Successful logo design
Guy Nicholson - Creative Lead
As the late, great Paul Rand said
“A logo is an instrument of pride and should be shown at its best. If in the business of communications, “image is king,” the essence of this image, the logo, is the jewel in its crown.”
Taken from his book ‘Design Form & Chaos’.
This blog post will hopefully give you, if you’re a client or a potential one, an idea of the process we go through at The Escape when designing a logo. If you're a designer, experienced or new, reading this will hopefully give you insight into what’s involved in logo design, and help with a bit of inspiration.
Every good designer has a creative process when it comes to logo design. It is open to adaption but it generally goes a bit like this:
No.1 Logo design brief
A design brief will outline the desired outcome of the project. Some clients may be familiar on how to brief a designer, and will have prepared a comprehensive brief that outlines their ultimate goal. Others may have little experience, such as a start-up or small business and will need a hand in the process. Providing the client with a list of questions will help with the writing of a comprehensive brief. These could include:
- What is the company name
- What service/products do they offer
- History of the company
- Who are the competitors
- What is their USP
- Who is the target market
… to suggest a few.
The aim is to get an initial understanding of your client and their brand. But at The Escape we believe it is still essential to follow up a brief with a one-to-one meeting to discover the personality of the client and gain a clearer insight into what they want to achieve. Which leads us nicely on to…
No.2 Research & discovery
This is an essential phase of the process. You can’t just go off and create a logo without researching and discovering more about the client. A logo performs a function and is not just a pretty shape to sit on a website or letterhead. Its principal role is as an identifier, to say who the client/product is.
After the brief, the next step is a discovery session with the client. From this you can glean a lot more information; Find out if there is a unique story or history to the name. Understand the company’s values. Their strengths and weaknesses and their goals for the brand, and discover where and how the logo will be used, for example.
Thinking about it, a Discovery Session is worthy of a whole blog post on its own! Keep your eyes posted for that one!
The competitor landscape
As part of the research look at the competitors. Look at their logo identities. We put together a visual of all the competitors 'and' our clients current identity, if they have one, on a board. That way we can see who has stand out, whether our client leaps out or just disappears in a haze of similar logo designs and colours. One of the main aims is to get your client identified first and foremost above its competitors. To separate it from the crowd. Brand differentiation!
Later on we will then place our designs back into the logo landscape to make sure we have achieved this with each design. If we haven’t then we haven’t done our job properly and its back to the drawing board*. I’m proud to say we have reputation of hitting the nail on the head pretty much the first time round.
*Yes I did say ‘drawing board! I’ll get on to that in a minute!
Blending in or out
As part of the Competitor Analysis we will position each of them within a colour wheel based on their dominant colour. This helps visualise clusters within the competitor landscape. If your client sits within one of these clusters they are more likely to get lost in the crowd. It helps identify clear colour space options within the competitor community, and guides us in selecting colour ways for our logo designs that will achieve stand out in the clients landscape.
Below is an example from a recent logo project. As you can see the client, marked as an Asterix, sits with in a large cluster of identities within the blue spectrum. To help them stand out from the crowd we would consider moving them out into to the available colour space. Any colours used will be considered as part of the design process. We wouldn’t go and suggest changing from blue to a hot pink for the sake of it, unless we could justify it!!
The research & discovery phase is essential, skip it at your peril!
No.3 Ideas generation & design
Now, this is the fun bit! and where the drawing board comes in!
I always start on paper. Maybe it’s my illustration background, but I can’t design anything without starting with paper and a pencil. And no, it’s not old school, it’s the best way to get your ideas down without restriction. It’s a much faster way to discover the design gems, rather than on your Mac screen.
Sketch every idea. Even the duff ones. Don’t rub or scribble anything out. It gets everything out of your head. Even a bad idea, once it’s on paper, might give you an idea for a better one.
Keep it simple.
One of the most important rules of logo design. It will make your design, versatile, recognisable and memorable. If you need to see this in action look at the IBM logo.
Paul Brand designed it in 1972 and it’s hasn’t changed! Because it does what it says on the tin. And did you know it uses the Gestalt Theory in its design… but that’s a whole other blog!
