STEP-BY-STEP GRAPHIC DESIGN PROCESS: LOGO & BRAND IDENTITY
INITIAL DESIGN PROCESS
Construct the Creative Design Brief
The first step in any professional logo design process is to build a creative design brief. To understand the client and their needs, I ask questions to develop a clear understanding of your business, the industry and issues. This initial phase of the design process can be completed however the client is most comfortable whether it's over the phone, in person, using an online design questionnaire or via email. The purpose of the design brief is to help me understand the project, so the more I know, the better I can communicate through the initial design concepts.
What is a Creative Design Brief?
A creative design brief is a document intended for a project and created during a consultation between the client and the designer consisting of around 20 questions. The more complete the answers, the better we can communicate through the design concepts.
What Questions do I ask Clients?
The logo and branding questionnaire is broken down into several key areas:
About Your Business
What does your business/product do?
What problem do you solve for your customers?
What about your background, product or service sets you apart from your competitors?
About Your Customers
Describe your ideal client.
What is the primary message you want to convey to your customers?
About the Project
If you have an existing brand/identity, why isn’t it working for you?
Please share three links to brands / logos that inspire you.
What do you like best about them?
Using five adjectives or short phrases, describe your brand’s desired look and feel.
Research & Discovery Phase
Once the answers to the questionnaire are complete, we will go through and build up a solid base to work from moving forward. Further questions may arise, which can be discussed so we best can understand the project before getting started.
I look into the existing business (unless it is a brand new startup) and try to uncover where it's at currently, in regards to branding overall. There may be facets of the business that had not been mentioned in the initial consultation, but the key point to client discovery is to understand the issues further to provide the best solution possible. Often, the client may not know ‘why’ their brand is struggling, but to an expert brand consultant, looking to their current setup may provide meaningful answers in the graphic design process.
Working in so many varied industries, learning about the particular ’niche’ the client resides in is always important. I look at their competitors to see what they are doing – if they are doing well, I consider what they are doing right. If they are doing things badly, I can quickly know what to avoid to help my clients succeed.
Primary Research | Qualitative & Quantitative Research
For more comprehensive brand identity design process, I'll look deeper into the research levels of the brand in question through qualitative and quantitative research methods. This takes a lot of time, so the lower priced logo design packages will tend to skip over this part.
Qualitative research is primarily exploratory research. It's used to discover reasons, opinions, and motivations and provides insights into the overall problem. Qualitative research is also used to uncover trends in thought and opinion.
Quantitative research is used to quantify the problem by way of generating numerical data that can be formatted into usable statistics. It is used to quantify attitude, opinion, behavior, and other defined variables and generalize results from a larger sample population. Quantitative research uses measurable data to formulate facts and uncover patterns in research.
If possible, I'll look into the client’s existing brand identity and their existing collateral such as reports, stationary and website.
Logo Sketches & Brainstorming
Every great logo design process starts with a sketch. Whether it's a doodle on a napkin or a carefully crafted pen illustration, every project starts on paper.
Mood boards and Reference Imagery
Mood boards and reference imagery are collected from the start, occasionally with assistance from the client who has sent over images that portray the look or feel of what they want communicating in the logo design. It can be hard to describe themes or colors in words, so I recommend the client send over some visual inspiration if they can.
Quick Sketches and Basic Forms
From the very first sketch in the notepad, there may be visual iconography or shapes that are appealing, and worthy of development. At this stage, I may move to grid paper or dotted paper, re-drawing and enlarging the original design, and refining with a pen for the next step.
Refining the Logo with Grid-lines
Further development of the logo sketches may take the form of grids and lines being drawn to balance and align things correctly. Even organic shapes can be improved with a constructed grid, so the logo mark could potentially sit alongside the logotype.
Although conceptualization can be defined as ’the forming of a concept’, at this point in the logo design process for clients it's more a case of refining an idea further by using the computer. The idea is given a new viewpoint when it can be viewed on a screen allowing me to observe any immediate concerns that may have been overlooked in the sketch.
Creating Digital Versions of the Sketchbook
Working either with a scanner or recreating manually in Adobe Illustrator, the primary forms will be digitally constructed. Having digital versions allows for quick amendments, adjustments and the ability to efficiently fine-tune the designs.
Exploration in Monotone
Before colors are applied to any design, consideration of the logo design process must be taken in monotone black and white shades. These are the extremes of color, light and tone. There are many poorly created logo designs where the designer did not worry about how the logo would look in black and white. Even though ‘fax’ as a medium is dying out, a great logo design must have the ability to look good in any format and in any output.
Creating a Logotype
Once I have some rough ideas to work with for the logo mark, I will start to think about how the company name will be represented through the logotype. I will have a general idea of the style of typeface, but finding the perfect font for the job involves browsing through an extensive font library. A stylistically font may be customized to fit the needs of the project which can further create a unique quality to the Brand, but also add to the costs involved.
Pulling it all together
Once there are a handful of typefaces that are appropriate to the brand, I will explore how they look side-by-side with the logo mark symbols created previously. Several chosen color palettes will be integrated into the design, to see what feels like the strongest approach. This part of the logo design process involves many comparison prints where they can be considered on one page.
