Designers are craftsman. But we answer to a higher level. Unlike other types of craftsman, we don’t make one final product. (or shouldn’t anyway…) The really good work takes years of experience, knowledge of who we are designing for, discovering the purpose of the design, and experimentation. Yes, I said it. Experimentation. We are a blend of artists and scientists…
Steps To Achieve Effective Professional Design:
1. Gather Background Business Information
2. Begin with Base Concepts
3. Expand Out and Be Creative
4. Polish Designs and Deliver
We make lists, we draw sketches, we go off on tangents from existing ideas to explode into new realms. The first idea is never the best, in fact it totally sucks, and that’s a fact. There is a process to designing effectively. It doesn’t include throwing the first thing we think “might” work on the computer and spitting it out on your desk. In fact I typically make up to 10 versions of a design before I even show a client the first proof.
(You’re going to get to see the usually hidden side of design on this post, all the gritty half baked ideas, all the unpolished concepts, YOU LUCKY DOG YOU!)
There’s usually up to 9 more versions of said project at various levels of completion and quality on my hard-drive, and maybe even more in my sketchbook. I work hard to provide the highest quality work that I can, to best serve my clients.
The Elements and Principles of Design power my work. I don’t push the “random design button” and send it off for proofing. I actually utilize each of these to maximize quality and ensure a solidly professional-grade project.
Elements: Line, Shape, Space, Texture, Value, Color, and Direction.
Principles: Balance, Proportion, Rhythm, Emphasis, and Unity.
These can be actual or metaphorical (an actual line vs. a symbolic line of images or elements on a page), and all of the elements should interact gracefully with each other for the project to be successful as a whole. Elements interact with each other via the principles.
Like I have written before, Design is Psychology.
There’s an awful lot to think about!
But I’ll save that for another article. I’d like to showcase an actual brand project I have done to explain my process and how in depth design can get.
THE BUCKWHEATER DISTRICT LOGO DESIGN PROJECT
I was contacted by a young man in Malaysia to design the face of his new business.
The Logo to be the foundation of his brand.
Now I could have just made the first thing off the top of my head and sent it off for approval.
BUT THIS IS THE FACE OF A BUSINESS.
With no thought or backbone behind what I design, how can it have any amount of positive affect?
I respect those I work with enough to find out about what they are doing and who they are targeting so that I can design to hit the mark and actually improve their business by attracting their most sought after clientele.
PROFESSIONAL LOGO DESIGN STEP 1
GATHER BUSINESS BACKGROUND INFORMATION
I have a questionnaire I send clients to answer and send back to me. This helps lay a foundation of what we are trying to accomplish and how to get there. A framework for success if you will.
Here are some stats I received:
Business: Local apparel company focusing on T-shirt designs.
Target Market: Males 16-35 years old, but not neglecting or turning off female customers
Logo/Branding Usage: Website, Social Media (Facebook/Twitter), T-Shirt designs (obviously), Vinyl Decals, & Stickers
Now if we wanted to target females specifically, that is totally different than males. They don’t go for the tanks, off-road vehicles, extreme sports, fire, explosions, and whatnot as well as we do.
It would require a different strategy.
Designing for small print usages such as vinyl decals, stickers, and small T-shirt prints/embroidery means the logo has to be legible at those small sizes, and very simple. 19 colors is a no-no here. (though more acceptable for a web-only company) All of the merchandise would cost a fortune to produce, so looking out for my client I opted to go with a one color design.
I’m not a history guru, so I had to do a little background research on the country of Malaysia as well.
Here are some interesting facts I discovered via research:
Largest Flower (Rafflesia) – The largest flower in the world is native to Sabah, Malaysia.
Largest Leaf (Alocasia) – The largest leaf in the world is native to Sabah, Malaysia.
Longest King Cobra – In the entire world found in Malaysia, they have a massive amount of them as well.
Petronas Towers – Tallest buildings in the world (1998-2004) are in Malaysia.
Lowest Temperature 57.9 Fahrenheit – Recorded in Malaysia’s Capital. (14.4 Celsius)
Oldest Remains of Modern Man – Found in Borneo, Malaysia.
Largest Cave in the World (Clearwater Cave) – In Malaysia.
These facts would help me anchor my ideas for a design that would make sense in Malaysia.
Next we had to gather a collection of competitor’s logo designs and branding schemes. If I took all of the above into account, but designed a logo without looking into the competition we could have created something too similar to an existing design. Which leads to brand confusion and dilution. You want your customers to know your brand totally separate from your competitors.
