Some logo designers and branding agencies seem to shroud their logo design process in mystery, gathering a few high-level details from a questionnaire and then going away for weeks, only to reveal a final logo design that the client isn’t happy with. We believe that in order to produce the best logo design possible, it’s important to be transparent about your process and to collaborate with the client throughout. By following the step-by-step logo design process below, you should be well on your way to producing a high quality logo that will align with your client’s goals and exceed their expectations.
“I strive for two things in design: simplicity and clarity. Great design is born of those two things.”
– Lindon Leader
The first step to take when designing a great logo is to have a discovery session. This discovery session should be a candid meeting with your client and any important stakeholders to ask them pertinent questions regarding what they’re looking to accomplish. While these sessions can be quite in-depth, some high level items you’ll want to discuss in this meeting should include:
- Why does the client need a logo design?
Are they a new company with no existing identity? Is their old logo outdated and lacking resonance with their target audience? Or does their current identity just need to be streamlined with a few minor tweaks?
- What look and feel are they envisioning?
Modern, bold, corporate, retro, experimental… What style does the client and their company want to portray? It’s important to not only define this look and feel, but then to make sure you’re both on the same page. Your definition of modern may not be the same as theirs. Stylescapes are a great way to create this aligned vision which we’ll discuss more in step 3.
- What does a successful project look like for the client?
This is a great question to ask so you can see what the client’s expectations are to make sure you can fulfill them. Does the client want to be updated often throughout the process or do they prefer to only be involved at key junctures? Are there tangible business goals you can tie in to the logo design? It’s important to know how to make your clients happy, and the easiest way to do that is simply to ask them how.
- What are the project requirements?
This is the most obvious one, but an extremely important one nonetheless. When does the logo need to be completed by? What are the key milestones? What’s the budget for the project? What file types do they need?
“Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.”
– Jeffrey Zeldman
The next step in designing a great logo, is to do your research. And lots of it. You’ll not only want to research design ideas for the logo, but you’ll also want to do some strategic research as well. Here are just a few of the things you’ll want to look into:
- The company
When/where did the company start? What’s the culture like? What are their core values? Where did the company name originate?
- The current and previous logos
If the client has had previous logos, what did they look like? Why did they work/not work? What do customers think of the current logo?
What do competitor logos look like? Why are the best competitors’ logos successful? What can you do to make your client’s logo stand out from the pack?
- Design history
What’s been done in this industry in the past? Can you incorporate historical meaning into this logo design? Can you make any interesting connections?
Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to use that information to design a stylescape. A stylescape is essentially a moodboard where you can gather images, colors, and textures into one document so your client can get an idea of the direction you’re heading. The assets used in a stylescape can either be designed by your team, or simply pulled from the web, depending on the time and budget allocated for the project.
As mentioned previously, the main purpose of a stylescape is to ensure that you’re syncing up your visual vocabulary with your clients. When they say they want something modern, do they mean something like Apple or something like Microsoft? Both are considered modern, but each has a very different aesthetic. Once you’ve put together your stylescape, set up a meeting to go over it with your client and get them to sign-off on the direction.
Now that the client has signed-off on the direction of the stylescape, the next step is to start brainstorming ideas. There’s no right or wrong way to brainstorm, but we like sketching out all of our ideas with pencil and paper. We find that sketching ideas out by hand allows us to move quickly and get ideas out as fast as possible.
The most important part here is to exhaust every idea, even the bad ones, so don’t hold anything back when brainstorming these initial ideas. You never know, the sketch you dislike the most may end up sparking an idea for the perfect logo.
5. Rough Drafts
Once you have all of your ideas sketched out (good or bad), it’s time to take the best ones into your logo design program of choice (we use Adobe Illustrator, but there are plenty of options out there). You can get them onto your computer by either scanning the sketches in, or taking a photo of them using a camera or smart phone.
The next step is to start digitizing your sketches into vectors. Since your sketches probably weren’t perfect, this is a great opportunity to start cleaning things up while continuing to refine and expand upon your ideas.
