It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? You have a name picked out. You know what your business is about. Now it’s a matter of choosing some kind of graphic to represent it, adding the name in a font you like and voila! you have your logo. So simple, you could do it yourself.
Unfortunately, your knowledge of graphic design software is next to non-existent, so you are going to pay a few bucks to get someone to do it for you. Preferably while you are sitting behind them watching the computer screen and saying, “no, make that word bigger! And try it in red!” Easy enough, and shouldn’t cost you that much, or take very long, right?
The sad truth is, you probably will find someone who will do exactly that. You will probably be happy enough to pay the requested sum. And you might not even discover any problems with it right away.
The problems will become obvious later, when you are in the middle of a busy week and the last thing you need is trying to figure out why your logo does not look as expected on those flyers that you printed ten thousand of and whether you can get your money back. Or when you realize that it is almost identical to a competitor’s.
A professional logo design process is very different from simply opening a program and playing around with icons and fonts for a few hours. Approaches will vary slightly by designer, but many steps are similar.
Here is a brief summary of how I work.
1. Getting to know you.
This is the step that lays the foundation for everything else. I will ask questions and try to get a feel for your business and personality, likes and dislikes, your past, present and future, your competitors and customers, your untapped target market and your employees. Everything that makes you unique. The more I know, the easier the rest of the process will be.
Quite often, this phase will start along with the research. I will take notes and jot down concepts that jump out at me as I learn about your company. There are usually a lot of concepts during this stage, as I need to explore many different directions to make sure I am going forward with the most effective ones. At this stage, it’s all about quick, rough ideas and pencil and paper are my best friends (and so much easier to carry around than a laptop!).
3. Initial selection.
Once I have enough material, I look through them and choose the stronger concepts, ones that I feel are right. Usually, it is easy to pick them after a break from brainstorming. If I am undecided, it probably means that I haven’t found them yet. And then it’s back to brainstorming.
4. Simplifying and refining.
Now is the time to take these rough ideas into Illustrator. I try many different styles, fonts and positioning, always trying to simplify ideas rather than complicate them. This is the toughest part: reducing the idea to an icon that can be used at tiny sizes, while keeping the concept recognizable. At this stage, I work in black and white, as color would only distract.
5. Presentation and feedback.
Now that I have 2-3 strong concepts, it’s time to get some feedback. I will usually present the ideas in both black and white, and with a few color options, specifying that the color can be easily changed. Client feedback is extremely important. Most often, there is one or two ideas that they feel represents them well. (If not, then I go back to step 2.) We select one or two concepts to develop further, discuss how it can be improved, and continue working on those.
6. Variations and applications.
- Mock-ups are very useful to check what your logo will look like on various items you normally use before giving your final approval.
It’s good to see how that logo will work in real life before making the final decision. At this point, I will provide mock-ups of what it will look like on your existing website, your business cards, your products or anything else you plan to use it on.
7. Final tweaks and file preparation.
Usually, the strongest concept has been chosen and any modifications have been decided at this point. I work on finalizing the logo and preparing a package of different logo formats for all future uses, along with instructions on how to use them, or a style manual if one has been asked for.
This process is extremely thorough and personalized for each client. With branding and corporate identity, one-size-fits-all solutions simply do not work.