No matter who designs your new brand identity logo, unless there’s something terribly wrong, the design process will go something like this.
We’d be making a stretch if we were to claim that every single branding project in the history of branding projects played out exactly the same way. They don’t and most are unique in various ways – a different tale on the back story, concept stuff in the middle, and where it finally ended up. Or didn’t. However, if we’re going to attempt to explain a general timetable of sorts, we can boil the design process down into a series of common procedures and steps that they all share with an almost uncanny universality. Here’s a handy, and simple, infographic that outlines the way almost every logo design project will probably pan out, either as a designer or client:The arrow circles indicate an iterative phase, the ‘back and forth’ of the design process itself (and where most projects that go off the rails, do.) The other phases are more straightforward and binary. Let’s break it down with some tips and pointers for each step:
The creative briefing.
It should come as no surprise that this initial Q & A is the most critical step to developing any logo or brand – it’s literally when the designer and client determine the goals and intentions that are to be encapsulated into the logo itself. What the client wants their brand to “say” to the marketplace. There’s lots of wiggle room here for free association, think of your typical marketing buzz words – cheap, high-quality, fast, exclusive – well, you know the drill. We’ll need to determine what the logo is to be – a tuned up bolt-on to an established brand, or as a universal beacon of the brand itself. We’ll also discuss predicted applications of the design (any logo should be adaptable as a matter of course, but some uses require a more technical planning than others.) During this phase of the design process our designer can give his/her advice on how the project should pan out, as well as start formulating some specific ideas, whether they be by word jumbles or napkin doodles..
Research market & competitors.
Sure, it would be nice if we – as designers – were experts in every niche market that ever needed a logo. There are people who specialize in designing logos for particular arenas and some have designed a lot of logos for industries such as yours, but in the absolute, almost every designer will have to perform some reconnoitering of a client’s specific market segment. Thanks be for Google I guess. It’s also a worthwhile exercise to establish who the client sees as their “competition” especially if that competition has been around for a while. That’s not a green light to begin knocking off logos, you want to see what others are up to – especially those who have been up to it for a while – not copy already established brands.
It’s strange, but this is where a lot of projects go sideways, even though it’s but the opening round. Clients often expect designers – especially designers with a lot of experience – to hit every concept “out of the park” first time, every time. Of course, that’s not a remotely realistic expectation (t’would be nice if it where) and the client needs to have a little bit of patience.This stage is supposed to be doodle time. Fair notice to designers as well here – they have to be understanding too – expecting a client to recognize how off-the-charts brilliant your design proposals are, is a tad optimistic. Funny thing is, often they’re not brilliant at all, and you’ll probably come to realize that later. Here’s a fun exercise to try someday when you’re not pushing pixels around a monitor. Go back and look at a design project you’re really, really proud off. One that you sent it out on your Twitter timeline. Announced it to your pals on Facebook. Maybe even loaded it into your Dribble portfolio. Then look at the opening logo concepts from that design process. Remember how you thought they were brilliant at the time? Not so much now, right?
There’s nothing that expands the timeline and budget of a design project more than trying to work with dozens of different concepts, in a dozen different directions and permutations. This may seem like “value for money spent” or whatever barometer you’re using, but this is actually counter-productive in narrowing down a “look” for a new brand. Pick one, maybe two, concepts to work with. Or get new ones if nothing strikes your fancy in the first round. It’s highly unlikely you’ll manage to micro-tweak an initial concept that you’re not terribly happy with into one you are. It’s even less likely if you pick multiple concepts you’re not happy with and try to art direct them into submission. Even if you are an art director.
This is where a phenomenon called “purse shopping” often kicks in. That’s a stage when clients want to see micro-tweak after micro-tweak of a particular design. The concept of “purse shopping” refers to my ex-wife’s habit of finding that purse that was the one (!), the only one (!), everything that she wanted in a purse. Then proceeding to wander around the plaza looking for a better one. Before invariably going back for the original purse she found 6 hours ago. In the logo design process it refers to “Move this over here” and “flip this over there” kinda stuff. Here’s one thing to keep in mind – by the time a client is looking at a semi-final design, it’s been tweaked, flipped, spun, sheared, moved over there, rotated over here already.Clients should be able to trust that their designer is only showing them the very best version of that particular design, only after having already tried every single variation beforehand. The key here is trust. Remember, as a client you hired a designer to design your logo. Don’t try designing it for them.
Finalize the logo.
At some point in the logo design process you’re going to move beyond it being a process and more about using the logo. You have to pick a final logo. This is that time. Pick one.
This closing stage of the logo design process is the one most misunderstood by the client. If I had a dime for every occasion I’ve heard a variation of this in preliminary stages of a project..
“I love the design. But I don’t like the colours.”
..I’d have amassed a lot of dimes. My answer is always identical:
“Let’s change them.”
In the widest sense, colour doesn’t matter whatsoever in the design process. Most logos are designed in black and white anyway. I design in tones, rather than colours, so that I can see how contrast (or lack of same) impacts the overall visual fidelity. Any logo that is “held” together by colour is probably a very bad logo to begin with because it always assumes an optimum palette (which isn’t always the case at all – your logo will also have to work in some fairly hostile environments, one color for example, and will turn into a muddied mess in low-contrast situations. That’s not to say brand colours aren’t import – they’re critically important – but not in the opening DESIGN stage of creating your logo. Once you’ve finished having your logo designed, this is last quarter of the game where you get those colours right.
Technical setup & delivery.
Sadly, this closing part of the design process often gets short shrift by designers – once a client has signed off on a project, simply tagging and bagging the various files and shipping ’em off as a .ZIP archive. This is alas, a particularly – and for lack of a better word – “vulnerable” time for the client. Logo files can look great when the client views the bitmap version on their monitor, or even the vector version using a PDF reader (though smartphones blow spot colours all to hell,) but what lies “under the hood” can only be viewed in wire mode (using something like Illustrator) and even then, you’ll have to know what you’re looking for in order to see if it’s missing. You’d be surprised at some of the rubbish I’ve seen over the years that clients are blissfully unaware of – until someone tells them “we can’t do with your logo because files are crap.” The importance of this step cannot be understated – though fixing bad digital assets isn’t really a big deal as long as it’s done early on and before the messed up files have been added to a ton of digital artwork, racking up a load of unnecessary charges to take them out.