Phase 1: Client discovery
A great logo is an expression of the company values, culture and people. Think of it as an employee whose main job is to be distinctive and represent the company in the best possible way. What would he look like? How would he feel like? Is he a boss or the guy next door? Is he loud and cheerful or wise and calm?
You cannot answer questions like these without making wrong assumptions.
That’s why professionals kick-off logo design projects with some good, quality conversations with the client. They aim to learn as much as possible about the company culture, values and the way they do business, and then inject that message into the logo design.
Phase 2: Industry discovery
who is the logo for (the audience)
Knowing the audience will give you some clues as to where you need to take the logo, style wise. For example, if you’re working for a teenage market, you’ll probably need something mainstream, loud and catchy. But if your teenagers are wunderkinds who dig computer programming, you may need to think harder.
That’s why you need to ask about the customers — who are they, where they live, what they buy, how they dress. The more you know about these target audience, the easier it will be for you to create a logo they can fall in love with.
The second, and perhaps more important part of this process is researching your competition. You need to see who else is out there and how their logos look, so you avoid doing something similar, or worse — doing something identical. Remember, your work has to set your company apart from everybody else.
Phase 3: Application discovery
This phase is about answering one simple question: how and where will the logo be used most of the time? Different usage of the logo is typically referred to as “logo application.”
This is really essential for the logo design process because it tells the designer what can and cannot be done from a design point of view.
For example, airline companies demand a very specific type of logo application, where a logo has to be placed on the tail fin of the airplane. That is a very tall and narrow space to work with, so designers will have to avoid ideas that do not fit there, or develop separate graphics that will be used for that purpose.
Another example are web-based companies, who do most of their business online. In this case, designers might decide to use full RGB spectrum for the logo, because digital devices have no problems with that and it might help the logo stand out. On the other hand, this would be a very bad choice for a company who does business offline and has to print a lot of stuff.
For this reason, always think carefully about where their logo will be used most of the time, so you don’t waste time on ideas that cannot be executed in practice.
Phase 4: Sketching (a lot)
Did you know that some design schools ask the students to come up with exactly 100 ideas before they decide on the right one? The reason is simple — the only way to separate the good from the bad is to have a lot of things to pick from.
Because of this simple truth, professional identity designers usually sketch dozens of logo ideas during the brainstorming phase, then pick only a handful to present to the client.
Never get fooled by thinking your first ideas are your best.
Sketch, then sketch some more, so you can really separate the wheat from the chaff.
That’s how professionals do it.
Phase 5: Draft designs
After you’re done with the sketching process, pick 5-7 of your best ideas and create some initial designs in Illustrator or other vector based apps. As a reminder, the best ideas are not the nicest looking ones or the safe ones which look like everything else out there
Create some quick designs in black and white, then have an initial review. Don’t bother with adding color and detail — keeping things simple will put the focus on the ideas themselves instead of tiny details, which is much more desirable at this stage.
Your main objective is to get feedback on your rough ideas and identify the ones that need to be refined.
# Phase 6: Refinement
The refinement stage is the longest one because it involves a lot of back and forth regarding the improvements and changes for the presented logo drafts.
Sometimes one idea is pocked for refinement — sometimes two or three will be picked in parallel just to see where they go.
But here’s where the fun happens.
Colors, details and various bells and whistles are added, changed and thrown away during logo refinement stage. Various application mockups are developed to see how the logo will perform in different situations — sometimes a logo detail on paper doesn’t really work well on a building.
Ultimately, the final logo is chosen, approved and prepared for identity development.
# Phase 7: Identity development
As you can imagine, a great logo is not the end but the beginning of a great brand identity.
Business stationery, signage, vehicle branding and many other communication tools have to be designed so they all send a unified brand message. Identity development makes that happen.
During this stage, all important logo applications are designed and standardized in a brand guidelines book, known simply as “brand book.”