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Designing Iconic Logos | The Complete Design Process

Designing iconic logos or brand identities isn’t an easy job. That’s why many freelancers specialize. Apart from possessing some skill as a designer, what really cuts the boys from the men is having a creative process.

This provides a solid plan that should include: a solid clear brief, research, sketching, drawing up the initial ideas, presenting to the client, developing the chosen design and finally supplying final artwork.

So I can’t promise I’ll be able to teach you to be creative but I can provide some insight on how to plan and present your ideas.  How to Design a Logo – The Complete Process.

Designing iconic logos – The design brief

When a client approaches you as a designer to create a logo for their business they should provide you with a clear design brief. This should outline details on what the client’s business provides as a service. It is also useful to know the size of the company, who their customers are and who their competitors are (if any). Does the business have local or global reach?

It is also important to know if your client has any preferences on logo style, colour and the end application. Will the logo be used on business stationery? A website? vehicle graphics or marketing literature?

Once you have asked the right questions, only then will you have all the details you need. Keep referring back to the brief to make sure you are moving in the right direction. But in essence discover everything you can about your client and their business.

Do your research

It’s important to get a feel for your client’s competitors and to also see what other businesses have done with their own logos and branding. You certainly don’t want to discover at the end of the process that all your hard work has been in vain if you discover another company is using a similar logo design already.

Apart from doing a general search in Google, it can be difficult to be 100% sure. But don’t sweat about it, you can only do your best.

Mind map your creative ideas

A what I hear you ask? According to Wickipedia

“A mind map is a diagram used to visually organize information. A mind map is often created around a single concept, drawn as an image in the center of a blank landscape page, to which associated representations of ideas such as images, words and parts of words are added. Major ideas are connected directly to the central concept, and other ideas branch out from those.”

It provides a useful reference for the ideas phase. At this stage you want to keep things quite loose and let your ideas solidify. I’d certainly recommend spending at least a couple of hours on this stage. Come back to it often for reference, and spend time developing it.

Sketch your logo designs

Resist the urge to jump straight on to the computer. It is much easier and more productive to go straight to your sketch book. You can easily remove and add things within seconds.

This keeps things loose as you don’t want to be too specific with your ideas in the early stages. I tend to make notes next to the preferred ideas, to help remind me of my thought process at the time.

I’ve come across some logo designers who use squared paper, so it helps when drawing shapes. I’ve just adopted this method and so far so good.

As far as creative inspiration goes I tend to use various design reference books. But online I often jump into Pinterest, Cargo, Behance and Identity Designed for creative inspiration.

It is also a good idea to check out what leading designers produce. I find this improves my standard and is also a good reference point as far as judging the quality of my ideas.

Illustrate your best logo ideas

Now that you have some initial ideas, it’s time to draw these up on your computer. The industry standard software is Adobe Illustrator and this provides an easy means by which to draw up your ideas.

Take the time to explore different fonts, as the right choice can make or break a design. Once you have your basic design explore the possibility of customising the typography. This will really make your design stand out and less easy to replicate.

With social media now being the norm for most businesses, it’s essential to bear the final logo in mind and how it can adapt to this. Try and make it flexible enough to be used in the standard profile image for all the major social media platforms.

Also consider how an element of the design might be used as a Favicon i.e. the icon that appears in the browser next to your clients url.

Before you decide to share your ideas though, I’d recommend putting the ideas to one side for at least a day or two. Come back to them with fresh eyes. Sometimes you will need to to tweak your ideas or even replace one of them. Don’t rush if you don’t have to.

If you are not happy with the ideas, explain to your client that you need an extra day to really get the ideas perfected. After all – designing iconic logos isn’t a five minute job right?

How to present your design concepts to your client

I tend to show three ideas in the initial sharing stage. Any more than this and it proves difficult for the client to make a decision. There also might be a tendency for the client to choose bits from different designs, which generally isn’t a good idea.

Any ideas that you don’t present can be used if the first round of ideas doesn’t quite hit the mark of course.

I’d also consider presenting your ideas in mono. This really gets the client thinking about the core of the idea, rather than which colour they prefer, which can cloud their judgement. And don’t forget to add some notes on your rational. This helps to solidify your thoughts and provides information about your designs.

If the budget is substantial enough or you believe it will help convey your ideas better, I’d certainly show each design as it could be seen on clothing, stationery, signage etc. Clients love to see their logo in situ and it also demonstrates your ability to think about their brand in a wider aspect.

Get constructive client feedback

Try and educate your client to provide you with good constructive feedback. If they come back to you with comments like “we don’t like the ideas” or “they need more work”, ask them to elaborate. The more specific the feedback the better. And try not to get upset about it as this is part of the process.

Refer back to the brief if necessary to make sure you understood the goals of the project. Ask targeted questions so that your client can identify what they do and don’t like about the ideas. Make some suggestions on how you might be able to tweak your ideas rather than starting again.

How to add colour to your logo design

Once your client has chosen a design route, you can start exploring suitable colour options. Sometimes a client will have a clear idea of the colour palette they prefer. Often they don’t. I could devote a whole blog post to colour theory but for now I’ll keep it simple.

Choose a suitable colour! Some colours automatically suite a specific market. Blue for instance is a fairly standard corporate colour. Trustworthy, strong and likeable. That’s why you’ll see many banks and IT companies using this colour palette.

Yellow and orange are bright and fun. They usually signify a low cost or budget priced product or brand. These are sometimes used on cereal packets for instance and catch a customer’s attention.

Of course I’m generalising and there are always exceptions. There are no rules so by all means experiment. The important thing is to make your client’s logo stand out. Bear in mind what the competition is doing and consider doing the opposite.

Always present a handful of colour options and initially these can be quite rough. Once the client has focused on one or two, then you can specify Pantone colours and/or CMYK and RGB breakdowns.

Client approval and the end game

Make sure you get the client to formally sign off the final idea. There is nothing worse than creating the final design, supply all the artwork formats, and then to learn that the client has changed their mind and wants to go back to another idea.

The chosen logo concept may need a few final tweaks before it’s ready. Once you and the client are happy make sure you change the editable text elements to outlines. This ensures that there will be no font errors when you hand over the artwork.

In the past, I have been given logos by other companies to use and it still amazes me that the designer who created the logo hasn’t done this. Nuts!

As standard, you should provide the logo in colour, mono and reversed. The formats should include Pantone references, CMYK and RGB formats all as eps, jpg and png.

I’d also suggest you create a simple logo design guide page that shows the main logo formats, colours, fonts, exclusion zone and any recommendations. This not only shows that you really care about your work but ensures it will be used correctly by the end user.

alba 700 logo guidelines

And one last thing to remember is that until you hand over the logo artwork, you own the copyright.

If you are dealing with a corporate client and to appear more professional, you can supply a short document for the client to sign at the end of the process.

So now you have a good idea of the design process involved when being commissioned to create a logo. Having a good process is essential and it keeps both you and your client on track throughout the journey.

Do you use a similar design process? Do you have any logo design tips?

If you enjoyed this article about designing iconic logos, please share!

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4 Comments. Leave new

Logo designing is really important task when it comes to brand marketing. Many brands are famous because of their logos.

I like the article Mark. Particularly the use of mono to present initial thoughts.
Keeping the client focussed on the idea, not the execution is crucial.
And yes, never more than 3!
No conviction in your own thinking otherwise.
Good stuff dude.

    Thanks Russ. However, I do break that rule – sometimes it helps the client see the true potential of an idea when showing it in colour, but I do use with caution.

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