I often get asked what the difference is between a brand and a logo so I thought it would be useful to share the creative process I go through to design a logo. This process remains the same whether I’m working with large or small businesses. I have considered the following points whilst working with big brands such as First Direct and creating smaller sub-brands for businesses such as Taylors of Harrogate and Dorma.
The following summary is what you need to know before creating your logo, whether you’re starting from scratch or would like to refresh your current one.
Isn’t a brand just a logo?
A logo is just one element of your brand that translates your brand truth visually. The power of a logo evokes an emotional response, which can have a huge effect on the way customers and prospects view your product, service or company.
A powerful logo may look simple but there’s nothing simple about creating effective brands.
Most well known logos you see will have gone through a vigorous process similar to the 10 steps I outline below.
- Start with a brand strategy
Without a solid brand strategy your brand is built on pure guesswork.
A brand strategy is the blueprint for your business and is based on research, insights and intuition. Insights are achieved through collating and interpreting research about your marketplace, competitors and target market. Insight is more about the gut feeling and experience of the strategist and how long they’ve been creating brands.
The positioning of your brand is finding that special thing about your business that will set you apart and make your story be understood.
Strategies are crucial because they provide direction and give your brand purpose.
- The creative brief
A creative brief needs to encapsulate the brand strategy, but should always be pithy. Designers don’t want to be reading through pages of research.
I create a condensed brand model; a one pager for designers to understand clearly:
- the brand goal
- key insights
- brand truth
- personality and values.
It’s essential your brief is clear and that you talk it through with the designer. A brainstorm session can benefit all parties so everyone’s on the same page.
- Translating the brief
Translating the brief in creative terms is often achieved by creating a style board. What fonts and colours work for the brand personality? Does the font need to look fun or to be taken more seriously?
A good starting point is to gather imagery and research other brands across different sectors that align with yours. This is a great way to see your brand come to life and set the brand style.
Be aware of trends, but never be sidetracked by them. Your brand identity needs to visually communicate what your brand promise is and needs to appeal to your target market.
- Design considerations
It’s crucial you consider the usage of the logo. Consider how it will look in print, web and social channels. Can it flex in black and white? Does it need to be screen printed and how will it look on your social profiles?
Not only do you have to consider the usage of the logo, but the longevity of it. As the brand grows, ask yourself: will the logo still work? Can it be tweaked whilst still remaining true to the brand?
Does the new logo need to work with any other logos (sub brands) and is this logo the master brand? This is known as brand architecture and is key in your design considerations.
Finally, you’ll need to consider if the brand needs to carry the any trademark symbols and how will that work with the design.
- Creative research
Before the creative team starts it’s good to look at what your competitor logos look like. It’s pointless doing all the research then creating a logo that looks similar to a competitors’.
Do your homework. Look what’s out there: what shapes do they use, fonts and colours?
Always work from your brand strategy. That’s what you’ve got to translate.
How we process information is fascinating and it’s fundamental that we consider the psychology of how a brand is perceived.
The logo shapes used by big brands aren’t chosen by chance. Our brains are hardwired to process shapes before colour and words, and our subconscious mind responds in different ways to different logo shapes, which can visually translate brand value.
- The creative process
Once you’ve gathered all the information the creative process starts with concepts. Some designers mockup straight to a Mac, others like to sketch out hand drawn scamps, but either works.
I like to work with my designers really closely; some I’ve worked with for over 20 years and we just know instinctively what we’re trying to communicate, others challenge me and suggest new routes I wouldn’t have thought of.
I love how designers think and push boundaries. It’s easy to get carried away with the creative process, which is why it’s always good to revisit the brief.
We often work up ten possible routes and whittle them down to the best 3, before further developing them.
At this stage it’s good to get the client’s thoughts to develop a chosen route and tweak accordingly.
- Client feedback
Design is very personal, so it’s always good to revisit the brand strategy and stick to a criteria to make the decision of which route to develop. Questions to ask are:
- Do I like the look of it? Does it make me feel proud?
- Does it communicate the brand proposition?
- How does it look next to my competitors? Does it stand out for the right reasons?
- What personality and values do I feel when I look at it?
- Is it memorable?
- Will it work across multi-channel?
- Will it date or does it follow a trend?
- The final masterpiece
I ask clients to sit with the choices for a few days so they can revisit them. It’s a big deal choosing your logo. Talk any concerns through with your brand strategist; be open and communicate in a clear way, but also listen to their feedback and advice.
Good designers and strategists would prefer going back to the drawing board than to compromise.
Tweaks are always necessary, even if you have to go back a stage. I always say you know when you see the right logo design for your business.
- After sign-off
After you’ve signed off on the logo make sure you receive the master artwork files – JPG, RGB, EPS, CMYK and colour references – HEX code, pantone and CMYK split.
Design a stellar logo for your business
If done correctly your brand logo should last with your brand and should only change if your services/products change or your target market.
If it’s just a case you want something new but the core of your business hasn’t changed I’d advise a brand refresh rather than a complete re-brand.
Investing in your business and doing the work upfront pays off. You won’t have to second guess and you will feel confident that you’re launching to the right people in the right way.
Your brand identity is so much more than just a logo; it communicates your image, develops a relationship with your clients and enables them to understand who you are and what you do at first sight.