#NotablePeople: Dawson Whitfield, CEO & Founder of Looka

Every business needs top-notch design. But not every business can afford a top-notch designer. 

That’s why Dawson Whitfield created Looka – an AI-powered logo maker to help entrepreneurs create logos quickly (and affordably). We caught up with the CEO & Founder to find out how COVID impacted his business and how AI is shaping the future of entrepreneurship. Plus, what inspired Looka’s new Brand Kit – an all-encompassing marketing toolkit for business owners! 

Tell us more about Looka.

Looka is an AI-powered logo maker that provides business owners with a quick and affordable way to create a beautiful brand. Believe it or not, we’ve helped over 9.5 million people in 188 countries in the past four years!

We’re now starting to help business owners create not just logos, but entire visual brands, like social media assets, business card designs, and websites.

When did you first become interested in design?

When I was 10 years old, my brother downloaded the homepage of Google and changed the copyright line to say his name. That blew my mind for some reason, and ever since, I’ve loved technology.

My first website was a game website that I built when I was 11. I used some third-party embeddable games and made a whopping $11.05 off Google Ads. Over the years, I worked on a bunch of other personal projects, got better and better at design, and eventually managed to find someone that was willing to pay me to design. 

By the time I graduated high school, I was making enough money as a freelance web designer that I decided against university. It just so happened that my grades were garbage because I spent all my time designing, so I probably wouldn’t have gotten into university even if I wanted to, but that’s beside the point.

Ultimately, what really got me into design was just a love for creating things. Design is the first step in creating almost anything online, so I felt like it was a good skill to master.

How has COVID impacted your business?

When COVID first hit, our sales decreased, like most businesses. But by May, we actually started seeing more sales than last year! We were grateful that Looka was doing so well, but we wanted to know: why?

Once we looked into the data, we discovered that there was an increase worldwide in logo-related search terms (e.g. “logo maker,” “logo creator”) during lockdown. In Canada, we saw a 56% year-over-year increase of logo-related search terms peak during the week of July 1. A few weeks later, Looka saw a 90% year-over-year increase in sales in Canada! So we knew people were hungry for logos, and we wanted to learn more.

Rise in Logo Search Terms During COVID (via Looka)

After speaking with our new customers and seeing that applications for new U.S. businesses are rising at the fastest rate since 2007, we correlated the logo searching and Looka sale increases to an increase in entrepreneurship worldwide. 

Our team became obsessed with this data. We wanted to help these new business owners thrive online, where they need to be due to the worldwide lockdowns. A big part of online branding is visual branding, which is Looka’s specialty. But how do new businesses do that without having to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars to a graphic designer (especially considering most of them started a business after being laid off and money was tight)? That’s why we created our new Brand Kit. 

Your team just launched the Brand Kit on October 27th. Give us all the details!

The Brand Kit is a complete marketing toolkit that includes 300+ designs, like logo files, social media assets, flyers, letterheads, email signatures, business cards, and more. 

Our customers receive the Brand Kit by using our proprietary AI algorithm and the customer’s logo, colours, photos, company information, and other brand elements. It’s super easy to generate one – it takes about five minutes!

Once you have your Brand Kit, you have year-round access to edit and design new assets for your business, all for $7.99 a month.

Tell us about the process of merging design with tech. How did you enter the world of AI?  

Looka’s goal is to use thoughtful technology to recreate the experience of sitting next to a designer. When you’re trying to combine these two very different worlds of design and tech, your north star needs to be the experience.

When we launched, we didn’t have the best technology or the best logo designs, but we had this relentless obsession with the experience. For example, we knew that people feel overwhelmed by designing their own logo, so instead of adding on more features, we focused on creating an experience where the user could sit back and browse variations of fonts, symbols, layouts, and colours until they found a logo they loved. 

Most people make this mistake when building products. They focus on some really complex and impressive piece of technology, an algorithm for example, but don’t stop to think if it really does the best job at solving the problem. 

We made this mistake last year when working on our colour schemes for logos. We spent about 500 hours working on this incredibly impressive AI colour scheme generator that produced poor results. We decided to scrap the algorithm, spent three days creating 2,500 hand-crafted colour schemes, and they now perform 75% better than the AI-generated ones. 

That said, there are cases where AI actually can create the best solution, for example matching symbol and font styles on 2 million+ symbols and 1,000+ fonts. That would take years for a human to do.

What role do you think AI platforms play for entrepreneurs and small businesses, especially during (and after) the pandemic?

AI can accelerate the process of new businesses being launched. With COVID making it harder to collaborate in person, AI offers a new kind of collaboration—one that’s streamlined and done from the comfort of home. 

Everyone needs to be online right now. AI can really help people make that transition and start businesses at an affordable rate – whether it’s using Looka to make your brand recognizable or a software to manage your customer relationships.

Looka uses AI to help small business owners create their visual brand. So businesses can get off the ground with a solid and recognizable brand without the cost or time of working with a graphic designer.

As we watch new business applications skyrocket right now, a whole new age of entrepreneurship is beginning – much like how the 2008 recession launched companies like Uber and Airbnb. We’re all online, we’re not going back to normal, and unfortunately, brick-and-mortar stores can’t survive if they only rely on foot traffic. AI is here to stay and is becoming essential to businesses’ operations. 

Looking back, what is your biggest accomplishment to date?

Launching the Brand Kit. Seriously though. From day one, we’ve been saying, “Logos are just the start.” When you’re starting a business, you need business cards, social profiles, social posts, websites, email signatures, and so much more. We’ve finally built a product that actually does a pretty good job of giving you all the assets you could possibly need. 

How about your biggest mistake?

Oh man, so many to choose from. My biggest mistake would be accepting success as a given. Last year when we rebranded from Logojoy to Looka, we lost 50% of our revenue overnight, and I learned that nothing in life is guaranteed. Businesses can be fragile – especially venture-backed startups like us that are designed to grow fast. It’s taught me to make sure my business is resilient and really appreciate every day that business is good.

What’s your top piece of advice for budding entrepreneurs?

Find a business that you would work on for fun. 

When I was building Logojoy (now Looka), I said no to every party and vacation that I was offered, just because I was so amped to build the product. Even if you’re not quite at the level of rejecting a trip to Hawaii, you should still be working on a business that makes you excited to get out of bed. That fire is what will make your company succeed more than your competitors.

Want to design your first logo on Looka? Go to Looka.com, type in some info about your business, and their logo maker will generate a logo in less than 5 minutes! 

Follow them on social media @lookadesign to see examples of their customers’ designs and learn more about the Brand Kit.