The Inside Secrets of Logo Development: Part 2By Gordon Currie
In Part 1 of The Inside Secrets of Logo Development, we talked about basic techniques on working with clients looking for a corporate logo and tips for bidding project work. We also discussed specific advanced techniques that help position you as an expert with clients and assist you in getting more money for your design work. We emphasized a focus on creating value vs. competing on price.
In Part 2, I want to focus on the what I believe are the key 6 steps to Logo Development. These are not carved in stone but have worked well for me. I will also present some additional opportunities to increase your income. Lastly, I will provide some background on the hardware and software I use to develop logos.
The 6 Step Process
Over the past 15 years of logo design, I started to see a success pattern in developing logos. This pattern could be distilled down to the following 6 steps;
The first step for me has always been the research phase of any logo project. As mentioned in part 1, providing the client with a questionnaire is a good start. You also want to be in listening mode and focus on what the client is looking for. Many will reveal a great deal of information while others may simply stare at you and ask “what do I want, you are the logo guy.”
It’s also a good time to ask the client HOW they plan to use the logo. Now that sounds like a simple question. Signs, letterhead, company stickers etc. But knowing, for instance, that they will be Swiss embroidering the logo on black coats is nice to know. Or adding the logo on the end of a long sleeve t-shirt. Certain fills and gradients on logos are very hard to display on embroidered clothing.
Another use that got me thinking recently, was displaying a company’s logo on backlit signage at a sports stadium. With illuminated signs, many sign shops use a particular vinyl that has some transparency. When the logos in signs are displayed and lit from behind, certain aspects can be lost. In addition to the above tip, knowing how far away a logo will be viewed is critical as well.
Document everything and make copious notes. Don’t just assume that everything will come easy. Rarely does this happen and many clients logo needs can be very complex.
We all love to be inspired and many days one can site at your desk and all you see is blank white space. Most good ideas don’t just pop into your head. In my case, I like to go online and look at other logos. It’s important that you don’t copy or steal ideas. We are talking inspiration. Most great logos will have a component that you might see incorporated in to some of your concept designs. I also have gone out and reviewed catalogs from high end fashion sites and home decor sites. If they are current, you will see color combinations that are new and in style. New automotive paint colors are also another place to look.
One tip I picked up years ago from a well known designer, was to go out, pick a magazine in a completely unrelated field and view the logos you see in ads. Sometimes with simple color changes, you can come up with a whole new look. I particularly enjoy visiting Travel websites when looking for logo colors for restaurant logos.
The key to inspiration is exploring places that you would never consider looking. Watch a horror movie and look for logo ideas. Go down to the museum in town and look at how certain logos appear. Make notes, sketches and take lots of pictures. If you carry a camera phone, snap away.
Play with Shapes and Objects
When I first started creating logos, I would draw them out on paper and then with my 500 lb scanner, scan them in and play with them on my computer. I was an original CorelDraw user and then eventually moved over to Adobe Illustrator (which I use today). The best part of vector drawing programs is some of the cool tools that you can use to create some wild shapes or objects.
In Illustrator, I routinely start with circles and ellipses and then position these over each other and cut away or hide components of the shapes. From there I can wrap some text around a shape or duplicate and rotate the shape to get some really cool designs. When working and teaching logo development in the past, I could create a symbol that to some appeared to be an aboriginal bird or figure. Some might see and eye or other symbolism. Of course I never intended that but you can see where I am going. Art doesn’t just happen. Good design can come from the simplest of shapes.
So the key message here is don’t always aim for complexity and certainly don’t go crazy with filters and goodies built into many design programs. Simple is sometimes the best way to proceed. In future case studies, I will provide a video showing how one might create some symbols with Illustrator tools like Pathfinder and the pen tools.
Many designers struggle with choosing typefaces in certain sizes and weights (referred to as a font) and will introduce them way to early in the process. Now typefaces can be the most important part of a logo, but when I am designing around images and shapes, I prefer to start with the symbols first. As I progress through the initial stages, I will then position maybe 5-7 font choices. The key for me is to not present to many choices along with the symbolic parts of the logo. Many clients will have trouble verbalizing what they like or don’t like and it may very well be a typeface issue.
