10 Steps to the Perfect Logo Design

Posted by on Jun 26, 2012 in Design

1. Develop a design brief

Provide your client with a questionnaire to fill out – detailing their design requirements so you can develop a design brief. you can use anything from an online form to an email to a face-to-face brief sheet. Once the brief is written out, talk to your client NOW if anything needs clarifying. Don’t do any guesswork, because trust me, you’ll regret it later. See an example of the questionnaire I use here, which is powered by Wufoo. You can ask whatever questions you feel will help you best develop a clear and realistic brief to work from.

2. Start brainstorming

Start brainstorming and looking for inspiration. Write down keywords and adjectives that relate to the project, get your mind stimulated and get excited about the possibilities that are about to emerge. Continue your brainstorming through the next few stages.

3. Research

Research your intended audience and the industry your client is working in. Gain insight into who will be viewing the design, what type of people they may be, and where their interests lie. Don’t slack off in this stage, you must understand your client’s business and target market in order to produce a design that is right for them. Your client should have given you some insight in your questionnaire, but you should take it that extra step further. The amount of research you do will depend on how much your client is paying for their design. Obviously a large design agency who is charging a large sum for an entire branding package is going to dig a little deeper than an independent logo designer. Will the end result be more effective? I’ll leave that to you to decide. However, I do believe that when it comes to design you generally get what you pay for, as a larger budget allows for more time.

4. Start sketching

Start sketching some ideas on a graph pad, you can be as rough or as detailed as you like with your sketches, and try to record anything and everything you think of, no matter how obscure it may seem. These ideas can emerge into wonderful things later on. You don’t have to be conventional with your approach! Sometimes you won’t have as much design flexibility due to the nature of the industry you are working with. But it doesn’t hurt to look at all the possibilities and then narrow them down to suit your brief later.

5. Get ridiculously inspired

Some things you can do to get the inspiration flowing include:

  • Type some of your keywords into Google and look at images and websites that emerge.
  • Find some examples of logos that other businesses within the same industry are using, and save them for reference (you may have already done this while doing your industry research).
  • Look up some keywords on stock photo and stock vector websites and save some image samples that inspire you, in case you wish to purchase them later
  • Look through books! This takes time, so if you have a lot of design books on hand, look through the ones that most relate to your subject matter. You should be able to make a lot of sketches from doing this, and bookmark any pages you may wish to come back to for a visual on a particular design style or technique. Alternatively, photocopy pages that you can put together in a file as your inspiration. I’ve found this very useful in the past as I can put everything in front of me while I’m working. The only problem with this is that it uses a lot more paper, and not everybody has a photocopier on hand.
  • Look for fonts that you may be able to use in your design. You can do this by typing keywords into Google and looking on Myfonts. You may also wish to browse through the websites of different font foundries to see the new fonts they have produced. You can also look through your font book for fonts you have already installed, but you would want to have all your fonts previously sorted into categories otherwise this can take forever.

6. Start working digitally

When you have a bunch of sketches you are happy with, you may start working on the computer to see how some of these ideas look once they are drawn up. It is easy to get distracted while sketching, and start developing some good ideas digitally before finishing your inspiration. But I would suggest coming up with as many ideas as you can on paper first, because at the end of this you may feel a different approach will work better than previously, and you won’t have wasted time working digitally on something that is no longer going to work.

If you have been inspired by a particular font and wish to manipulate the font into a stylised word based logo, try printing your wording out and then doing the manipulations by hand. You can then see if they look good before spending the time to work on them digitally.

If you wish to design a concept that includes some sort of pictorial mark, have a look at different design styles you can use to create your mark and decide which may best suit your subject matter. A good designer should be able to explore different styles and apply them when they are better suited.

