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Designing Your Logo: A Quick Guide

By

Jordan Stambaugh

|

February 27, 2017

This post is written for designers, but a savvy business owner can find a lot of value here as well! Original post on www.stambaughdesigns.co.

Logos are everywhere.

To the general public they are an instant reminder of a company or product; to the client they’re the point of recognition in which their brand hangs in the balance and to the logo designer, they represent a challenge of incorporating our clients’ ideologies into one single graphic. Basically, logos are super important.

This post covers what a logo needs to be, the creative process and a few client relationship tips. If you’re looking to be a great logo designer, this is great quick-start guide to success.

Learn Logo 101

As a logo designer, you seldom have to reinvent the wheel. Learning from those who have been successful in the past is a go to strategy not only for design and business but pretty much everything in life.

That being said, an effective logo is appropriate for its intended audience, distinctive from the rest, practical in applications, and conveys its intended message. To do this effectively the logo must follow the basic principles of logo design:

  • A logo must be simple.
  • A logo must be enduring.
  • A logo must be memorable.
  • A logo must be versatile.
  • A logo must be appropriate.

Establish your own design process

Every logo designer has their own process they like to follow. It can take years to perfect this process, and it varies from project to project. In general, this is how the branding process is completed, so you can use this as a guide to establish your own preferred process. Clients will appreciate having a solid process to fall under and will be glad they hired the right logo designer professional. Here’s an outlined example of a design process:

  • Design brief
  • Research
  • Reference
  • Sketching and ideation
  • Reflection
  • Presentation

I have my own Stambaugh Designs Process I like to follow for most of my larger client projects and remains general enough I can apply it to any type of project.

The Brief

I love receiving new logo design briefs. It’s like embarking on a new and exciting adventure to find the lost city of El Dorado. Well, maybe not that awesome, but I do really enjoy the beginnings of a new logo design process.

The brief is your opportunity to gather as much information as you can from your client. Seasoned clients will usually provide you with a comprehensive design brief. For clients who aren’t experienced with the design process, you will need to extract the right information from them.

You can do this in a number of ways. An in person or phone interview, a client questionnaire, and even a Pinterest mood board you open with your client to gain a sense of what logos your client likes. I like to do this because it overlaps to the research and inspiration phase of the logo design process.

Research and Inspiration

Remember when I said don’t reinvent the wheel? Well, don’t reinvent the wheel. We already have wheels. So spend your energy creating a new, original and unique logo design for your client!

When doing your research of logos in your client’s industry, look for elements of what might work well or make sense in the design. I like to use Logo Lounge, but there are countless curated logo design websites out there. Try not to focus too much on details because you will get stuck thinking about those details when it comes to your own ideation. For example, I recently design a logo for a film group. I researched other film groups and a common theme was using a ribbon of film. Now, I saw some awesome details of how that design element was used – some were creatively twisted into the first letter of the company.

Logo sketch process for Visionary Film Group

I acknowledged the idea of film in my preliminary research but did not let it effect the rest of my process. The final logo used a camera aperture instead of a film strip, which is more appropriate for a digital video production company.

Sketching and Ideation

While you’re researching and looking for inspiration, start sketching small, thumbnail logos in black ink on white paper. You will scan and include the sketches in your process file so high contrast is best.

I usually start with the logo’s symbol when I’m sketching and then move on to the typography of the logo. You are looking for composition of the symbol, elements you can bring together for a hybrid mark and other creatives directions that move you forward and towards finding a solution that aligns with your client’s goals.

Reflection

You don’t need to get everything done in a day, or even a week. In fact, you shouldn’t. Taking breaks is beneficial to your creativity, and can actually increase your productivity.

So when you think you’ve found the perfect logo design for your client, put everything down. Go for a walk, eat dinner, or sleep on it. Return to what you previously thought was the genius break through of the century and if it still is – Great! If not, at least you have some fresh perspective and energy to keep digging for the gold.

Presentation

I’d like to bring your attention to one particular area of constant debate within the design industry and the last step in any process – the presentation to the client. I can write a whole article just on this so I’ll try to keep this short.

As a logo designer you should be providing one finalized solution to the client.

A lot of you might be thinking well come on, they need to have options! This is where a lot of designers fail to draw the line between their design process, and business. Of course you went through many options and versions of various potential candidates for the logo. This is the design process, and to arrive at the best solution for your client it needs to happen. And that right there, is the key to success.

You’re not finished with the design process until you arrive at one, finalized solution. If you have three to choose from, then keep going. By offering options to your client you are actually doing a disservice to them. Your client hired you for a reason. You know what’s best when it comes to logo design because you are the expert. If they were the expert, they would have designed it on their own. So when you present options to them, it allows them to make complex design decisions, which is not only unprofessional but also a risk. The risk that they will pick the option that isn’t the right solution.

I’ve heard it time and time again from designers: “I created an awesome logo for my client but they wanted 3 options so I just threw in a couple mediocre choices for them. I thought they were for sure going to pick the one I intended them to pick. But they didn’t! Now I don’t know what to do. It’s not the best logo for their business, but I don’t know how to tell them.”

See how I present logos to clients:

The final logo design

I show them the whole 9 yards from start to finish in one, simple PDF. This allows the client to see where the thought process was to arrive at the intended solution. Now, the client may see your work and want to revisit an old concept. This is fine, but you should charge for it.

Logo Designers are Everywhere.

If you’re a logo designer, work to always evolve and improve your logo design process. This means industry market research, current logo design trends and improving your client process. There are many designers who choose to specialize in logo design so try to stand out from the crowd with a refined approach to logo design, and being a logo designer.

Everything you do in life takes practice. Same goes for logo design.

Take time to go through the entire process of logo creation and pay attention to areas you felt lost, or could improve upon.

Client communication and staying on the same page is half of the overall process, and should never be lazily overlooked.

Good day, and good design!

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