Logo Design 101

 
 

It’s no secret that I am a sucker for the Olympics. I love how each event reminds us that with determination we can achieve great things…also gymnastics. As I watch these talented athletes, they make everything look so simple. But, of course, I know that countless hours of practice have gone into making their achievements seem effortless.

Just like a perfectly executed back handspring double tuck, an effective logo seems simple but is actually the result of a very detailed process. As a designer, my process is what allows me to create unique designs again and again, and deliver them to my clients on time. 

This post will teach you the 5 aspects of an effective logo and give you an overview of my logo design process. Over the following weeks I will be adding detailed posts about each step in this process and sharing the strategies I use for each step.


What is a Logo?

The first, and often forgotten, step in the logo design process is to understand what a logo is. Paul Rand, an influential designer responsible for many iconic logos, said that:

“A logo doesn’t sell, it identifies. A logo is rarely a description of a business. A logo derives its meaning from the quality of the thing it symbolizes, not the other way around. A logo is less important than the product it signifies; what it means is more important than what it looks like."

What he meant is that a logo is how we identify an individual business out of a sea of other businesses. Over time, as the business gains the trust and loyalty of its customers, the logo itself will come to inspire trust and loyalty. Rand also believes that a logo ought to be symbolic. It is not necessary for a photographers logo to include a camera or a hairdressers logo to include scissors.


What makes a good logo?

A good logo has 5 key characteristics. It is simple, memorable, timeless, versatile, and appropriate. When a logo has these 5 characteristics it will convey the intended message of the business it represents.

 
My Logo Design Process

Phase 1: The Creative Brief

The first and most important part of any logo design project is the Creative Brief. A Creative Brief is a document that details specific goals and requirements, and incorporates market research, client questionnaire responses, and inspiration images. The purpose of a creative brief is to ensure that the designer and client are on the same page before any designing begins.

How to write a great Client Questionnaire >
How mood boards make you a better designer >
Design Inspiration Roundup >
How to write a Creative Brief >


Phase 2: Sketches & Initial Design

After the client has signed off on the creative brief, I move on to sketching initial logo designs. This is the longest stage of the process and it is where all the magic happens. At this stage it is important to sketch many different options and not become attached to any one design. Check out my full post on this step to learn about my tried and true logo design strategies.
 
Create clever logo concepts with this secret weapon >
 

Phase 3: Refinements

After I have settled on 3-5 initial concepts, I present them to the client and discuss which direction they want to pursue. Then I will go through several rounds of refinements until the client is satisfied with the final logo.
 

Phase 4: Develop Secondary Logos

Once I have finalized a clients primary logo, I like to design several smaller alternate logos. Alternate logos are great in places where the full logo may be too large or formal such as: email signatures, stamps/stickers, favicons, social media profiles, etc.

When designing secondary logos look for elements in the primary logo that could stand on their own, or you can stylize one of the businesses initials. Try to avoid introducing new colors or symbols in the secondary logos; they should harmonize with the primary logo.
 

Bonus: Presenting Logos to Clients

One of the most overlooked aspects of design is how to effectively present designs to clients. At the end of the day, there are lots of aspects of design that are subjective and as a designer it is your job to "sell" your designs in a way that inspires confidence and trust.

This means that your presentation must be designed, and you must steer the conversation in a productive direction. If you email some sloppy proofs to your client along with the question "What do you think?" you will be pulling your hair out as they ask for revision after revision after revision. 

Making presentations to clients is a skill that all designers struggle with. In this bonus lesson I will share some tried and true strategies for nailing your presentations every time!

 
 
 
 



Do you follow a similar design process? Let me know in the comments! 
 


 
 

Patricia O'Connor

Patricia & Co. Design, San Francisco, CA 94109