Taking on a logo design project is no small task. A logo or identity is a visual representation of a company and is just one piece of the puzzle when building and maintaining a successful brand. But where do you begin? What will set you up for success when tasked with a logo project? The following steps will help guide you through the detailed yet fulfilling process of successfully completing a logo or brand identity project.
STEP 1: The Design Brief
The first step in tackling a logo design project comes in the form of the Design Brief. The Design Brief is an outline of the project and serves as the go-to reference during the logo design process. Often the Design Brief can range from as little as a few sentences on a scrap of paper, to a detailed report outlining every possible variable.
To get that detailed brief, you first need to ask the client the right questions. Simply asking them what kind of logo they are looking for isn’t enough. Most freelancers and successful agencies will use some form of questionnaire to get information from the client. Below are some common questions asked when starting a logo project:
- What is the size of your company? Who are your clients?
- What makes your business successful? What sets you apart from your competitors?
- What are the company’s short-term goals? Long-term goals?
- What challenges is your company facing that a new identity may be able to address?
- What emotions or feelings do you want a new identity to invoke?
- What visual elements, styles, or themes do you find appealing? Which ones would you like to avoid?
There may be some follow-up communication required to understand the client’s needs depending on the level of detail you receive in your questionnaire. Once you feel you have enough information to get started, you can move on to the next phase: Research.
STEP 2: Research & Understanding
You have your Design Brief with detailed information from the client, but what do you do with all that information? Some designers like to get into the sketching or design phase right away, but I find that a healthy understanding of the client’s desires will make it easier once you start laying out shapes and typography.
In my experience, the best way to understand what a client wants is to break things down into the simplest form possible. For example, if a client wants something that invokes energy and movement, how can that be translated from a visual standpoint? What does energy look like? How do you visualize movement? If the client wants a mark to communicate loyalty to its customers, how do create a visual element to communicate that feeling?
One technique I find useful is “mind mapping,” a technique made popular by accomplished logo designer David Airey in his book, Logo Design Love: A guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities. Using mind mapping, you can effectively break down larger concepts into smaller ones. Think of it as sketching, but for the mind. I find a good place to start is looking for keywords in the design brief. If a client repeats a word more than once, or if you find words that stand out above others, use those to start your mind mapping. Once you have a few words written down, start breaking those down into simpler forms. For example, if you start with the word “trust,” break down what that word means. The more you break down these keywords and phrases, eventually you’ll get to a point where visual keywords start to jump out.
One of the staples of a good logo or identity is uniqueness. You don’t want to copy or regurgitate a design that someone else has already done. In addition to understanding what the client wants, you should also have a grasp of what already exists. A good place to start is looking at a company’s competition. Research logos in similar industries so you can understand what’s working and not working for those companies. You also want to look at trends to understand why businesses in similar industries are using common elements.
Once you feel you have a solid grasp on the client’s needs, as well as an understanding of what exists already, you can move on to the next phase: Sketching & Design.
STEP 3: Sketching & Design
Not everyone can draw or sketch out fully formed concepts, but sketching is a great way to begin turning ideas and concepts into reality. I find sketching to be an immensely productive step because it helps me realize what will not work. After I have done my research, a few visual ideas will start to form in my head. I use sketching as a means to see if a) those infant ideas have merit and should be explored further, and b) there are any other avenues I hadn’t thought of that need to be explored.
Once you have enough visual ideas sketched out you can start diving into the computer software. Adobe Illustrator is the industry standard for creating logos, as its primary function is the creation and editing of vector graphics. Color and typography are the biggest hurdles in any logo design as there are what seem like infinite choices in both regard. Not only do your color choices need to be consistent with meeting the client’s needs, they also need to work across a multitude of platforms. Web (screen) and print color gamuts are vastly different, which is why the Pantone Color System is the preferred method for choosing brand colors.
STEP 4: Step Away & Share
A logo project can sometimes feel never-ending and overwhelming, especially as you approach that initial client presentation or deadline. Sometimes stepping away and sharing with others can be a healthy break, and is probably one of the most important unspoken steps in any logo design project. Taking a look at other design elements for inspiration or even other components of the client’s style guide (such as their photographic style) can help give a fresh perspective. When you step away from the project for a short period, you may have a better understanding of how the project has progressed. Sharing the design with colleagues, friends, and family members can also be extremely helpful. You may think you’ve accomplished what you set out to but try polling others to see if that goal is being satisfied. Input from others can help you fine-tune your artwork and get you closer to a polished final design.
STEP 5: Presenting to the Client
Once you have a completed identity package, it’s time to present to the client. A good approach for the initial presentation is to touch on points made in the Design Brief. Communicating to the client that you understood the brief, then showing them the results of that understanding will help sell your design. As for the visual elements, you should present your designs in a way that shows the evolution of the design and how it would apply in varying instances. Placing the logo into mock-ups is an easy way to convey to the client the real world applications.
Be confident in your design. You should believe in your design and communicate that enthusiasm and energy when you present. If you’re presenting more than one logo option, which is common, and you feel passionate about a certain design, let them know. Selling a design can be just as difficult as actually creating it, so be proud of your work. Using the steps from this blog will help put you on the path to success when embarking on your next logo design project.