Tuesday, February 11, 2014

From The Desk Of Pamela J. Bates: How A Logo Is Created

Insight Into The Logo Design Process

Much like other creative endeavors, logo design isn't just one single act.  It's not just a swoop of a paintbrush across paper, but rather a multitude of brushstrokes that in the end becomes a painting.

Custom logo design is indeed a process, something I always stress to my clients.  It's one of the reasons that there a revisions built into the custom logo design services that I offer. A matter of give and take. Of asking the right questions. Listening the answers.  It's about getting to know the client, their business, their market, their design style, their dreams and their goals.

It is extremely important for the client to remember that designers are only as good as what is  communicated to them. If I had a dollar for every time I've heard, "I don't know what I want, but I'll know it when I see it" over the last 20 years, I certainly wouldn't be sitting here writing this post. I'd be vacationing in the Caribbean on my private yacht. If you don't know what you want, how on earth can you expect a designer to know? Before you hire any designer, spend time considering what you want and need in a logo. What designs you like and don't like.  What components you want incorporated into your logo. Then, communicate that clearly to your designer whether it be through something like the creative brief questionnaire that is part of my process, or a pinterest board, or pictures you've been collecting in your 'idea file'. 

When a client decides to work with me the very first thing I do is send their Creative Brief Questionnaire.   It's several pages long with a ton of questions and it covers a lot of information: palettes, fonts, mission, product, market, services, design likes and dislikes. The list goes on.  I ask them to fill it out as completely as possible so I can learn about all the things I mentioned above. I  prefer to have too much information than not enough.  The final creative brief is what I use to guide the design direction of any logo and is an essential piece to the puzzle. I also like to go over the answers given on a creative brief in a phone conversation (or in person if they are close in proximity) with my clients if possible. A conversation not only further establishes a connection between myself and my client, but often gives me more insight into how they want their logo to represent their business and what the face of their business branding should look like.  Research follows. I research similar businesses, their market, product, etc.  I learn all that I can learn, and that all effects the logo design.

I can't stress enough, how important the preliminary part of the process is. I know when someone decides to invest in a logo for their business that they are excited and anxious, but it is most definitely a process and I'd be leery of any designer who implied anything different (whether it is indicated through a ridiculously short turn around time, or by lack of communication before design begins). Each step is dependent on the one that came before and the ones that will come after, to reach the final outcome: a logo design the client loves and that will help effectively brand their business for success.

Now it's time to get down to designing.  Sometimes I rough sketch on paper. When I say rough, I mean rough.  I might even sketch as I speak with a client and review their creative brief.

Other times, I start working right in Illustrator, which is the program I use to create logo designs.  I also use photoshop for creating different effects, but the actual logo is created in Illustrator. {Note: any designer you choose to work with should be using a vector based program like Illustrator to design a logo for you.  Final logo designs should be vector based because they will be scalable and editable.  This means, your logo will look just as good on a business card as it does on large signage for a trade show. It is the industry standard.}

Now, my artboards in Illustrator may start out looking as rough and full of ideas as my sketches.  This Illustrator artboard, shows a bunch of initial design concepts I was roughing out for my client Helios (a natural, handcrafted skincare business launching this Spring) including a hand-drawn sun that I scanned and imported into Illustrator.

Then comes a lot of fine tuning and tweaking until I'm satisfied with the initial logo or logos that I will present. Sometimes it all falls together quickly, other times I have to step away, let it sit a bit and then come back to it with new perspective.

When I feel I have a logo design/designs ready to present to a client I take one very big extra step.  I don't just send a logo to my clients. I create a branding board to present to them; a mood board of sorts for a business' brand.  I think it's important to show my clients how I foresee the logo being used and to give them a better idea of how it will look on different collateral.  It's a lot of work, but I think it's worth it and important. It allows me to visually communicate more about the logo than I would be able to otherwise.

Here are the two initial branding boards (side by side) boards that I sent to Helios.

And a closer look..........................

At this point in the process, the client decides which design they would like to move forward with and we move into revision rounds if necessary. Sometimes clients are happy right off the bat, but often they would like to see some changes made to get the logo just right for them. And sometimes, once they see the changes, they decide it's better the way it was.  Clients just need to 'see' things before they make up their minds. Understandably so. After all, this is a decision that can have enormous impact on their business' growth and success.

My job as a designer is to understand that, as well as gently guiding them in the direction I believe (in my professional opinion), will serve them best.

Cliffhanger Caution:
I'm saving the rest of this process for Thursday so you'll have to come back to see the final Helios logo.  Which logo did my client move forward with and did it need revisions?

I really could use some dramatic music at this point, but instead it's just me wondering what you think about all of this?

Have a great day and thanks for being here.

Ciao for now,


  1. Thanks for sharing, very interesting to read what goes into logo designing! I hope I'll ever have enough budget to have a logo made :-) I bet your client had a hard time deciding, I like them both!

    1. Thanks Marieken! Actually, this particular client didn't have a hard time deciding. One of the designs really spoke to her!

  2. geee, now I understand when my daughter gets frustrated when I tell her "make me a new banner tonight" lol

    1. oh man, that cracked me right up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Awesome post! I love how you took us step-by-step through your creative process. And yes, it will be fun to see which logo your client chose.

    1. :) I've been so lucky to work with such a diverse group of women from all walks of life this year, with a few very nice gentlemen thrown in for good measure!

  4. I love this post and seeing your creative process! You are so right too, a well-made logo that perfectly sets the tone for a small business is absolutely essential, and I love the options you have. Great work!

    1. Hi Ashley, your logo is most definitely the visual foundation of your business branding. Thanks for the kind words!

  5. Those look great and it's so cool how you are able to work with their brand and create some thing simple and cool.

  6. I loved reading about your process Pam! And I love your logos - I have to say I was always a bit 'meh' about them until I saw yours and the way the translate from cards to packaging and beyond. Keep up the GREAT work!

    1. you? meh about anything creative? I'm not sure I believe that ;) it really does help seeing a logo as it can be used. thanks Mrs.


You comments make my day. Thanks for taking the time to visit Mercantile Muse and for commenting. I really appreciate it. ~Pam

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