Project after project, we’ve refined our logo design process to become the well-oiled machine it is today. Take a look behind the scenes at our not-so-secret method.
The Kettle Fire Logo Design Process
Every design begins with research. As the saying goes, we try “to see what everybody has seen and think what nobody has thought.” We meet with the client to discuss their needs and vision. If there’s a logo currently in place, we assess how it’s being used, what it’s doing well, and how the new logo can serve the client better. We investigate what’s happening visually in the industry and what will connect with the target market. Though not very glamorous, the research and discovery step ensures that the logo design will be both original and appropriate.
To sketch (verb) – to make a rough drawing of
Yes, we draw logos by hand first. That is to say, Josh sketches dozens of ideas for the logo design. He’ll play with different typographic styles, various brandmark ideas, and dozens of combinations.
Why such an old school approach, you ask? Can’t people draw with a computer these days? He could go straight to the computer or tablet and use a myriad of drawing and design programs, but starting by hand enables the hand-brain connection more thoroughly. Plus, Josh says he likes to feel the pencil drag against the paper.
This is probably the step you picture when you imagine a graphic designer creating a logo. The best of the sketches are brought to life in a design software program. New ideas may appear in this stage as well. The result is a collection of solid black logo designs, some very similar and others entirely different in form. My job at this point, in addition to being a general second set of eyes, is to perform the “sixth-grade boy test.” I squint and look at each logo concept carefully, trying to see anything gross, lewd, or awkward about the image.
From there, we choose a small number of concepts that are worthy of being presented to the client. Though it can vary between projects, we’ve found three is the magic number. These three logo design concepts are sent to the client in black. We want the client to focus on the form of the design without getting caught up in the colors yet. Notice we’ve gone from dozens of sketches to three rendered logo designs. As Paul Rand puts it,
“Of course I’ll [design] options. Many, many of them. But you won’t see them, you won’t have to, that’s my job.”
Color is emotional. It stirs up thoughts and memories. Choosing the best colors for a logo design requires an understanding of color psychology. You want your logo colors to send the right message, create the right energy, and appeal to the right audience. Orange, for example, is a good choice for youth-oriented organizations but becomes less and less appealing the older your target market is. Earth tones, colors that are blended and less pure, might be a cozy choice for a brick-and-mortar store but would look out of place for an edgy online company.
Our clients choose their favorite all-black logo design and it moves forward to the color phase. We work to balance the best color choice for the audience and clients’ personal preferences. We also take into account the uses of the logo and the primary color space where it will appear. After picking the right color family based on the messaging or psychology, we’ll filter and refine until we’ve found the perfect hue and saturation. Generally, we’ll prepare three color schemes for the client to consider.
The logo is now 90% complete. The client chooses a favorite color scheme to move forward, so both form and color are established. Josh makes minute adjustments to the logo design and refines the exact color codes. I used to be skeptical about this final phase until I realized that those tiny revisions are what take the design from good to great to exceptional.
After receiving final approval from the client, we prepare the logo in all black, reverse (all white), and full color. Then we deliver the appropriate print and web file formats.
6. Visual identity
You probably thought “finalizing” was the final step. While the logo design itself is complete at this point, the system that supports it still needs to be constructed. A logo is great. A logo is essential even. But a logo is just an image and it can’t make up your entire visual brand. At some point you’ll probably want to put that logo on a flyer or a business card or a website, and you’ll want each of those pieces to embody the same personality.
Thus, we create a visual identity, also called visual standards or a style guide, to accompany each logo. This guide includes parameters on when, where, and how to use your logo (minimum size, clear space, do’s and don’ts, etc.). We develop an extended color palette, beyond the colors used in the logo, and explain how to use them to create different moments. Typography will be in there as well, usually including a primary and secondary typeface. In some cases, we’ll develop additional textures, patterns, or graphic elements to support the visuals, like the single-line drawings you see throughout our website. All of this is packaged in a handy reference booklet.
A well-designed process
A lot more goes into a logo design than meets the eye. Before you embark on this kind of branding project, talk your designer about his or her process. Make sure you understand when and how your feedback will be considered and exactly what you’ll receive in the end.
Have some questions or thoughts about our logo design process? Share with us in the comments.