Ask The Experts: Logo Design Q&A
I was recently asked by the UK based magazine, Computer Arts
Projects to partake in their ‘Ask The Expert’ feature for Issue 135
‘Create The Perfect Logo‘. Users from around the world submitted logo
design related questions via Twitter to @caprojects of which I then
answered for display in the magazine.
Below are the 11 original questions I answered, 8 of which are featured in the magazine, as shown below.
1) “What are the key questions that you ask a client in order to determine the direction to go with their logo?”
From Marc Davison, Canada (@RorschachDesign).
The key questions should be based around the goals of the business, product or service you are designing for. Find out what the logo is for, what it should say about the company and their main target market(s) and competitors. Ask where the logo will be used, if there is going to be a tagline and for any additional information they may have. Get to know the company so you have a solid design brief to produce the right solution.
2) “For you, would a tight brief from the client be a helpful focus, or more of a hindrance?”
From Sharon O’Neill, Ireland (@sharononeill).
Some of the hardest briefs are the open ones, simply because you have no boundaries to work within. A tighter brief, in more cases than not, allows you to be more focused on the problem. Gather the appropriate information, do the research and ask your client questions… this will give you a tighter brief, even if you have to work for it.
3) “What do you think will be the future trends in logo design, especially in terms of typeface usage?”
From Anka Asril, Malaysia.
The key in logo design is to design for longevity, not simply for trends sake. Trends come and go, so you must consider this when designing your next logo. It certainly helps to be aware of trends as it shows us where we’ve been and where we are going, but you shouldn’t be designing for trends sake. The project should be determined by the needs and desires of the client in question.
As for future trends, animation is going to play a much larger role in identifying a company so this is something to keep in mind when designing your next identity… could it be animated and if so, how?
4) “Where do you get your inspiration when generating initial ideas?”
From Jacob Worthy, USA (@Jakeweebz).
Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere and every designer will gather inspiration in their own unique way. Some designer’s go straight to their sketchpad, while others head straight into Illustrator. Other’s may head to their nearest bookstore, art gallery or creative happy place. Others browse books, magazines and websites to gather inspiration… there really is no limit. As for myself, I do a mixture of all those mentioned above.
5) “How do you pitch a logo – do you choose 2-3, hoping the client will go for the one you think is the best? How do you persuade the client on the ‘right’ choice if they’ve picked, in your opinion, the ‘worst’ logo?”
From Karl Gilmore, England.
I personally present just one concept to the client with a thorough explanation and presentation, unless I am torn, very torn between two concepts or our proposal has been arranged otherwise. The job of a designer isn’t to go “Here are ten logos, pick one”. Imagine you went to a hardware store and asked the shopkeeper for a nail and they said “Here are our 30 types of nails, choose the one you like and get back to me”. In more cases than not, you’re not going to end up with the right choice. Although not a direct analogy, you can see where I am coming from. If you limit the choices to what you think is best for their business, then there is less chance for them to choose the ‘worst’ logo. Do your best to explain the reasoning behind your designs to prove that you have nailed the brief.
6) “How do you respond when the client doesn’t like the logos you’ve created, but everyone else does – fellow designers, for instance? Do you try to persuade them otherwise?”
From Lampros Kalfuntzos, Greece.
Although the client is the final decision maker, you shouldn’t be designing for the client, but rather the target market(s) that was outlined in the original brief. Making the client ‘like’ a design should be supported by a through explanation of the solution(s) that you are presenting, tell them exactly why it works and how it achieves the goals as outlined in the brief. Talk about the shape, concept, colour, typography, symbolism and semiotics associated with the design. If you can do this, then more often that not, the client will see your way. If this doesn’t work, which will happen at times, ask them questions to see what isn’t working for them, go over the design brief again and see what adjustments need to be made. Ensure that your original proposal outlines what you will provide for the agreed fee, so that you aren’t forever making changes.
7) “When starting a logo design for a new client, what are the classic pitfalls, and how can you avoid them?”
From George Mackay, Scotland (@eejits).
The most common pitfall is to not ask the right questions before a project begins, which includes research on your behalf too. Before you begin your development, get as much information as you can from the client about their business, goals, target market, etc. If possible, try their service or product, visit their store – really get to know them and their requirements.
Other classic pitfalls are copying other designer’s work… it goes without saying, that you should never do this. Sure, you can borrow, take and adapt other people’s work but never directly copy a logo. The design world is a very small place, I can assure you of that.
“How do you prepare files to send to your client – what size/format?”
From Rochelle Dancel, Canada (@RochelleDancel).
I create a multipage PDF at either A4 or Letter size depending on where they are located – Letter size for US clients and A4 for the rest of the world. This size allows you to control the size in which the client will print their logo, which they will do. Depending on the logo, the presentation could be in vertical or horizontal format… I consider this on a project-to-project basis. I also try to show the logo in a variety of applications; colour, black & white, reversed and in context, such as on a business card.
9) “How many thumbnail ideas do you create for the average logo project? And on average, how long does a typical logo design project take?”
From Gerald Irish, USA (@GVIrish).
This depends on the project requirements, how easily the ideas come, along with communication times between you and the client and various other variables. Some projects can have many pages of thumbnails, where as others may only have a few, or in rare cases, none. There is no ‘typical’ amount of time for a logo design process however I find that I complete mine within about 3-5 weeks for most clients, this allows a reasonable amount of time for research, conceptualsing, liasing, reflection and delivery. Though in saying this, I’ve had clients that needed their logo within 2 days (avoid this at all costs) and also clients that required a much more comprehensive solution, that went on for several months. Spend the time that is needed to find the right solution; it is after all, going to be the face of their company for years to come.
10) “What would be your advice for user-testing your logo designs?”
From Husam Elfaki, England (@galaxyturbo).
Getting feedback is definitely a crucial part of the design process, though you must make sure you take note of where the feedback is coming from. There are different stages of user testing, first on your initial designs, then on your final chosen designs. For the initial designs it may help to have a mixture of feedback from design professionals, the target market and various other users. Take note of how much they know about the company, the brief and product / service. When you have chosen your presumed final design, you can get feedback from others, though keep in mind, you can’t please everyone. Always respect other’s feedback, even if you don’t agree and remember to take it with a pinch of salt.
11) “How do you steer away from clichés to really nail form and meaning?”
From Marc-Franç St-Pierre, Canada (@mfstp).
Logo designs are getting so similar these days which makes it vital to put the extra effort in to come up with a strong, original concept that reflects the businesses needs and desires. If you are aware of the clichés it is easier to steer away or build upon them. Stay up to date with what is happening in the branding, identity, advertising and design world so you have a solid foundation to build upon for your work.
Remember that a logo does not have to be self-explanatory, a phone company does not have to show a phone in their logo, nor does a car company have to show a car. As Paul Rand would say, “It is only by association with a product, a service, a business, or a corporation that a logo takes on any real meaning. A logo derives its meaning and usefulness from the quality of that which it symbolises. If a company is second rate, the logo will eventually be perceived as second rate. It is foolhardy to believe that a logo will do its job immediately, before an audience has been properly conditioned”. This is how you nail form and meaning.