Don’t expect your logo to do all the talking. It is just a single piece of the brand identity jigsaw, so don’t try and cram every message into it. A simple logo will support the brand identity, activation and communication.
Inspirational sites are great, but don’t plagiarise! There’s no point being a designer if your blatantly copying someone else's work. Also you won’t be doing your client any favours either! or your reputation!
Get off your butt and get some fresh air! Walking down the street or around the shops is one of the best places for inspiration. Don’t forget to take your sketchbook with you, and your phone. Well, it is for taking pictures not making phone calls, isn’t it?
As the fashion design icon Paul Smith said, “you can find inspiration in everything” – It’s a great book too!
The logo has to be scaleable, from the size on a phone screen to large scale signage on the side of building. Because of that it needs to be created in Vector software such as Adobe Illustrator. Do not use Photoshop or any other Raster based software. Vectors can be scaled with no loss of quality, whereas raster based files will pixelate.
That’s not to say that you won’t produce the final logo as a PNG or Jpeg for the digital space, but you’ll produce these at the required size from your vector files to avoid pixelation.
To begin with a logo is ideally designed to work in a single colour. Why? Because it needs to be versatile. There are a lot of instances where a single colour option could be used e.g. frosted vinyl, embossing, engraving and foil. If it doesn’t work in a single colour now, you may have problems later on. When colour is added it's worth printing it out on A3 next to the single colour and placing them the other side of the room or at the end of a corridor. If they aren’t clear from the other end of the room then they are going to struggle to work.
Typography is an essential part of a good design. The right typeface will help showcase the characteristics of the brand. For instance if the company is modern, bold and forward thinking then a san serif font will probably suit. Whereas if they are classic and show heritage then a serif font would be better. Font choice can often be the hardest part of logo design, as it needs to complement and support the logo icon. Don’t settle for 'straight from the factory' typefaces. Modify it, tweak it and bastardise it to make it unique so it works harder as part of your design.
Sleep on it
Designing the right logo can be a long process. It’s always worth stepping away from the designs for a day or so and coming back with a fresh pair of eyes. Quite often the design can be refined to get the perfect result. If chosen by the client, the design may be around for several years (IBM!), so it needs to be something to be proud of.
No.4 Designs presentation
The nerve racking bit! When it comes to presenting to the client, don’t flood them with logo upon logo. Try and restrict it to a great set of 4 or 5 at the most. Sometimes you have a whole group of stunners to show which is great, but you don’t want to overwhelm them as they won’t be able to agree on a design.
Justify the design. You need to identify to the client why the logo works as a symbol of their company or product. Just saying ‘what do you think?’ is a presentation no no. By talking through the design rationale and showing that it meets the brief will encourage constructive feedback rather than a blank yes or no. If the client doesn’t feel it quite works you’ll come away with points to work on for an alternative solution.
If you have worked through the process from the start, then you should have at least one design that hits the proverbial nail right on its bonce, maybe with a couple of tweaks.
No.5 Design refinement
Sometimes you have that little golden nugget that is perfection (from a designers perspective), but quite often the logo design needs a tweak or two. The logo may need to be amended slightly to work within a particular environment or the client may have phobia about your colour choice! Whatever the reason, take time to refine the design. Get those curves perfect!
No.6 Implementation & activation
Once complete, the logo needs to be artwork and supplied in various file types for different usages.
These are likely to include:
• Pantone colour version
• CMYK colour version
• Black single colour version
• White out version
Raster RGB files
It's essential to create guidelines on how the logo design will be used. Even if it's just a simple set indicating how the logo should be used, and just as importantly, how it shouldn’t!
The guide should include typeface usage, clear space rules for the logo and colour specifications. More expansive guidelines also include how the logo should be used in different environments, how content should be written and how images should be used.
Guidelines will ensure that the logo is used properly once the client has it and/or other designers.
So… I could waffle on pages and pages but I suspect you have read enough for now. I hope that showing you a small insight into the process we work through for each and every logo design brief has been useful. This shows you the value we place on our design service and how we create quality and iconic logos that will empower your brand for many years.