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Getting back to basics: Creating a logo from start to finish

Mon, Dec 12, 2005

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When I began my career in the graphics industry, almost 17 years ago, I would approach the design of any new logo by first taking out a pad of paper and a pencil and sketching out basic ideas before diving into any real concept creation. As computers and design software became more and more a part of the design process I tended to find myself heading to the computer immediately to put together my ideas. This only tended to result in a lot of time spent staring at a blank computer screen. As my business expanded and time became a more precious commodity I began to head back to my early days and approached my designs again with a pencil and paper before sitting down at the computer. This not only gave me more free time but helped me to increase the profitability of my business. The following is an outline of the design process I now take whenever I am creating a logo for a client. I hope it will inspire some of you to take pencil in hand prior to sitting down in front of the computer.

Core Practice Partners is a leading international expert in Labor Management for companies that don’t work a traditional “9 to 5” schedule. Their clients have included such industry leaders as Kraft, BMW, and General Electric. Their approach to creating solutions for their clients is unique and their desire was to have a logo that was both professional and creative.

They approached my company with a few ideas of their own, but were very uncertain whether the look they truly wanted could be achieved. I first set up a phone conference with their president, John Frehse, to discuss the goals he had for the logo and how he wanted to be perceived by the clients he serviced. After our initial discussion I sat down at the drawing board to rough out some ideas for the logo. This is the normal approach that I take in the designing of any logo. It allows for the creation of many concepts within a short period of time and dramatically decreases the amount of time spent producing the initial concepts to be presented to the client.

Once I had 6-8 rough ideas conceived I then scanned in the designs and used them as templates for the creation of computer generated concepts. I typically place them in the background and insert text and graphics over the top. Once the groundwork has been laid in I then remove the sketch from the background and add the finishing touches.

The initial presentation to the client contained anywhere 4 concepts that I felt worked best with the impression they were looking to achieve. These first ideas were presented in black & white. I have found that clients will initially lose interest in a concept if the colors are not to their liking. On more than one occasion I have seen ideas rejected solely on the basis of the colors used without the client giving any regard to the overall design presented.

Once a concept was chosen by the client the design was revised, if necessary, and then rendered in color and resubmitted to the client for approval. There are usually 6-8 color renderings for the client to choose from, in this case there were 8. Most of these featured colors from the same palette (warm, cool, etc.) and there will be perhaps one or two ideas that could be considered “outside the box”. It is these additional color options that will either direct the client towards the preferred palette or will illicit a sense of excitement from the client about color choices they never imagined would be appealing. This can be one of the steps where a real sense of creativity can be injected into the design process.

The client immediately accepted one of the designs and now the only step left was to finalize the project. I provide most of my clients with a CD that contains their logo design in a number of different formats. Some designers may feel this enables the client to take the design and use other sources for the rest of their design work, but I have found that this merely gives the client a sense that they have recieved something concrete and if I have done my job correctly and have fulfilled all their desires then they will certainly use my services again.

As it turned out in this case I was hired by Core Practice Partners to design their stationery as well as numerous marketing materials. The logo of a company is an integral part of their brand identity. By establishing a good relationship with a client in this critical step towards creating the brand that will become their public presence you can build a solid foundation to creating a long term position as their designer of choice.

About The Author

Kevin Hadden runs his business, Signature Identity Design Studio, from a small office located in the beautiful Southwest Michigan wine country. The wines that are produced in this region have won international acclaim and it is his desire to have the same results for his designs and business. He has spent the last 17 years in the graphic design industry creating all manners of materials from logos and brochures to signage and point of purchase displays. In the past few years he has been able to increase his client base to an international level and have worked on projects for clients in North America, Asia, Europe and Australia as well as the Caribbean. He strives to provide unique designs and always look to push himself and produce the best work possible. The motto by which he runs his business is “He who has imagination has the wings to fly…come fly with me.”

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