Hello everyone. I sincerely hope you're keeping well during these uncertain and often worrying times. I know things are difficult now, but I'm a big believer in positivity and hard work, and I know many of you are as well.
After being approached about my logo design process, I thought it was time to break away from my regular schedule and create a post to help some of you refine your logo design process. It may also confirm your suspicion that your method is fine and in no need of refinement. If you have some downtime during these uncertain times, I hope I can offer some help by sharing my process. Keep in mind that this is how I approach logo designs, and by no means am I trying to discredit designers who may be more experienced than I am.
Without further ado, here's my step by step process.
A vital first step for me is to send out my logo inquiry form to every client that comes my way. The document covers all the necessary information that I need to help me understand their needs. It's essential to know all the details as I don't want to lose the client in questions before we begin.
Is it necessary?
Most clients are happy to fill this out because they appreciate that I'm trying to understand their needs. Still, occasionally the client kicks back against it and doesn't want to fill the form out. They would prefer to cover everything in a series of emails or messages. I avoid this at all costs because I need to understand what the client wants, and I frequently need to go back to the form to remind myself so that I don't follow one of my 'great idea' routes that the client hasn't asked for and doesn't want, regardless of how great I think the idea is. If I were to do this by searching through an endless series of emails or messages, it would be just too time-consuming and challenging, so the form is a must.
Does it need refinement?
If I find that the form, or certain parts of it, are continuously being left blank, I update it by rewriting or removing questions that aren't necessary or aren't getting me the information I need. I'm always conscious that more questions may not lead to more answers or information. They more often lead to clients switching off, which is not suitable for either party.
Do I have what I need?
When a client returns the form, I absorb all of the information available and ask myself one simple question: do I have everything I need to start work? If I do, great; if I don't, I go back to the client to request a little more information to fill in the blanks. At this point, I also request a 50% non-refundable deposit on the total design fee.
The fixed client
When reviewing the forms, I'll generally spot 1 of 3 different types of clients. The fixed client knows what they want and how they want it. They've seen a design or a design style that they want me to emulate, and there appears to be little or no room for me to express myself from a design perspective.
I used to struggle with this type of client; I'll be honest. I always wondered why a client would ask a designer to follow someone else's idea rather than asking for an original design. Over time though, I started realizing that some clients want what they want. As long as both parties are on board with it and open about it, then why worry?
Rule of thumb, which I do because I love designing and value the work I produce, is going back to the client and clarifying their request, especially if I don't think it will work.
Sometimes there is movement from the client, and sometimes there isn't. Still, I try not to stress; either way, I make clear the boundaries in which I'll be working right from the start to protect myself if the client later realizes that what they have asked for doesn't work quite as they envisioned.
The malleable client
The malleable client has the formation of an idea, and they have sent examples of the type of logo design they're looking for, but they're also open to suggestions. I'd say that this tends to be the majority of my clients.
I've always found these clients pretty easy to work with. They often inspire me to start and form something extraordinary. When working with malleable clients, I start by slowly shaping, refining, and molding their thinking, gently trying to lead them to what I think will work best for them.
The open client
As the name suggests, these clients are entirely open to ideas. They have no view or distinct feeling about what they want. They are usually available to my suggestions and are willing to be guided by me, which can be a dream and a curse in equal measure for me. A dream because they will generally go with what I think works best, and they allow me to express myself. A curse because when I send my concepts over for consideration, they have no idea which one they prefer, and it can take a while for them to decide which direction to take. It can also be a curse because it's all on me, so I'd better get it right!
Like the malleable client, I start by slowly shaping, refining, and molding the open client's thinking.
All in all, I treat all of the above types of clients with honesty, openness, and respect. We're all different, and we all have different ways of thinking. It doesn't mean that any of them are right or wrong, they simply have different points of view, and I always try to remind myself of that.
The fun starts here for me, and this is generally where my most disorganized but creative phases kick in.
I think about design all the time, and I'm always looking at how other designers have solved a design problem. I look at websites, promotional material, literature, packaging, clothing, vehicles, architecture, everything. Design is everywhere, and there are always exciting queues to take inspiration from, so keep your camera phone charged, ready, and with you.
I sketch in my head, and I always try to see the logo before I start to try and create it. I'm not sure if everyone does this or just me, but I try to visualize the final product before I sketch anything. If I can see it, then there's a much better chance of me being able to create it. I run things over and over in my mind, and it's not unknown for me to get out of bed in the middle of the night and make a rough sketch of something that I think could work.
