Ask The Experts: Logo Design Q&A

Ask The Experts: Logo Design Q&A

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Perfect Logo

I was recently asked by the UK based magazine, Computer Arts Projects to partake in their ‘Ask The Expert’ feature for Issue 135 ‘Create The Perfect Logo‘. Users from around the world submitted logo design related questions via Twitter to @caprojects of which I then answered for display in the magazine.

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Below are the 11 original questions I answered, 8 of which are featured in the magazine, as shown below.

Computer Arts Projects: Create The Perfect Logo

Ask The Experts: Jacob Cass

As for the picture above, it did come as quite a surprise. I never expected to see such a huge spread with so much detail – hope it didn’t scare too many of you. Seeing this pic actually brought back memories of when I saw my mug of the front page of my local newspaper with the headline “Jacob, Our Top Twit”… a humbling but unexpected experience.

Anyway, on with the logo design Q&A.

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From Marc Davison, Canada (@RorschachDesign).

The key questions should be based around the goals of the business, product or service you are designing for. Find out what the logo is for, what it should say about the company and their main target market(s) and competitors. Ask where the logo will be used, if there is going to be a tagline and for any additional information they may have. Get to know the company so you have a solid design brief to produce the right solution.

To see the sorts of questions I ask before beginning an identity project, check out my logo design questionnaire.

2) “For you, would a tight brief from the client be a helpful focus, or more of a hindrance?”

From Sharon O’Neill, Ireland (@sharononeill).

Some of the hardest briefs are the open ones, simply because you have no boundaries to work within. A tighter brief, in more cases than not, allows you to be more focused on the problem. Gather the appropriate information, do the research and ask your client questions… this will give you a tighter brief, even if you have to work for it.

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From Anka Asril, Malaysia.

The key in logo design is to design for longevity, not simply for trends sake. Trends come and go, so you must consider this when designing your next logo. It certainly helps to be aware of trends as it shows us where we’ve been and where we are going, but you shouldn’t be designing for trends sake. The project should be determined by the needs and desires of the client in question.

As for future trends, animation is going to play a much larger role in identifying a company so this is something to keep in mind when designing your next identity… could it be animated and if so, how?

You can view the 2010 logo design trends here.

Purple Eye

4) “Where do you get your inspiration when generating initial ideas?”

From Jacob Worthy, USA (@Jakeweebz).

Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere and every designer will gather inspiration in their own unique way. Some designer’s go straight to their sketchpad, while others head straight into Illustrator. Other’s may head to their nearest bookstore, art gallery or creative happy place. Others browse books, magazines and websites to gather inspiration… there really is no limit. As for myself, I do a mixture of all those mentioned above.

5) “How do you pitch a logo – do you choose 2-3, hoping the client will go for the one you think is the best? How do you persuade the client on the ‘right’ choice if they’ve picked, in your opinion, the ‘worst’ logo?”

From Karl Gilmore, England.

I personally just present just one concept to the client with a thorough explanation and presentation, unless I am torn very torn between two concepts or our proposal has been arranged otherwise. The job of a designer isn’t to go “Here are ten logos, pick one”. Imagine you went to a hardware store and asked the shopkeeper for a nail and they said “Here are our 30 types of nails, choose the one you like and get back to me”. In more cases than not, you’re not going to end up with the right choice. Although not a direct analogy, you can see where I am coming from. If you limit the choices to what you think is best for their business, then there is less chance for them to choose the ‘worst’ logo. Do your best to explain the reasoning behind your designs to prove that you have nailed the brief.

6) “How do you respond when the client doesn’t like the logos you’ve created, but everyone else does – fellow designers, for instance? Do you try to persuade them otherwise?”

From Lampros Kalfuntzos, Greece.

Although the client is the final decision maker, you shouldn’t be designing for the client, but rather the target market(s) that was outlined in the original brief. Making the client ‘like’ a design should be supported by a through explanation of the solution(s) that you are presenting, tell them exactly why it works and how it achieves the goals as outlined in the brief. Talk about the shape, concept, colour, typography, symbolism and semiotics associated with the design. If you can do this, then more often that not, the client will see your way. If this doesn’t work, which will happen at times, ask them questions to see what isn’t working for them, go over the design brief again and see what adjustments need to be made. Ensure that your original proposal outlines what you will provide for the agreed fee, so that you aren’t forever making changes.

