I recently reconnected with Amy, an old high school friend who’s now a photographer in Arizona, and had the opportunity to redesign her logo. Logo design is one of the most challenging (and exciting) things I get to do as a graphic designer. Now that the job is finished, I thought I’d go through and discuss my process.
Every designer I’ve talked with has their own methodology when it comes to logo design, so the way I do things doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for me.
I begin by trying to get a feel for the personality of both the business and the business owner, and that involves a lot of conversation. In some ways, this particular job was easier because I had history with the client—we went to school together. That said, we hadn’t seen or spoken with one another for almost 20 years, and people can (and do!) change a lot in that time. So we had a long conversation in which we discussed life, school, and her business. Who her clients are, and who she wanted them to be. What kind of photography she likes to shoot, her market, her market strategy, the works.
In the course of the conversation, I also try to determine the job’s restrictions and boundaries. I want to know right away what my limitations are with a client. Limits are possibilities—knowing what doors need to stay closed lets me know what doors I get to open. In this instance, I knew (1) that the logo would need to visible and legible not only on business stationary but also as an imprint on photographs and photo albums—which eliminates thin type and superfine detail; (2) that chocolate brown and light blue were the preferred color palette, though the logo would also need to work in one color (gold or silver) on the photographic prints themselves; and (3) that babies and families make up a significant portion of her business growth plan.
The next thing I do is look at typography. I know many designers who start with the sketch pad, but for me, it’s the font library. Letterforms convey personality, and so I look for the right combination of font, size and weight. In this phase, I open InDesign and type out the business name in 15 – 40 different fonts, trying to find one (or several) that have the right personality. There are a lot of bad and unworkable fonts used in this phase—I’m experimenting, trying things out. I try not to overthink things in this phase. I’m assembling raw materials, nothing more.
Once this sheet is completed, I look it over for a while then start eliminating until I’m down to 5 or 6 typefaces that have the personality I’m looking for. From here I go into Illustrator and start playing around with letter placement, colors, and other ideas, taking the raw materials and trying to form them into something complete. I usually end up with 3-4 contenders that I feel comfortable showing the client. Before sending the logo off, however, I place it into it’s native environment. In this instance, I mocked up a quick business card and photograph, so I could show the logo in use. I then send this off to the client for feedback.
At this stage, the client begins the winnowing process by eliminating treatments they don’t like. There’s a lot of back and forth. In this instance, we were able to eliminate the bottom two from contention right away. The choice between the top two took a little longer (she liked both), but Amy ultimately decided she wanted to go with the top left logo. However, she wanted to make sure it would work on both dark and light backgrounds, as well as on the leather portfolios she uses to showcase her work. I wanted to make a few final tweaks on letter placement. So another proof was in order.
At this point, it’s a process of further tweaks and polishing until the client says “perfect!” Which, for Amy and her business, her logo is.