7. Develop your concepts

I usually spend a lot of time playing around with my digital creations, and it’s easy to get stuck in this stage. Always work in black and white at this stage! You can add suitable colours later once you know that the design works. Try to step away from the computer and look back at your ideas and inspiration as much as possible, this will stop you from getting stuck refining a concept that simply isn’t going to work, and we all know this happens all to easily as soon as we get that little bit of excitement. If you start to feel overwhelmed, stop for a while, grab a coffee, get some sun and fresh air, and come back to it later. You must clear your head and start again with a fresh perspective. Creativity can not be pushed, and a lot of it depends on your mood and energy. It can be taxing tapping in to the creative part of your brain, but we all know how it feels when something wonderful emerges, and it will! You will know when something great is happening because time and space will become irrelevant and your energy and focus will become unstoppable.

I like to develop 3 different design concepts, because I feel that any more will offer too much choice to the client which can lead to unnecessary indecisiveness. I also feel that I am usually able to come up with 3 great concepts within a reasonable timeframe, and any other ideas may not be as wonderful. It’s also true that a client often chooses the design which you like least, so you must be happy with them all! You may like to present variations of each concept, if you feel that a design may work well in more than one way/layout.

8. Adding colours

This is where you will think about the colours that will best suit each concept. Some clients like to request preferred colours in the briefing stage, so this can be a good starting point. If you know their request is not going to work, you might like to show them an option with their chosen colours, and then another with a more suitable colour and suggest why the other colour might work better. However, your concepts would have been developed with your client’s specifications in mind, so you are more than likely going to be able to accommodate their colour preferences at this stage. I would suggest purchasing some sort of colour guide book that helps you choose colour combinations based on the feelings you wish to evoke. I often use ‘Colour Harmony 2’ by Bride M. Whelan, it works a treat.

9. Presentation

Present your 3 (or however many) final concepts to your client in PDF format, one concept per page. You should present each concept in black, and also include any colour combinations and variations of the concept you wish to show them as well. I also like to include a section on the page for ‘branding ideas’ where I include a range of initial ideas I may have had for the use of the logo while developing that particular concept. This may look a bit like a mood board, which includes anything from snippets of photography, blocks of colour, basic sample illustrations in a style that suits the concept, or layout ideas for business cards and stationery. You can go nuts on this if you like, or not do it at all, it depends how much time you are charging and how much time you are willing to spend on this stage of the process. A brand is a lot more than just a logo, and while you may only be getting paid for the logo design, you need to keep in mind how this logo is going to be used along with other imagery to contribute to the company branding. It can help to show your client how this may work in your presentation.

10. Alterations

I don’t believe in limiting alterations. There, I said it. The reason is simply because you shouldn’t have to make a large amount of alterations to a concept. If you do, it means the client is not feeling it and there’s a likelihood the concept you designed wasn’t right for the client in the first place. If  you feel your client is being unreasonably picky, don’t be afraid to talk to them and let them know your ideas on what is and is not reasonable. It doesn’t hurt to guide them in the right direction, it can be a daunting process trying to choose an image that will essentially be the label of your business and your brand. As always, communication and honesty is key! The second reason I don’t limit amendments is that if you limit the amount of alterations and a client is forced to agree to something they are not happy with, what’s the point? Your client should always walk away feeling nothing less than complete excitement about their new logo design.

Extra tips:

  • Make sure you charge enough to cover all these stages of the development, if you don’t and have to rush to design something, the result will be mediocre. It’s important for the design community to promote the value of good design. Good design comes out of thought and time, and like many things, there are already too many people in the world who are cheapening and devaluing this type of powerful and important visual communication in ways that are not socially responsible.
  • Some great concepts are very, very simple and can be put together within a very short amount of time, others are more complex and take time to develop. The amount of time spent on a concept does not reflect its greatness.
  • Creativity can not be rushed! If you don’t allow yourself enough time to work on the logo, including time to step away and come back with a fresh perspective when needed, you will feel too much pressure which will limit your creativity.
  • We all work differently, some of us work much faster than others. Try to recognise the most effective speed at which you work and accommodate this when setting a timeframe.

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