The Designer’s Guide To

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This article builds upon the tips submitted by freelance designers to the original Guide To Logo Design with those kindly provided by design studios, plus a couple drawn from my experience of reviewing their work for BP&O.

Each studio was asked to contribute a piece of advice that focused on the commercial realities and everyday practicalities of logo design today and that would help new designers manage and deliver their own effective brand identity solutions. Edited and curated by Richard Baird.

Is a new logo necessary?

It is important to understand the equity of current assets. You may well be tempted to suggest a new logo but a good designer knows when to leverage established assets, give them a new context or make minor changes to improve legibility across new mediums. The dialling up or down of a logo’s prominence within a brand’s communicative activities can be far more effective than a complete redesign.

Provided by @BunchDesign – Website

The value of a logo

The value of a logo seems to divide opinion within the design industry. Some see the logo as an outdated piece of the brand, others (like us) see it as the key to great branding. It can be the hero, or take a back seat and allow clever use of brand assets – inspired by the logo, to tell the brand story.

The logo plays a different role depending on the size of the company, their budgets, and requirements. Regardless of the size of the brand/business a logo can be a vital piece of a businesses brand toolkit. For startup businesses on a budget, a logo is an opportunity to communicate the core business idea or offering, and with consistency and repetition can help a brand quickly become easily identifiable. For an established company – the logo, if distinctive can form the basis for an ownable, visually distinctive yet diverse and progressive brand identity system.

The function of a logo should be sensitive to the clients business needs and should play an integral part in the brand identity.

Provided by @DesignersAnon – Website

Avoid designing in isolation

A logo is a component of a brand identity system and should never be designed in isolation. However, it will often be seen as such in application and should act as a recognisable shorthand for the brand it represents. For us, the most successful marks implicitly covey the brand’s core idea and/or offer. Brand positioning, values and personality all inform the ‘styling’ and realisation of this concept.

Provided by @teamkaroshi – Website

Learn to tell stories

We usually try to avoid using industry clichés and buzzwords, however, one which we came across recently seemed to resonate with us. ‘Storytelling’, or the idea at least, of telling the whole story of a brand, product or service through not just a logo, but a variety of brand touch points whether that be print, screen or environment. Creating lasting, relevant and impactful brand identities is like writing the introduction to a good book. You lay a solid foundation with the logo or marque itself but then build in a variety of chapters which help tell the whole story through the use of specific visual assets such as typography, pattern, colour, texture, audio, video etc.

You’re logo is the most visible representation of your business, product or service, but it requires support, and a variety of considered, sub plots which, when applied strategically together, work to successfully tell your brand’s story over time. These assets allow the life of a brand to evolve and more importantly adapt to their constantly changing environments. It’s not just how good a designer you are but, more importantly, how good a storyteller you are that will define the success of your clients brands and indeed your studios output.

Provided by @FreytagAnderson – Website

Try to avoid a logo-centric approach

The market for logo-centric / logo-only solutions continues to grow. It’s evident in the rise of 99Designs, off-the-shelf products and market places. The way isolated logos are treated with such reverence on-line and rendered to the nth degree. The celebration of grid, guide and golden ratio based precision. And the abundance of logo-only galleries, books and blogs. These all reinforce the idea that a logo is the communicative silver bullet that business owners need to engage their customers.

The reality is that today a logo should really only be one small part of a more generous approach to brand communication, one that in my opinion all designers should aspire to take.

A designer should help their clients to appreciate and embrace the changing brand landscape, more expansive yet cohesive opportunities and the increasing expectations consumers now have. Inexperienced designers should look to more communicative assets and shake any preoccupation with just designing a logo. Even if that means securing a few printed assets, or to help their client with images, language choice, materials or print finishes. If you’re commissioned to design a logo, and that’s all the budget will cover, provide your client with a strategy on how this might be complimented by other experiences and assets in the future.

Provided by @richbaird – Website

Keep it simple to best utilise print finish

Think of a simple way to create a visual representation of the core business ethos, then simplify it. Try to stay away from bevels, highlights and other enhancements, so it works as a flat image. It can always be interpreted differently by process, substrate or application.

Provided by @RobotFoodDesign – Website

Reduce and refine

The world is a busy place. Try reducing & refining your designs until you can’t take any more elements away without hindering communication. The reduction of unnecessary elements enhances clarity, reduces confusion and produces optimum effectiveness.

Provided by @studiojubilee – Website

Bring execution ideas into the conversation early

People typically remember a creative execution over a logo concept, so bring execution ideas into the conversation early. As part of the identity presentation, consider current/potential touch points that you see as design opportunities to bring it all to life. They’ll thank you.

Provided by @perkybros – Website

Do you even need a logo?

Clients will always want to quantify what they’re getting and will think about things in terms of what’s been done before, or what everyone else is doing. Designers should always be thinking about what hasn’t been done and starting from there. Some of the strongest identities work when the logo isn’t even present, because everything around it has the same care, attention and thought.

