A logo is one of the most important aspects of your company. It’s a symbol of your business that becomes the graphic icons of your brand connecting your message and mission to your potential client or customer.
Think about your favorite restaurant or brand. How are they different from others? Would you know who they were based on the logo alone? Probably not. Let’s take a look at the logo design process, and dive into what it takes to create a logo.
Creating a Logo
Creating a logo isn’t like assembling a coffee table from IKEA where you have a definitive set of steps. Which is why it is so important to work with a professional designer. However, understanding the process will help you work with your designer to create a logo that works for your business.
Each designer will work a little differently and should lay out their process in a set of guidelines to ensure that you don’t miss any important pieces while working with them. Additionally, different businesses may bring the designer into the logo creation process at different points. Some businesses may have a general idea of what they want while others will start from scratch with no ideas. Either way, the goal of the end product is a design that encompasses your business vision. You want a symbol that symbolizes your company in a way that makes you proud, differentiates you from your competition, and most importantly, speaks to your target audience.
Steps to Creating and Designing a Logo
This outline is based on our internal processes for designing a logo. Your designer may work with a different structure, but the overall steps will be similar.
1: Determine the Brand.
Does your team have a firm understanding of your business goals, brand goals, and your target audience? That’s where we start. Design without intention is frivolous and will absolutely affect your bottom line.
Have a brainstorming session where you write down every place your logo will be used (from the sole of a shoe to the side of a building), and discuss the core elements of your brand. If you haven’t developed the backbone of your brand, your designer might be able to guide you through the process. However, this can be time-consuming for both the designer and the client. Additionally, not all designers are branding experts and not all businesses can afford a branding expert.
2: Develop a Concept.
Your logo concept must have a solid direction and not exist merely as a generic statement like ‘we need an image of a widget and it should be blue’. With a limited “concept” like that your designer is left with many unknowns and will be unable to deliver a quality logo for you. What widget? How does that widget connect to your mission and vision, or to your audience? What does the color blue mean to you, your company, your industry, and to the general public? What typography coincides with the image you want to portray?…. See? Lots of questions that hinder the design process.
In order to develop a valid concept, you and your designer can work together to brainstorm icons, letterforms, colors, and social associations that match your brand. The brainstorm and lead to the discovery of concepts for your logo. We quite often brainstorm with Pinterest. We use the boards for inspiration and to select elements targeted toward the audience and not solely based on the designer or your personal likes/dislikes.
Here are a few examples of logo concepts developed for our clients:
Murray-Brown Labs is a local food industry lab (they test food to ensure quality in every product – a fascinating learning experience for us!) After discussing their business model, their target audience, and the business goals, we came up with a concept focusing around local, community, customer service, and lab techs. We needed to design a logo that put the “human” factor into a very sterile business.
Inflow is a national inbound marketing firm. They were rebranding to clarify their shift from only SEO services to a full Inbound company. Once criteria for them was to in some way incorporate a feel of the old brand into the new to avoid alienating their current brand advocates. The concept for their logo was “fluid” they provide inbound marketing with a fluid process, they tie all marketing channels together effectively, and the water theme tied in with their previous brand.
Community Leadership Academy and Victory Prep Academy is a charter school organization that provides higher education for their community. The key concept behind their logo was presenting the ideas of community and leadership along with a goal towards higher education. Their full logo set is packed with symbolism and based on traditional collegiate shields.
3: Create Initial Design Comps.
Design “comps” is short for design comprehensives, which are full works ups of a logo for the client to review, provide feedback on, and select a final logo from. Behind the scenes, your designer probably started sketching ideas’ on a napkin (or a sketch app on their phone!)… and maybe even spent an hour or so dreaming up visuals while sipping coffee, petting their dog, shooting hoops, or any other “crazy artist” process that works for them. Once a visual that portrays the concept is discovered, the comps are worked up. Typically initial comps are presented in black and white and color applications and at various sizes.
A note on professionalism: you want the logo to be designed in Adobe Illustrator using vector images to ensure ease of access across all platforms and at any size. More information on that, here.
Once the comps are presented to the client, any necessary revisions are made. After the revision process, the final art is generated in all agreed-upon formats that include usage variations such as full mark, just the icon, just the letter mark, social media icon, etc. (This will vary for each client, as logo needs outside of the basic mark can be quite different for each company).
4: Publish a Graphics Standards Guide.
Once the final art is generated, a graphics standards guide will wrap up the process. This can be as simple as a two-page document that outlines how to use the logo, the approved color combinations, scaling, associated fonts, white space, and scaling. Or it can be as complex as a hundred-plus page document that outline every single approved application, variants in sizes, co-branding, internal uses, and more. It really just depends on your business needs as this guide is intended as a tool for the business owner and their marketing team.
Tips for Designing and Effective Logo
- Keep in mind that large detail will be lost when the logo is used for something small like an icon for a digital app or your social media profile icon. This might result in you requiring multiple versions of your logo for various applications.
- If you’re stuck in the design process, talk with a brand consultant to bounce ideas. They will help you examine it all from a different perspective.
- Find a designer you trust. You want input from the beginning on the colors, size, fonts, etc. and if your trust your designer, you will be able to easily communicate your ideas to them.
- Get a quote for your logo design before you begin the process. Every aspect of the design should have a cost analysis available for you.
- Once the job ends, make sure you get all of the logo files you need. There is no guarantee that your designer will keep the original files.
- If you’ve had a logo for a long time, don’t be afraid to change it. An entire rebranding may invigorate your business. If you didn’t go through the whole process, now could be the time to start over and build something amazing!
Logo Design FAQs
As I was writing this article, I had a few more “FAQs” that I wanted to include. I hope they help you further your understanding of the logo design process!
At what point in business development does having a logo become important?
First, comes the business, then comes the brand. We recommend having a clear business plan in place and then working on brand development. The further you are into the process of brand development, the more ideas you will have. As you move forward, your brand vision will become clearer, and you’ll be able to find a great logo that will stand the test of time. Remember that the logo is the symbol of your brand and the icon that people will visually associate with your company.
What should I choose for my logo?
It may be better to ask: “What do I want my logo to portray?” The first impression of your logo is the most powerful moment in the visual connection between your business and a potential customer or client. It is the key symbol of your company, and you want design elements that work for, and not against you. It is worth noting that this is the one place where we strongly recommend professionally designed over DIY.
Other things to consider are who are you targeting and where is your secondary audience? Knowing your audience is truly the key to success. Your secondary audiences are those who are associated with your brand. You want them to feel comfortable standing with you and your company’s design. This could be vendors, power partners, or other networking connections.
Once you have your brand and create your logo, a web design (or redesign) is probably next on your list as the first implementation of your new brand icon. Find out how to choose the best web designer for your web project.