Once I have developed some concept designs, I can then start to introduce fonts and experiment with placement, colors, spacing (kerning etc). Whatever you do, do NOT use text with the standard kerning and spacing. In many cases, it simply doesn’t look right. Play with it and try different layouts and formats. Experiment with upper and lower case.
Presentation & Revisions
When presenting logos, as mentioned in part 1 of this article series, I would present an odd number of examples. I don’t like to present more than 5 normally on a letter size page. You definitely want to have more than 1 on a page as clients memories can be very short. Play around with different colors. And don’t be afraid to point out to clients examples of complimentary colors (example: blue and orange).
As I progress through a series of revisions and such with the client, you will start getting very close to the final logo. I always figure when I am 90% there, I will throw in a couple examples of the logos mocked up as business cards, emblems on a golf shirt or letterhead designs. It takes all of 30-45 minutes. But it adds value and the client loves to see a sneak peek!
As you present different options and revisions to clients, it’s critical that you always identify a specific logo with a name or identifying number. Do not hand the client three pages of logos and expect to know what logo they are talking about when they email you back with “it’s the one on the left with the cool text.” I guarantee that you will want to throw yourself under a bus when you develop the wrong version and have to go back and fix it.
Many developers ask a very common question… how many revisions? That really depends but I always provide a range and try to guide the client. For example, I may provide 7 – 13 concept designs. Some clients absolutely fall in love with three of them. I will then proceed to Revision 1. After three to four revisions we can be very close. I have had some clients who requested 60 different concept designs and then 14-16 revisions. Yikes! This is where you need to go back and refer to your original quote. Did you plan for this possibility. Don’t make the mistake of working 100 hrs on a logo and billing for 30 hours. Sort of takes the fun out of logo development.
Once the client has contacted you and said, “Hey, we/I picked a logo we love and want to go with,” you can proceed to the completion stage. This means flushing out what versions of the logo they will need, burning some CD’s for them and assembling a Logo Usage Guide (if that was part of your quote).
When I develop the different versions of the files for client, I normally include the following directories with specific files:
- TIFF (high and low res)
- Vector (EPS / AI)
- Black & White
- PDF versions
- Color Guides (providing RGB, CMYK, Hex colors
- Font (fonts used in project – check licensing)
- Reversed (logo set against dark background
Special Note: I always provide vector files (AI or EPS) with a copy of the logo with fonts embedded and then a version with fonts converted to outlines. This makes a big different in a crunch when a print shop can’t or won’t install fonts used in the creation of the logo.
One last tip that I like to share with you in regards to delivering logos to clients. I always ask if I can contact the client’s sign shop or print shop and deliver a CD. This allows me to meet them, discuss any technical issues and also make them aware that I exist and build logos. These referrals can be worth thousands and are not to be ignored.
I have always enjoyed developing logos for clients, but I really enjoy following up and getting additional business in the form of letterhead or business card design, website projects incorporating the new logo, sign work and more. It just makes sense that a happy client with a new logo will require all of this. Given the above, it also doesn’t hurt to pre-warn the client that with a new logo will come some new branding and promotional costs. Most understand that but it doesn’t hurt to mention, as it promotes your professionalism as a logo developer.
Tools to Develop A World Class Logo
Over the years I have sketched logos in a variety of programs. My current setup has Adobe Creative Suite which includes Adobe Illustrator. I pretty much design all logos in Illustratorand use my trusty HP Scanjet for digitizing concept ideas written on napkins or paper.
A few years back I invested in a WACOM Intuos 3 digital tablet (13 x 19 size). This revolutionized the designs and cut down the design time for me. Drawing with a digital pen is so natural to me that it would be hard to build a logo without one. You will get to LOVE a pressure sensitive tablet!
In Part 3, I will present some examples and case studies of some logos I developed (with graphics) to give you a better idea how I develop award winning logos. All the best till next time!