Tiffany Falls in Ancaster, Ontario.

7) “When starting a logo design for a new client, what are the classic pitfalls, and how can you avoid them?”

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From George Mackay, Scotland (@eejits).

The most common pitfall is to not ask the right questions before a project begins, which includes research on your behalf too. Before you begin your development, get as much information as you can from the client about their business, goals, target market, etc. If possible, try their service or product, visit their store – really get to know them and their requirements.

Other classic pitfalls are copying other designer’s work… it goes without saying, that you should never do this. Sure, you can borrow, take and adapt other people’s work but never directly copy a logo. The design world is a very small place, I can assure you of that.

8)  “How do you prepare files to send to your client – what size/format?”

From Rochelle Dancel, Canada (@RochelleDancel).

I create a multipage PDF at either A4 or Letter size depending on where they are located – Letter size for US clients and A4 for the rest of the world. This size allows you to control the size in which the client will print their logo, which they will do. Depending on the logo, the presentation could be in vertical or horizontal format… I consider this on a project-to-project basis. I also try to show the logo in a variety of applications; colour, black & white, reversed and in context, such as on a business card.

9) “How many thumbnail ideas do you create for the average logo project? And on average, how long does a typical logo design project take?”

From Gerald Irish, USA (@GVIrish).

This depends on the project requirements, how easily the ideas come, along with communication times between you and the client and various other variables. Some projects can have many pages of thumbnails, where as others may only have a few, or in rare cases, none. There is no ‘typical’ amount of time for a logo design process however I find that I complete mine within about 3-5 weeks for most clients, this allows a reasonable amount of time for research, conceptualsing, liasing, reflection and delivery. Though in saying this, I’ve had clients that needed their logo within 2 days (avoid this at all costs) and also clients that required a much more comprehensive solution, that went on for several months. Spend the time that is needed to find the right solution; it is after all, going to be the face of their company for years to come.


10) “What would be your advice for user-testing your logo designs?”

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From Husam Elfaki, England (@galaxyturbo).

Getting feedback is definitely a crucial part of the design process, though you must make sure you take note of where the feedback is coming from. There are different stages of user testing, first on your initial designs, then on your final chosen designs. For the initial designs it may help to have a mixture of feedback from design professionals, the target market and various other users. Take note of how much they know about the company, the brief and product / service. When you have chosen your presumed final design, you can get feedback from others, though keep in mind, you can’t please everyone. Always respect other’s feedback, even if you don’t agree and remember to take it with a pinch of salt.

11) “How do you steer away from clichés to really nail form and meaning?”

From Marc-Franç St-Pierre, Canada (@mfstp).

Logo designs are getting so similar these days which makes it vital to put the extra effort in to come up with a strong, original concept that reflects the businesses needs and desires. If you are aware of the clichés it is easier to steer away or build upon them. Stay up to date with what is happening in the branding, identity, advertising and design world so you have a solid foundation to build upon for your work.

Remember that a logo does not have to be self-explanatory, a phone company does not have to show a phone in their logo, nor does a car company have to show a car. As Paul Rand would say, “It is only by association with a product, a service, a business, or a corporation that a logo takes on any real meaning. A logo derives its meaning and usefulness from the quality of that which it symbolises. If a company is second rate, the logo will eventually be perceived as second rate. It is foolhardy to believe that a logo will do its job immediately, before an audience has been properly conditioned”. This is how you nail form and meaning.

Over & Out

Hope you enjoyed this Q&A. If you have any more questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below. Stay tuned for the next issue of Computer Arts magazine, you may just see my face popping up again.

Other magazine appearances:

Below are a few other other magazines that I have written for / been featured in. If interested, you can find the full list on my about page.

Photo credits: 1 / 2 / 3

29 thoughts on “Ask The Experts: Logo Design Q&A”

  1. So Awesome Jacob! Congrats!!!!!Very Happy for you =) I just recently started reading your blog again and Wow you’ve come a long way! Cheers to your spread and I’m sure you’ll have many more to come. You are a huge inspiration for me and so many others.

