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I have seen a few research groups that have a "stylized" look, including a logo/slide template that is used by the PI and his/her students. [My particular research area is adjacent to computer graphics, which may explain this.] I'm told that some groups even pay for a graphic designer to establish a "brand" of sorts.

My own artistic ability is severely limited, so any logo I design will be unattractive at best!

Is it worth spending money on design of these sorts of materials when starting to establish my own research group? If so, how much? Which services are the best? What is a reasonable policy?

I feel like this isn't a good use of research resources, but I understand that a coherent "brand" might help a group in the long run.

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    Shouldn't this question include a list of opportunities where you think you might realistically be using that logo? Your group's website might be an obvious choice, but what else? For instance, you could put it on posters, but if you are supposed to use a uniform university-wide style, there might be no opportunity for custom group logos on posters. etc. – O. R. Mapper Jul 21 '15 at 20:56
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    "If so, how much?" First I'd try a freelance designer: for example designers on Fiverr will make a logo for you for $5. That's cheap enough to try and see if it's something you like. – sss Jul 21 '15 at 21:52
  • Re: the question above, folks in our field give tons of conference talks, so slide templates and so on get used very frequently. Furthermore, can use them for teaching, group website, etc. I guess I'm just wondering if --- to use the parlance of my designer friends --- a "coherent identity" matters much in academia. The university doesn't seem to impose much. – Justin Solomon Jul 22 '15 at 0:09
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Doing this as soon as you start your research group seems a bit premature, but for a somewhat established group, having some sort of corporate identity is actually quite important:

  • For other researchers, it is just easier to remember the "Developer Liberation Front" than that "software engineering research group led by Emerson". And, like it or not, being remembered is core in having impact.
  • Internally, having a consistent identity to which all group members mentally subscribe to helps build team spirit. It is easy to get lost in your own PhD project and feel isolated. Having a corporate identity is just one small puzzle piece towards tying all individual theses into a larger context.

[from O.R. Mapper's comment] a list of opportunities where you think you might realistically be using that logo?

We apply our logo and general identity very widely. We use it on all websites, presentations, posters, and reports coming out of our team. We have printed coffee mugs and t-shirts (when a large part of the team goes to a conference, we sometimes all show up in the same group-themed shirt). We maintain a Facebook site, a Wordpress blog, and a Twitter handle.

how much [should I spend]? Which services are the best? What is a reasonable policy?

In design, there is a particularly wide range of "professional". Is paying an artistically inclined student a small sum "professional"? Is using the aforementioned Fiverr professional? Or do you only count if at least a 4-digit sum is changing hands?

In this range, for research groups just like for anybody else, the right "price" should be "the cheapest option that still works for you". If you can find somebody who does a nice logo for free or close to free, go for it. If you can make these cheap Web services work well enough, go for it. If you can't produce a nice logo in any other way, use the service of a local designer (it's still better than not having a logo at a certain point).

When you get a guilty conscience about spending research money badly, then keep in mind that even a small 4-digit sum (about the max. I would spend, personally) is in the larger context of a research group budget not a very big deal. One word of warning, though - typically, not all budgets can be used for something like a group logo (e.g., you clearly can't take it out of your travel budget). Make sure that you actually have a budget that allows you to pay for something like this before you spend the money.

  • For other researchers, it is just easier to remember - I personally have the opposite experience. I remember the lab by the name of the leader, I hardly ever remember the official lab name. – ff524 Jul 22 '15 at 7:51

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