PROFESSIONAL LOGO DESIGN STEP 2
BEGIN WITH BASE CONCEPTS
I took my lists of Target Market stats and my list of Malaysia Facts and sat down to sketch out some base concepts for an effective design. (Compiling a base to work in, what will make sense in Malaysia and work effectively against the competition)
Here’s some rapid fire ideas and sketches. The whole point is to get it out of your head and onto paper. These are rough ideas, it’s not required for them to be polished at this stage. We want to see if the overall concept will work or not.
(Client actually came to me before he had named his company, so these were some possible names I used to come up with compositions for designs)
PROFESSIONAL LOGO DESIGN STEP 3
EXPAND OUT AND BE CREATIVE
Next we refine sketches and choose the best ideas to take to the computer. We will then experiment in and around those base sketched ideas.
I ended up with:
7 – Base Concepts
51 – Typefaces (fonts)
24 – Versions (of final concept)
There’s a process of experimentation and exploration of ideas, then we rein it in and edit out the cream of the crop. Next we pit those ideas against each other to see which one wins. Sometimes the best idea is a hybrid of multiple ideas with iterative changes.
Here are the base concepts.
(These are the very first mockups of each concept. I later delve deeper into each one to see what a more finished and polished design comes out of these “diamonds in the rough”)
And here are the different typefaces (fonts) I started with (chosen from probably a few thousand, I had an idea of what would work based on our project specs and these were chosen for our usages), before editing them down to what worked best.
Each one expresses a different idea of what the brand might be or stand for.
If you multiply the base concepts (7) by the fonts (51) we end up with…
7 x 51 = 357
That’s 357 different logo concepts.
I obviously didn’t make that many digital logos, some concepts were edited out and dropped because of previous design experience. But that’s still a lot of ideas!
All in all I made 24 digital versions of the final concept of the logo.
Here is an idea of the process:
Below are some of the versions of each logo concept. You can see progression from the rough first ideas into a more finalized version of each one.
And finally…the concepts of the finished version!
First Concept – Final Concept – Polished Version
Of the Final Logo.
How I ended up with the finished Logo:
But how did this version go from that first concept to the final one? Progression. Running through ideas and pushing them to be more effective, and aligning everything to the brief. Some of the previous ones might seem like an acceptable logo, but in the end several would not work for specified usages and would compromise brand integrity. We don’t want that! We want our logo to work in every single format and medium we choose to use. So we don’t go with the first idea. We push it and grind it out from a shard of coal into a diamond.
Here is the work it took to get to the final logo.
23 versions of concept #7.
DISCLAIMER: The last section (the two rows directly above, containing 4 black logos and 4 white logos on red backgrounds) contains versions of the final concept. I’ll explain them a little more.
The last one on the top row is the basic one color version of the final logo.
Once we have nailed the design we move on to color.
The first one on the bottom row is what a 2 color print of the logo will look like.
It’s white on a red background.
2 color printing can save a lot of money over full 4/4 CMYK color for jobs that require a lot of copies. EX: Envelopes, Letterheads, T-shirts, Some Forms of Vinyl Decals, Stickers, etc
The second one on the bottom row is what the logo itself (white) will look like with a slight gradient for depth. This one is only applicable for full color printing (usually business cards, higher quality flyers/brochures/mailers) and any digital uses.
The third one on the bottom row is what the logo will look like displayed on a gradient background. Used again in full color printing and digital uses.
In Design, Eye Candy Comes Last
Colors and effects are some of the very last steps in logo design. This way we can ensure the design will work in all formats/mediums and is the best design compared to the others created during the project. It’s just eye candy. Or the “Sugar on Top” if you will.
It’s not the meat, and wont sustain an ineffective logo.
If you multiply those 357 logo concepts by an average of 10 versions per concept that’s…
357 x 10 = 3,570
Yes, 3,570 different logo concepts.
We haven’t even taken into account color, or multiple color combinations!
This can rapidly turn into tens/hundreds of thousands of concepts, or even into the millions.
PROFESSIONAL LOGO DESIGN STEP 4
POLISH DESIGNS AND DELIVER
This was the point that I added the eye candy (for appropriate uses) and polished up the final design before delivering to my client. (spacing of the lines on the left side of the B, proper proportion to letter-forms to cohesively hold the logo together, alignment, etc)
The brief also stated that the area in Malaysia the company operated in was very urban. The lines indicate progression and building of a new company in the industry and stand for a metaphor of the music in the urban areas. (think of the equalizer on your favorite music player)
Simple isn’t as easy as it sounds, folks.
Sure you can do it once and forget it, but will it really last and do anything substantial?
Is there any reason for it to stick in someone’s brain? You’re serious about your work, shouldn’t you be serious about your branding as well?
If you need some help branding, or re-branding your company let’s get in touch.
Or if you know someone who could benefit from working with me, drop me a line.
One Man Workhorse
Call: (806) 672-8997
Facebook: Octane Studios
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