that it was horrible, but that we could have brought the same strategy to a branding exercise as we brought to the website redesign had we had the opportunity. In the end the client was happy with the work, even if it was below our standards; ensuring they were pleased with the whole design experience was better than sabotaging a good relationship with the client.

I’d also like to add that this is great discussion, and there have been many good suggestions on how to cope with this type of a challenge. I don’t believe there is a blanket solution to this, but there are many ways to try and help them understand that your design recommendations are valid and possibly exceed all the goals for the project.

26   Priit ~ 12 May 2006 at 01:39 PM

Designing a website is not about creating, it’s about implementing existing design guidelines for a new medium. That’s it. Ok, maybe for a really small compenies it is not so, but for a little bit-bigger, web designer is virtually a subcontractor for a corporate identity designer. Web designer has no scope to propose anything about identity, except when there’s some problems with implementing identity rules for web, such as readability, ergonimics, etc (and printhouse can say that this color is very hard to print correctly).
Any web designer who will suggest something about corporate identity will be fired (as will the printhouse lose the job, if prepress guy starts to comment too much).


So, Dave, do just the thing you hired for - design the website.

27   Rick Curran ~ 12 May 2006 at 01:40 PM

Yep, it seems to be a timeless experience for designers - dodgy logos!

My own experience / approach has generally been to carefully sound out whether it can be changed, then do either a fresh redesign or tweak the existing logo to make it better. Sometimes all it takes is to change the clip art images used in the existing logo and turn it into a consistently styled graphic and then it works fine.
If all else fails though turn it into a single colour version and it won’t completely overpower everything!

This seems to be a regular occurrence, we have one situation like this just now, fortunately we’re able to change it! One way of looking at it if the client isn’t willing to pay for it but won’t object to it being changed is that it’s often worth doing for free in order to make sure the end result looks good! My experience is that my work is my advertising so it’s in my interest for it too look good too.

28   Chris Griffin ~ 12 May 2006 at 01:54 PM

Funny this subject comes up. I’m dealing with this right now and asked myself this question yesterday.

First off, the logo isn’t the most horrible logo I’ve ever seen, though it definitely looks dated. I had more of a problem with the color of the logo (Purple!) and the typeface (Vertically scaled Times New Roman with small-caps).

I asked the client if I could change the color, and he said no, just variations of purple, and he wanted it to be one of the main colors. They also had printed letterhead and business cards so that was a no-go.

Well, I’ve worked enough with clients to know what they say and what the want can be molded to whatever I create for them as long as it looks professional. So I chose blue to be the dominant color and the purple as an accent color. (NOTE: Use your judgement on whether the client will be okay with this, most clients won’t care but I’m sure there are some that might not be happy.)

So, what I did to spice up the logo a bit was give it a slight drop shadow and a inner shadow to soften up the edges. Not too much, just enough to give it some form and definition.

So because of the purple color, my color scheme is going to look similiar to CSS Beauty’s old color scheme.

Moral of the story - When you have bad design choices already set in stone (logo, colors) it is still possible to design a quality product if you use your head a little. Problem such as these push our boundaries of comfort. This is how we as designers learn and become better.

29   John V. ~ 12 May 2006 at 02:48 PM

The mark of a good designer is making great designs under limitations or constraints.

30   Anthony Baker ~ 12 May 2006 at 03:16 PM

Hahaha. This is happening to me now. My client’s logo sucks — well, it’s got a couple nice features, but the overall font is something off of Microsoft Word, the color is a dark purple, and it’s designed in a lovely off-balanced way that drives me nuts.

I’ve already tried to (a) redesign it (didn’t work), (b) use part of it with a different color for the text (she wants to use the actual color — even though that color isn’t used anywhere on the site).

Anyhow, I’m going to give the client what she wants. I suppose I should have done this in the first place — maybe she’d then agree with my point. That said, Cameron mentioned something in an earlier post about how you sometimes have to cut and run to keep a project moving and the client happy.

I’ve actually found, of late, that my design standards — what I would want to put my name on out in the world — are trending a lot higher than some of my clients. I could probably get by on more mediocre work (in my opinion) that would still knock their socks off (in their opinion).

It would also save me time and headache…

Need to work on that overall.

