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  • David Houck

What goes into a logo design?

Starting a new business is exciting. It can also be incredibly confusing, and at times, scary. There are a lot of different aspects to figure out, an important one being your company's new logo. A proper logo design is essential in your company's branding, and can determine its overall level of success. It's oftentimes the first thing your target audience will see. Based on your logo, potential customers and clients will subconsciously (or in extreme cases, consciously) decide whether or not they want to work with you. A solid design builds trust and sets the overall tone of the relationship between your business and your customers.

"Great, I need a logo. Now how do I get one?"

Well, that's the tricky part. A quick Google search will pull up dozens of websites with people claiming to design logos for as little as $5. What they're actually selling is plagiarized clip art in the wrong file format. With all of the options out there, it's vital for you to know what the actual logo design process should look like. Not only will this help you find the right design for your logo, more importantly, it will help you find the right designer.

Allow me to walk you through my own process when designing a logo for a client:

Step 1: Research

Research is essentially what separates a logo from a drawing. You may be able to find a local print shop offering to design a logo for $100, but oftentimes they charge so little because they're not doing the research required to produce a unique and effective logo. The amount of research a designer does can make or break a design.

I start out the design process by asking my client about their business. My goal is to find out as much as I can about the company to ensure the final design will be a good fit. I'll ask about their target audience, what separates them from their competition, and where they want to be in five years. It's important that the logo not only works for their business currently, but will still work for the business in a few years. I'll inquire what products they plan on displaying their logo on. Designs may translate differently on different products and surfaces, so it's important that the designer know where it will be used; whether just on a sign, or on packaging, websites, and business cards.

I'll also want to know about the company's backstory, how it was formed, and what makes it unique. I'm a firm believer that every business has a personality, and I like to bring out that personality in a logo design. My research will continue into the company's competition, as well as its current market. I want to ensure the design will be unique enough to distinguish itself from competing brands.

This beginning phase is typically where the client will also communicate any ideas they have for the design. Now I must warn, this can be tricky. Information like colors and styles that the client does or doesn't like is incredibly helpful, however sometimes a client will have a specific design in mind for the final logo. Unfortunately, designs in your head don't always translate well in the physical form. Trust me, even as a designer, I'm constantly coming up with ideas that just don't look good once on paper. It's a part of the process! The key thing to understand is that working with a designer is a two-way relationship. The designer wants to produce an effective logo that matches the client's company, and the client is hiring the designer because they don't have the necessary skills and experience to create an effective design.

If you have a specific design in mind, you should feel free to communicate that to your designer! You should also understand that they will have the experience necessary to determine whether that design will be effective in building trust, and if it will translate well at different sizes and on different products.

Step 2: Mood Board

An example mood board.

Not all designers will do this step, but it can be incredibly useful in discovering a brand's identity. I have designed logos both with and without this step, but I've learned it can reduce the amount of designs and revisions that need to be done, saving both client and designer time and money.

A mood board is basically a collection of different design styles, fonts, colors, and textures. It can be incredible useful in visually communicating ideas between designer and client, as terms like "modern", "traditional", or "contemporary" might mean something different from one person to another.

The mood board isn't necessarily a blueprint for the logo's final design, but it can help determine the overall style and direction of the logo. It can also be a useful guide to the client later on when deciding on anything from a website or packaging, to interior decorations for the business itself.

Once created, I'll share the mood board with the client, and if they agree on the style choices and overall theme, I'll proceed to the next step.

Step 3: Initial Designs

A mockup showing a logo design in use.

Now the number of initial designs I present to the client will depend upon the agreement we made. When first discussing a project with a client, I will give them a close estimate to the project cost depending on complexity, number of initial designs, and number of revisions.

For example, my most basic logo package includes two initial designs followed by one round of revisions.

Using the research I've compiled as well as the mood board, I'll sketch and explore a multitude of design options. I will narrow them down as I go along, selecting the ones I feel are most suitable for the client's brand. Once I've reached the agreed amount of initial designs, I'll put together a presentation of the selected logos, showing each design individually as well as examples of them in use. I'll provide some notes on the options as well, explaining how each fits with the brand and company goals.

Step 4: Revisions

Once the client selects one of the presented designs, I'll proceed to doing any revisions needed based on the client's feedback. Again, the number of rounds of revisions is determined by the initial agreement, but the contract may be adjusted according to project need.

Step 5: Finalization

Once the design is approved, I will refine and finalize the logo, and put together a package of the logo in different file formats.

Different logo variations and file formats can be requested by the client, but at the very least I provide the following:

  • Vector-based files (Ai, EPS, PDF, or SVG). These files are scalable, meaning they can be seen clearly at any size without any pixelation.

  • Raster-based files (JPEG and PNG) for regular online use.

  • Full color version (if you have a color logo)

  • Full black version (this is useful for any black and white documents)

  • Full white version (useful against dark backgrounds)

I'll transfer the logo package to the client, and voila, the design process is complete!

As you can see, the process is (or at least, should be) and in-depth one, and is much more complicated than simply creating shapes and text on a computer. I hope this has helped you understand the logo design process a little better, and understand what you're actually paying for when you hire a designer. My final advice for anyone who may be looking for a logo is to understand that a logo is an investment. It is the face and first impression of your brand, so it is 100% worth it to hire someone who knows what they are doing. Be skeptical of any deals that seem to good to be true, because they probably are! But you also shouldn't have to go way out of your range. A good designer will understand your company's budget and work within those means if able.

If you're looking for a logo designer, you can check out my work. I'm a graphic designer in Fulton, NY specializing in logo & web design.

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