Refinement & Client Presentation
The strongest logo concepts will be collated into a client presentation document and show how the logo looks on various background colors, at different scales and alongside some logo mock-ups, such as a rendering of the design on products. This helps you to visualize the logo in a ‘real world’ setting, rather than just central on a page.
Color Theme Exploration
Other alternative color schemes may be presented to help visualize the potential of the concept. Color is very subjective, and a simple shift of hue can make the world of difference.
Consideration of how the logo may be used in the future is taken so it's timeless, rather than create issues or appear dated in just a few years.
Creating Digital Mock-ups
Showing how a concept could look in real life if were to be used on a shirt for example, can help you see the idea itself over the visual aesthetic.
Check out my post DESIGN RESOURCES: 6 PLACES TO DOWNLOAD HIGH-QUALITY FREE MOCK-UPS
Logo Design Presentation to Client
The initial logo design presentation is exported to a secure PDF format, allowing you to view on screen or print out. Printing is always recommended as the monitor may not show colors accurately, and the embedded print profiles allow for a more accurate representation. Each concept has its PDF, ranging from 5-10+ pages depending on the scope of the project.
Feedback & Consultation
I advise clients to at least spend a few days to a week, with the initial concepts, although first impressions are always worth noting. Print them out, stick them around the house or office and let the eye be drawn to them randomly, as any real-life viewer may do when encountering the brand. Get feedback from trusted friends and family, including any current employees who of course will understand the brand through their involvement. Even if there are mixed opinions, all are valid and provide direction that allows improvement anything that may be needed. After that, a meeting can be arranged, or feedback can be provided via email to move forward. Occasionally, I will have more questions at this stage for further feedback.
Discuss Logo Concepts with Client
I will spend some time discussing the concepts with you for feedback for any uncertainties or questions that need clarifying. All part of the design process!
Advise and Provide Guidance on Selection
When initial concepts are presented I should have a view on the strongest idea from the start, and showing you these qualities of the design is often part of the discussion.
Discuss Potential Developments the Client would like to see
Development varies considerably between projects, but overall, it is easier to develop the aesthetic side as supposed to the conceptual. Aspects such as an alternate color scheme or typeface can change the look, but the significance or meaning of a logo is much harder to modify.
Based on the feedback and discussion, I will look into developing and tweaking a chosen concept. This may be minor changes to the color theme, looking at different layouts, or presenting some alternative typefaces for consideration. Usually only one or two development cycles are needed, as it comes down to a color or style element.
Completed Graphic Design Presentation
Similar to the initial concepts presentation this stage involves a more focused approach, where one concept has been fully fleshed out. Further mock-ups and realized stationery or business cards could be presented as the next step.
To create a presentation without the use of mock-ups, view my post THE BEST PHOTOGRAPHY TECHNIQUES FOR SHOWCASING YOUR WORK
Expansion of Brand Collateral
Once the final logo design has been signed off, we can move to expand the logo onto the further branding process steps. Usually the next step is the company stationary. Everything from the letterheads to the business cards or marketing materials can be created.
Create Brand Collateral
Based on the physical location of the client, consideration has to be made of the local stationery dimensions. A letterhead to a UK printer is very much different to that of a US-based printer. Stationery is based on the Final Logo Design.
Expand the Branding onto Social Media
From the social network profile images to the banners and headers, current dimensions are used to ensure everything looks perfect for the brand identity.
Provide any Further Brand Collateral Required (Signage, etc.)
This step in the design process is always unique, as not every business would need external signage. If you run a gym you may need billboards or posters, or if you run an earthworks business you may need shirts.
Final Files, Delivery & Support
Logos are created in Adobe Illustrator, in vector form and can be exported to any format required. The standard files consist of;
.AI (for future editing if desired)
.EPS / .PDF (for printing)
.JPEG (for viewing)
.PNG (with a transparent background for web use)
The vector file formats allow for the maximum range of output because you can scale the size without a loss of quality or sharpness. This means that the same logo design that looks great on a business card will also look perfect on a billboard.
Export all Final Files
The final files for a project will be neatly arranged so that the files are clear where they are to be used. All the appropriate formats and layouts are included, along with monotone black and white versions for varied usage backgrounds. If there is any layout design such as brochures or marketing flyers, files will be packaged in InDesign to include the images and fonts used, where applicable.
Create Brand Guidelines Document
Brand Guidelines are just the rules of how the brand is to be presented to the world. They can be passed along to a web developer who can see the exact color values quickly to be used on the website, and what fonts are to be utilized in the content. Similarly, these guidelines can be sent to a printer to ensure maximum accuracy when the documents are printed, through Pantone color values.
Send ZIP to Client
Everything is zipped up and emailed to you and any additional employees that may need access to the original files. The ZIP file is permanently archived into Dropbox, allowing you to have a backup in case the designs are misplaced.
Ensure Client understands all Final Files and give Usage Instructions
I want to make sure you know how to use the designs so I'll be available to answer any questions you might have at any point in the future.
Every project is unique and that is one of the most enjoyable parts of being a Graphic Designer. Not every project will pass through each step above depending on the needs and budget of the client. For example, if you are just looking for a professional logo design for your startup, it may not be sensible to allocate significant budget into further branding process steps. Market research may already be completed which can be passed on to me so I can proceed to the next step in the process.
The above design process for logos and branding can be used as a template to work from if you wished to create your own brand identity, although I do advise working with an expert.
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