Provided by @ostreetstudio – Website

A logo is “just” part of a bigger picture

A logo is “just” part of a bigger picture.
We would even argue the relevance of a logo.
A good logo in an unconsidered environment will still look like a bad logo.
A logo and it’s environment (visual identity) need to be considered in the development process.
A good creative brief will hold the answer to the outcome, not the work of your colleagues.
A good logo can be “ugly” and therefore memorable, to often energy is wasted on slickness.

Provided by @TokoDesign – Website

A small part of a larger system

A logo is just a small part of an identity system. The logo doesn’t have to communicate everything by itself. In fact it most probably cannot. The elements of the system should work together to create the full picture. If you are creating a logo for an arts/community/funding organisation – see what it looks like in a logo park, because it will spend some of it’s lifespan existing in that environment. As a designer, a logo must be as much a reflection on you as it is a reflection/representation of your client. Otherwise, why would the client come to you in the first place.

Provided by @GraphicalHouse – Website

Avoid instinct

Instinct really is for the experienced. For everyone else there is design strategy. Whether that be mind mapping, brainstorming or a written evaluation and approach, strategy before design can help to manage expectations, outline intentions, identify the most appropriate design tools for each message, and force you to reflect on the communicative effectiveness of your decisions without the bias of a well resolved but aesthetically superficial design solution.

Provided by @richbaird – Website

Keep it simple

If your client is looking to convey multiple values, try to avoid compounding these into a single asset like a logo. Look to materials, print finishes, language, image, sound, environment and digital experience to find the most efficient, effective and compelling way of delivering key values. This will mean that you can keep your logo simple and use other more appropriate and effective tools to be creative and communicative.

Provided by @richbaird – Website

If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail

A logo is often what a designer wants to create, not what the audience wants to see. If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Behind the clap-trap, ‘Branding’ is simply a product, a service or an organisations reputation. This reputation is managed by actions. One of these actions is the development of an ownable visual identity deployed across channels of communication. This identity traditionally revolved around a symbol — namely a logo. But now, with so many channels, and the ability of the audience to respond via social networks — the launch of a new brand with little more than a logo at the helm is very likely to end badly. Often almost before it begins. New logos are ineffective when it comes to looking to create a strong way to signal who’s behind what. The business landscape now dictates a wider set of assets for contemporary communications. The old hero of branding — the logo — has well and truly faded. It can however, still play a part within a wider cast of communication tools. Products, services & organisations that embrace a world of designed assets win the commercial race.

Provided by @SomeOnes_Tweet – Website

Should you be designing the logo first or last?

It’s important that designers, like agencies, take, or aspire to take a strategic approach to their design work. That means spending time understanding which assets deliver the most effective communicative impact and allowing these to inform the design of others. If, for instance, the most influential/memorable brand experience is likely to be packaging (it’s a great canvass for both physical and graphic treatments), then focusing on the logo first and allowing it to inform the packaging wouldn’t necessarily be as effective as working the other way around. A logo plays less of a role today in making a brand memorable than it has done in the past.

Provided by @richbaird – Website

Understand your client

Don’t even pick up a pen until you are satisfied that you fully understand your client, their vision and the business they are in. Ask questions, meet up, workshop ideas with them if you can. It will get your relationship off to a healthy start and it will save a lot of revisions and ‘do-overs’ further down the line. Don’t underestimate how critical this early fact-finding stage is to a successful project.

Provided by @wellmadestudio – Website

The future of identity design

The days of a single marque applied dogmatically and uniformly are gone. Contemporary identities still need to succinctly capture and convey the essence of an entity, but must also be flexible, layered and responsive. The concept of ‘unprogamming identity’, i.e. focussing on designing a process for identity creation, rather than a static outcome is a consideration in all of our identity development projects.

Provided by @manualelectric – Website

Revolution or evolution?

Everyone wants to put their own imprint on things but sometimes it is far more important to acknowledge the fact that not everything needs to be overhauled and revolutionised. Sometimes a designer can spend too much time, effort, and client budget on trying to produce a new logomark that has no affiliation with its predecessor just to justify the design fee. Look at what already is available for you to work with; you’ll be surprised to find that at times the right idea is there, in that old logo. Perhaps it just never got executed well to deliver and communicate properly and all you might need to do is help it evolve, allowing you to shift effort, time and money in other aspects of an identity exercise.

Provided by @StudioMother – Website

 

Contribute!

If you are a designer and have any advice you would like to add to this or any other Design Survival article, please submit your contribution as a comment below or here and remember to include your Twitter ID so I can credit your tip.

 

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  • Douglas Neveu

    Thanks for the guide. there are also some logo design studios to get some awesome logos. Click Here

  • Dammnnnnn this is sooooooo useful to a newcomer like me man! I’ve been studying branding for a few months now, but the way you covered the basics has been like learning history all over again in 10 minutes!

    • Hi Jarod, delighted to you that you found the article helpful.

  • Anushka Shukla

    Hello, I really enjoy reading your thoughts on design and I love your blog BP&O. There is always something to learn in your writings.

  • Jaydip Gambhava

    Hi, I follow your writings regularly, specially I really impressed with bp&o, it has a huge collection of logos that I usually reffer to get inspired, as I am new to graphics I found great reference here !