Pulling logos out of my *
More often than not we get asked by friends, acquaintances or businesses if we can design a ‘quick’ logo for them. This often comes in the form of a sentence like “Oh yeah, right, I haven’t got a logo but I will need to put something on the website. Could you just quickly grab a font and turn it into a logo please?”. I’ve got to admit, I have done it, and during my career I have pulled dozens of logos out of my *. Were any of these logos good? Maybe… a few. Am I proud of any of them? No.
The problem lies in the process in which a ’quick’ logo design goes through. Its starts with a very simple and loose brief from which we get a very faint glimpse of what we need to aim for. Then it’s up to me to come up with something that will hopefully please the client. All going well, I hit the nail on the head and get something out decent enough to be presented.
I’m usually quite nervous when presenting such a logo, as I know the client can love or hate the outcome. But it’s not just this that makes me nervous, it's the fact that I have no way of backing up what I designed. There’s no rationale behind it, it’s a stab in the dark that I hope the client finds aesthetically pleasant.
It’s usually this lack of process, research and rationale that turns these quick jobs into the biggest nightmares. The only guarantee of this hit/miss/repeat exercise is a very grumpy designer, an unsatisfied client, and in the middle of it all a dog’s breakfast of a logo.
As designers we need a cohesive and organised process in order to design meaningful brand identities. And that is how I like to refer to it, a brand identity, not just a logo. A brand identity is one of many touchpoints people have with a brand. Quite an important one i might add. But this brand identity can’t be hashed together. It should be built from a collaborative process between the client and ourselves.
I’m going to briefly describe the process we go through to design a brand identity. We start with what we call discovery, which involves research and workshops with our clients to understand every little detail about their business and brand. We look to define the likes of their vision, goals, audiences, culture, competitive advantage, and personality. All of this info gets distilled down into a ‘brand blueprint’, which we use to help brainstorm a creative strategy.
We don’t sit down around bonfires singing kumbaya to brainstorm a creative strategy, but there is an element of craziness and fun to it. Ultimately we look to develop a story (or stories) that really capture the client's brand, and that we believe will inspire others. The creative strategy then describes how we might design the identity in a way the reflects these stories. It is the light at the end of the tunnel that informs and leads the remainder of the design process.
The next step is where I get to look for any visual inspiration that I consider relevant and inline with the proposed strategy. I then collate and organise all these images into moodboards. These moodboards are then presented to the client - to demonstrate the creative strategy in a visual way, and so we can collaborate further on how to achieve the best result.
Now I’m fully armed with everything I need to fill the blank page with typography, shapes and colours. I’ve got to admit that this part scares me every time. But it's the good kind of scary, the one that takes me out of my comfort zone and makes me work harder. It pushes me, not only to be more creative, but also to be more sensitive about the brand I need to represent.
The end product of this is a brand identity with a clear rationale, that truly captures the client's brand and helps position them in the minds of consumers in a way that is aligned with the strategic direction and overall vision of the business.
The rest of it is about smiles, puffed chests and years of continuous collaboration.