Design & UX - - By Gordon Currie

The Inside Secrets of Logo Development: Part 1

For most web freelancers, it’s not uncommon for the phone to ring with that fateful question, “Hey, can you guys build me a new company logo?” And for most of us, we answer yes, hang up and then start to think, where do I start? In this article, I hope to share some “not so common” logo presentation secrets and making any logo development project a big success!

Having developed corporate logos for over 15 years, I soon found that coming up with some creative artwork was never a problem. It was the behind the scenes work that stumped myself until I started developing some surefire ways to impress the client, increase my income and most of all, learn the proper presentation skills to get more logo work and create true “value” to the client in the process.

Here are just a few basic techniques that worked for me:

Understand Your Logo Development Target Market.

If you are open to creating logos for pretty much anyone, you are bound to work cheap and work with a lot of tough clients. Sit down and draw up a list of potential clients who meet your criteria. When I started listing my target market a few years ago, I identified the following:

  • I wanted clients who could afford a $3000 – $5000 logo. If they couldn’t afford that, would I likely get some spinoff design work? How many clients can I find?
  • I wanted to present logo designs to small groups of people. Getting consensus from a group larger than 5-8 (like a board of directors) tended to amplify communication issues. Consensus is not a common word in boardrooms.
  • I specifically targeted clients who themselves understood their target market. For example, a logo for a Bridal shop (that services 95% female clients) was easier to design and pitch when we understood who was going to see it.
  • If I got any sense that they had a “limited budget” or were not prepared to even negotiate on price, I would politely step away. Don’t for a minute think that you will get every single project you bid. If you are not getting at least 45%-65% of the contracts you bid, then re-evaluate the types of jobs you are bidding. That’s a loaded comment and undoubtedly some people will disagree with this. But rarely do we look back at our sales processes and our own pre-qualifying skills and review. It’s easier to blame the prospective client. Time to be honest folks!

“The More Information You Can Get From the Client the Better” Rings True With all Clients.

Starting out, I always made sure I provided clients with a short questionnaire asking specifics about what exactly they had in mind. What logo examples had they seen that they liked? What words or phrases did they want to illicit from a new logo? How would that logo be used? I found a simple 2 pager stimulated thought and supported the client in getting the creative juices going.

Research the Industry Before Quoting.

Check competitors’ and typical logos one expects to see for a client’s business. This is where I started to deviate from traditional research. Finding out how a company was funded, or researching what value this logo would bring financially helped set my prices. Having built logos from $500 to $12,000 USD, I needed to know intimate details on what expectations the clients had.

Some clients would ask for a $500 logo representing a company worth easily $20-$40 million. Not knowing what work is required, many clients needed to be educated on how the logo would be printed or used. This initial educational component was critical to getting a good price. My experience and my early discussions with clients before the fee was quoted always made the client comfortable and lowered the “shock value” if I responded with a quote for $3000 – $5000 for a logo. Or more!

Small Businesses Have Small Budgets.

It’s not that they don’t need an expensive logo, they just tend not to budget (or in 90% of the cases, really have no idea what a logo costs to develop). Any price more than $100 will shock many.

On the other hand promoting and pitching a professional logo to a medium to large company, or a funded organization (Federal Government, State/Provincial Government) was somewhat easier in that they appreciated and understood how a critical a logo can be and tend to budget more. The group I found challenging in some cases were non-profit multinational companies. They can run expenses that easily cover 20-40% of what they bring in ( depending on the group). My experience has been that you really need to work slowly with these groups and ensure you are talking to the key decision makers.

Never Sell a Logo Based on Price.

I focused 100% on the value to the client. It simply does not make sense to try a compete with a dozen others bidding the logo based on $$$. In many cases, after bidding projects and winning many of them, I was advised my price was significantly higher than others. Enough it drew attention to my proposal. It was easy to sit down then and say, “that $600 dollar logo proposal from my competitor simply doesn’t make sense when you consider it’s going to represent your $25 million in revenue a year company, Mr./Ms. Client!”