  2. CAP is such a great magazine! I used to read this blog during college and a lot of the posts are great for designers. I’ll make it my mission to read more 😀

  3. I think logo creation is tough work as you have to build branding with this small price of graphics, some people can build in 10 minutes and some can take days to come to final design….creativity is what matters and reflection of your brand

  4. Oh no, I forgot to get that issue on the way back…. Hope they’ll still be selling it for a while. Lots of good info in it from what you’ve excerpted 🙂

  5. Great interview, congratulations, very useful facts.
    And the picture looks great I wouldn’t worry bout that, but I bet it was a shocker see your pic in the magazine.

  6. Excellent interview..

    I totally agree with point 9. Most of the time the client will print the logo to see what it looks like.

  7. I LOVE THIS PART : “There is no ‘typical’ amount of time for a logo design process however I find that I complete mine within about 3-5 weeks for most clients”

    I work as a in-house graphic designer for a printing company and we get so many people asking for a logo design, business cards & letterheads, they want the design & print done in 2-3 days!.

    I feel like this is killing my creativity because I am so stressed for time. My boss kinda gives me the look like… you’ve been working on the business card for 30 min why aren’t you done? Jacob, how much time is allowed now that you work for a design studio? Is it the same amount of time as if you were doing freelance work?

  8. Thank you all for your kind words, much appreciated.

    They are still selling it here in the States.

    I haven’t done much branding (identity design) for new business (only about two in four months). One of them I did in about a week and the other one is still in progress four months later as it is a collaboration with another studio.

  9. Nice interview Jacob, I agree with you on showing only a single logo design if you can. It’s something I tend to do now too, I don’t think showing two or more designs benefits anyone if there is one that you feel works best for that business. It’s important that clients see the advantage of this, the analogy I would make is that it’s like having a suit custom made for you. The tailor would find out before he begins exactly what your needs are and would guide you with the choice of fabrics etc. Then at several stages you would try the suit on and he would make some alterations if required, resulting in the best suit for you.

    Latest blog post.. Clients: Get the best from your Designer

  10. The Logo Factory designers have been in the ‘trenches’ for years, with thousands of successful logo and corporate identity projects under their collective belts. With that in mind, who better to ask for a series of tips and pointers when it comes to developing great logos. Here’s some design advice from some of the best designers in the field. It should be noted that most of these tips are not absolutes. They are, however, a decent set of guidelines that will help you narrow in on the best logo for your particular requirements

  11. yes logos are very tough. I am very pickey. it took me almost 3 months to design my own personal logo! but I finally got it and im going to stick with it lol…but great article…bookmarked so i can come back and skim it thru when im working on a logo project….

  12. How do I price indivisual collateral itaems? If I design a logo for just print materials (as stated in my contract) such as business card, envelope, letterhead for one set price for a client, how do I then price it if he wants to now use it for apparel, mouse pads, posters, trade show items, vehicle signage, building signage,and On and On? How do I make money when this person is now selling things with my copyrighted,$500 logo,under the sun on it? How do I make a price catagory for these various items? How do I add up the new charges when he wants to begin doing so much more with this logo than originally agreed on? I don’t want to do all the t-shirt tracking, etc. each time an items is sold. Thank you so much.

  13. Caria,
    Some valid questions there. I would advise you to talk to your client about this before you begin work and outline the specific details in the contract.

  14. Great article, i think making or designing a good logo is very difficult…we can’t know what was the behavior of logo’s on the people….so it was very hard….

    So glad for you Jacob, you are a new blogger but very talent and successful!!! Congratulate!!! Keep going on!!! …

    thanks for sharing……

  15. This is very important point for the blog writer that for choosing a logo for the blog he has to think about people mentality as well as i think he has to take opinion from there clients also…great, nice blog

  16. Some very valid points here, I just finished having my logo designed and I forwarded this link to my designer who said it was a great incite. Thanks for the share, dont think my logo would of turned out as nice as if it did if it wasnt for your blog!

  17. First off, gratz on the magazine!

    This article is so helpful for novice designers (I’ve been a designer for 6 years and consider myself not much more than a noob).

    I could read stuff like this all day – but then I wouldn’t get any work done.

  18. Great inspiration here, been looking at getting a new logo designed, going to talk to my designer about some of these topics! thanks.

  19. Its all about future trends like you say, at least in my opinion. Right now everyone loves that web 2.0 clean and crisp style, go back a few years and it was the 3D bubble style. As I’m in the process of redoing my logo this is what I am trying to figure out…thanks for the article made me question a few of my ideas.

  20. Interestingly, and any one of well-known designers are using such services to create a logo as logaster ?

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