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For the first year of Customer.io, we made our own logo. After some traction in the marketplace and money in the bank, we decided to work with a professional designer to give our company an identity.

But let’s start this story a bit earlier. What did we do before we hired a logo designer?

Are you ready for some ugly logos?

Before you even have a product, it’s common to want to have a shared sense of identity. I think it’s natural to want a logo as the first thing.

Vaporware - Jan 2012

Here’s our first logo that we put up on a placeholder page.

First Logo

It was pretty simple, just a typeface choice. I used a different color to highlight the .io. No product yet, but we had some business cards and a landing page.

Business Cards

Customer.io Alpha ~ April 2012

As we built the app, we had a notion of “Conversions” and John’s love of golf made it a fun exercise to have a golf theme. We wanted some kind of symbol for the company. Something that fit on a square icon. For a short time we had a logo I made of a golf flag.

Logo + Icon

As a side note, I think this was around the time that skeumorphism was in full swing. Things like the subtle border on the text and the gradient were added because the whole thing felt weak as an identity.

Customer.io Beta ~ December 2012

After some general dissatisfaction with the golf themed logo (I remember an investor telling us they hated our logo and it looked really unprofessional), we decided to go back to just picking a typeface.

Choosing typefaces

I did an exploration to find a typeface. We ended up going with Aller Bold:

Aller Bold Logo

Customers didn’t care as long as we scratched an itch for them. In the early days of a SaaS product, you have the luxury of everything else being secondary to providing value.

A year with crappy logos helped us figure out what we wanted

Here’s a list of things we wanted in our logo:

  • It said “email” without looking generic
  • Could look good as a square icon.
  • Was recognizable in Monochrome
  • Was something we’d be happy wearing on a t-shirt
  • Wasn’t going to go out of style
  • Not another blue company
  • It captured our company ethos

Through being in business, we had a deeper sense of our business and felt like it was the right time to spend the money on an identity.

How we hired a pro to do our logo

A great place to start is just doing a search for “logo” on Dribbble. To contact people for work you need a Pro account ($20 a year). We had a short list of people who had done work we liked and as a team reviewed their work.

Then, I emailed those people to see who was interested:

Hi ____, I’m looking to get a logo done for my company, http://Customer.io .

We’re using a typeface right now – Aller Bold, but for things like a square version, twitter icon, favicon, we really struggle to make it recognizable. I’d love to change that and I’m open to redoing the entire logo.

If this gig interests you, i’m happy to tell you more.

All my best, Colin

In order to get responses, I kept it pretty short. I deliberately used the term “Typeface”, rather than “Font” to show we weren’t complete n00bs to design. And I gave a little info about what we were looking for.

For the people who responded with interest, I gave them a more complete outline:

Hi,

About Us

We’re a 3 person company based in New York City. http://customer.io/about/ . We absolutely hate the cold inhuman experience you have with most companies. Our personality is as important as our product. We pride ourselves in being accessible to customers – we have a chat room people can get help in. I write and respond to all our customer emails.

Our Product

If you have a web business with customers, you can hook us in to your customer data and we track what people do (and don’t do) on your website. You can use the data we collect to email people who have “spent over $100” but “haven’t been back in 3 months” or anything else you can imagine. Emails can be set to go out automatically (“triggered” by some set of conditions) or sent ad-hoc as a newsletter segmented down to certain people.

Our product is a huge win for marketers who often have to ask unhappy developers on their team to do exports for them. Or set up crazy logic in the code of the app.
Our Customers

We have about 100 customers ranging from companies like Shopify.com to Runnersconnect.com, LetsFreckle.com. It tends to be a company owner, or the head of marketing who has the relationship with our product.

Our competitors
http://intercom.io - My favorite logo of our competitors. I like their mark.
http://pardot.com
http://sailthru.com
http://exacttarget.com

Our Needs

I’d love to get a strong mark & logo for company. I’ve seen some companies using gradients etc.. in their logo. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but unless you think otherwise it should probably be recognizable in black on white.

Time frame

It isn’t urgent, but I’m excited to get this in a place where we’re really happy. We’re attending the Launch conference on March 4. I have to get some stuff printed, but I’m totally fine using our current logo for that.

A couple questions for you

Do you have enough information to give a quote for the logo / mark? Anything else you’d recommend we do at the same time? Maybe business cards?

All my best,
Colin

We received quotes from several designers. We did not end up picking the low cost provider. In fact I believe our designer was the most expensive of the quotes we got.

Here’s a snippet from an email to the designer we chose:

I emailed a few people through dribbble and prices for logos ranged from $600 to $1500 depending on where in the world people are. Even though you’re more expensive, I like the strong logos and images in your portfolio. I’m excited to work together.

We picked our designer and paid a deposit and had a call for him to gather information and then he went off.

The process

Our designer came back to us and sent a PDF explaining the whole process he went through and delivering the logo.

Logo Presentation

This first version of the logo wasn’t quite right for us. Some pieces of it felt just a bit off but we didn’t know how to bring it to a good conclusion. We asked for alternatives which felt further away from the first pass.

In fact, we ended up having our designer friend Steve Berry review the logo. He told us the quality of the original logo was awesome and that we were almost there.

What did we get in the end? April 2013 - today

The colors changed a bit for the final version. When all was said and done we got a strong logo:

Our Logo

A letterpress business card design (we’ve never printed & don’t carry business cards now)

Letterpress Business Cards

A company letterhead

Letterhead

And a solid brand guidelines to use to guide us going forward.

Brand Guideline

What a difference a solid identity makes

Psychologically having a logo and corporate identity you love, and you’re proud to have on a shirt, or your laptop makes all the difference in the world.

However, unless you’ve got talent in-house, I’d recommend to wait until you’ve got some money in the bank and some traction. That will help you create an identity that’s true to your company for years to come.

What’s your logo story?

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