Logo Design Process From Start To Finish [Guide]

In this article, I will guide you through an example of logo design process. I designed a new logo and identity for one of my recent clients – HTCA. I’m offering insights into not only the thought process behind creating the logo but also the process of creating the logo itself.

I believe that whether you’re a designer or you need a designer, this article will give you a valuable insight into the process of Logo and Brand Identity Design.

I’m a freelance graphic designer living and working from New York, who specializes in Brand Identity Design and I got this project from referral.

Getting the job

My former client, Akshay Ramanathan, the business owner of Sukoon Travel Group, contacted me earlier this year with a request to design new brand identity for a startup from New Jersey.

Before we jump into the logo design process itself, let’s first answer some fundamental questions. This will let us stay focused on delivering the highest quality product in a good manner of time.

What is a Logo and how to design one?

Basically, a logo is something that can hold everything. That makes logo design a very important task. They’re either abstract shapes, pictorial marks or just the name set in a chosen typeface or a configuration of them.

However, a logo is not a brand, neither an identity – read more about the differences between Brand, Brand Identity and Logo Design.

When a designer first takes on a new logo project, he spends a lot of time trying to understand both the organization and its audience. We’ll get to the process of learning what a logo needs to “say” later, but first, let’s talk about what makes a great logo in the first place.

Most logo designers follow some iteration of these principles of great logo design:

  • Simplicity: Is the design simple and clean enough to be flexible and easily recognizable? Is it not too busy, distracting, or confusing?
  • Memorability: Is it quickly recognizable? Will people only have to spend a second or two thinking about it to get it?
  • Timelessness: Will it still be a great logo in 10, 20, or even 50 years?
  • Versatility: Does it scale to different sizes without losing quality? Will it work across various media and within different contexts?
  • Appropriateness: Does it resonate with the desired audience?

Even though logos are often just small images, they carry a whole lot of meaning. Logos are usually the most recognizable representation of a company, service or product. Therefore designing a logo comes with a whole lot of responsibility, too.

A graphic designer Graham Smith summarized it to 9 simple tips on what exactly makes a successful logo and what to avoid in the logo design process.

How long does it take to design a Logo?

In the process of logo design – timing is often a very important factor for the client. Logo design process timeline is a very important factor for the clients. Actually, all clients have a sense of urgency, regardless of the size and nature of the company.

However, there are no shortcuts to the process, and eliminating steps may be detrimental to achieving long-term goals. Why? Simply because developing an effective and sustainable identity takes time. There are no instant answers, and a commitment to a responsible logo design process is imperative.

The length of a brand identity project is affected by the following factors:

  • Size of organization
  • Complexity of business
  • Number of markets served
  • Type of market: global, national, regional, local
  • Nature of problem
  • Research required
  • Decision-making process
  • Number of decision makers
  • Number of applications

In conclusion, understanding of the investment of necessary time and resources is crucial in the process of Logo and Brand Identity Design. I will not talk about how much a logo design cost because like with any other service the rate vary greatly, however you can read more here about logo design pricing.

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The Logo Design Process

The process is a combination of investigation, strategic thinking, design excellence, and project management skills. It requires an extraordinary amount of patience, an obsession with getting it right, and an ability to synthesize vast amounts of information.

  1. Design Brief.
    Act as a sponge trying to absorb as much information as possible about the client.
  2. Research.
    Conduct research focused on the industry itself, on its history, and on its competitors.
  3. Brainstorming.
    Conceptualize some ideas and make decisions on the possible design directions.
  4. Sketching.
    Develop the logo design concepts around the brief and research.
  5. Execution.
    Select promising concepts and execute them digitally.
  6. Presentation
    Prepare a presentation of the logo design concepts in the applications relevant to the client.
  7. Production.
    After the decision was made it’s time to deliver final artwork, guidelines, website and everything that is covered.

Regardless of the nature of the client and the complexity of the engagement, the logo design process remains the same. What changes is the depth with which each phase is conducted, the length of time and the number of resources allocated, and the size of the team.

The process is the process, but then you need a spark of genius.

