July/August 2003  Volume 29, Issue 5
July/August 2003 Issue
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Tips for Creating a New Firm Identity
by Kelly A. Blazek
Is it time to ditch the old logo and craft an identity that reflects your firm in the 21st century? Arriving at a new identity -- including the logo, typeface, colors and related elements that will convey your image in all your firm materials -- is neither a cheap nor a quick proposition. Regardless of your firm size, and whether you have a marketing staff of 10 or none, it pays to think ahead if you want to maximize the return on your investment.
  • Determine What You Want to Convey. Think about the creative "direction" or style you want for your new identity. What is your firm's image? What would you like it to be? Conservative, modern, classic, cutting-edge? Think carefully about the clients you now serve -- and want to serve in the future.

  • Do Your Homework. Check out your competitors' logos. See what images businesses outside the legal profession are using. Save letterheads, annual reports, logos and business cards that appeal to you. Start a "we absolutely hate this look" pile, too. Your design team will thank you for it, and you'll save money by not wasting their creative time.

  • Put Someone in Charge of the Project. If you have a marketing director, you've found your candidate. But if you're in a smaller practice without marketing staff, designate one patient, organized, tenacious individual to be the point person with the agency that will design your identity.

  • Hire a Design Firm that Fits. Do you need a full-service ad agency to create your identity? No. But a freelancer working out of his or her basement may not be able to handle the project either. A small boutique design firm may be a good alternative -- one with enough staff to hustle on a big project, but without so many layers of senior management that it weighs down your bill. Invite several design firms in to show their portfolios. If, though, you already have a good relationship with a creative shop that knows your firm well, it should be on your "A list."

  • Understand Your Printing Options. In working with your design team, make sure all the bases are covered. That includes addressing printing and duplicating questions up front -- they'll have a big impact on your budget. For example, although engravers don't like to hear this, four-color printing is less expensive, allows for more design flexibility and can convey the same authority that engraving does. Also, remember that printing and paper are generally not part of the agency's bill, so work with your designer to obtain a variety of printing quotes.

  • Know What to Expect of Your Designer. These folks may wear jeans to work and play air guitar in their offices -- but you want their creative, out-of-the-box ingenuity, not their ability to look and act like your accountants. Expect to be visually and conceptually challenged. And, if you're a larger firm working with a good design agency, expect to spend close to $10,000 or more in fees. A smaller project, say for a solo practice, might involve only a simple business card, envelope and letterhead. You can find a freelancer to do this for under $1,500.

  • Be a Good Client. Regardless of who you hire, you have a right to request that aspects of your project be finished within a certain timeline. Set deadlines, and make sure that all parties stick to the schedule. But be reasonable and, remember, if you snooze, you lose. Don't expect an agency to turn around changes in 48 hours when they've sat on your desk for four weeks waiting for internal approvals.

  • Plan Ahead. Creating and implementing a new identity is, at minimum, a six-month project. New signage can take up to two months to fabricate and install. So think about what you're doing right now-plan ahead! Here's a hint: The worst time to decide you need a new identity is right after your office manager orders 40,000 sheets of letterhead using the old logo.

Kelly A. Blazek ( kblazek@clevelandsports.org) is Director of Communications at the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission. She is a veteran of ad agencies who worked in law firm marketing for six years and before that as a corporate communications manager for GE Lighting.