7-Step Logo Design Process
- Discover—Get to know the client’s business.
- Research—Find out about the industry and competitors.
- Brainstorm—Develop ideas and decide on art direction.
- Sketch—Create logo concepts based on strategy.
- Design—Select best options and execute them digitally.
- Present—Show the concepts on relevant applications.
- Deliver—Prepare logo artwork and style guide.
In this article, I will walk you through my proven 7-step logo design process and do so on a real-case scenario.
So that you can see my going through these steps and get inspired to make your work more efficient and more effective as well.
“Logo design process demands a combination of investigation, strategic thinking and design excellence.“ — Alina Wheeler, Designing Brand Identity
So whether you’re a designer, or you’re looking to hire one, this article will give you a valuable insight into the logo making process.
Now, my client approached me with a rebranding project and I know you want to see the logo before and after so here you go:
Now, before we talk about each and every step that led my to that final design, it’s important to briefly remind ourselves what makes a great logo in the first place.
What makes a good logo
Every designer will give you a slightly different definition of what makes a great logo, but basically you can boil it down to the three fundamental logo design principles.
And as the famous logo designer, Sagi Haviv said:
We judge each of our early design concepts by the following criteria: Is it appropriate? Is it simple? Is it memorable?—Sagi Haviv, Identify
These three criteria come in the form of questions that we can ask ourselves when developing logo designs.
Now, let’s explain each of those principles shortly to understand what they really mean.
Is it appropriate?
Appropriate means that the logo is relevant in form and concept to the client and its industry.
For example: If you’re designing for a fashion brand, then the logo needs to be elegant, but if you’re designing for a sports brand, then the logo probably needs to be bold and dynamic.
Is it simple?
Simple means that a logo has to be focused on a single story and in most cases it must be uncomplicated in form.
A logo must be simple so it can work effectively and flexibly in a wide range of sizes and media e.g. in small size on a business card, and in big size such as a signage.
Is it memorable?
Memorable means that while the form must be simple, it must also be distinctive enough to be easily remembered.
Of course the simpler the form is, the less special it tends to become, so the challenge is to keep it simple while making it distinctive enough so it can be remembered.
Ok, so without further ado, let’s jump right into the first step of my logo design process which is the discovery phase.
1. Discover—Get to know the client’s business.
Now, every designer will have a slightly different approach, but most would certainly agree that running a discovery phase and developing some sort of a brand strategy is an absolute must.
Discovery is about getting to know the client’s business, it’s history, industry, competitors and audience.
And this is because logo design is not art, so we shouldn’t just start coming up with logo ideas out of thin air relying purely on our sense of aesthetics.
You see, a logo should serve a specific business objective, so therefore you need to stay objective in the process in order to design something that is appropriate.
A logo is the centerpiece of all brand communication—it’s literally everywhere—so it should stand the test of time.
We naturally don’t want to redesign that logo in the foreseeable future, so we want to give ourselves the best possible chance at designing a logo that will endure.
Before you actually open up the Illustrator and start playing with type, color and shape—you must first brief the client and create a foundation for your creative exploration.
Now, different designers will go to different extent with the discovery phase.
Some designers will just send a branding questionnaire or have a more informal discovery phone call.
However, I use my proprietary brand strategy framework that I run with my clients prior to embarking on any design work.
So I run the strategy workshop with my client, and during that session we go through a series of branding exercises that help me extract all the necessary information about the project.
2. Research—Find out about the industry and competitors.
Now, in the second step, I take all the information form the discovery phase and conduct further research to draw insights that will serve me later on in the ideation phase.
Research is all about analyzing the industry in more detail, conducting visual research and drawing conclusions.
Researching the industry helps you as a designer get a sense of the environment the logo’s going to live in.
The goal of this phase is to better understand the client’s field in order to ensure that the solutions that you will later come up with can work for them effectively.
Now, you need to know what can work and what’s appropriate and most importantly how to differentiate the company from its competitors.
