Why I Won't Design 'Just' a Logo.
Brace yourselves, this is a long one.
Well, branding by definition is 1. a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company. You can’t control the process but you can influence it.
I often get inquiries to create a logo. And here's why the answer has always been a consistent “no”. Developing a logo isn’t something you want to recreate over and over every 5 years. A logo isn’t communicating what your brand is about, it is the identification of your brand. It needs to be clear, distinctive, simple, and timeless. And in order to get to that level, a story, objective and mission needs to be in place – essentially the brand strategy. If in fact you have your business plan before coming to me for a logo, you still don’t have a strategy. Those are 2 different things.
A business plan talks about the vision and mission, while a brand strategy talks more to the core of how you want to reach your ideal client. The brand strategy collects all of the thoughts swirling in your mind about this new brand or project, collectively organizes them into clear questions, and from there can easily see what the visual identity needs to look and feel like, because branding also means 2. It’s not what you say it is, it’s what they say it is.
What makes it most challenging to design a great logo from experience is, it’s not necessarily what our clients tell us, it’s what they don’t tell us. And, i’m not going to lie, it’s tough to read their minds or design something that they were completely against originally.
Recently I watched Futur’s video on Sagi Haviv who has designed some of the major known logo marks today. To this day, he tells his clients “It’s never love at first sight, it takes time” when he presents his work.
I’ll tell you how my branding process goes. (Or you can scroll down to the bottom to where i summarize the meaning of this post.) :)
My Branding Process.
When the potential client (p. client) contacts me whether through my website form – which I prefer, it includes a general questionnaire regarding the project which is VERY helpful for me to see if we are a good fit, and then sometimes I get direct emails (if referred) to which I send a similar questionnaire in response, along with a budget range question. To be totally transparent, when contacting a designer, a small design studio, or design shop, you should budget anywhere between $2k (low end) to $10k (higher end). I tend to fall between that depending on the scope, needs, and timeline. Once I have received the inquiry with questions & budget range answered, I will review. If we are a good fit, then the process really starts from there.
There are never enough questions when it comes to a new brand. I always send a google form with about 10-20 in depth questions pertaining to their project. Some may have similar questions like demographic, target market, competition, how does your project stand apart from others, etc., etc. As the client takes their time to fill out this very important form, that’s when I prepare for our second call to review the questions together and get a better understanding of the goals. How I can best apply my skills and develop a brand that is unique to you, timeless, and clever.
Research & Discovery
Now the fun starts! I always include 2 mood board options for my clients. Mood boards showcase the direction we want to take your brand. This is another very important stage. Everything put together on this board is from research I’ve done looking at the competition, market, brand attributes we’ve discussed, etc. Once, one direction has been chosen, it is very important to stick to it. Otherwise, it is so easy to lose track of the original idea and goal. There are endless of possibilities that can created, with these mood boards, it narrows down and cuts to the chase faster.
In my process I include 2-3 logo options based on the chosen mood board. I start out by sketching. I even sometimes start sketching in the initial on-boarding stage because I just get so excited about it (but they usually change once we talk about the client’s vision).
One of the challenges as a designer is to put your client before yourself when creating the design. Don’t design for yourself. And don’t feel ashamed when the logo you love most doesn’t get chosen.
After sketching for about an hour, I bring them into Illustrator, and that’s where I complete the ideas. Usually one idea comes of another. My inspiration comes from the research I have previously done in the discovery stage. I continue to find inspiration when I am talking out loud about the project with my partner, family, or dog (hah – sometimes you just need a space to think out loud and your dog will always listen and never tell a soul – for those NDA projects).
After I have given myself about 5 hours to edit, finalize, re-edit, step away from the project and come back to it in a few ours or even a day, I will then gather the 2 or 3 I value the most. Lay them into my presentation deck and contact the client. I typically like to present them before showing them because there is a likelier chance that as you are going through and telling them the story of the work, the client will agree. The conversation is at another level of respect, and as a designer you won’t feel like all the work that was put into the creation of the logos was wasted.
The client now has the opportunity to make any revisions that make sense for the direction we have agreed upon in the original scope and mood board. If the client falls off track, I remind them continuously of what the goal is. They have 2 rounds of revisions available to them (again depending on the package they chose). Thereafter, if they would like more revisions, I charge my hourly rate.
Revision can be exhausting, but they can also be evolutionary. I have seen my work expand and unfold through doing revisions. Which is why in the beginning of this post I mentioned, the options are endless. But, it is my job to condense them and conceptually make them work with the brand.
And That’s a Wrap!
Once the final logo has made the cut, I save out all the file formats it needs for web, print, social media, website favicon, etc. I provide the brand guidelines, which include the brand colors, typography, logo rules, and some specifications.
If the client has any other assets included in the package such as signage – business cards, stationary, email signature, social imagery, etc., those come next.
But all in all, the brand strategy and goals are super important for a successful brand. Without it, you would have nothing but an image that could be relative to any brand. Through this process, we create a story that shines through your product from the logo to the people you hire to the message you send your customers.
And last but not least, since we have just built a relationship and created the client’s baby, and released it into the wild, I like to continue to be the brand steward. Developing the rest of your new brand’s advertising materials, photography, photo-editing, website, app, and so on.
If you have any comments, feedback or suggestions from a client or designer perspective, I’d love to read them!