In terms of advanced techniques to promoting logo development, I literally tested hundreds of presentation styles and tips that generated a great deal of income for my company. I have positioned my firm as a company who “understood the client’s needs.”

Here are some examples:

Present in Odd Numbers

When presenting preliminary Logo designs, always present an odd number. Never present an even number of choices as most clients subliminally need to make their own choices. Choices they may not be aware of. If, for example, you present 5 choices, most people will view them all and then flag the odd logo out. It will be easier to say, “boy, I like #2, #3 but definitely don’t like #5”. My experience in watching people presented with 4 or six examples was they had to pick odd or even. Black or white. Their mind chugged along trying to identify what was the best choice. With an odd number presented, it made it easier to throw out the choices they didn’t like. Try this sometime as you will be amazed how often this works.

Use the Bad to Highlight the Good

In addition to the above point on presenting odd number of logos, don’t be afraid to throw in a horrible logo. Something that most people would shy away from. Again, it’s that negative choice that reinforces the “right” logo choice and reaffirms they are on the right track. Now it’s important to consider that some clients will surprise you and pick the horrible logo. At that point it’s acceptable to feign a heart condition or slip and fall into the elevator shaft! Just be prepared.

Always Use Full Color

It always goes without saying, present all logos in full color, EVEN if the client has not settled on the colors. In reviewing over 30% of the logo presentations I made in the last 10 years, almost half the people competing with me in Canada and the US pitched non-color versions of the logo. Big mistake. Take nothing for granted.

Establish Your Revision System

About 25-35% of the clients I developed logos for changed their minds and actually went back to an old logo version, 1-2 revisions prior to the one I was presently providing. The important point here is to ensure that you develop a coding system when naming files so you can go back and identify the version or “strength” the client liked in a specific example.

Be Firm but Flexible

When working with clients on specific changes during revisions. Ultimately, you want a client to pick a design that is professional and looks great. Never fall in love with your favorite as the designer, as it may not please the client. If the client makes a suggested change that is outrageous, then you need to consider their feelings when discussing this change. You are a professional and are promoting a professional logo at the “professional” price. You owe it to the client to make it clear that a particular change may simply not work and that you want to ensure that the logo you are producing will be 150%. In most cases, the client will rethink and you are always listening for that all important phrase..”Hey, you are the professional and I trust your judgment Mr./Ms. Logo Developer.” Its music to our ears!

Make Each Revision Count

Every revision should have a strength or key aspect that you can point out to the client. You need to be able to share a font change, color adjustment or change, position of a symbol etc. If you can get agreement (or disagreement), you are moving ahead. Turning around and submitting a whole new batch of logo ideas is “revision suicide”. The client will become confused and forget what they liked and didn’t. Much the same as getting lost on a website from a user experience perspective. We know when they are lost when their mouse gravitates toward the ominous back button.

From a financial perspective, it’s critical that you make certain things clear before you start on a logo.

  • The client owns the logo and is entitled to use the logo ONLY after you have been paid in full. Never, ever provide the final logos for use until financial arrangements are made. I always take a 50% deposit in advance and the balance as we finish up the logo designs.
  • Always provide the client with a list of exactly what format the logo files will come in, how many disks you will provide to them ( for distribution to their printers and sign shops) and a logo usage guide.
  • The Logo Usage Guide adds value to the project and many logo developers still do not provide this option. The Guide not only displays the logo in various forms (colors, grayscale, black and white) but also displays the proper fonts to use, the proper spacing and little tidbits like how small the logo can be reproduced.

On many occasions, I have commented to the client, “here is your official logo usage guide, please share this with marketing and the press/media staff.” They walk away holding onto this document, please with what the paid for and treating this new “mark or investment” like gold. Again….perceived VALUE vs what they paid.

In Part 2, we will discuss where to find color ideas for designing new logos as well as colors you want to avoid (due to the volume of people who are color blind). We will also cover the 6 Step Process to creating award winning logos and touch on the hardware/software we use to create logos. Following Part 2, we will look at providing a Case Study of one of our most recent logo design projects.

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