I always like to create systems around my process on which I can rely on.
Especially in creative projects which seem to be largely based on inspiration or motivation.
Creating systems around a process removes these unpredictable factors like inspiration or motivation. Because these could days or weeks or months and we don’t have that kind of time or the luxury to afford that unpredictability. Especially in client based projects.
So, exactly what goes on behind the scenes in a logo design process?
The Logo Design Process
On a high level these are the steps that I follow for each design project. Although there is much that goes on behind each of these steps too but this is the framework that I strictly follow for each logo design project.
1. What is the Brand about?
I try to get as much information about the business and the owners as possible. What they do, what are they trying to accomplish with the brand, how they help their customers, how they are different, what are their values and their voice and tone.
Collecting this information helps me understand the message they are trying to convey through the brand.
The more I know about a business, the better and more meaningful designs I will be able to create.
2. Understanding their Ideal Customers
I have heard this before.
“Why do we need to know the ideal audience for creating a design?”
It was a genuine enquiry.
The thing is I am not interested in knowing the figures in their bank account. I have no ulterior motives. Trust me! 😉
But knowing your ideal customers helps you understand their lifestyle in general.
I could be one of the target customers for Starbucks, but if they start selling coffee in one of those red plastic cups, I am out. Same coffee, different cup and I am out. People pay for the whole brand experience that is Starbucks and not just the coffee which is their product.
There is a time and place for those red plastic cups like a house party of college students.
Knowing the people, helps to create designs which will appeal to them and not put them off.
3. Curating Inspiration
Based on the information gathered from the previous steps, I start curating images, typography examples etc for the Inspiration board.
While the first two steps are collaborative, I don’t involve the clients in this step of the process. Since most of them are not designers, it is hard for them to understand what examples would work, what even is an example of a good typeface, what designs and imagery would blend together etc.
The inspiration board is an essential step from which the rest of the design is based. It is one of the foundational pieces and so it needs to be as strong and on brand as possible.
Once I do finish with the Inspiration board set up, I present it to the clients for approval. I leave some buffer time here to factor in changes ( if any are suggested by the client ).
How to create an inspiration board.
4. Sketch Logos
I might be stating an unpopular opinion here but I don’t usually sketch on paper.
I use Clip Studio Paint which is a comic/manga drawing software which is really good for freestyle sketches. I draw using a Wacom tablet which makes it much simpler to draw rather than using a mouse. I have never been comfortable with pen and paper and I tend to have shaky hands when I do use them.
I usually come up with a concept and explore it completely until I have exhausted all possibilities. I continue to explore until I feel there is nothing left to add or remove.
Then I pick another concept, explore it completely.
Then another one, repeat.
You get the idea.
I explore multiple concepts and then pick the one that is the most in line with the brand and take it to Adobe Illustrator.
I am usually looking to create styles which are in tune with the mood board, if I am creating a symbol I look for things which could be related to the brand or has a connection with the brands theme one way or another. Like the Robyn’s Academy logo which is inspired from the Robin bird and camera lens focusing on the bird.
Brainstorming good ideas for logos
When I am done finalising a concept, I take it to Illustrator and begin exploring fonts
I first take a look at my own font repository, to see if I have any suitable fonts. If not, I then move on to fontsquirrel.com or myfonts.com to pick a font that would work.
My goal is to not try and reinvent the wheel and create a font if there is one out there. If I don’t find anything suitable then I might add my custom letters.
I tried to find a font for my rough sketch of Stashing Dollars logo. The logo is a combination of simple and stylised letters. Finding a font with such a combination would had proven to be difficult. So I tried to find a font which has a similar set of simple letters and then I created the custom S and L that would fit well the rest of the typeface.
For symbols, I am more inclined towards creating simple shapes and forms.
Logo’s work best when they are simple yet striking enough to be memorable. You don’t need to go overboard with the design and make it illustrative.
Its the entire composition of the logo like the layout, typography, placement, spacing etc that will make or break the design.
Next, I work on tidying up the design like fixing the kerning, grid layout etc
Once, I feel like I have a strong design, I move onto adding colors to the logo.
I take inspiration from the mood board created earlier to pick colors.
I try to explore the palette until I settle on a color scheme that works well for the shape and form of the logo and still stays true to the mood board aesthetic.
The logo is small mark when you take into account the complete identity system for a brand. So I keep the colors solid and as few as possible.
7. Alternative Lockups
I work on creating alternative lockups for the logo depending on where else the logo would be used.
I try to explore different shapes and forms before deciding which one would be most suitable.
Alternative lockups is also where the logos can appear in different colors apart from the primary brand colors, so I keep that in mind when setting up the colors.
I can’t tell you how important mockups are in my logo design process
For one, they help me understand wether my designs will work well for their intended use. I can immediately spot one those tiny little problems which I cannot otherwise spot by simply looking at the designs.
Mockups will best serve their purpose if they are highly relevant to the brand.
So for a brand that sells coffee, ceramic or foam mugs, coffee packaging, food packaging, aprons, shop signage, gift cards, etc work well. All these mockups will have different colors ( although on brand ), textures, size, lighting etc.
They help to see if the design will hold well across all these applications.
Second, the mockups also help the client understand and get a context for the design.
When they know the big picture, its easier for them to understand the design and how it will be used. This helps them make an informed decision about wether the like the design or what they would like to improve about the design.
Finally, I present the logos to my clients via a zoom call, using a KeyNote presentation.
I explain the rationale behind the design, the typography choices made, the subtle meaning behind the logo, showcase the design both individually and using mockups and close the presentation.
I don’t try to “sell” or “convince” the clients that this is the right design for them. They know the inspiration, they know the rationale and they see the big picture. They have all the information to know wether the design is right for them or not.
For more details on my presentation process –
How I present Logos to Clients.
10. Refinement ( Optional )
I maintain some buffer time, incase clients suggest any changes or fixes that need to be made for the design.
I always account for these in the timeline for my packages.
11. Final Brush Up
Once the logo is approved, I check to see if there are any inconsistencies in the design.
Any last minute touch ups that need to be made.
I go over the kerning, grid structure, spacing etc one last time to make sure its perfect.
12. Mini Style Guide
I arrange a pdf file which gives details about the logo like the typefaces used, the color palette etc.
I also explain some general guidelines on how the logo needs to be used.
The do’s and the don’ts so that the brand appears consistent everywhere.
I then proceed to place each design on their own art board in Illustrator and export them as png and jpeg files in small, medium and large sizes.
I then save the files in vector (ai), raster ( jpeg, png) format, ( also, other file formats if requested/needed ) and organise each of the file types in folders to be shared with the client.
So that’s it.
I have briefly described the main steps that go behind the scenes on logo creation.
Depending on the kind of business or brand I am working with there could be a few tweaks but the general framework remains the same.