I'd say that 95% of the time, I sketch the concepts out on paper with a good old-fashioned pencil and eraser. I have always found it much quicker and easier to sketch out ideas before the laptop gets fired up. You can make changes and shape things out instantly with a pad, a pencil, and an eraser, but if I'm out and about and don't have a drawing pad or a pencil on hand, I use what's around me. Some of my best logos were sketched on the back of a receipt paper. I've even outlined some on the back of my hand.
It doesn't matter how rough it is. I get it down on paper and then refine it the next day or whenever I get the chance, as seen in my concept for Rock Lodges down below.
Number of concepts / Design fees
What I'm going to say may come as a surprise to some (particularly my accountant), and I know this seems to buck the industry trend in most cases. Still, I rarely charge my customers on the number of concepts I create or the number of revisions I make to them. By following that path, I've often felt that I've created designs that are just inferior to the initial ideas that came to me during the ideas phase. I've found myself creating designs that I don't think will work and all because I've agreed to 6 concepts and four revisions or whatever the predetermination was.
Now it may well be that I change my mind in the future. There are instances where I've found myself creating more concepts than the customer expected. Additionally, I have found myself in positions where my time has gone beyond the project fee. Still, at this moment in time, I set a fixed price. I quote a concept based on how long I feel that the project will take, aligned with the amount of skill and hard work I bring, borrowed from the experience I have in the industry.
With this way of working and pricing, sometimes I win, and sometimes I lose. But what matters to me beyond anything else is that the customer walks away delighted with the best possible logo or brand package that I have the skill to create. If they do, then I believe there is a good chance for them to return to me for further work.
When I've visualized the logo concepts and made several sketches, I sit in front of my laptop and start turning my ideas into workable, presentable, viable logos. I set up each image on different pages on the software I use and go back and forth between each one, refining them over and over until I have different options, all of which I happily call my own.
When my creativity has run out, or I've hit a mental block, I walk away. I find that walking away from your work when you've hit a snag is far more useful than trying to force the situation. I'd say that 99 times out of 100, I come back, take a look at my work, and fix the problem that was initially holding me back.
When I have concepts that I'm happy with, I prepare them and send them over to the client. I often accompany them with mock-ups to show them how their logo would look in the real world. Clients seem to find this extremely useful, and it helps them envision how the design would work in the real world.
While waiting for the customer to come back to me with their thoughts on the work, I always formulate new ideas. If not that, I re-work the concepts to see if I've missed anything or if there's something I can add. That way, I'm prepared for when the customer comes back and asks for revisions, etc. I don't spend too much time on this phase of the design stage, but it's always in the back of my mind to be one step ahead.
At times, clients may come back to express their dislike for a concept, but this is very rare in my experience. Let's face it; they've sent the form full of information, I've spent days thinking about how to solve the design, I've made sketches and rough guides about how the different concepts will take shape, and then I've brought those ideas to life through the design stage. Generally speaking, there are a few refinements that I may need to make, but nothing that will set me back significantly. In these cases, I work closely with the client to make slight tweaks and have in-depth conversations occasionally about completing the project.
In the end, I make sure the client is delighted with their new logo or brand identity. I move into the project completion stage, which consists of:
Requesting the final 50% of the design fee.
A final run-through to ensure that the logo is structurally and visually perfect according to the client's requirements.
Formatting all the file types the client needs without limitation.
Creating custom-sized social media graphics.
Finalizing the brand guidelines document showing how the logo should be used, the necessary space required for the logo to sit comfortably, the color palette requirements, and font details, along with an overview of how the logo came to life and its meaning.
Creating various mock-ups for the client to use for marketing purposes if they wish.
Requesting a review.
Thank you for taking the time to read my article. As I previously stated, this is the process I use, and it may not be for everyone, which is okay! May I add, this is more a snapshot of the process than a full, detailed overview covering every step. I hope there is something here that is of use to you. Something you can take away and consider implementing, perhaps?
If you want to know how I got started, and to see more of my work, click here to read 'My Journey as a Graphic Designer in the Wix Community.' If you're interested in working with me, or if you'd like to see some of the work I've created, refer to one of the channels below. I'd love to hear from you.