31   Ty Hatch ~ 12 May 2006 at 04:04 PM

One thing to remember, all of the different clients you work with will help you diffuse and address this type of situation in the future.

Not every client project will be the award-winner. It’d be nice if it were that way, but sometimes you just have to pay the bills.

32   Sean Sperte ~ 12 May 2006 at 08:45 PM

I always just ask Jesse what to do.

No, seriously.

33   Mike Gowen ~ 13 May 2006 at 03:38 PM

Most of my approach has been covered here, but I do offer a last resort technique thats seems to work for me when ALL ELSE FAILS, and you have to use the logo, unalterd…

Take a good hard look at the logo, then close the file. Then design your page leaving space for the logo. Right before you post it to the client, drop the logo into the space you’ve reseverd and quickly close the file. Not unlike dropping a venomous snake into a basket and closing the lid ;)

Hey, I never said it was ideal, but its better than staring at it for hours, letting it poison you while you design.


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eduardo arcos nuestra comida
te molesto el estomago pobre WWEeeeeyyy. largate a comer mierddaaa a tu pais, y para de hablar mal de mexicanos y de mexico. o de personas que tratan de salir adelate sin pedirte nada tu estar Hablando mal de todos los mexicanos. esto si es una amenaza cuidate por que si la comida de guatos no te mato la banda….si te va a dar un susto …..
disculpe la replica pero ya estamos cansados de este maldito que solo habla mal de mexico y de los mexicanos y no estamos de acuerdo con muchas personas que le dan la palmada solo por tener enlaces de alt1040 a sus blog sin trafico GRacias

35   CWW ~ 14 May 2006 at 09:26 AM

Some good advice here for sure…

Several of you have pointed out the very thing I have always found to be true: for every bad business logo, there exist three camps within that business:

- A high-ranking schmuck who created it (or had his daughter create it, or had a friend of his create it)

- The congregation of supporters for said logo, who care much more about sucking up to the high-ranking schmuck than they do about some stinkin’ logo

- A handful of clear-headed people who know the logo is a poor reflection on the company, but are not about to waltz into the high-ranking schmuck’s office and propose a new logo just for the hell of it

If you can get the right combination of those people in the same room together and choose your words wisely, you can make an impact with your design expertise, and not only free yourself from the constraints of having to use a bad logo on the website, but possibly receive another paycheck for designing a new (or modernized-for-web version) logo.

36   bt ~ 14 May 2006 at 09:39 AM

I’ve noticed most people seem to have an approach for how to handle an “ugly logo.” If you were hired to build a website for a company, that’s what you do. You weren’t hired to redesign their identity.

I believe you should work within the constraints and not let the ugly logo damage *your* ego. Not every piece of work is a portfolio piece. Sure, it would be great if it could be, but it just isn’t practical.

37   Nick ~ 14 May 2006 at 12:52 PM

Like many people, I try to suggest a redesign, or even a “tweak” as I tell them, in my initial meeting if I don’t think their logo is “right.” But as many state, it’s not always my purpose to give them a new identity. And you often have to “work” with it.

However, one thing that really often works for me when I want to “tweak” or ultimately redesign the logo, I tell them they had a GREAT idea that they started with, and now they just need a professional designer to polish it off— to give it good “follow through.” This often softens the blow to whomever created it; they get to hear a professional tell them their idea was good, and that i want to now polish it up for them.

Be sure you have the credentials ready to show that you are an identity designer, though. Just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean your opinion is right. It might work for them after all. But I’ve found that reminding them that they are hiring the expert was the right thing to do; if they know they need a designer for the web, it shouldn’t be hard to show them they might need a designer for heir identity/logo.

38   Natalie Ferguson ~ 14 May 2006 at 05:26 PM

This is a fairly common problems for us, especially because a lot of our small business clients do design a lot of their branding on their own… and it has served them well so far. We take the approach of showing what a step forward the new site design is and how this step forward should coincide with a re look at the marketing strategy. most clients agree completely and are happy to move on their logos, but some aren’t and it’s a web design killer! :)

39   Rocketeer ~ 15 May 2006 at 12:33 AM

Damn, seems everyone including myself have encountered this problem. If the logo wasn’t half-bad, I wouldn’t be complaining, but most of the time, it’s horrible!

