Imagine walking into a ballroom of a wedding reception.
Right away you notice the wedding cake.
The elegant three tiers support a ring of flowers made of colorful fondant that leads to the topping: a small sculpture of the couple watching a movie (their favorite activity).
A lot of work went into creating that cake.
The baker talked to the couple, came up with the concept, gathered ingredients, made the decorations, baked the cake, and then assembled the components.
It’s similar to how we create our clients’ logos.
Now we invite you behind the curtain to discuss our logo design guidelines.
It starts with coming up with concepts then progresses to gathering the ingredients for your logo.
Step 1 – Knowing The Business & Industry
Creating a great logo starts with thorough research and data analysis on your industry.
Before we design your logo, we have to know your company better so we can deliver the perfect logo for your business.
During this stage, we’ll ask many questions like:
- What are your company’s values?
- Who is your target audience?
- Who are your competitors?
- What important ideas need to be communicated with the logo?
- What do you want your logo to represent?
- What are the objectives for the logo?
- What are your “must-haves” for the logo?
In the early stages of the design process for the engineering firm, BMZ (Bryson Markulin Zickmantel Structural Engineering Firm), we learned about their three founding partners.
From there we incorporated three roof structures into their final design to symbolize the three partners.
We’re getting a little ahead of ourselves, but we want to show how early conversations about important themes shape the final design.
We won’t dive into the design right away. Just like a baker doesn’t run to the store to buy the ingredients. Not when we still need to make the list of ingredients.
Step 1.2 – Knowing Your Design Preference
It has happened to every designer. We spend countless hours producing a beautiful, pixel-perfect comp only to have it rejected by you because it isn’t what you were envisioning. It’s the dreaded “I’ll know it when I see it” curse.
As designers, we often think we have all the answers. It is our job to know what looks good and we take that responsibility seriously! But even if we are talented, and our work is top-notch its easy to misread your expectations.
Words fail miserably when trying to translate design concepts. What one person calls “edgy” another might see as chaotic.
It’s tough for you to be forthcoming about what you want your new logo to look like. Visuals communicate things that words cannot. A picture is worth a thousand words, and mood boards are a great tool to create that image for you.
Mood boards are a compilation of inspirational elements used by designers to flesh out ideas at the beginning of a design project.
A mood board is handy for establishing the aesthetic feel of a brand. It usually fits into the process somewhere after business research and before logo sketching.
Things that can be explored in the mood board include photography style, color palettes, typography, patterns, and the overall look and feel of the site. Soft or hard? Grungy or clean? Dark or light? A rough collage of colors, textures, and pictures is all it takes to evoke a specific style or feeling.
Additionally, mood boards make it clear that we are listening to you and considering your input. They also gain insight into the thinking behind your decisions, dispelling the all-too-common notion that designers choose everything on a whim.
Step 2 – Research Gets the Creative Juices Flowing!
We need to research to find visual inspiration. We immerse ourselves in the subject and ask questions like:
- What images come to mind when we think about the themes and ideas from the information we gathered in step 1?
- What story are we trying to tell with the logo?
- What ideas do we think of when we think of the business?
Visual inspiration can come from searching images online or in real-life. It also comes from learning what the competitors are doing. One of the guidelines for logo design is competitive analysis.
This part of the research phase teaches us about the industry landscape. We study other logos to learn what elements to avoid, what elements are missing, and what opportunities we can take.
Here is an example of what we did for a new real estate brokerage in Surrey, BC, Canada and their target are millennial homesowners in Surrey.
The client chose to work with a freelancer first before coming to us, and this was their final outcome:
Some people may think this looks good, but our research shows that it won’t provide any value to the business:
Let’s ignore the fact that this logo looks like a bunch of template logos (try searching “real estate brokerage logo” on Google). The logo design itself also doesn’t make any marketing sense. Why?
In this case, the design is very similar to the direct competitors’ who are well established in the market. If you look just like another brokerage business in town, why should people bet on you? Isn’t it safer to just go with another company that is old and more reputable?
The font choice & color choice, on the other hand, is very far from the logos that the target market likes (more sans serif fonts and warm colors instead of serif fonts and cool colors). A logo is to inspire trust. Trust can only happen if people like you in the first couple seconds. If that’s the case, why shouldn’t your logo contain elements that are preferred by your target audience?
Color psychology is an essential factor for leaving the great first impression. The logo, unfortunately, does not have the colors that the target market likes. People won’t be spending the time to alter their taste just to make themselves like your logo.
Besides, creating a logo that the target audience will like and can trust. We also have to make sure the final logo is not presenting the company in the wrong sector, for example, making our brokerage client looks like a realtor or an insurance brokerage. We do that by looking into these two things.
