For the past decade or so, I’ve had some interesting conversations with prospective clients. The most common of which regard the misconception that a logo is just a logo. When I go into detail about my process of creating a logo, they’re not only surprised at what’s entailed, more often than not they’re excited to feel part of it. So, in this post, I’m going to try and give some insight into my thinking, to help you when you commission a designer to create a logo identity.
Step 1 – Research.
The initial meeting is key to finding out about you, about the business, and where you see the goal. I treat this encounter with the client as if I was on a first date with my future wife. I want to know everything. It’s like I’m seeing if I could bring this person home to meet my mum. I need some answers before we can go any further.
For example, I might ask:
If you could describe your business in five words, what would they be?
Which brands do you aspire yours to be like?
What, precisely, differentiates you from your competitors?
Describe a typical customer?
The answers to these questions, and more, give me vital information. These aren't precisely design questions, and I tend to use them when creating a brand. But gaining as much useful information about the business is crucial, as from this a brief is created, one that outlines the company's objectives and has a strong foundation onto which I’ll build my core idea.
The initial meeting always over coffee
Step 2 – Industry Discovery and Strategy.
Before pen touches paper, or mouse touches mouse mat, I need to understand the business audience – just who is the business talking to?
I then move on to gathering information of the battleground, where this new brand logo will fit in amongst the competitors.
I want to find the answers to questions, such as:
What design techniques work for your industry, i.e., colours, typeface, or style?
What logo techniques are overused, to the extent that they lose personality?
What logo techniques are ignored?
Which customers does your competition prefer to target
Now, I'm painting a picture of exactly where I see your business living in the landscape. Rooted in your business objective, it will need to earn its position here, by being so distinctive that nobody else could claim to occupy that space. Some designers will come decide on a similar approach as the competitors, as the data suggests it works. However, just like me or you we’re all unique and should stand out from the crowd, not be a sheep.
Industry Discovery and Strategy
After establishing the business’s values and positioning, I have a good, strong foundation. Moving on from here, I’ll have one or two more questions, designed to pin down precisely what the logo will be saying. These are:
What adjectives would you use to describe your business?
What tone-of-voice would you like to use when you talk to your audience?
Now for something controversial. Unlike some designers, I don’t believe in designing a logo for a single, primary use. Doing this can cause problems as the business grows, so I work to cater for all scenarios where the logo could be needed, such as:
Signs and banners
Social media profiles and banners
Email marketing campaigns
Much of this is covered in the field of branding. But considering that the logo is the most vital and visible organ for a brand’s identity, it’s well worth applying the principles here as well.
Step 3 – Initial ideas and the creation of digital concepts.
With ideas flying, I scribble any logo lockup ideas that come into my head, going off at random tangents and only stopping when an idea has gone too far.
Initial ideas and concepts
At this stage I like to take a step back. Go for a run, have a coffee – anything to clear the mind. Then I come back to it all and assess the first thoughts. In doing this, my brain gets a restart; so I can identify a variety of clear directions to be refined.
I then take the most promising initial concepts into a digital vector format, constantly refining, so only the most visually appealing lockup is presented – in terms of composition, contrast, type and hierarchy.
As I also said in my previous insight 'Four principles to which all logo designers should adhere' I’m distilling the logo into its purest form, making sure that it not only has a unique look, but can happily work in both print and digital environments.
During the discovery stage, I’m always saving reference images, quotes, indeed anything to help support the design decisions and reinforces the core idea attached to each of the concepts.
This is the point, with the help of supporting reference material, that I carefully construct a visual story to take you through, to show why the finished designs meet the objectives of the brief and how they will look in situ.
Initial refined design ideas
Step 4 – Iteration/refinement
Now, this stage tends to ruffle a lot of designers’ feathers, and I'm not going to lie – from time to time. I’ve had some objections, and design recommendations that were not constructive.
But as is my role, I’m not one to close down when criticism is thrown my way. It’s important to listen objectively and decide what feedback is most valuable.
Now, this step can go back and forth, especially when more that one stakeholder is involved. However, we’re all working towards the same objective.
Step 5 – Artwork/package
This is a universal process – the same for every client I work with. Once the logo design has been approved, I convert it into all the relevant colour profiles – 'CMYK’ for print and ‘RGB’ for digital; even Pantone if required. The logo also needs to be converted into all the relevant file formats – PDF, SVG, EPS, PNG and jpg. Finally, it may need to be created at appropriate sizes for all business needs, including for social channels.
This process is laborious and requires acute attention and filing skills, a task that my meticulously ordered mind takes great pleasure in completing.
Example of sizes for the businesses needs
As you can see, the process of developing a logo is one that’s far more involved than just creating an icon or font. Arguably, the crucial part is not the eventual creation of the logo, but 'Step 2 - Industry Discovery and Strategy'. That’s because this outlines the core objective, giving a clear direction. In short, the end result can only ever be as good as the brief.
I hope this gives a little insight into the process, and I’ve attached a small list of questions to help anyone looking to commission the creation of a logo. The answers to these questions should help give the designer you choose a full understanding of what your business requires – and how best to interpret that into something that will do the business, for your business.