(For the sake of privacy, we've omitted her name and university.)
Hello, I'm a graphic design student at [university]. Right now, I'm in the process of working on my senior exhibit. I'm wanting to design a logo and some decals for the trucking company that my parents are starting. One of my instructors suggested that I message you and ask a few questions.
What exactly do you provide a client who is starting a business? What promotional things do you create for a client? Also, do have any suggestions for what makes a successful design and overall company name? I would really appreciate the help!
Since her questions are of interest to a wider audience, we decided to share our answers.
Well, you’ve gone and done it. You’ve asked an ad agency for advice. That’s not unlike dumping gasoline on a fire or breaking the cap off a hydrant. We’re bursting with advice and probably too eager to give it out. But just remember, you asked for it. 😉
Whatever they’ll pay for.
That’s a joke.
Here’s the real answer. Whether we’re working with a startup or an established business, we always ask questions before offering solutions. Without getting a clear picture of the client’s needs and goals, we’ll miss the mark. So we inquire:
Between asking questions of the client and doing some research on our own, we figure out, best as we can, the client's place and value proposition in the market. That term "value proposition" sounds jargony (and is), but means something very important. It's whatever makes the client valuable and attractive to customers. It's the service, product, or innovation they offer that gives them an edge.
Everything we (and you) design should promote or, at least, go with that value proposition. So before you choose a name or design a logo, sit down with your parents and nail down their value proposition. Build all the marketing materials around that.
The specific types of materials vary, but for a new business, we've often provided a:
Obviously, your senior project doesn't call for creating all of that, but your parents' business would probably benefit from the whole list. With your schooling, you can probably handle any of the design elements—the logo, brand guide, slide deck, social media images, and even a wire frame for a website or storyboard for a video. However, you’ll want to enlist some help in producing an actual site or video.
We do ALL the things.
The most important promotional materials we create are advertising campaigns. We produce the overall design and messaging and the individual ads.
However, if by “promotional things” you’re referring to branded merchandise—ball caps, coffee cups, t-shirts—we do those, too. Our design team preps the artwork, then fulfills the order through a specialty vendor.
The key with merchandise is to choose items that suit the occasion, and again, that requires knowing the client’s needs and goals.
Your parents’ company probably doesn’t need a customer ad campaign at this point. The business-to-business sales process is a lot more about networking, meeting directly with potential clients, and getting involved in industry events.
As for merchandise, it would make sense for them to have branded apparel (for themselves), business cards, and similar products that reinforce the credibility of their business.
There’s no easy answer here—we wish!—but there are basic principles.
Before designing anything, settle on the name—but not quickly. Take your time. Name the business like you’d name a baby, after thinking through lots of options.
In trucking, we’d advise you to:
Those are three things not to do. Here are ten to do.
A great logo—Nike’s, for example—has five characteristics. Use these like a checklist when you’re designing.
For more practical advice on logo design, check out these videos from two experts:
Draplin, in particular, emphasizes the need to think holistically—to make the logo fit the heart and history of the business—and the need to develop multiple options. As you know, it’s not a one-day work product.
We will offer one final piece of advice: don’t put a truck in a trucking company logo. It’s not needed, and it’ll be on the side of a truck anyway.