I usually convince the client to colours similar to the logos, but a logo with a massive bevel, really bold solid colours and looks as if he stole it from Word! Huh Uh!

Just do the job the best you can and let it go! and don’t add it to your portfolio!! ever…

40   Luis Alberto Barandiaran ~ 15 May 2006 at 01:30 AM

Since we are on the topic of logos, what would be a typical charge for a redesign? I’m talking about a small 2 year old company, with mainly a web presence but no significant real world penetration. They have a logo which is not really horrible, but it’s not nice either. It looks old, plain, boring, almost as if done in paintbrush by a 12 year old… But all the company’s colors, stationary’s, etc are based on it. What would you guys charge (on average) for such redesign?

41   Mike ~ 15 May 2006 at 08:24 AM

I once had a situation where I didn’t realize the client had a logo. I couldn’t find any on ads, the phone book etc… so I comp’d up a couple designs when I went to meet with them. He took one look at one of the ones I did and said ‘I would have never considered changing my logo until I saw these.’

In this case, I honestly didn’t know he had one, but you could probably feign ignorance and add something to your design that the client may find highlights the company better ;)

I know it might be considered working for free but if it benefits the client, you will probably benefit in the long run.

As for the charge for redesign question… I usually work with small local companies who can’t afford much so I charge around $250, which I think is VERY reasonable.

42   CWW ~ 15 May 2006 at 08:52 AM

I’m going to have to disagree with BT on #36… I concur that it’s out of bounds for a web designer to suggest a new logo simply because the old one makes their web site look bad; however, I think for many of us, that is not the issue.

The issue is that a web site is not only a communication tool for customers, but also a large piece of the corporate identity puzzle. By putting together a web site that is aesthetically light years beyond your client’s horrible clip-art logo, you create a rift in their corporate identity.

Is that a big deal? Maybe. A man wearing a three-piece suit with Chuck Taylors is always going to get some sideways looks… I see it as a disservice to NOT make the client aware of that.

43   Cliftonite ~ 15 May 2006 at 09:05 AM

I found comment 34 by como mie**** eduardo arcos to be rather… spamish. :)

I usually just redesign it as a part of the website and see if they like it. Normally the client will see how it fits in with the new website and accept it. You can offer the new logo as an option they can pay a little extra for, then ask, Deal, or No Deal?

Nothing worse than a hard-headed individual with no design sense… except maybe a terrorist with bad breath.

44   Anthony John ~ 15 May 2006 at 09:14 AM

I’m dealing with this issue at the moment, and it’s quite frustrating. I don’t care if the client wants to use their crappy old logo, but I do care about their expectations…they want me to create a cutting-edge website with a great look and feel but don’t want to change their crappy old logo. What’s a boy to do? Here’s what I suggest: give them their incredibly beautiful website and plop that crappy old logo right into it, larger than life. They’ll either tell you to lose the logo or lose the great design.

Conversely, one of my happiest customers (and a superb source for referral business) is ecstatic about her website…and it’s the second-worst I’ve ever done. The worst? One of her referrals…they’re both very happy, and sending more business my way. As some said: not every piece is a portfolio piece. If you’re getting paid to make the customer happy, make the customer happy.

45   Noah Bradley ~ 15 May 2006 at 11:18 AM

I, too, have experienced this (on my first professional project, no less). I was handed the most horrific, low-res, blury, photoshopped text straight out of the 90’s… bevel filter and all. Thankfully, I was able to convince him to let me make a slightly better logo for him (he didn’t have the funds to pay me to make an actually “good” logo).

*sigh* It’s rough.

46   Will ~ 15 May 2006 at 11:19 AM

If a client has a TRULY awful logo (not just one I’m not a fan of) and is unwilling to budge on it, then I’m unwilling to do other creative work for them.

Someone who isn’t open to making things that need fixing better isn’t someone I want to work for.

But maybe that’s just me.

47   Ty Hatch ~ 15 May 2006 at 11:48 AM

BT: If you’re hired to design their website, you’re hired to help them with their corporated communications. As a responsible visual communications professional who has been hired to help them put their best foot forward online it would be irresponsible to “just design” their website without first broaching the subject of their logo as it may or may not be effectively working for them. You don’t know how they feel about it or anything, until you talk about it.

