Are you thinking about pursuing a career as a professional graphic designer? A logo designer works with companies to clarify their vision and create a concise representation of their brand. The creative process is hard to pin down; some creatives are systematic and structured, while others are driven by inspiration and whim.
In the past decade the industry has changed for logo designers where once we were only competing with each other (may the best man or woman win) for clients we now also compete with machines in the form of AI logo generator platforms which continue to grow in popularity.
However, machines can’t replicate what designers can bring to the table but it does mean that as a logo designer professional you really have to show you worth. So, if you are undeterred by the modern technology advancements in our industry the below post will teach you how to beat the machines and your human competitors for clients.
A Guide for the Logo Design Process
No matter what your design process is, certain steps remain consistent across top design professionals. Here is a guide for the basic workflow to help you create a logo for your client.
Learn About the Client
Before you even start, you have to have a very firm grasp of the client’s business and what they want from this logo.
Knowing the brand means you grasp their unique angle, the principles they follow and the aesthetic they are after. You need to understand how the client approaches their audience and what they plan to do with the logo moving forward.
The client discovery phase is essential for getting to know the client’s preferences. As a graphic designer, you will realize every client has their own subjective ideas about what is “right” or “wrong” when it comes to design. You have to understand the client’s perspective, or you might waste your time creating a design they don’t like.
You will use this information to create a design brief that outlines the expectations, design parameters, brand aesthetic and more. This brief should answer questions like:
- What is the logo going to convey to the audience?
- How does the brand come across to customers (down-to-earth, high-end, etc.)?
- What problem does the new logo design solve?
- Does the company have a unique angle or offer that sets them apart?
- What are the brand characteristics (classy, clever, funny, trustworthy, etc.)?
- Do you have any examples of content that nails your ideal company branding?
Know the Target Audience
After learning about the brand’s preferences, you need to do a deep dive into the audience they target. Brands don’t always have a firm grasp of who they are targeting, but this is important to pin down if you are going to create an effective logo. Work with the brand to define buyer personas that create verbal illustrations of real customers who love and support the brand.
Understanding the preferences of the audience will help you create a logo that is appealing and memorable. You need to communicate through the logo to the audience, which means you have to understand that group extremely well. Ask questions like:
- What is the audience interested in?
- Are there pain points your brand can fill?
- What are they looking for in your brand that they don’t get from the competition?
- What other non-competitor brands in other industries do they like?
- Are there parts of the audience that are currently ignored or underserved?
Understand the Industry
Next, you need to know what the competition looks like and what industry standards your client is expected to meet. You can’t break the industry rules and trends unless you at least understand them. You might choose to do something very different, but you should first know what is expected.
The industry discovery phase includes a lot of research at current market trends and competitor branding. You need to know what is already out there, so your brand can stick out with something unique. This is where you will gain necessary knowledge to avoid logo designs that are too generic (boring) or too wild (confusing) for the audience.
You will find some logo techniques and color palettes are overused within a given industry. You might start to see certain trends are largely ignored or missing from the industry and could be used to help your client stand out. This process should give you ideas of what trends to follow and what design specifics to avoid.
Create a Mood Board
Not all clients create a mood board in the same way, but most have some version of this step. After completing your design brief, you need to start gathering your brainstorming thoughts into one place.
A mood board offers a singular place where the style, aesthetic, characteristics and color palette of the brand come together to start to establish a “look.” This look helps a designer find the right logo design fit for the client.
The mood board is the first step to actualizing thoughts on paper. If you don’t like paper you can use a mood board tool. Regardless of which you use, there is no pressure to draw, create layouts or choose fonts. A mood board only gathers together concepts that help define the brand. These concepts can then be used later in the design sketches, though many of them won’t literally translate into pieces of the logo. In the mood board, you might include:
- Colors or patterns in line with the company’s products, uniforms, website and more.
- Brand characteristic words that are most important to your brand and their customers.
- Products your client creates and examples of how they help clients.
- Words or images that convey the feelings your brand wants to exude to the customer.
Sketch a Variety of Concepts
You’ve established the branding direction, so it’s finally time to put pen to paper. Start by creating tiny “thumbnail” boxes (about 1” square) and only use a pen or pencil to create the tiny sketches. These boxes allow you to make a LOT of design concepts that are extremely rough and hardly thought through.
- Start with 30 quick sketches and then develop a few different concepts into another 20 or so.
- Use one idea to branch into another, trying to push the boundaries for something unusual.
- Don’t get stuck in one direction; experiment with different imagery, layouts, logo styles, etc.
The point during this stage is to pump out every concept you can think of in terms of branding. Don’t get hung up on thoughts about font, layout or imagery. At some point, the right direction will start to reveal itself in the small thumbnail sketches you are creating.
Get Feedback on Refined Roughs
Take 3-5 of your thumbnail ideas and turn them into roughs. The larger roughs will be several inches large and more refined. Choose different designs that you think work well for the client’s direction and needs. Do not offer logo roughs you think are subpar, or that design will most likely be the one you end up finishing. Clients have a funny way of selecting your least favorite, so only put forward concepts you are proud of.
The client should then get a say on the designs at this point. You can do your roughs in grayscale or color, depending on your preferences. The client should give feedback on what they think and offer constructive criticism if they want any changes made.
Most logo designers expect to make a round or two of changes before delivering the final product. You need thick skin during this part of the process because clients will often act as if their preferences are obvious design rules you should be following.
Create the Final Draft and Establish Logo Guidelines
Using your client’s input, create the final draft in vector (not raster) formatting. This means you need to use a program like Adobe Illustrator or SVG to create a final design that is fully scalable. Have your client give the okay before making multiple versions or helping them establish logo usage guidelines.
Logo usage guidelines are how your client maintains consistency in logo use and branding. The logo guide will talk about acceptable logo forms, colors, spacing and layout. The guide should also spell out unapproved usage, like changing the icon color or shrinking the logotype past a certain size (making it unreadable). The logo guidelines will likely grow as your client runs into specific questions regarding logo use.
Become a Logo Design Professional
It takes practice to learn how to work with clients effectively and efficiently. At first, you might feel lost and intimidated by the design process. While you might be great at art and branding in concept, everything changes when working with a client. Most business owners have spent years honing and protecting their brand.
At the end of the day, be professional and responsive above all else. Keep the client in the loop during the design process and take any criticism they give to heart when it comes to their design direction. After each client, wipe the slate clean and start this process over with the next account.