Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Design Process: A Demonstration

Last time I ending the article post discussing what I would recommend to consider as deliverables for a client. In this last article of the design process series I want to walk through a typical logo design project. This will help demonstrate how the design process is like a roadmap for you and the client.

Detective work:

The client may contact me about a logo design they want created. Usually the client just asks me how much it will cost. At this point I ask a lot of questions to understand what they are trying to accomplish with a logo design. Are they refreshing their brand, have no brand, need to brand an item, or want to take their organization into a new direction, etc.? Why do they need a logo and what will the logo help them accomplish?

I then actively listen to what the client says they need. What I mean by actively listen is that I not only hear what they are actually saying, but I ask clarifying questions about what they just said, without passing judgements.

From their answers I might work up a ballpark estimate, but usually I wait until I can write up their request as a creative brief or project plan — which is the next step. In this way we both can see in black and white what our assumptions are, and if they are correlated.

Defining the project:

To demonstrate that I understand what the client wants, how to arrive at a solution, and what deliverables are needed to consider the project complete, I prepare a creative brief — unless the client provides one themselves. A creative brief is like a project plan that outlines what is expected, what factors may influence the design direction, and how I plan to address the project creatively and timely.

At this point I usually do research to determine how a logo should appear in light of their industry, competition, and their existing materials. This helps inform me how to address creative strategy in the brief.

Once complete I will send this document to the client to be signed, along with a contract with estimated costs and deliverables. I try not to start a project until the client is totally satisfied with the creative brief, and we are in agreement. This is necessary because the brief will serve as our road map through the design process.

Dream big and focus:

If the client is satisfied with the creative brief, signed the contract, and delivered a deposit the work is ready to begin.

An approach I usually take for idea generation is rarely on the computer. I start with pencil and paper. I first develop a list of words that describe the client's business, values, and how they see themselves. I use this list to inform me while I sketch. I try to sketch at least 10 to 20 ideas. Then I choose the top 2 or 3 I want to work up for client approval.


After I develop the top 2 or 3 design approaches in black and white to show the client. The client typically chooses one or a combination of approaches. I rework the approach until the client is satisfied with the direction.

Now, the reason I am designing logos in black and white is that I want the client to focus on the concept rather than being distracted by color. I want the solution to be strong enough to not depend on color at this point. Later I will introduce color as a key factor in the design. But for now it's all about concept.

Developing the design:

Once the direction is agreed upon, I develop a single logo design along with color variations that reflect the objectives in the creative brief and enhance the concept.

The client reviews the logo designs and selects one for final refinements or edits. After I refine the final logo, I'll send to the client for their final approval.

Delivering the goods:

Once the logo is finalized and approved, it's time to deliver the logo to the client for their use. For logos I usually send them to the client electronically in several formats (EPS, JPG, and PNG). The PNG is good for Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and on-screen applications, while the EPS is great for professional service providers the client might use. I also provide their logo in full color, black and white, and a reversed-white version for using on dark backgrounds.


Well, that's an example of my process for a logo design. I don't always do everything exactly this way for every logo, print project, or website design. But I try to stick with these same steps all the time. By doing so, I can have a codified process that gives me and the client clearer communication and expectations. And this contributes to a more enjoyable client-designer relationship.

Photo courtesy xandert of

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