There are a few tricks to getting a good logo. In this case, when I say “good”, I am strictly referring to the technical nature of the digital artwork, and not the artistic merit nor communication capabilities of it. The basic traits of a good logo file are:
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Ask for it
First, tell your client you need the logo. Yes, they probably sent you a GIF off their website. But often they just send you the first thing they can find, because they don’t know any better. So the first option should always be to simply tell them the specifications of good art, and ask them if they can find it in their own company or files.
And occasionally when the logo is from someone other than your direct client, (a sponsor, for example), you can always find their communications department and call them. Explain to them about your project, and ask if they can provide the artwork you need.
Unfortunately, fewer and fewer companies even keep good copies of their identity package around. But if you’re lucky, and the client is fairly well known or large, you can download their logo. First, check the “About Us” section of their website for a page made just for this purpose. Bigger companies and organizations often have their whole identity standards manual online.
If that doesn’t work, check out Brands of the World, (formerly logos.nina.ru). It is a unaffiliated archive online for vector-format logos from anywhere. Their searching and browsing interface is pretty weak, but their archive is very extensive. Even when you can’t find the exact logo you’re looking for, you can often find a variation on it.
Many companies are ignorant of what they actually have in the way of artwork. Or their “regular designers” simply don’t share their files with the client. So a good copy exists, of course, and is being used. They just don’t know it. But thankfully, everyone is obsessed with the internet. So every major document and announcement is posted to a company’s website, and most often in PDF format. Download a PDF of their annual report or similar document, and you can often open the file in Illustrator and grab a perfect copy of their logo.
Don’t know where to find the PDF on their huge corporate website? The easiest solution is to use Google. You go to the “advanced search” section of google, and you can tell it to show you all the PDF files available under any given domain name. It’s amazing what will turn up.
Suck it up
If their logo is bad enough that you really don’t think it should be printed, tell them. Tell them if it can’t be found, it needs to be recreated. And if you really don’t feel up to it, hire me. :) And once you do have a good copy of the logo, do yourself a favor, and start a logo archive of your own.