Regardless, I see it as part of the process to get whatever logo they have anyway, before starting any sort of design. It’s a visual inventory of their current communications assets and part of the due diligence that you should be doing when you land any sort of project.

Beyond that, consider it taking the client’s best interests to heart and trying to help them. If they refuse the help you’re offering, be afraid. Chances are they’re not going to be a good client long-term and your simple website design projects going to run into problems at some point.

48   Sugar ~ 15 May 2006 at 12:10 PM

That is a constant problem for me. No matter what the site, no matter how beautiful and articulate the design, pre-designed logos always put me off.

49   Chris Wible ~ 15 May 2006 at 04:35 PM

This has happened to me more times than I can count! It pains me, particularly when your employer, like some have mentioned, designed it themselves or has some sentimental attachment to their “work of art”.

In the freelance gigs I’ve gotten where I was presented with a yucky logo and asked to work with it, I’ve approached it delicately. What I tend to do is build a design around their logo and then work a new option with a new logo in the layout. I make the one with the new logo a tad spiffier and present them with both layouts: “I was having so much fun with your layout that this logo idea just came to me. I know you’re committed to your current logo but, in my professional opinion, I think you should consider this one - notice how it…”

I try to demonstrate the difference a new logo could make by making it clear that their logo is what’s making stuff look like crap. If they come to the decision themselves, they usually say something like “wow, I like that new one but our company colors are the ones in our old logo… could we try it with those colors?”

Every garden starts with a single seed ;)

50   Gary Storm ~ 15 May 2006 at 10:33 PM

Yes! A client recently said I had to use their logo, because they had spent $1000 with a graphic designer for it. The logo is ok, but nothing special, but the primary colour they used was horrible. At the end of the day though, they`re paying the money, so all you can do is point out your profesional opinions, and leave the decision up to them. The evil logo may be so ingrained, that they wouldn`t want to spend loads more money re-printing their business cards etc. Fair enough.

51   franki durbin ~ 16 May 2006 at 06:16 AM

The biggest challenge we face is having our creativity sapped by the offending logo. In most cases, I find that clients are looking to you for wisdom and true design consultation. The challenge you face is determining how invested they are (finacially, emotionally, publicly) in the corporate identity.

One of the best approaches I have used is to recommend “updating” the logo. In reality, this often results in a redesign once the client realizes you have the ability to offer them a wide variety of options.

We have to realize many of our clients will not have worked with professional designers in the past. They have merely had access to someone who had rudimentary skills. By offering an “update” to the logo, you show that you have the client’s best interests at heart and allow them to see additional services you can offer. It has proven to be a win-win situation many times over.

52   Mark Wyner ~ 16 May 2006 at 03:32 PM

Man, what a good topic. I’ve been confronted with this many times, and I’m still seeking a good resolution.

I see a few people suggest tips on softening the blow when recommending a logo evolution to a client. But there’s baggage associated with each horrible logo thrown our way: printed materials. Convincing a client to spend money to reprint stationery, signs, etc. is infinitely more complicated than convincing them to evolve their logo.

Most of my clients with only a logo for their “brand” have very little interest in preserving their logo, other than ties to the said printed materials. The sell in that department is quite challenging.

53   Ryan Cochran ~ 16 May 2006 at 04:43 PM

Awe… I hate this situation… What do I do? I minimize. Get rid of color. Get rid of size. Here’s an example of a decent web design (I think anyway) that I did using a terrible logo:

54   Adam Thody ~ 17 May 2006 at 08:41 AM

Many of the suggestions above (one colour, smaller, etc) are great for mediochre logos…but sometimes they’re SO bad they simply must be changed.

I once dealt with a trucking company who’s logo was literally scanned off a napkin the owner had drawn upon with crayons…I kid you not. In that case it was 100% necessary to fix the problem.

I find in situations like that it’s all about the presentation. If you go to them and say your logo is ugly, or even “I’d like to tweak it to fit the new design”, you will often be up against some adamant objections. People fear change, and expect the worst.

I find I get much better results if I just do it. In those cases I’ll do two designs, one that is a clearer, modified version of the original with better colours and so on, and one that is completely new. Then design the site around these logos. Then you can also take their old pile of dung logo and slap it on one of the designs.