6. Initial Concepts
Now you should have a few solid concepts that are starting to come together. Depending on what you’ve agreed upon with your client in the discovery phase, you’ll want to refine 2-5 of your best logo concepts into options that you can present to them. This is the step where you’ll want to put each logo design on a grid to make sure everything is aligned, delete excess vector points, and put the finishing touches on each concept.
Once you’ve finalized your initial concepts, it’s time to send them to the client. Take each concept and place it in a presentation template with your branding on it. You’ll want to include the following things:
- Each initial concept on a black and white background
Showing each concept on both light and dark backdrops will give the client a better idea of how each design will look in various applications.
- Color options
In addition to providing each design in both black and white versions, you’ll also want to include some color options. It’s important to provide the same color options for each concept so it does not sway the client’s opinion should they like one color scheme better than another.
- Each concept at several different sizes
Logos need to work at various sizes, from small phone screens to large printed banners. This is a great opportunity to show the versatility of the logo.
- Alternate lock-ups
If you’ve designed any additional versions of each concept, such as a horizontal lock-up or an alternate design for small social media applications, be sure to provide those as well.
- A brief write-up about each logo design
While you will want to meet with your clients to discuss the initial concepts in person or on the phone, it’s important to also include a write-up about each design. It’s common for the design concepts to get passed around to various stakeholders who were not present in the meeting, so this ensures that the concepts retain their context even if you’re not there to explain it.
- Real world applications of each concept
It can be beneficial to show each concept in a real life application, such as on a billboard, a company van, or a quarterly report. This will give the client a better idea of how the logos will look when printed.
At this stage, you’ve sent your initial logo concepts over to your client and you’ve gotten some feedback. If you’ve nailed one of the concepts on the head and the client doesn’t want any changes, well done! You can skip this step and move on to perfecting the final logo. Otherwise, it’s important to make sure you fully understand what changes the client is asking for and why they’re asking for them.
For example, if they provide feedback that the text is too hard to read, it could be a matter of changing the font, making the font size larger, or simply increasing the tracking. Once again it’s all about making sure you and your client are sharing the same visual vocabulary, so be sure to clarify before you start making changes.
Depending on what you’ve agreed upon with your client in the discovery phase and what is necessitated by the project, you may do several rounds of revisions during this step. We generally agree to complete up to three rounds of revisions on our logo design projects, but all three rounds are often not necessary.
Now that you’ve completed the last round of revisions, it’s time to put the finishing touches on the final logo design. Make sure everything is aligned correctly, expand your text/outlines, verify that all of the colors match the agreed upon PMS colors, etc. This is where you add that last little bit of love to the logo that really makes it shine. Take your time and make sure everything is perfect and ready for the client.
Congratulations! If you’ve followed these steps, you’ve now created a great logo that is well researched, thoughtfully crafted, and most importantly, will make your client happy. But, before you go off to celebrate, you still need to deliver the final logo files to your client. This sounds like a small step, but rushing through this portion is a big no-no.
The first thing you’ll want to do is prep and export all files for delivery. This will vary depending on what you’ve agreed upon with your client, but we generally send the following final deliverables to our clients:
- Print versions
These are print-ready vector .EPS files of the logo. Be sure to provide black, white, and full color versions.
- Web versions
These are exported logos ready for use on the web. These are .PNG files saved at large, medium, and small sizes. Be sure to provide black, white, and full color versions here as well.
- Alternate versions
If you discussed providing additional versions of the logo with your client, be sure to provide final files for those as well. This would consist of things like horizontal lock-ups, alternate versions for extra-small usage, a special version for social media avatars, etc.
- Real-world applications
Providing a few mock-ups of the final logo on real world applications such as apparel, stationary, and vehicles is a great way to give your clients some direction on materials moving forward. It may also spark a conversation about other marketing materials that the client needs designed.
- Style guide
This is a PDF guide containing appropriate logo uses, things to avoid, the fonts used, PMS colors, etc. After the logo is delivered, your client can refer to this guide to keep the identity system intact.
Putting it All Together
Hopefully you were able to pick up a few tips in this step-by-step guide on how to design a logo that will prove helpful to you during your next project. We’re advocates for treating clients as partners and working alongside them throughout the logo design process, so be transparent about what you’re working on and share that with them as you go. Working like this eliminates unpleasant surprises, and ensures your client will love the finished design.