The logo design process outlined in this article is defined by distinct phases with logical beginnings and endpoints. In my opinion, it is very important to stick to the process and facilitate decision making at the appropriate intervals.

Check also this logo design process infographic.

Disclaimer

Eliminating steps or reorganizing the process might present an appealing way to cut costs and time, but doing so can pose substantial risks and impede long-term benefits. The process, when done right, can produce remarkable results.

1. The Design Brief

Nearly all designers agree that the initial accumulation of information from the client is the most important step while in the logo design process.

If I know who they are, it becomes far easier to make decisions about everything. Should your logo be bold? Ingenious? Cautious? Do you need a mark or just a logotype? You get the idea.

How do I approach a new project

  1. First, I like to send a simple brand identity questionnaire to gather some basic, preliminary information about the client. A questionnaire gives the client time to think, research and discuss topics with others if needed.
  2. Second, follow up with an interview on the phone, Skype or in person. In this case I traveled to New Jersey with Akshay to meet the client for a dinner. I asked some additional questions in order to understand both the organization and its audience and outline the scope of work that needs to be done.

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Some of the questions I ask:

  • What from your perspective a visual identity system must help achieve?
  • What distinguishes your company from peers in your field?
  • Where are you going in the future?

And then I listen attentively. I know that I need to understand my client very thoroughly before I get started.

So by asking more specific questions, I’m getting to know my client and his business. This is where I establish the design brief. To summarize – It can be done either by a face to face interview or an online brand identity questionnaire or both.

Check here on how to create a brand identity questionnaire.

Who is my client?

The first priority is to understand the organization: its mission, vision, target markets, corporate culture, competitive advantage, strengths and weaknesses, marketing strategies, and challenges for the future.

These are my findings. The startup from New Jersey is called HTCA and the company works with data in the healthcare sector. Here’s the mission statement:

We are an NJ based company who is experienced in data handling at all segments of healthcare industry

My ultimate aim was to fully understand the business. So that ultimately I understood in detail what I’m designing the logo for and why.

I know from the brief that HTCA customers are top level executives in hospitals and healthcare industry. Based on that findings I can make further decisions in terms of typography or colors that could be appropriate for healthcare.

You have to know who you’re designing for. Logo Design is never shooting the target blindfolded. It’s the opposite. When you’re designing a logo, you’re ultimately solving a problem.

2. The Research Phase

After gathering all information about the client – now it’s time for the industry research, competitive research, and visual research. Searching the field or industry helps designers get a sense of the environment the logo’s going to live in.

Research is a critical stage in the logo design process.

What I mean by that is that I had to search for HTCA competitors, this includes researching the industry itself and conducting a visual searching for other logos in the industry.

You need to know the trends and what’s appropriate and how to differentiate the company from its competitors.

Find out about the competition

You have to understand the client’s field in order to ensure that the solutions will be linked to his business goals. For this reason, market research is conducted. Learning must be focused and accelerated.

Understanding may be achieved by experiencing the organization from a customer’s perspective. Therefore, I gain insight from navigating the competitors’ websites. I want to see how easy it is to understand the product offerings or using the products. The goal is to understand how the organization fits into the larger competitive environment.

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.

Anyone can access research on the web, but the research itself does not provide answers. Interpreting data is a skill in itself. Therefore I consider all the data but I go with my gut’s feelings as well as my experience.

Logo design research

Finally, I conduct a logo design research. This is a part of the research not into the client’s business, but into the actual design style. This is where I seek out a look or a style, an approach or attitude. Not to copy, but rather to see what was already done and how to differentiate.

In other words, I want to refresh myself with what is new or successful. For these reasons, I would find logos of similar business’ and critique them constructively.

First, I look more for techniques and to ask myself why a certain logo looks good, or why this particular logo works. Second, why I like or dislike that one? This is where I look for inspiration for my next phase.

3. Brainstorming and Conceptualizing.

In this phase, after digesting all the information gathered so far, it’s time to organize them into conceivable pieces. I spend some time listing descriptive words that I think represent the business well. I search for visual references as well.

Create a mood board with a list of adjectives and visual references that describe the business.

