Improving the unimprovable?

Erik Fleischer's picture

A heavy machinery rental company, whose main offerings are excavators and backhoes, has just hired me to do some design work (website and some collateral). As luck would have it, they'd recently commissioned a new corporate identity from someone else and expect me to work with it. (Before retaining my services, they'd already had business cards and some brochures made with the new logo.)

I'm having some trouble designing around the existing logo (first image below) and thought of proposing a slightly modified version (second image) to my client which I feel may be easier to work with. I would be interested in hearing what you have to say about the advisability of introducing such changes while the corporate identity is being established. Comments on whether you see any improvements that might justify the trouble are also welcome.


  1. Ignore differences in colour. The first image comes from a TIFF file I was given; the second was generated with Illustrator using the colours prescribed by the previous designer.
  2. Please don't go into the issue of why my new client didn't just get the previous designer to do the work they've hired me for. I'm not about to turn them down and say 'go back to the other guy'.
  3. 'Ditch the whole thing' is not a helpful piece of advice because that's not an option.

Chris Keegan's picture

I like your improvements to the logo. I would tell them now is the perfect time to change it because it is so new. I would almost downplay the changes, so they don't feel like they're making a drastic change, which they really aren't. Try to keep it a positive experience for them - saying things like "The designer had a real good start with this, but there are some adjustments we can make which will really polish it off..." Keep it POSITIVE, and you may be able to pull it off. If they are resistant, try to find out why, and address those concerns. You also should be able to present a good rationale behind the changes you've made.

ebensorkin's picture

Your design is easier on the eye for sure but designing a new logo when you haven't been asked is a bit cheeky. They have also invested a little bit of cash in the brochures and cards. Depending on the company this might or might not be a BIG deal. If the new ID has been around for a while now the chances of their wanting to mess with it will be much lower. If it's just been a few weeks then the iron may be hot. In any event DO NOT do this to make your life easier if they don't pay your suitably for the fix. And by this I mean 25-50% of the cost you would charge for a brand new logo design or you are selling yourself and your fellow designers down the river. After all it's just one job and you should keep your self respect. Also if you don't get to change the logo - work with the existing logo design not against it. Working with constraints is part of being a graphic designer.

jselig's picture

While I think yours is an improvement over the one they currently have, I don't feel it's the place to be offering them a revised version right after they commissioned a new one. I'm sure we've all worked with logo's we'd rather do over, I have, but that's not what they hired us for.

Don't let the logo drag your own work down, a good design should stand on it's own even if you put a grey box where the logo should be. When I do roughs I always just box things out, images, logo's and text areas, at least the structure will be solid even if the visuals are less than desirable.

aluminum's picture

I see a few ways to approach it:

1) as them if they'd be interested in seeing some 'massaged' versions of the logo to best fit in to the overall designs you are coming up with. Be prepared from them to just say 'no' and let it be.

2) Propose the adjustments as you've made them and see what they say. Be prepared from them to just say 'no' and let it be.

3) Change it, and don't tell them. Maybe they won't notice. If they do, be prepared from them to just say 'no' and let it be.

Lex Kominek's picture

Honestly, the existing logo is better drawn. Your curves are lumpy, especially on the sun, and your square isn't, well, square.

I'd say just use their old one, but fix the lump where the horizon meets the straight line. This kind of thing probably won't go into your portfolio anyway, so just do the monkey work and get paid. And who knows - maybe the owner of RetroFort has a friend who needs a full corporate identity package. No sense in burning a potential bridge over something small like this.

- Lex

Linda Cunningham's picture

Which colour is closer to the actual one that they are using (I prefer yours)? Having it a bit brighter certainly makes it more interesting, IMO.

I agree with keeping it the way it is, but with the tweak that Lex suggested. It's not a bad logo -- I know I've seen worse -- but it's not worth your time messing around with.

Erik Fleischer's picture

Thanks a lot for your input, everyone. I think I'll just bite the bullet and leave it be, then.

Lex, my "drawing" is just a quick trace of the pre-existing one. I wasn't aiming for absolute perfection; my goals were just to get rid of Bank Gothic, the bottom dots and bar, and round some of those hard angles a bit. But I'm not saying this because you've hurt my pride or anything. Your comments were (and are) more than welcome.

Linda, the question about the colours is really difficult to answer. The first image is just a quick reduction of the TIFF file the client gave me, so it's probably closer to what had previously been used in stuff sent to the printer. But the colours in mine are, numerically at least, those prescribed by the previous designer. But then you have all those colour calibration issues, and in any event it's practically impossible to find a printer here that will use some kind of colour standard and produce consistent colours every time.

Lex Kominek's picture

Erik - I figured you'd refine your version before using it, but I was just making sure :)

- Lex

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