It doesn’t matter who designs your logo, or where you get it designed. Their process will be a variation of these steps..
It would be silly to claim that every single logo design project in the history of ever panned out exactly the same way. In their total, every design project is unique, has a different back story on how it began, the stuff in the middle, and where it finally ended up. I get that – just take a look at some of the case studies in our gallery to see how projects at our shop ebb and flow differently. However, if we’re trying to come up with a general formula of sorts, we could boil the logo design process down to a series of common steps that all projects share with almost universality. So we tried to do just that. What we came up with is this handy chart that outlines the process of almost every logo design project that you’re ever going to bump into, 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:
Initial Q & A.
This is the critical step to any design process – the collection of goals and intentions. What the client wants their brand – and their logo – to “say.” There’s lots of options here, most denoted by your typical buzz words – cheap, high-quality, fast, exclusive – you know the drill. We also need to find out how the client wants to use their logo – as a bolt-on to an established brand, or as a beacon of the brand itself. We’ll need to discuss planned usage of the logo (we always want a logo to be adaptable, but some uses require a little more planning than others.) It’s during this step in the process the designer can give his/her advice on where to take the project, as well as start formulating some specific ideas.
Research market & competitors.
It would be nice if we – as designers – were experts in every field that ever needed a logo. Sure, there are people who specialize in specific niche markets, and others have designed a lot of company logos from the same industry, but for the most part, the designer will have to do a little reconnoitering of a client’s market segment.
Thanks be for Google!
It’s also handy to find out 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 copying logos by the way – you just want to see what everyone else is up to – especially those who have been up to it for a while.
Ironically, this is where a lot of projects tank, yet it’s only the opening round. Clients expect that designers – especially experienced designers – can “hit it out of the park” first time, every time. Of course, that’s not a thing (as much as it would be nice if it where) and the client needs to have a little bit of patience. This stage is doodle time. The designer has to be understanding too – expecting a client to realize that your ideas are brilliant off the hop is a tad optimistic. Often, they’re not brilliant at all. Here’s a fun exercise. Go back and look at a design project you’re really proud off. 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, huh?
There’s nothing that expands the timeline of a design project more than trying to work with a hundred different concepts, in a hundred different directions. 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 “purse shopping” can kick in. That’s a phenomenon when clients want to see ad nauseam micro-tweaks of a particular design. “Move this over here” and “flip this over there” kinda stuff. Here’s the thing – by the time a client is looking at a semi-final concept, it’s been flipped, tweaked, moved over there, spun over here already. Trust your designer that you’re getting the very best version of that particular concept because they’ve already tried every single variation already. There’s a decent feature I wrote a while back – the varying roles of designer and client – that while a bit long, goes into this in more detail. The key here is trust. You hired a designer to design your logo. Don’t try designing for them.
Finalize the logo.
At some point in the design process you’re going to have to pick a final logo. This is that time.
This part of the logo design process is often misunderstood by the client. If I had a nickle for every time I’ve heard a variation of this In initial stages of a project..
“I love the design. But I don’t like the colors.”
..I’d have a lot of nickles. My answer is always the same:
“Let’s change them.”
See, in the widest sense, color doesn’t matter at all in the design process. Most logos are developed in black and white. I tend to design in tones, rather than colors, so that I can see the contrast. Any logo that is “held” together by color is almost certainly a bad logo to begin with because it assumes always having an optimum palette (which isn’t the case – your logo will also have to work as one color) and will turn into a muddied mess in low-contrast situations. That’s not to say brand colors aren’t import – they most certainly are – but not in the DESIGN of your logo. Now that you’ve finished having your logo designed, this is the stage of the game where you get those colors right.
This part of the design process often gets short shrift by designers – once the client has signed off on a project, simply tagging and bagging the various file formats and shipping ’em off. It’s a particularly – and for lack of a better word – “vulnerable” time for the client. See, logo files can look great when the client views the bitmap version on their monitor, or even the vector version using a PDF reader, but what lies “under the hood” can only be viewed in wire mode (using something like Illustrator) and even then, you’d have to know what you’re looking for. 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 that because your logo files are crap.” The importance of this step cannot be understated – though fixing bad assets isn’t really a big deal as long as it’s done early on (and before the wonky logo file has been added to a ton of digital artwork, racking up a load of unnecessary charges to take it out.)
And there you have it. A start to finish look at the average logo design process, a chart and some tips. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to drop them in the comments or shoot me a message through our form thingamajig.