You need to create a logo that reflects those adjectives. If you have a long list, select 3-5 of the most important words and run with that. It will help you to stay focused and make decisions on the design directions you should pursue.

the-logo-design-process-from-start-to-finish-brainstorming

Defining a problem

I always focus on clients objectives. Making a formally successful logo is important, but making something that communicates as a base for all the client’s endeavors is critical.

I demonstrate a problem-solving approach to Logo design.

I work in the service of clients and address the challenges and parameters they bring to me in they search for a visual identity. Typical design problems may be:

  • I’m starting a new business. I need a business card and a website.
  • We’ve developed a new product and it needs a name and a logo yesterday.
  • We want to appeal to a new and more affluent market.
  • Our visual identity does not position us shoulder to shoulder with our competitors.
  • We do not present a consistent face to our customers.
  • We need to send a strong signal to the world that we are the new industry leader.

Working out a strategy

Once I feel that I have defined the problem adequately and gained sufficient knowledge of the client and of the industry or field in which they operate I begin to work out my strategy for designing an effective identity. I consider the problem as a challenge to overcome.

Logo design is a challenge

And we love challenges, don’t we? Logo design challenges me to use all the magic at my command, all my skill, knowledge, vision, and ability, in the creation of a single, clear, direct image that will embody the character and aspirations of the organizations that come to me in search of an identity.
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Devising a solution

One of the first questions I ask myself is whether the client and their design problem will require a symbol or simply a memorable typographic treatment of the name. In other words, whether the client needs an icon or a graphic image that appears with the name or just a word-mark or logotype as a main part of the visual identity.

Short distinctive names are often enough by themselves to identify an entity as they do for “FoodieCard“. A symbol can work as a decorative visual shorthand that embodies the brand as it does for “Probasket“. In considering this questions, I begin to define the logical parameters of the eventual solution for an identity design.

HTCA stands for Healthcare Technology Collaborators of America. The name itself is too long that’s why an acronym is needed. On the other hand, the problem with acronyms is that nobody knows what they stand for unless it is a large corporation like IBM or government body like IRS.

The decision was made, that the new logo needs to appear with the full name when possible, but the design direction itself can focus either on the creation of a distinctive symbol or just a logotype alone.

4. Sketching and Concept generation.

Sketching logos is where creativity comes into play. This is where the science – which is everything I learnt in the previous phases and the strategy that grows from it – meets the art, which is intuitive exploration of conceptual design solutions.

In this phase, thoughts and feelings take form.

Develop logo design concepts based on the brief, research and design problem defined.

Some designers use a sketchbook. The others start right away with the computer. But I sketch my ideas by hand – using pencils and pens on paper. I begin every project by sketching using traditional methods.

I’m looking for the most direct connection between an idea and the creation of a form. In the early conceptual phase, the computer’s preprogrammed functions often just get in the way.

This is a matter of personal choice but I believe that sketching by hand gives the designer an immediacy of artistic expression. It’s just a perfect intuitive extension of creative impulses. Ultimately it’s all about the idea, right?

Sketching on paper

Logo Design Process - Sketching

Time for reflection

Sketching logos might be time-consuming. For this reason taking breaks is as important as the physical research and the design brief. It is so easy to get stuck and get tired of a project and this is why logo designers take breaks.

Therefore by resting, your ideas mature and develop in the back of your head. When you go back to your project, you have renewed enthusiasm, insight and opportunity.

The eureka moment

You’ve probably heard about the fact that usually, the best ideas comes in the least expected moments. While your conscious mind is consumed by other tasks (e.g. driving a car or taking a shower) you unconsciousness comes up with some extraordinary ideas, and – eureka!

5. Execution of the promising ideas.

I select some of the promising, rough designs (3-4 concepts) and then translate them into digital artwork. I execute only the ideas that can work effectively for the client.

Logo design process tip: You should use Illustrator to design vector graphics (logo concepts) and Photoshop to present these concepts in context (photorealistic mockups).

Check my post on Medium: Step by step logo design in Illustrator.

Then you tweak the designs and develop many variations of the concepts. As a result, the logo concepts improve and become stronger very quickly. Below are the three logo design concepts I designed for HTCA.

