How Do You Design a Logo?

Mason Weis
Apr 27, 2017 · 5 min read

When companies redesign their logos, the internet usually loses its mind. Of course, the interesting thing is that the harshest criticism usually comes from your average person, rather than people who are knowledgable about design. Here are a few great examples from 2015:

Now of course, logos are typically designed for the average person, so at the end of the day their opinion definitely matters… but it’s also true that the updated Google logo has essentially proven these people wrong as it’s aged. Not only was it able to become iconic on its own, it also become an effective brand system thanks to its simplicity and adaptability.

With criticism akin to the classic “my child could’ve made this” or “this logo is just a font” being used so often, I think it’s important to discuss the way in which logos are made. By walking through the process, it might make it easier to understand why many popular logos look the way they do.

(As a side note, if you haven’t read my article “What Makes a Logo Good?” I’d highly recommend that. Many of the ideas behind good logo design align with the process we’re going to talk about today.)

The Brief

Logo design usually begins with the formation of the design brief. In this phase, a designer asks their client a series of questions or even gives them a questionnaire to fill out. Throughout this process, the designer is trying to get a handle on the client’s needs in order to begin developing an idea of the direction they’re going to take.

Designers are looking for information such as the client’s target demographic, their competitors, their personal tastes, and their company’s values. This initial information can sometimes be the the guiding force behind the entire design, and is often what the designer will build most of their work off of.

Some common questions at this stage include:

“What does your ideal customer look like?”

“Describe your business/product to me in 5 words.”

“What logos do you like?”

“Who are your three biggest competitors?”

After this, many designers will write a formalized brief with the key information they took away from this meeting. This keeps the information organized and easily accessible.

Research

Following the development of the design brief, many logo designers move on to a period of research. This research generally includes looking into the client’s industry at large, studying the client’s competition, and researching current logo styles and trends.

Many designers begin synthesizing the information they received during the last stage and in their research into a set of ideas and aesthetics that they can turn into a solid direction. This might include the development of a moodboard or even a stylescape of some sort that collects these ideas into one place.

At this point, client collaboration is often vital to ensure that the designer’s research is moving in the right direction. By presenting a stylescape or moodboard to the client, the designer can get valuable feedback and make sure their client is onboard with their initial direction.

Sketching and Development

Once all the research is finished, most of the technical and creative work begins. Using the information they’ve collected so far, the designer begins sketching for an extended period of time. Oftentimes, this sketching lasts until the designer has several pages worth of small “thumbnail sketches.”

During this process, the designer is also striving to abide by proper logo design principles. Ideally, each concept should be simple, memorable, and adaptable. Sometimes this means the designer simply sketches out the idea behind a basic wordmark, while other times it means that the designer is tasked with creating an abstract symbol.

After this, the designer will then take many of their sketches into their vector drawing program of choice and begin rendering their sketches into real concepts. Many times this step involves adding color or modifying an existing typeface in order to make it unique.

Additionally, many designers will take their strongest concepts and make mockups for their clients. This way, during the next phase, their clients can see those ideas in use and have a better understanding of the intentions behind each approach.

Presentation

Once the designer has made a number of concepts, and possibly mockups, they’ll present them to their client. At this point, it is up to the client to decide which idea they like the most. Sometimes, this is the final step in the process, but it might not always be.

Occasionally, the client will give feedback and ask for a second round of concepts. In this instance, steps 3 and 4 are repeated until the client and designer come to an agreement on a direction. Once that happens, the logo creation process is usually considered “finished” and the materials are handed off to the client.

Final Thoughts

The logo design process, when done correctly, is often rigorous and involves a lot of work and creative effort. Of course, this post doesn’t include the other aspects of brand design such as the development of a brand style guide, the selection of a color palette, the choosing of “brand appropriate” typefaces, the creation of custom iconography and more.

While the final product of the logo design process might look incredibly simple, this is usually the ultimate goal. The designer’s job is to take their client’s values and ideas and distill them into a highly recognizable symbol.

Hopefully by seeing what goes into the logo design process, you can understand why certain logos look the way they do. When you look at a logo, try to look beyond the visual form and into what it’s attempting to stand for. Then you’ll be looking at the world like a designer.

Until next time!

— — —

My twitter is here.

And my website can be found here.

Want to read more on logo design? This book might be what you’re looking for.

(Disclaimer: All opinions are my own. The link above is an affiliate link which allows me to receive monetary compensation should you buy that product.)

Mason Weis

Written by

Freelance designer - Coffee Drinker - Occasional Internet Surfer

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