A logo is a graphic mark used by businesses, organizations or individuals to make their business easily and quickly identifiable in a positive way. Logos can be purely graphic using symbols/icons, simple logotypes/wordmarks, or a combination of both.
What is logo design and how does it work?
From the design team perspective, logo design is exciting – it’s an intriguing challenge and inspiring opportunity to make a fundamental difference in the success of a client’s business. From the client perspective it can be an intimidating and disappointing process if they have not hired a professional agency, or have not allocated a reasonable marketing budget for this purpose. On the other hand, with the right expertise, it can be a rewarding, fun, and successful process. You could say then, that it depends on which shoes you’re standing in.
So what makes a good logo?
Does the logo need to be literal?
If the logo design is pictorial, there are two schools of thought on whether the graphic element should show what you do. The first school of thought would dictate that if you are a painter, there should be a recognizable element in the logo like a paint brush. The second would say – you don’t necessarily have to be so literal – you can be bold and make your logo unexpected and distinctive.
Since a logo is a visual representation of the client brand, it’s important to use the right graphic elements and font type to influence how people feel about your brand:
The Design Process
Different designers may have different processes but one thing is consistent when it comes to professional logo design; it takes time, it takes creativity and it takes some thought. That’s what sets a “professional logo design” apart from a “cheap logo design”.
Since, it is the starting point of your whole corporate image, do you really want to trust this to an online stock logo shop (yeah, that’ll be original – NOT!) or someone charging $90 and spending a total of one (maybe two) hours on one of the most fundamental components of your brand identity – your future world empire?! Do you really want to purchase a stock image that has been downloaded a million times by others to use as your “not-so-unique” logo.Hmmm. I’d go for the professional logo design if it were my business. In fact it is my business; that’s why I’m writing this article. I get enough calls from people who wasted marketing dollars doing it the wrong way first, only to have to start from scratch anyways…
Step 1: Initial Consultation
When a client comes to us saying they need a logo designed, the first thing we do is find out as much about them and their business as possible:
Applications (how the logo will most be used)
What are the most important things they want potential customers to know about them.
This process usually requires some real soul searching on their part. We don’t want them to take it lightly – it can affect their total world domination later (well maybe not total world domination – but getting noticed in all the marketing noise out there, in cyberspace especially, can be serious business).
Second, we ask them to provide examples of logos they like and why they like them, as well as logos they DON’T like and why not. We may also engage in some wordplay with the client to determine how they want people to feel about their brand. Wordplay draws out adjectives that resonate with the client so we can translate them visually with the use of shape, colour and font.
It’s all about trying to get a sense of the client’s preferences for dimension, preferred layout, font styles, colourpalette and shape. Do they prefer a brand mark, a wordmark, or a combination of the two. Should their logo be literal or abstract? What is the tone of their brand personality? Will there be a tagline incorporated into the logo?
The Design Approach
Some designers work as contractors and give the client EXACTLY what they want without some “push back”.
At SBP we are interested in building a long term relationship so sometimes we have to bring things into perspective for a client regarding “good” logo design or advise on typeface/fonts. They may be leaning towards less than optimal designs and not understand why they are not a good idea. In the spirit of “getting the best possible brand logo” for the Client, we are not afraid to give that little “push back” when we feel it is warranted. After all, they are paying us for our expertise in marketing and design.
Step 2: Research and Creative Direction
Next steps – we’ve got some homework to do. Some designers shy away from visual research, preferring to look only within themselves for creative inspiration; but this may be limiting to a design solution. We like to investigate logos of client competitors, review their likes and dislikes from sample logos they sent us, and revisit logos that may have inspired us. We feel it boosts our ability to think “outside of the box”.
During our research we consider the “big picture” of where their brand currently is, and plan a creative direction appropriate to where their brand is going.
Finally, we take all of the information we have collected from previous steps in the process and put it into a creative brief. This is a document the design team can work from to ensure we are on the right track.
Step 3: Brainstorming and Creating
Now, this is where our team gets down to brainstorming ideas and concepts. It might begin with a few dozen sketches; but, eventually gets narrowed down to only a few concepts, which we pull into a tool like Illustrator.
A logo design project takes time to get the best results. The design team often benefits from moving away from a project temporarily and letting the ideas just marinate a while — mature — before working on them again with fresh creative energy.
How do the logo designs look in simple black and white?
How do they look in full colour?
How effective will they be when used in various applications?
Web. Print. Newsprint. Large format signs. Stationary.
Do they have all the elements to make a good logo?
Simplicity. Distinctiveness. Longevity. Versatility. Appropriateness. Scalability.
Step 4: Presentation and Client Feedback
After narrowing down and developing the best 2 or 3 logo designs, we present them to the client and encourage them to share the designs with peers and stakeholders. We look forward to gaining their feedback; after all, this isn’t about us – it’s about the client and their relationship with their target audience. Their initial reactions are important to us because they are the most genuine and authentic – someone seeing it for the first time, just as a potential customer might see it.
At this point, some clients will say, “I love the second one – it’s a go!” Other times the client will say. I like the design, but can we combine elements from all 3 concepts?” to which we might reply “Yes, absolutely” OR “No, we don’t recommend that, and here’s why.” We like the client to be engaged and informed during the process.
Step 5: Adjustments and Final Presentation
There are always likely to be at least minor revisions to a final chosen concept. Minor revisions might consist of slightly altering the colour palette or moving or resizing graphic elements to get it just right from a client perspective.
Assuming a client does need further revisions after presentation of the concepts, we take their feedback to the drawing board and make the refinements. This is presented one final time to the Client for their approval. Assuming they now LOVE it completely, we create all the various file formats the client may require for print and web in black and white, and color. They receive these in all the appropriate file formats required for web and print.
EXPLORE THE POSSIBILITIES OF THE FONT FAMILY YOU ARE CONSIDERING.
Now, we are prepared for the identity development part of the process. This is optional and consists of documenting logo applications, how to work with the logo, standard layout, colour codes and typography guidelines in the form of a “brand book”.