Logo Design Process example: 3 Logo Concepts for HTCA

Concept 1

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Concept 2

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Concept 3

HTCA logo design concept 1

I judge the concepts by the following criteria:

Is the logo concept appropriate?

By appropriate I mean that the logo concept is relevant to the client and its industry. For example: if the client’s industry is sport’s news (Probasket project), the logo may need to be bold and dynamic. If the client is in the culinary industry (FoodieCard project), the logo may need to be tasty and delicious.

I say appropriate, but not necessary expressive. Sometimes I have an opportunity to create a logo that conveys literal ideas about the entity represented (such as Probasket).

But more often than not, a logo concept cannot express a great deal in detail. I often refer to a successful logo as a vessel that can hold the associations relevant to the company. Rather than actually illustrating them. This is because of the next criterion: a logo concept has to be simple.

Is it simple?

By simple, I mean that a logo design has to be focused on the concept. It has a single “story” – and, in most cases, must be uncomplicated in form. So it can work effectively and flexibly in a wide range of sizes and media. It looks good in small size on a business card. Also in different physical materials such as those used for signage. And in pixels in the digital realm – even as a website browser icon. But the simplicity of the logo is only valuable as long as the third criterion is met. A logo concept must be memorable.

Is it memorable?

By memorable, I mean that while the form must be simple, it must also be distinctive – unusual enough to be remembered. Of course, the simpler the form is, the less special it tends to become. And so it is often a marriage between simple and distinctive.

In other words, how memorable can the design be while remaining simple? How distinctive can I make the mark while keeping it focused? You can tell that the right balance has been achieved, after a brief time of looking at a logo, you can easily draw it from memory.

Selecting logo concepts.

Adherence to this criteria can produce marks that have potential to endure: they are relevant to the client and can be used flexibly and consistently, so they don’t need to be changed in the foreseeable future.

They can be simple enough to read in an instant and memorable enough to persist in one’s mind. Based on these three criteria, therefore, I select the most promising design alternatives – almost always more than one, because there is rarely a single right answer.

6. Presentation of the selected concepts.

The next step is to present these logo design concepts in context relevant to the client. In logo design process I might go back and forth multiple times until I reach satisfactory results with how a particular logo design concept works in applications.

I may actually go back and forth and tweak the logo, its parts, change color or proportions if I find it necessary.

Remember, that it’s important to choose a group of real applications to test the viability of concepts to work within a system. Therefore, presenting logo concepts on a blank piece of paper is never the case.

In this case, HTCA outlined in the brief that they need very basic elements of a stationery system: business cards, letterhead and envelope.

Concept 1 on applications

htca2_stationery

Concept 2 on applications

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Concept 3 on applications

htca1_stationery

Revisions

In conversation with the client, who knows their own field best, we review the advantages of every solution and arrive together at a preferred design.

Clients may say things like: “I don’t like blue” or “dots are boring” or “It reminds me of some other things”, but It is only after a mark is officially adopted, that the audience will embrace it and with time come to associate it with their feelings about the company or institution it represents.

Clients will be very impressed with the accuracy and the overall aesthetics of the presentation provided with if you follow the steps.

New logo needs to mature

Like a good red wine, a new logo needs to mature. So evaluating it in concept form requires the judgment of an expert. The approach practiced in these cases can produce logos that achieve an enduring level of public awareness – indeed, that can become iconic.

7. Production of the final concept.

After approval of the logo design and the remaining 50% payment, I sent Akshay the final files in EPS, JPG, PNG and TIFF formats.

The challenge that I had when creating the HTCA logo was trying to incorporate some sort of data into the logo while still making it look healthcare related. Getting ideas from the sketch pad to the public eye requires careful and rigorous testing. Logo design requires considerations other than immediate, subjective reactions.

 

Always underpromise and overdeliver

Remember to always underpromise and overdeliver. I’ve done so by developing an animated version of the logo.

Here’s the animated logo for HTCA:

I hope that this article helped you understand the logo design process itself and how designers approach new projects.

See the full HTCA logo and brand identity project here.