We’re Giving You An All Access, Deep Dive, Behind The Scenes, Inside Look, Sneak Peek Into The Phases Of A Logo Design Project
A logo project design can be one of the most misleading projects a company can go through. You may have looked at some logos and thought “that looks so simple, I bet that didn’t take more than half an hour.” The truth is, you’re right. Well, partly; the logo, as long as it’s a good one, is simple. Where you’re wrong is that it took a designer a half an hour and little effort to create it.
A famous example of this scenario is the story of the Citi Bank logo. Designer Paula Scher was said to have sketched the bank’s new logo during the initial meeting with the client and when asked why the logo would be so expensive for something drawn in a few seconds her response was truly insightful:
“It took me a few seconds to draw it, but it took me 34 years to learn how to draw it in a few seconds.”- Paula Scher
In this particular example, Paula technically skipped every part of the logo design process. But not all of us are Paula Scher. So what are those steps she skipped over anyway?
In this blog we will cover the following phases in a logo design project:
Step 1: Discovery
Step 2: Research
Step 3: Brainstorming
Step 4: Sketching
Step 5: Execution
Step 6: Presentation
Before we jump in with both feet it’s crucial to understand why those simple logos you’ve seen are so successful. A logo should accomplish 3 things: Be appropriate (for the company), be distinctive, be simple. What makes a logo great is when a designer is able to create something that is distinct and memorable but still simple. In addition, a logo should not embody a company’s entire brand story. It is not communication, it’s identification. The entire brand can begin to communicate who they are through marketing and brand awareness.
“A logo is not communication, a logo is identification. A logo is the period at the end of a sentence, it is not the period itself.” – Sagi Haviv
Now that you know a little more about what a great logo needs to accomplish let’s dive in and see how it’s done!
Logo Design Phase 1: Discovery
With a project of this magnitude, it’s crucial to get an inside view of a client’s company. During the discovery phase of a logo project, the designer along with the rest of the team meet with the client, preferably face-to-face, and discuss the attributes of their company. During this process, the team will discover 5-10 words that describe the feeling of the company. To give you an example, I’ll share the words we came up with for the company Admark; a client of ours that we helped to rebrand:
Once these words are discussed and officially chosen by the creative team, these 5-10 adjectives must be approved by the client. This step is extremely important as these words will accomplish the first goal of a great logo: Be Appropriate. After approval, the client will not see anything else until the presentation of the logo options.
Logo Design Phase 2: Research
After discovery, the design team takes a deep dive into industry research. In this step the team will learn everything they need to know about the company, their competitors, and the industry they operate in. This step will further shape the creation of an appropriate logo. This research can also start to reveal elements of the business that can set the mark apart with distinction. Although most designers can’t sketch exactly what a company needs in the first meeting, they do start to formulate ideas before a pencil hits paper.
Logo Design Phase 3: Brainstorming
Now that the design team is armed with industry knowledge and has had an expert look at the client’s company, it’s finally time to start writing things down. Now, this doesn’t mean the team hasn’t written ANYTHING down this entire time. But this is the step in the process that ideas start forming on paper. The designer creating the logo might start by writing the company name over and over again in different handwriting. All-caps, lower-case, title-case, cursive, thin, thick, italics etc. Or the designer may start with descriptive words and relating those words to design elements. I’ll use Admark as an example again:
- Modern = Sans Serif
- Clean = Higher Contrast
- Professional = Blue
- Precise = Sharp Points
- Friendly = Circular or Curves
- Approachable = Extended Tracking
The list above is an example of the few elements we chose to move forward with. Ideally this brainstorming session will cover a page or two in a sketchbook or notebook. Once these words are written the designer may start to look through books or online resources to get some ideas for shapes or marks from the past. Here are some of my favorites:
Logotype by Michael Evamy
Trademarks & Symbols Vol. 1 & 2 by Yasaburo Kuwayama
Logo Design Phase 4: Sketching
In this step the design will start to sketch out different logo designs. I know what you’re thinking: “We’re more than halfway through the process and nothing is even on a computer yet?” The truth is a designer will sketch out 60-100 (or more) options on paper before picking a few to move forward with. And sketching with a simple pencil on paper is the fastest way to achieve this task.
This step might be the most important part of the process. To all the young designers out there: Don’t skip this step. The sketches do not need to hang on the museum wall, they just need to get the general idea across. This is the part of the process where true exploration happens. The words “what if…” can lead to endless roads, cross-streets and alleyways of the logo.
Below are just a few of the sketches done for Admark:
Logo Design Phase 5: Execution
Finally. The team decides on 5-10 sketches to move to the computer with. The designer either recreates their sketches on the machine by hand or scans the sketch to get a starting point. In this stage, more experimentation can happen. By duplicating options an tweaking further a single sketched option could have 4-5 variations on the computer.
Needless to say, this step is a huge part of the process. Many different things come into play during this phase: typography, color, shape, placement, layout etc. There will be several creative reviews and revisions along with more experimentation. More research may be done on typography and color theory; every logo project has its own unique hurdles. However, once this expansive phase is finished, the design team will have 3 unique logos that are appropriate, distinct, and simple.
Logo Design Phase 6: Presentation
The final step in the process is the client presentation. Up until this point, the only thing they have seen an agreed to were those 5-10 descriptive words. When presenting logos it’s important that the client is reminded of those words and extremely important that they still agree with them. So at this point a team member will open up the conversation and list out those words. As long as everyone is still in agreement the presentation can go on as planned.
“If the logo is the product, then the presentation is the packaging.” – Ben Burns
It’s important to have a compelling presentation for a client. The logo options should be displayed in ways that make them shine. The designer will also explain the reasons for each part of the design and list the reasons they relate to the words agreed upon in the Discovery stage. As long as you’ve picked the right agency to work with you should be presented with 3 quality options that are appropriate for your industry, distinct, and simple.
After the initial design process, a client should take their time selecting a logo from the options to move forward with. From there, minor tweaks and revisions may be needed for final delivery. But this part of the process should not be too extensive.
From there, a client should have a beautiful logo that will last a long time. With it, they can start to spread their message through inbound marketing, content creation, and traditional advertising using their brand new logo as the period at the end of the statement.
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