Now, faced with three options, two of which are dramatically better than their original they will undoubtably decide upon one of your new designs.

Bottom line, most clients with bad logos clearly don’t know a thing about design, and you have to SHOW them why theirs doesn’t work, and SHOW them workable alternatives.

55   urs ~ 17 May 2006 at 10:06 AM

I have this talk with most of my clients actually. At the first meeting I give them a long presentation about the importance of a good identity before I even start talking to them about the website. (and they come to me just wanting a website) I found approaching the issue right away saves me a lot of headaches later, not to mention a huge mole on my design.
And they usually go for it, and agree with me right away.

56   Andrew Hahn ~ 17 May 2006 at 02:36 PM

I run into this a lot too. But I’ve had far more requests for sites from companies that don’t have logos and don’t want them.

It’s times like that that I’m tempted to simply send them to ‘’ and call it good.

I love the ‘trucking logo scanned off a napkin’ story. That’s classic.

57   Robin ~ 19 May 2006 at 02:17 PM

One thing to always keep in mind is that the re-branding could cost a substantial amount of money to the client, if said business has to change, for example, their signage in front of their building.

I pitch the logo redesign. If they agree, and like your ideas, great, however, if the implications are too dire for their wallet, build the site with what you have.

58   Dave Anderson ~ 19 May 2006 at 08:26 PM

Just running into this now… Client is only a couple of years now, and has a plethora of logos, type styles, colors. He wants a site and for me to use the 3D lettering style from what they have on their pickup trucks…

Blue 3D letters with an orange script tag line.

My guess is that whoever did the graphics on the trucks, probably just had a handful of “cool” fonts to choose from and was very limited in their creativity from the constraints of what was available to them.

I’m trying to convince the client that it doesn’t translate well to the web and that it’s not as strong an identity as some of the other ideas that I had. I’m not too hopeful as he mentioned that they have a couple more trucks on order…

Someone pointed out that we’re paid to design a site, not an identity. Wish it wasn’t so!

59   Frank ~ 20 May 2006 at 12:49 AM

I ran into this also. Yet I advice customers not to change too much, maybe a logo rebranding.

60   JaX ~ 21 May 2006 at 01:27 PM

Hey Cameron, your blog is worth nearly $300,000.

61   John Cade ~ 22 May 2006 at 04:45 PM

Wow…it’s already jumped to $482,681.70. Can I buy a few shares of stock, please?

62   Alfred ~ 23 May 2006 at 02:11 AM

Good suggestions here.

The question is: what is ugly? - matter of taste and difficult to debate about it.

I would like to see / read on how you were able to overcome this “hurdle” - show us the ugly logo and on how you may have improved it - of course, once the deal/job has been completed.

Great site you have here- found you by accident….

All the best

63   Francois Carstens ~ 23 May 2006 at 03:20 AM

We had an issue like this recently. The logo wasn’t necessarily “ugly” but it was outdated and didn’t exactly fit the image the company is trying to convey. Here follows the correspondence… {“Names” and “places” have been changed to protect the identity of individuals. hehe. I’ve always wanted to say that.}
Hi “Jim”,

We’ve had a look at your current logo & the corporate identity reflected on your business cards.

We redrew it {the current “old “logo} for you in Illustrator, so if you would like a pdf {vector} version of the logo, we do have one available.


We also took the liberty of creating an updated/ reworked version.

What we did in the reworked version was the following:

1 - Simplified the “animal” and added another “limb” to give it the appearance of being in “form of movement”.
2 - Adapted the “shape” by giving it more depth/ perspective.
3 - Created the effect that the “animal” is actually “form of movement” through the “shape” - creating the feeling of coming out into the open, a sense of freedom.
4 - Changed the font. I have chosen a more elegant, stronger font and also made the titling ALL CAPS. Thus giving a stronger message of being “High Profile.” I’ve also made the titling silver.
5 - The reworked logo carries the authority of an “High Profile Crest”, and strengthens the image of “High Profile Business”.

If you would like to continue using the current “High Profile” logo we will do so without hesitation.

If however you like our suggestion, please let us now and we can work out a cost estimate with regards to the implementation thereof.

