Lounging in my Norwich headquarters having a cuppa and browsing Buzzfeed, I was interrupted by a ping from my inbox. The email was from a company in Australia requesting a new logo design. You can probably imagine my delight. Not only is my SEO strategy working a treat, but a company from the other side of the world likes my work. And believe me, Norfolk seems a world away from Australia. Well, maybe not the outback!
But anyway, this post is not about the heights, or rather flats, of the Norfolk Broads. Today, I want to explain the working process of designing a logo from the approach of a professional graphic designer.
So for any budding graphic designers out there, or anyone interested in the process of logo design, put the kettle on, drag yourself away from Buzzfeed for ten minutes and lap this up.
Gather information about your client’s branding
The Australian based company, Misch & Co. already had a logo. They had designed it themselves, but didn’t feel it portrayed their brand image. And branding is highly important when designing a logo!
So before you even start the design process, it’s important to understand the brand image your client wants to project and the type of audience they intend to attract. To do that, you’re going to need ask a lot of questions. I'll publish the questionnaire I use here at a later date, but to give you some guidance, you can use this page of useful questions to get you started. I will repeat: it is important to understand your clients brand before designing a logo.
Once the guys over in Oz had sent back the completed questionnaire, we arranged a Skype chat. I do this so I can speak with my clients face-to-face. Talking to clients face-to-face tells you something about their character, and also gives you the opportunity to speak about branding in greater depth. Essentially, you need to know about their vision, company values, company background, future plans, deliverables and target markets.
Skype chats also help build up a rapport and gives me a chance to tell them how wonderful Norwich is. Because everybody wants to know. Obviously.
Delve into research
It is typical practice to be given a brief by your clients from the outset. It is also typical that the initial brief is pretty threadbare. The Skype chat enables you to coax more information out of your clients. Not every freelance graphic designer goes to such lengths, but I like to develop the brief and send it over to the client for approval. This practice makes certain that we are both drawing from the same sketch book – and adds a splash of professionalism to the service. Furthermore, a developed brief is usually met with a nod of approval and makes the research easier. It gives you focus. And the client knows what to expect.
For Misch & Co, we decided the brand image should portray the company’s qualities and uniqueness, and be modern enough to appeal to a mixed gender audience aged between 25-50.
The building blocks of a logo design is the research. I start by checking out the logo designs of my client’s immediate competitors, then moving on to other industry leaders. This is essential. You need to know what logos are already out there so you can determine the type of designs that work and also gather inspiration. But most importantly, so you can produce a logo that differentiates your clients from their competitors and stand out from the crowd. Making notes and sketches as you go along is a good idea.
Developing the logo design
Sketching helps me brainstorm. Once you have some initial ideas on paper, you can begin to develop them or trash them. I also make notes alongside some drawings for future reference and possible alternatives to my sketched ideas.
Once I am satisfied I have enough ideas down to work with, I begin the process of digital rendering. To do this, I have a four stage development process:
• Review the brief to ensure the ideas are relevant. It is easy to go astray once you start drawing. This returns my focus to the ideas that best fit the brief.
• Design ideas on screen in black and white. An effective logo concept should work in black and white. Adding colour where appropriate comes later.
• Identify fonts that best portray the company’s branding philosophy. Typography is important to a brand persona and should complement the design, so do plenty of testing to find the right balance and blend. For Misch & Co, I removed a small piece of the letter "m" and "h" in the logo font to give it a unique, stylish feel.
• Add colours that complement the client’s branding concept and that are also most likely to evoke emotions in their target audience. Misch & Co were looking for a luxury feel with a modern, clean design. I chose shades of grey and gold, deep reds and oranges, blues and browns to start with and played around until I got the right look and feel the client wanted.
Before deciding on the final ideas to send to my client’s, I prefer to take a step back from the design process. It helps to leave it be for a few hours – preferably a day or two – then return to it with a fresh pair of pupils. This helps to pick out the very best ideas that perfectly fit the brief.
*Colour theory and its relationship to consumer psychology is an extensive and fascinating subject and worthy of a blog post all of its own, but for now you can look into it further here.
When delivering a logo design for approval, it's important to me that I am given the opportunity to present ideas and explain the thought process behind them. Not every client understands consumer psychology or the importance of graphic design in branding. I also like to mock the logo ideas up onto objects where the logo might be used. This gives the client a much better idea of how the logo will look when used in a real world setting.
It is at the feedback point when you have to develop a thick skin. Remember that design concepts are a matter of taste and not every client you get will be happy. Fortunately, the majority of mine are ecstatic because they already have a preconceived idea – thanks to the developed briefing.
Always listen to client feedback and carry out any changes requested. However, if a change is disruptive enough to ruin the whole idea then argue the point with your client. Most clients appreciate the input and will work together with you to find a solution that includes their requests but retains the core idea and brand values. I didn’t have to do anything for Misch & Co but I don’t always get it right first time!
Once the client is happy with the final logo design, I ask them to sign it off so I can release the files. They are then free to use their logo however they choose.