Day 11 and 12: Logo design process in 9 steps

For the last 2 days I worked on another logo for one of ProCore’s products but for now I cannot show you any of this. Instead I will concentrate on best practices in logo design process, a subject I was reading up on. There seems to be many variations on the main process and I guess every designer has their own practiced method. But one way or another you always have to go through the main stages.

Below is a process that seems the most logical to me (it’s a combination of post from Just Creative Design (a well recommended read), chapter from Logo Design Love book and my own reflections:

  1. Design Brief – project description from your customer
  2. Research – looking into the business, industry and competitors
  3. Reference – looking into logos of the competitors
  4. Conceptualizing - getting the ideas out
  5. Reflection - taking a step back from the project
  6. Production - moving your sketches to the screen
  7. Presentation  - preparing your logo projects to show to the client
  8. Revision - incorporating client’s suggestions into your designs
  9. Delivery - delivering proper files

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Let’s look at a few potentially sticky parts.

1. Design Brief

This is, in my opinion one of the most important and most difficult parts of the process. Especially so for young designers, who might not feel fully confident in their position as experts. What I mean by that is, that sometimes it is hard to get your customer to answer the questions in a precise manner or, even more importantly, pose the right questions. An article I found helpful comes from Webdesignerdepot but it refers to design briefs in general and not specifically to logo. Also Logo Design Love book has a very informative section on that topic.

3. References

This part seems tricky to me because while you do want to adhere to standards of the industry you are designing for, you don’t want to follow the pack. You want to get inspired, but you don’t want to steal. You want your customers to know what kind of company the logo stands for, but you don’t want to be obvious. You want to fit in, but you want to stick out. You want to look up to date, but you don’t want to follow the trends that might soon change. Seems like fine line situation to me. I guess the suggestions from the professionals can be summarized in 2 sentences: “Stay honest” and “Practice makes perfect”.

4. Conceptualizing

This is, to be honest, my absolutely favorite phase of the process. All it basically entails is getting the ideas and then sketching them on a piece of paper. Easier said than done, you might say. Sure, but there are a few tricks.

First of all, I start with mind-mapping. The process is well described in the Logo Design Love book but really it is a very simple and intuitive process. All you need to do is to start with the basic concept or name of the company and start enumerating all the mental connections you have with it. Imagine for

Example of a mind map

example that I need to create a logo for “Little Bakery”. To come up with ideas I begin by writing down the name and dividing it into the concept of “little” and “bakery”. Then I write down everything I can think of connected to bakery, for example bread, muffins, baking etc. Then I think of everything connected to bread, for example the smell and color golden. The process can continue almost for ever. I like to get to the point where complex and abstract concepts are translated into shapes or colors (baking into the shape of bread and the color golden).

Once you are done with a mind map, you should have some visual concepts in your head. For me the bonus of this method is that I often find connections between remote concepts (which you can see marked in the same color on the image). This goes a long way into developing unique logos.

Second method I find very helpful is to google (or search on Flickr) for images tagged with a given word. Googling bakery will give you a lot of photos of bread, buns and cakes (no surprise there) but it will also show you wheat which I didn’t think about when creating my mind map.

Now, once I come up with all those concepts and ideas, I start sketching. This should absolutely be done by hand with your trusty pencil. At this stage the point is not to achieve beautiful images but only to draw all your ideas so that nothing gets lost.

5. Reflection

This stage feels like a waste of time and is very easy to ignore, especially if you are working on a schedule. For me, the temptation is always there. I came up with ideas, I am doing great and I want to see my ideas in their full beauty on my screen. So I work on. But it has been proven to me time and time again that taking a few hours off, or even better returning to the drawings the next day is very profitable. With a clear head, you can reevaluate your work and come up with new concepts that you hadn’t thought about previously. It is really a good idea to schedule this phase when you plan the project, so you can’t avoid it.

6. Production

Obviously this stage is where the bulk of the work is done and you should spend the largest chunk of time doing just this. Volumes can be written about actually working with Illustrator and creating logos so I will not spend time on it. The only suggestion that seems to be repeated in many sources, and that I can’t really abide by, is to start your work in black and white and move on to colors once you have the shapes down.

8. Revision

This is a tricky moment of the process because, in the words of Jacob Cass, you need to position yourself either as a contractor or an expert. So, either you follow the “customer is always right” principle and do all that your client requests no matter the quality of the final product. Or you try and impose your own professional expertise and do the logo the way you think is best. Cass suggests striving for happy medium. And of course he is right but that again is easier said than done.

9.Delivery

So once you finalized your logo and the customer accepted it, what do you do? You need to create a package with all the correct vector, JPG and PNG files together with any font files (if the customer bought any) and possibly a design guide. Although it doesn’t seem like many designers create a design guide if they don’t create an entire identity, I think that logos deserve their own design guides as well. It just makes the whole process more clean and “finalized”. Also it will go a long way helping any next designer who might come after you to redesign the logo, create a website or any kind of print materials.

A few good sources:

Logo Design Love by David Airey

Smashing Logo Design by Gareth Hardy

Just Creative Design blog by Jacob Cass

Logo Design Love blog by David Airey

Vital Tips for Effective Logo Design from Smashing Magazine

Examples of logo design process from Noupe

A list of all kinds of files you should deliver from The Design Cubicle