Wake Me Up Before You Logo.

Say you’re starting your own business. You’ve already gone through the long process of settling on a name that best resonates with your mission and goals.  Now you need a logo, so you can order business cards and set up a website.  And if you’re pretty savvy with a computer you may be tempted to do it yourself.  There are plenty of resources for artwork online like stock art websites or even image searches on Google.  This would work just as well, right?

Oh hail no!

A Logo by Any Other Name.

A logo should be more than a cute picture next to the name of your company.  It should be an instantly recognizable symbol that that sums up who you are, what you do or even what you believe. A logo should be unique so that it helps you stand out from your competitors.  Just like people keep mixing up the identity of twins, so will the public confuse your business for another if all of your logos look the same.

Hey, What Could Go Wrong?

So what’s wrong with using clip art?  If you choose a bold and unique image, wouldn’t that be fine? The problem with clip art is that ANYONE can use it.  The company that sells or gives the art away freely can only distribute non-exclusive rights to the artwork. In other words if you and a competitor chose the same icon from a catalog of icons – you BOTH have the legal right to do so no matter who bought it first.  Ultimately NEITHER of you totally owns your image.  Worse your rival could get business that you were supposed to get, simply because the customer confused THEM with YOU.

Using Google, Bing or Yahoo to search for images could also lead to problems. If you just grab your logo off of Google images, you may not have the legal right to use it at all!  Just because you find it online doesn’t mean the artist has given you permission to use it for your business. That would be copyright infringement and that is against the law.

Fine. So you could just buy some clipart from one of the various stock art vendors like iStockPhoto.com, Shutterstock.com or even Comstock.com.  They have many affordable and high-quality options available.  That would work just fine for my needs, right?  Wrong. A common misconception with buying stock art is you don't really purchase the art itself, only THE RIGHT TO USE IT.  Because of that there are many restrictions on the licensing agreement on how you are supposed to use the provided clipart. MOST clipart vendors prohibit you from using their photos or clipart in a logo or other trademarked material.  This could at least result in a cease and desist letter or at worst a lawsuit.  And you DON'T want to have store signage replaced because you violated the license agreement on a piece of clipart.

Great Scott! What Can I Do?

clip art logo

You should always hire a professional who not only has the expertise to understand the technical and legal ramifications of logo design, but they also should be able to listen to you and your business’s needs.  All of the work should be totally custom. There should be some sort of signed agreement as well that states at the end of the project and after all of the invoices have been paid that YOU and you alone own the rights to the logo that was developed.  Beware of services that offer to design your logo for under the price of a pizza.  They often use clip art to speed up the development of a logo to keep the costs down.

If you suspect that your logo was designed using clip art, do a reverse image search on Google.  Here are the steps:

  1. Crop your logo down to just the icon, removing all type.
  2. Go to www.google.com/images.
  3. Drag and drop the cropped logo onto the search bar with the camera on it.
  4. If a list of other logos pop up with your icon or if you see your icon featured on websites like shutterstock or istockphoto, your logo was selected from clipart.  Ask for a refund. 

Your ultimate goal as a business should be to establish an extraordinary reputation for providing the best goods and services in your field.  Every time a consumer thinks of your business you want your logo on their mind – like a mental tattoo.  So that whenever a potential client glimpses a fleeting image of your truck or flips through a magazine and briefly sees one of your ads they will connect that reputation with your logo.  That’s how to stand out from a crowd lay the foundations of a brand that will last.