Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Process and Gestation of a Logo Design

"I need a logo for my sportswear company. It must be really classy and like Nike and adidas but not exactly the same lol. I can pay between £40 - 60. I need a top job done and if your good enough you can do my website :-)" [sic, sic, sic, sicety-sic]


The above is a fairly typical example of a new business putting the word out that they want a logo designed for their brand which will take on the world. One look at the budget and I will do one of two things: Message the client and with withering sarcasm tell him his budget is ridiculous; or, ignore the ad completely because there is no way I will attempt to compete against youngsters who live at home with mum and dad, or far eastern designers who can make a good living by undercutting us designers here in the UK.  I usually ignore these sort of ads - there's no point in engaging with someone who is that ignorant or unrealistic.

But hold on. "Ignorant". Surely that is not the guy's fault. He maybe just doesn't know what goes into a logo design and with a better understanding he will adjust his budget accordingly. I'm an optimist, so perhaps I should educate him. Education separates the once ignorant, now educated, from the terminally pig-ignorant.

Here is my reply to the above client. Lets hope he reads it and isn't dazzled by the rock-bottom prices of Mario DeCunha in the Phillipines:

Dear Andy (for that is his name)
I am very interested in quoting for the design of your sportswear brand identity, but I fear my price will be a fair distance beyond your £40-60 budget.  There is a good reason for this as the actual design process takes many hours of hard work and will use a lot of my hard-won experience to achieve a professional, well conceived design that will win the respect of your market.

Here is my process. Times include local travel time to and from meetings

1. Client interview. 2 Hours. This is a meeting where we can both get to know each other and more importantly, we can discuss exactly what you wish to achieve with your brand. I ask a lot of questions such as:
  • What sportswear do you make? Shoes? Clothes? Football strips? Golf wear?
  • What is your target market? Men? Women? Serious athletes? Casual exercisers? etc.
  • Are you intending to create a premium brand or something for the lower end of the market - if your brand were a car, what would it be? A Rolls Royce? A ferrari? A BMW 3 series? A Nissan Micra?
  • Are your designs original or are you simply overprinting ready made garments?
  • Where do you see your brand in one/two/five/ten years?
  • How do you plan to get your brand into the shops?
  • Will you be selling online?
  • Which brands do you admire - and why?
  • Which brands do you not admire - and why?
  • What colours do you want to use?
  • Have you established your brand name yet?
  • Have you registered your domain names?
  • Have you checked to see whether there are similar brand names already in the market?
  • Is there a unique selling proposition?
  • Are you confident that you are not breaching anyone's copyright or registered trade mark?
  • Is your business in a position to trade - are you properly capitalised?
  • Can you abide by my payment terms?
In this interview, I also expect a grilling from you, Andy. You need to know that I'm a professional and not a chancer - after all, I'm about to send your original budget into the scuppers.

2. Quote and Establish the brief. 1 hour. Based on the information and notes made in the interview, I write up a brief and prepare a quote.  I submit this to the client and if you're happy that we're both (forgive me) on the same page you sign it off and pay the deposit.

3. Due Diligence. 3 hours. Before I start designing a logo, I look at what's around in the market. I look at the websites, ads and whatever else I can find belonging to competitors and brands to which your business aspires. I do my own checks on domain names to see what's close to yours and to build a list of suggestions for alternatives.  I copy logos of competing brands and put them on a single sheet, so I can get a true picture of what I'm up against.

4. Sketch and doodle. 3 hours. Before I start working on my computer, I get my pen and a sketch pad and start playing about with ideas for the typography and the accompanying symbol. Several pages later, I might have three to five different ideas that I can then start drafting up on the computer.

5. Create 3-5 options. 4 hours. Based on my sketches and doodles, I create three to five different designs, often (but not always) only in black and white. Colours come later, because the first thing to get right is the basic typography and its relationship to the symbol, if any.

Five initial designs  - well, four and a half, actually, as one was derived directly from another.
  6. Present the options. 2 hours. This is best done in a meeting so that I can properly discuss each option and get the required amount of feedback from you, Andy.

7. Refine the selected option (colours). 3 hours. Assuming you have selected one of the five options (if not, we go back to stage 4) I then refine the design.  The first thing to do is look at colours, bearing in mind the information picked up in the initial meeting. This is an incredibly important stage as the  brand colours will need to work effectively in many different situations - with the logo on a photograph, with the logo on a dark background, on a light background, on the web, in print, cut out of vinyl, embroidered on garments etc. etc. I usually end up creating another two or three colourway options for you to choose from, showing them in situ on ads, garments etc.

Yet more options. The client had established which basic design he liked, and just wanted to see variants of the design.
As most of these were simple colour changes, it took about 2 hours.

8. Final refining. 2 hours. With the colours sorted, it is now time for final micro detailing. I blow up the design to fit on an A3 page and get stuck in to getting the typography perfect, kerning the individual glyphs, altering the shape of certain elements and making sure that the shape of the symbol is perfect.

9. Presentation for sign-off. 2 hours. I take my finished design, beautifully printed on photographic paper and mounted on board for your approval and sign-off. Upon sign-off, I present my invoice for the balance owing.
A final three variants. The design took a lot of back and forth between me and the client as we homed in on what he wanted.

10. Creation of master files and brand guidelines sheet. 4 hours. Upon receipt of the final balance payment I create a series of master files in various formats, as well as a brand guidelines sheet to show correct use of the design in various applications, for you to pass on to other suppliers.

So there you have it. At least 24 hours of work is required if you want a professionally designed logo that has been properly briefed, researched, conceived and designed to help your brand compete in your market.

The final design. Note that even at the last stage there was a change when the client decided to reposition as a nursery rather than a daycare centre. These things happen, but add to the cost.

Do you need to go to all this fuss?

That is a question which only you can answer, but in my experience, the most successful brands are those that are properly conceived in the beginning.  If you are serious about your business, have excellent products or services to offer a very fickle market, then don't you want to get things done absolutely right? A brand identity is not an expense. It is an investment in your business that helps to define you, that helps set you apart, that helps make you appealing to your market.

I hope this gives you a clear understanding of my process, Andy, and shows you how it would be impossible for me to do anything of substance for you for the price of your original budgeted amount.

Kind regards


Copyright © 2009 Paul R Davey. All photographs, text and artworks in this portfolio are copyrighted and owned by the artist, Paul R Davey unless otherwise stated. Any reproduction, modification, publication, transmission, transfer, or exploitation of any of the content, for personal or commercial use, whether in whole or in part, without written permission from the artist is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

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