How to Design a Logo in Three Phases
Start with Trust
Every design project requires trust. However, trust needs to be earned. When approaching a logo, your client must trust you to create the best solution. This only happens when you keep the client’s business top of mind. They know their business best and want you to create designs that match their business goals. While this seems common sense, many graphic designers try hard to convince their clients to choose designs based on their personal preferences. You could argue that a client is coming to you for your logo design process and expertise and should trust that you know best. However, trust is a two-way street. All will be lost if you don’t clarify to your client that your goal is to help them with their business design challenges, regardless of personal preferences.
The best designs come from using their knowledge of their business, combined with your expertise, experience, and skills – which is all a part of my logo design process.
Be Receptive to Other Ideas
You could also argue that the client approached you based on your personal design style. They should know what they are getting when hiring you. But this isn’t always the case. Salvador Dali, for example, created the original Chupa Chups logo, which was not within his signature surrealist tendencies. A good designer is kinda like a stylistic chameleon. They can adapt to just about any design style while injecting their own expertise and design sensibilities. As long as you aren’t strong-armed into copying someone or using someone else’s unique style, you should be able to address most client requests with an iota of decorum.
How do you avoid designing option after option and get to the core of your client’s needs in a logo? After all, nobody likes to be sent back to the drawing board defeated, frustrated, and confused. This is where my logo design process comes in handy. I usually create logos for clients in three phases once a contract is in place.
NOTE: I believe in providing options for my clients when designing logos. However, I follow a few tips to ensure those options meet client criteria. You can read my article “Add Value to Your Logo Design Process by Creating Options” for 7 tips on how to do this.
Logo Design Process PHASE ONE:
Discovery, Research, and Roughs
I involve the client a lot in this stage of the design process. This is the interview. The discussion about likes and dislikes. The chat about competitors and unique selling features. The conversation about business goals and ideal customers. The visual audit and research. The sketches, rough concepts, and the first presentation.
You need to know which brands your client admires within the same field of business. You also need to know which brands are top of mind for them when they think of brands in general. Find out which logos they like and why. Make sure this conversation considers their business goals and what their customer base expects from them. Which typefaces, colours, and icons resonate with their core audience and field of business? Your interview questions should help to guide you to the core of their business goals, not just their preferred design style.
For example, if someone told you they admire the brand Ryobi you can glean a few things about their personal preferences. For one, they might like innovative, consumer-friendly, and modern brands. They might also like a bright and modern colour palette. This could also mean they like logos that look modern, simple, and industrial at the same time. You definitely wouldn’t design a logo in pink with a scripted font for someone whose favourite brand is Ryobi. However, if their business had nothing to do with innovative power tools, you would have to find other common ground to agree upon before proceeding to the design stage.
The Importance of Goal-Oriented Discovery
The more information you can gather from the client to help narrow down your field of reference, the better. The main idea is to ensure you are both on the same page concerning targets and goals before considering any personal preferences. You may discover unexplored opportunities for their business. After all, a client’s business should have its own persona separate from theirs. This persona should be a part of a greater brand strategy that seeks to speak to a specific audience based on research. The primary goal of using the brand persona to dictate design is to create designs that reflect a business’s target audience’s likes, needs and preferences. However, this is a topic for another blog post.
The client may also have a set of must-sees that needs to be addressed in every concept. These must-sees should be based on logic and reason. For example, the requirement for a logo version that fits within social media profiles would be a reasonable request. A request to make all the options in blue is a preference and shouldn’t be considered unless it meets the criteria for achieving a specific goal. Some more criteria may become more obvious in the research portion of this logo design phase.
Once you’ve conducted a comprehensive interview, it is time to do your own research based on the client’s preferences and business name. Nothing should come up in a search with the same name in the same industry. You should also take a look at the competitors. Make sure you aren’t thinking about designing something similar to what has already been designed based on your client’s preferences. The goal is to create something unique that will measure up to any competitor without copying their style, colour palette, or fonts.
You will also want to research the preferences of your client’s target audience, fans and current customers. By doing this, you can ensure you are not alienating your client’s current audience. You are designing with their growth and audience in mind. Instead, you are designing with their growth and audience in mind.
Once your discovery and research sessions are complete, it is time to start designing. I try to leave the computer out of it when I start. Making pencil sketches first allows you to go through concept ideas as fast as they come to mind. Once I have a good number of sketches, I select the best 3 to 5 for development. I then recreate them in a vector drawing program, like Illustrator, for presentation to the client.
I prefer to schedule an appointment to present my own work in person or over the phone. The client doesn’t see the first set of concepts until the meeting. I will review my presentation deck while indicating how each concept addresses the client’s preferences, must-sees, and research. I usually give the client a day to review the presented concepts and provide feedback on the option they would like to see developed.
Logo Design Process PHASE TWO:
Feedback and Refinement
Once the client has gone through the concepts, it is time to address the feedback. I usually ask the client to select their favourite concept and provide notes on what requires adjustment for the next presentation. It is best to discuss the feedback to avoid vague statements and ask questions. For example, the statement “it doesn’t do it for me” is too vague to make any useful changes. However, if you can follow up with a few probing questions, you can often get to the root of the problem. “Which part of the logo is problematic for you and your customers? Is it the font? The icon?” are a few questions that can help. Try to keep the probing questions about the logo feedback based on what your client’s audience would appreciate.
Ask the client to make as many qualitative statements as possible when giving feedback. For example, “I think my audience would prefer the serif font,” “The corners on the icon are too sharp,” “No abstract shapes, please,” “Can you make the lines thicker for my customers to read?”, “Can we try this concept in a tag or box?” etc. This will help guide the design process with visual cues.
In the refinement stage, the feedback helps to modify the concepts. I apply colour, streamline icons, and create a variety of slightly different options.
The second presentation can be done by phone or email with a short message describing the edits made to each option that addresses the previous round of feedback.
Logo Design Process PHASE THREE:
Finalization of the Logo Design
The client selects their final logo from the options from PHASE TWO. I take that selection and refine it. I then save many usable versions and file formats. A good logo package includes several versions of the logo, scalable ones, a black and white version, a single colour version, and a reversed-out version. Print and web versions. Social media profile versions. etc..
If the logo is to be used in various formats and media, it might be important to consider secondary and tertiary versions for optimizing visual impact in various shapes and spaces.
The process takes a bit of time; however, the client ends up with several useful files and (sometimes) a one-page usage guidelines pdf or full visual identity package (if agreed upon beforehand).
What happens if the process doesn’t work?
No process is foolproof. There will be the occasional logo design project that, for whatever reason, doesn’t go according to plan. You will have to decide if you are willing to suck it up and add extra steps to the process or charge extra for the time and effort that goes above and beyond what you agree upon. It doesn’t hurt to have a contract explaining what qualifies as significant changes and/or additions and how to deal with them. As long as you explain things well in advance, most clients will understand when their excessive changes come at an extra cost.
However, when you and your client are both talking about logo design in terms that have their business goals and customers in mind, the process becomes easier. After all, when it comes to business, the customer experience is tantamount to success. Your logo design process should take this into account first and foremost.
To see examples of my logo work that uses this process visit my site.