And this understanding may be achieved by experiencing the organization from a customer’s perspective.
So stepping in the customers shoes and further analyzing the industry and competitors is a crucial step in logo design process.
It will help you steer your creativity later on and you will avoid making a mistake of designing something that is too similar to their competitors.
During the strategy session (5th exercise), we start doing some competitive analysis with my client and now I take it further and conduct additional research.
I gain insights from navigating competitors’ websites and evaluating their brand identities.
Then I take notes on what are their strong and weak points, so that it can serve me in the next step—the brainstorming step.
3. Brainstorm—Develop ideas and decide on art direction.
In the brainstorm step, based on the discovery and research performed, I simply start outlining my strategy for generating logo ideas.
Brainstorming is about thinking through all possible design directions that would steer creativity in the right direction.
So here is where I seek out a look or a style that could convey my client’s brand persona (the third part of my strategy framework).
And here I also use the mind map (9th exercise of my strategy framework) to start searching for visual representation of the most important keywords distilled from previous steps.
As a result I put together three different mood boards that are basically a collection of visuals that capture the strategic insights.
I search for the font, color, style etc. and consider all aspects of visual langue that would embody our brand strategy.
For Medihuanna I created three mood boards: Credible, Innovative (above), and Natural and then I review them together with my client.
Next, we discuss those possible solutions and we make some decision on what direction should we proceed with.
By narrowing our focus with mood boards we try to stay objective, so that we can base our sketches in the next phase on solid strategic understanding.
4. Sketch—Create logo concepts based on strategy.
Sketching logos is where real creativity comes into play, but since I’ve done my homework I’m able to judge my sketches against clearly defined criteria.
The goal of sketching is to find a connection between an idea and the creation of a form.
Some designers use a sketchbook while others start right away on the computer, but most professional logo designers sketch logos by hand, using pen on paper.
This is because sketching by hand gives you an immediacy of artistic expression and I believe that very logo designer should absolutely start this way.
It’s also important to decide whether we need a symbol or simply a memorable typographic treatment of the brand name (wordmark).
In case of my client, the name, Medihuanna, is pretty self-explanatory (Medical + Marijuanna), so we’ve decided to go on with a distinctive wordmark.
We also decided that we need a symbol that can act as a visual shorthand, so that It can be used in small sizes where the full name would become illegible.
Now, sketching logos might be time-consuming, so it’s important to take breaks and let your ideas mature and develop in the back of your head.
So that when you get back to your project after a break, then you can have a fresh look, renewed enthusiasm, and therefore you can be much more effective.
You’ve probably also heard about the fact that the best ideas usually come about in the least expected moments.
While your conscious mind is consumed by other tasks (like driving a car, or exercising), then your unconsciousness comes up with some really great ideas.
That’s why I always recommend designers to carry something that you can sketch on.
This step usually takes a few days as you really need to go for quantity here and sketch a ton of logos.
And this is because we need to have many great ideas, so that in the next step we can pick a few strong ones and execute them digitally on computer.
5. Design—Select best options and execute them digitally.
So once you have a ton of sketches, then you can judge them against the strategy and select the most promising concepts to execute them digitally.
Now, design part is all about translating your sketches into digital form and then further testing viability of each concept.
So don’t rush here to execute every single logo idea that you have, but rather focus only on concepts that you think can work effectively for your client.
By now, you should have a lot of criteria for what could and what could not work for your client.
If you feel like all of your sketches are weak, then you can go back and forth between sketching and designing until you got some pretty exciting logo concepts.
Once you have a few strong logo ideas, then you just need to use Adobe Illustrator to design vector graphics.
Here I simply recreate those sketches on computer and then design multiple variations of each idea in order to arrive on the best option.
The design part can take a very long time (a few days to a few weeks) before you actually execute your ideas in a way that is aesthetically pleasing.
I tweak the designs and test different colors, fonts, spacing, alignment and so on—always making a new copy so that I can always go back to the previous version of my logo.