The client loved the idea and made a couple of his own suggestions, which made sense, and allowed him to get involved in the reworking of his logo. What we did was to keep the original “concept” but we tried to improve on it. This marks the designer - if the concept is workable -WORK IT! {If on the other hand it’s UGLY and the client refuses - close your eyes, do the design, take the cash and git! Just leave it out of your portfolio.}

Cheers to all of you Creatives out there!

64   Jon Pietz ~ 23 May 2006 at 07:53 AM

Frame your argument in business terms your client can understand, as opposed to design terms, which will make your argument seem self-serving. It’s not that clents have no aesthitic values, they just view the world through a different prism. Concerns like profitability, customer relationships, and meeting their quarterly goals take precedent. Show your client you can share their concerns, and you may be surprised to find them responding in kind.

How will a nicer logo improve their business? Put yourself in their shoes and answer the question.

65   Kevin ~ 23 May 2006 at 01:08 PM

Great discussion.

I’d LOVE to see a similar discussion on how designers deal with clients who feel they need to contribute to the design process.

I’ve had more than one site buggered by clients who insist that their ideas be implemented in designs.

66   Chris ~ 24 May 2006 at 11:23 AM

I just translated that spainish post from a free translation website. It has nothing to do with design, but this person is pissed about something:

You comment the alt1040 or alt1040 use their comment. in alt1040 do not we have the right of retorts, is the democracy blogera of this foreigner of sshhhhttttttt eduardo arches our food I bother you the I upset poor WWEeeeeyyy. you loosen you to eat mierddaaa to your pies, and for to speak badly of Mexicans and of mexico. or of people that try to leave adelate without asking you nothing your To Be Speaking badly of all the Mexicans. This if it is a threat you take care of because if the food of guatos do not I kill you the banda….if is going to give you a scare …. excuse retorts it but already we are tired of this damned one that alone speech badly of mexico and of the Mexicans and we are not according to many people that give the alone clap by having links of alt1040 to their blog without trafico THANKS

67   Noah ~ 24 May 2006 at 04:08 PM

Start with the logo and make an ugly site. If their logo is that bad they won’t care anyways.

68   jca ~ 24 May 2006 at 04:30 PM

I’ve had more than one site buggered by clients who insist that their ideas be implemented in designs.

Is that not their right? They are paying you for a service, no? After you’ve made your attempts to steer them in the “right” direction don’t you reach a point where you need to embrace the fact that you were hired to execute something they have control/direction/etc over — even if it goes against your best judgement(s)?

“Graphic design is a service industry.”

69   Elaine ~ 25 May 2006 at 04:31 PM

All of these posts are ridiculous. Indeed, graphic design, is most certainly a service industry. You are paid to do what I ask you to do: build a serviceable website that is marketable to clients. If you cannot incorportate a logo in it, then you are creating YOUR website, not the client’s.

Entering a business agreement with the idea that all small business owners are “schmucks” is not the way to go. Whether you like it or not, logos created by the owner’s daughter have sentimental value. Create a new one and say, here’s idea, do you like it? If they say, no, my daughter who died last year of cancer made my logo, then you use the logo and move on.

For a group of ‘professionals’ I’ve never heard so much unprofessional whining.

70   Jan ~ 28 May 2006 at 08:56 AM

“a terrible logo… and they want to incorporate it into your new design. (We’re talking a really ugly logo here.)”

This reminds me of why graphic designers don’t get the respect they think they deserve. There has been no discussion of whether the logo is inappropiate for the target marget group. The major concern seems to be that the logo messes up “your” pretty web design. Mmmm, makes you wonder if the site design is on target.

71   Massimo Fiorentino ~ 31 May 2006 at 04:58 AM

If you can’t convince your client to change lanes and revising, if not, changing the identity, then some graphical measures can be taken into account:

1. Colours: If too ugly/clashing, try toning them down (perhaps even with a lame excuse that it’s better on the web), otherwise see if your design somehow can incorporate these colours in a small scale.

2. Space: Leave a lot of space around the logo, so that it stands out from the rest. Perhaps even “locking it up” in a confined space, boxing it in, so that it can be looked upon as merely an image on the page.

3. Size: Scale it down so that it does not overwhelm the design, and still satisfies the client. If they want it huge - do the really bad thing and place it on a “intro” page (a page before the index/content page) for itself as a compromise (make it look like its a great idea).

My 2 cents… :-P


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