1. Industry Partners – these are the businesses that work with our brokerage client. Knowing their branding strategy beforehand will save us from building a branding that associates with the wrong industry.
2. Indirect Competitors – These are businesses who have similar business models in other industries, in this case, brokerages in mortgage or insurance. These logos will help us understand what brokerages in other sectors look like, so we won’t go in that direction and present the company as if they are an insurance brokerage.
For every logo that we design, this research is inevitable before the designer gets started.
By combining the information we gathered in step 1 and the research done in step 2, we have compiled a document which the industry calls it, a creative brief.
Want to know more about creative briefs? Here’s an article that we really like: The Creative Brief: 10 Things It Must Include
Creative briefs are important because they help us remain focused on the objectives and main ideas while allowing our creativity run wild.
Step 3 – Sketching Like Jack Dawson on the Titanic
The brief, research and competitive analysis loads a tonne of ideas in the designer’s head.
The sketch phase is where we experiment. It allows the designer to flush out ideas to see what works.
Sketching may start off as a brainstorming free-for-all, but it evolves to a focused and thoughtful exercise.
We lean on the brief, remind ourselves of the messages and themes, and go back to the images we collected from the research phase. Some ideas work. Some don’t. What’s important is that we work through those ideas – especially the obvious ones.
Only then can we find concepts worthy of pursuit during the design phase.
Step 3.1 – Identifying Good Ideas: What’s Good and What’s Sh*t
We review our sketches of different concepts before we design fully realized logos.
We go back to the brief and review key themes and think about the objectives once again. Drawing on experience, we look at which concepts work and which ones don’t. (This step is an article for another time.)
Anything that doesn’t interest or excites gets scrapped. Designs that don’t communicate important ideas get shown the door. Ideas that don’t fulfill the objectives are set on fire. Figuratively of course. (Literally if necessary.)
Step 3.2 – Finally… the Design Stage
Pat yourself on the back!
You made it to the design stage! By now you can see how much work goes into creating a logo. And there’s still more work to do!
Our guidelines for logo design may seem tedious, but believe us: each step is necessary. Now that we’ve figured out what doesn’t work, we can start to build on the ideas that have potential. This involves:
- Creating Artwork from Scratch – We don’t use clipart to copy and paste illustrations. We use our expertise and training to make sure your logo is a complete original.
- Developing Simple Icons – We aim for an icon that’s conceptual, clever, and unique.
- Choosing the Right Fonts – What font best represents your business? Is it script? Serif? Or sans serif?
These primary elements make up the logo.
Here are the the five logo concepts for BMZ that survived until this stage:
Next comes seeing what combinations make the most striking logo.
Step 4 – Playing Mad Scientist: Refining, Experimentation
When we design logos, we don’t create one icon and choose one font for one concept.
We develop a number of concepts with different fonts and icons before we present to our client.
Take a look at one of the concepts for the BMZ logo.
The client didn’t choose this concept in the end, but notice the variations in fonts, icons, sizes, and colours.
Our guidelines for logo design don’t involve throwing things against a wall to see what sticks.
We systematically interchange fonts and icons.
We change sizes, angles, and other design elements to create variations until we find a worthy overall design.
Only then can we have the confidence that we have the best logo design for our client.
Step 6 – Playing Creative Director: Review, Analysis & Market Testing
Once we’ve worked through a few concepts, we need to step back and scrutinize our designs.
We look at each design objectively and ask:
- Is the design conceptually clever?
- Are the designs good representations of the ideas from the brief?
- Are the versions different enough?
- Is the typography easy to read?
- Is the design easily understood?
After adjustments are made, we’ll develop a presentation to show the client our creations.
And That’s How a Logo is M— Not quite yet.
After dreaming up of great concepts, crafting icons, choosing fonts, and getting the client’s final approval comes colours.
It may seem like an afterthought, but choosing colours is as rigorous as creating the concepts and working through the other design elements.
This step comes close to the end because colours don’t make a good logo. A great concept and precise execution makes a good logo.
Once our team has selected the best logo options, we then send the design concepts to your target market to vote which logo concepts would best represent your company.
Here is what we have done for a blog called The Bay Warrior. We asked her 1243 people from her blog’s target audience on Facebook to select their favourite out of all 5 design concepts. Unsurprisingly, not that many people disagree with our logo design direction. This is mainly because our design process keeps you and your target audience in mind.
At the end of the day, we want a logo that works for your business, and not just fulfilling your personal taste.
And That’s How a Logo is – (We’re sure this time right? Yep.) Made
A great logo uses precise elements to tell a brand’s story. But you only see and react to the final product. You don’t see the ideas that didn’t materialize. You don’t get to go on the long walks that cleared the designer’s head. You didn’t pull out your hair out of frustration. In the end you get something that’s so elegant it looks effortless. But now you know that couldn’t be further from the truth.