This step is simply about testing many different ways in which you can execute your logo sketches in order to arrive on the best aesthetics.
Now if you do this the right way (and don’t rush this step) your logo concepts will improve and become stronger very quickly.
6. Present—Show the concepts on relevant applications.
Once I’m done with designing my logo concepts (and I’m pretty happy with the outcome), then I just need to show them to my client in the form of a presentation.
Show the client your three strongest brand identity concepts on relevant applications.
Remember to share with your client only those solutions that can work for them effectively—don’t make a mistake of showing something that you’re not really proud of.
Each of these three logo concepts is the result of the disciplined but creatively open process I describe here.
While each of those concepts are different, they all revolve around the strategy.
I selected a few applications relevant to the client: a business card, a book cover and a bag in order to show my client how these logo will look like in real life.
How do I know what kind of mockups should I create?—In the exercise six of my strategy framework I list all the key marketing initiatives my client would be interested in, so that now I can use these findings to pick 3 to 5 mockups.
And again, as with other steps in my logo design process, you might need to go back and forth between designing your logo and testing it on applications until you arrive on a great solution.
You simply need to test the viability of each logo concept by creating beautiful mockups to see how it will work in real life.
Learn more about logo presentation (together with my template) in my other article.
If you followed my steps, then your client should be very impressed with the accuracy of your presentation at this point.
My client liked the first concept, so we just tweaked a few details like for example: the leaf alignment, so that the logo looks more balanced.
Sometimes clients can be skeptical about your logo design concepts, but this is simply because all new logos tend to feel foreign at first.
You need to remind your client that only after a logo is officially adopted, we can really embrace it and attach a meaning to it.
In this step you might still want to tweak a few things, combine elements of different concepts and polish the designs before the final approval.
So together with my client we review the advantages and disadvantages of each solution and arrive at a preferred logo design.
7. Delivery—Prepare logo artwork and style guide
Once you have your client’s approval, then it’s time to deliver the brand identity package including logo artwork and a style guide.
The delivery package should include logo source files and a style guide that describes on how to use that logo.
And again, you will know exactly what kind of files you should deliver based on the applications outlined in the strategy part (5th exercise).
However, in general make sure to include basic variations of the logo, such as full color, black, white and monochrome.
You should also save logo files for different use both in print and digital (vector & raster) e.g. AI, ESP, PNG, JPG etc.
Remember to inform the client about any commercial fonts being used in the logo or brand identity, just in case they want to design other applications in the future.
Finally, you need to work on a style guide that would show all the logo variations and how to use them (like safe space, placement on dark vs. bright background and so on).
In your style guide you also should specify on other brand identity elements like: color palette, typography system, photography style, perhaps illustrations, animations and other elements.
Depending on the client’s needs and of course on their budget, you can go from a very basic one page style sheet to a more comprehensive brand guideline.
Final word about delivery—remember to always underpromise and overdeliver—I’ve done so by providing my client with an extra logo animation.
Great logos do not happen by accident—they are the result of strategic thinking, exploring, failing and designing again.
Each aspect of your logo, whether it is shape, font or colors—can help you influence people’s perception of your brand.
When it comes to logo design, you have to be very intentional with the design choices you make.
Ultimately it is all about creativity and skillset, but you also must stay focused and base your concepts on solid strategic understanding.
That’s why I would urge you to NOT skip the initial phases of preparation as it will immensely benefit you later on in your logo design process.
Just see what my client said:
You will stay focused, have more clarity, make less revisions and get there much faster as you normally would if you jumped straight into the design part.
If you follow my process, you will also go beyond your personal preferences or client’s subjective opinion for that matter.
This process will help you defend your work without being defensive—If you’re a logo designer.
And it will help you feel confident when choosing the perfect logo for your brand—if you’re a business owner.
Don’t forget to check out my strategy guide if you want to learn how to run discovery sessions with you clients.
Is your logo design process very different from mine?—I’d love to hear from you in the comment below.
Looking for a custom logo for your business?—Just schedule a call to discuss your project.