An audio presentation on how to establish a productive workflow for independent logo design business owners as well as for anyone who is seeking to hire a logo designer. The logo questionnaire is a good starting point to establish communication, collaboration and a contractual agreement that will help both you and the client maintain clear objectives throughout the process.
What is a logo?
A symbol or design that identifies a brand. A symbol or emblem that acts as a trademark or a means of identification for an entity.
A logo is communication shorthand similar to an icon. The final resting place for any communication lies with the receiver much like a book or the spoken word. Try to avoid inkblot syndrome, much like an icon or symbol, communication should be clear and not open to endless interpretation although to a certain extent that can’t always be helped. When rules or convention are broken people become disoriented so they will search for the closest association they can find, always remain aware of associations and do a lot of research. Common associations, especially to color are often hardwired in the brain and are not easily disassociated. Simple is best, the goal should be to take away as much as possible while still communicating the essence of the ‘brand’ to the target audience. Even if the logo is for establishing a name only, keep it readable and not too abstract.
The good old days.
A logo must be scalable and versatile and be able to function across many applications serving the client in the present and the future. For better or worse the internet and not print imposes most of the standards for logo design today and even if your client has no desire for a digital presence it will likely be unavoidable. When it comes to precious ‘real estate’ it either works or it doesn’t so be sure to demonstrate scalability and versatility in numerous applications from devices to clothing.
A logo must communicate primarily to the target audience.
What a logo is not.
A logo is not art. No one will be contemplating, meditating on or reaching a higher level of consciousness as with art. If they have to search for ‘meaning’ or ‘essence’ a logo designer likely didn’t communicate iconic shorthand effectively.
A logo is not very personal even if reaching a certain amount of historic or iconic appreciation. It is usually not tactile except when placed on clothing. It is one of the least personal forms of commercial art but one of the most necessary. For this reason many designers choose other avenues of graphic design where they can express themselves more creatively with far fewer restrictions.
You do have to consider that a business does consider their logo to be a part of their identity much like their ‘baby’ but again as with most communication the resting place of the ‘brand’ lies with the audience who receives it and it is up to them (and the logo designer) whether it hits the mark or not. A business can’t conform to a logo and the truer the representation from the start the better. If possible and you are part of the entire branding process draw conclusions organically from the target consumer/audience.
Celebrity logo design
A celebrated logo style such as sign painter, victorian, retro etc. Sometimes a client has a strong association with a specific style and may be looking for this type of logo design specialization as opposed to general logo design. Logo designers who approach design as a specialty usually only work in this one style but still have to conform to function as with other logo design. This type of logo design usually has a much higher price point. If the style isn’t appropriate for the objective be sure your client understands that even if the style is ‘trending’ as some styles can have a very short shelf life.
Establishing The Workflow For Designers and Clients – Audio Presentation
The logo questionnaire that you will find most helpful, feel free to download and modify for your own business.
Avoid work for hire ‘designer sites’ like Fiverr. Never work for free. As a beginner you may feel you have to find work on the ‘designer for hire’ sites. This workflow establishment outline will help you avoid the pitfalls often encountered on these sites. You may often get asked to submit a few designs for the potential ‘client’ to see if they want to hire you or not. This is just one red flag that I forgot to mention in the audio and very often you will not get hired but will simply providing work for free. Your samples or portfolio are ample evidence of what you are capable of achieving. It is often more beneficial to establish a presence in your own community, find an office space even if only for a year or two. A storefront is great as locals will enjoy stopping in just to see what you are about and will help advertise for you. You will likely gain more clients in your local community rather than from across the world. Consider the nearest cities as your local community and find ways to build a presence.
Points to consider:
Establish the workflow as clearly and concisely as you can and while it is not likely that the client will speak your language it is up to you to ensure they clarify their desires in the questionnaire and during the submissions as no one is a mind reader but with experience you can learn to pick up patterns in their thought process that gain a hierarchy of importance as shown by the examples they present and how they describe their desires in the questionnaire. Even if the styles they present aren’t suitable for their audience and most won’t be, if you see a pattern that will work in the final design they’ll be appreciative if you include it. Repeated squares or ovals, always cursive fonts for example.
Long descriptions in the final part of the questionnaire usually mean they have a strong desire for a specific look, be sure that is something you can accomplish in a logo before making any commitments. Answers that are too vague as explained in the audio (“I’ll know it when I see it”) usually mean they are seeking something you can’t provide like emotional, personal gratification, a business consultation or even expecting work for no gain. Every business has some idea of the image they would like to project, it is part of your job to help them communicate that to you before any work begins.
The submission phase
During the submission phase adjectives or descriptive phrases usually mean they are excited to see their business taking shape so don’t take them too seriously. Redirect to constructive criticism, “what do you like about this type/font, shape or element or why is number one your favorite” etc. and make a note of it if revisions become necessary. As with the questionnaire you want clarity and definition in constructive terms that will enable you to avoid guessing. If there is a conflict with the objective that is clearly inappropriate (a change to a grunge font for a law firm for example) you are ethically obligated to point that out and then redirect to a more suitable compromise. Most conflicts like this should be avoided via the questionnaire beforehand (researching the competition or arena) and usually might arise during the color choice phase but even then you are advised to demonstrate strong associations. You can only give your best advice and steer toward the better choice but not enforce it. The worst that can happen to you is that the logo won’t end up in your portfolio; the client has to live with the unintended consequence but usually they will appreciate your direction.
I generally submit three designs and one revision of those designs, working toward strong clarification to eliminate multiple revisions. If the client isn’t satisfied with any of the three I almost always supply three more and one more revision as long as the objective is able to be reached. Unbeknownst to them at that point there are usually at least 40-50 or more designs that have been worked through to reach submission quality. If you work for an hourly fee or some other arrangement ensure the client is aware of the approx. final cost as well as the time involved. Avoid multiple meetings but try to include the client in the process. More meetings will be required as you begin the color phase and at that point I also usually supply three colors and/or palettes to their final chosen design but I always try to present in ‘threes’ allowing for choice but not confusion and avoiding inability to make a decision. All choices are always appropriate toward the end objective.
Establishing a smooth workflow from the start and maintaining it throughout the work process helps both you and your client maintain standards while keeping focused on the end objective, communicating to the target audience and giving the client a functional design that will serve them well in all applications. No one wants any surprises months or years after the work is done, this guide helps ensure a smooth process from the start helping both both business owners succeed.