As a designer, you might have a chance to rework an existing logo or develop an entirely new identity for a company. Such an opportunity could be a game changer for your career. Before you dive into the creative process of working with a specific brand, it might help to understand what you’re getting into.
Somewhere out there, the designer who created the FedEx logo smiles every time they receive an overnight package. Same with the artist who conceptualized the new Google logo. Love it or hate it, it’s seen by millions of users each day — that’s a decent goal aspiration.
Learn Brand Basics 101
Is a brand a logo? Yes and no. A company’s brand boils down to the emotional impact delivered with a product or service. The Disney brand is all about wholesome family entertainment. The Coke brand could make you thirsty. The Pillsbury brand is a trusted source of all things baking. It’s about consistent quality.
Sometimes the hard work of a company can be tarnished overnight in an onslaught of bad publicity for a product gone horribly wrong. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill devastated the Gulf region — the oil belonged to BP. It didn’t take long for consumers across the world to have negative feelings about BP, sending the company into overdrive with a public relations push to try to rebuild the brand.
As a designer, you don’t have much control over outside events, but you might be asked to rethink a company’s logo as a way of distancing themselves from a tarnished brand. In other words, they could be looking for a reboot.
Work the Logo
A company needs a strong logo to reinforce a brand. When a consumer sees a logo, the emotional trigger of the brand should surface. The consumer should feel good, associating the company behind the product. At least, that’s the hope. A logo is integral to reinforcing a company’s brand, and your awesome design skills are needed to make it happen. First, you’ll need to impress your client with a briefing.
Do Your Briefing Homework
The briefing you’ll prepare for a company will research how their brand is perceived by the general public. Your client will certainly provide much this information, but it is your responsibility to go beyond the official corporate profile.
You might discover in your research that there is an aspect about the brand that the company isn’t aware of. Perhaps there is a sense of nostalgia associated with the brand. The company might want to take their logo into the future, but embracing a retro approach could be a way of looking back while moving forward.
You also need to understand the demographic of the company’s clientele. Are they digitally savvy? Does the company invest its time heavily in social media outreach? If so, your logo could pop up across Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr. It needs to stand out, and you should think about incorporating the brand in other marketing arenas such as tradeshows, T-Shirts, television advertising and even the products themselves.
Start with Inspiration
No one designs in a vacuum. As you start doodling away on your pad, consider looking through some award winning logo designs. You’re not searching for something to lift — you’re simply looking for inspiration.
Think of it this way: A successful screenwriter spends a lot of time watching movies. The screenwriter could borrow parts of plot points or characters archetypes for a new screenplay. The objective is to find a fresh way to spin a new variation on a common theme — it’s the same way with designing a logo.
Remember this: A brand is an emotional response to a product or service. To draw some inspiration, consider freely associating words that relate to the brand. You can play word games to generate a list of responses. It might also help to use free association with coworkers or random people on the street. Simply say one word and ask them to reply with the first word that pops into their head.
It might seem silly, but you if you can lock into one powerful word that sums up the brand, it will make designing the logo — and all that follows — much smoother.
Build a Mood Board
As you start collecting words and emotions, start generating and collecting images. Cruise the internet and print inspirational images for a mood board. As you arrange the pictures, patterns should start to emerge. It could be shapes, colors, places or a combination of all three.
Splatter and Save
Whether you’re working alone or as part of a team, the initial creative process is often wild and messy. Shout out or jot down every design idea and element that pops into your head — nothing is off the table. During this phase of the design process, keep everything — no matter how horrible or irrelevant it might appear. You never know when you might circle back to something and find a way to make it work.
As a cautionary note, you might not want to clean out your work space for the duration of the process. If the majority of your work happens on a computer, be sure to back up and save everything. You can always dump it later, but I recommend saving everything.
Pull Everything Together With a Plan B
You should feel confident with your logo pitch that fully integrates brand identity. You should feel proud enough to stand by your work without faltering. Of course, you should also have a Plan B. Your hard work could be jeopardized if a client decides they don’t like blue on the day of the presentation. Arming yourself with an alternative design could help you save the pitch.
Finally, don’t play games with your client. Some designers believe they have to present a bad idea first, so their good idea will look extremely great. Always lead with your best — that is what a brand identity is all about.