In the last few posts, I have spoken at length about the importance of brand and branding vs straight-out logo. If you missed that, have a look at "Why a logo will do nothing for your business without branding guidelines” which goes into detail about the importance of fully pledged branding. Today I want to walk you through the process involved in creating a fully functioning brand.
It can be easy to assume that creative projects fall upon the designer as divine strokes of inspiration and that creative decisions are made empirically rather than through a consistent thought process. Although I totally get why one could think that, it couldn’t be further from the truth. When creating a brand and a logo, there are lots of careful steps to follow. Each independent designer sets up their own steps and follows their own formula for creating assets for their clients. Today I am going to share my brand design process with you and show you exactly what it takes to create a unique brand
Getting To Know The Brand
The first step involves immersing myself in my customer’s world in order to better understand their brand and how they fit within their market. This will usually happen before a contract has been secured with a client and when I am still in the throes of figuring out whether we are a good fit for each other. I will ask a lot of questions, try to get to know my client on a personal level so I can develop the right relationship with them. Then I start research on their slice of the world so that I can understand the challenges that they face on a daily basis and what they spire to.
Once my client and I are agreed on moving forward on the project together, I send them a quick questionnaire with a few pointed questions in order to shed some light on things that might be unclear to me or to double check my assumptions.
Collecting this information helps me understand the message they are trying to convey through the brand. The more I know about a business, the better and more meaningful my designs will be.
Based on the information I have gathered in the first step, I start gathering images that reflect the brand’s visual identity and create a mood board. When creating a mood board, I look at examples in my client’s direct industry but I also intentionally branch out to different industries and creative spheres. I love the juxtaposition of images from fine art and architecture alongside imagery that is more applied like existing branding or advertising campaigns.
I usually create 3 different mood boards that reflect different approaches to my client’s visual identity. I will then discuss the mood boards in detail with the client whilst letting the imagery speak for itself. This step can be confusing to some clients who operate in a world where emotions do not direct decisions. Here I ask clients to think about how each board makes them feel and with which one identifies with the brand most.
This step is crucial and ends up informing the design process tremendously. It’s also great to have a solid mood board to look back on when a few years down the line, the client chooses to add creative assets.
Once our mood board is agreed on, my next task is to create a colour palette. The colour palette is an important piece of our final brand and therefore I like to create it early on and before the logo development stage, so that it doesn’t get restricted to soon. The colours are largely chosen out of the mood board, but it is my job to narrow them down and to make sure all chosen colours work well with each other.
For bigger brands (either larger companies or multiple facets to their business) I will add in the notion of colour hierarchy. For instance, we might have 3 colours as dominant colours and another 3 for accents only. If a brand has multiple businesses, the dominant colours for business A might end up being the accent colours for business B and vise-versa.
The next step is the all exciting development of a logo. I usually start with a sketchbook and paper and create some quick concept drawings of logos, that of course incorporate all the research done to date. After my initial paper and pencil sketches, I move quickly onto a software called Adobe Illustrator in which I work on the details and the lettering carefully.
In the first round I present my client with 6 black and white logos. The 6 logos I present will be born of 6 different concepts (rather than being variations of the same concept).
In my 6 different logos I use different design elements and different fonts in order to give them a clear choice between several different designs.
Usually my clients will come back to me saying something along the lines of “I like 2 and 4, but I also like the font in 6 and the circle in 1”. So, following this feedback, I create 3 new logo concepts which incorporate this feedback and narrow down options.
It's the entire composition of the logo like the layout, typography, placement, spacing that will make or break the design. I value simplicity in design and uncluttered lines, so I make sure that logos are not overcomplicated or too busy.
After a couple of rounds at best and sometimes even a few more, my clients and I have a solid back and white logo!
Colouring The Logo
Once we have a strong design, I move on to adding colours to the logo. I refer back to the colour palette chosen in step 3 and try varying combinations of colours for our logo. If it suits the brand, I might also add some texture effects to our logo design. Once I am happy with 3 strong options, I show them to my client and help guide them through this last crucial decision.
Even once we have a final coloured logo, there is still a bit of work to be done before signing off on the logo completely. I work on creating alternative submarks of that same logo. So, let’s say the logo is very vertical and mainly dark colours - I provide my clients with a horizontal version for times when only horizontal will do. I will also create a light version so that the logo can be placed on a dark background. Often at the end of this step we end up with about 8 logo versions - with explanations on how and when to use each version to follow in the branding guidelines.
Choosing fonts is an essential part of the design of a brand identity. Choosing fonts in this case doesn’t refer to the font used in the logo but to 2 other fonts that will be used for headings/ titles and for body text in printed applications or websites.
Again, when doing this I keep my client closely involved in the decision making by offering them 3 options of font combinations that are specifically chosen for their unique brand.
To find out more about how I pair fonts, check out my recent blog post “How to pair fonts like a pro” where I go into fine detail about choosing fonts and what works and what doesn’t!
Added Bonus: Pattern/ Texture/ Illustration/ Icon
In order to make sure the whole brand is comprehensive and refined, I offer my clients the option of creating 2 unique textured or patterned backgrounds to enhance their brand. This gives their brand more depth and enables them to have a distinctive brand identity even without relying entirely on the logo. Sometimes the brand might lead itself better to a set of illustrations or icons so that’s also a great way of taking the branding beyond the logo.
Business Card Design
Branding might all still feel like theory until we have the opportunity to apply it to a concrete application. This is why I add a business card design in my branding package. It’s not only so that my client can have a business card to print but also because they can then have a example of how to apply their different brand elements. Business cards will include the logo, the fonts, colours and more often than not, a pattern, texture or illustration so they are the perfect way to see everything working together.
Following the design of the business card, I am ready to collate all the different assets we have created and create a small guide to show what they are and how to use them. Some clients require quite in-depth branding guidelines and some want them to be more succinct. In all cases my branding guidelines will showcase the original mood board, display the colour palette, show the logo and its alternative submarks, explains the font usage and introduce the pattern or illustration.
For more in-depth ones, I will go into quite a lot of details about which variation of the logo to use and why, rules about spacing around the logo, kerning of the fonts etc. It really depends on the business and its need.
The last step involves creating a folder with all assets in all necessary formats. I will export the logo as a vector logo so that the client has the original file for future reference as well as jpegs of various sizes and pngs. When this is complete the client receives a link to a Dropbox folder with everything in it. Of course, if anything is missing or if a specific format is required, I add any additional files for a month after that.
So, there you have it! A very in-depth look inside my brand design process. As I mentioned before very designer has their own way of approaching the design process. My self-developed process comes from close to 9 years of deigning logos and brands for various businesses. I have changed it up a few times, always for the better and for increasingly happy clients.
If you are starting to think about branding for your business and would like to chat it through, get in touch here. I’d love to schedule a free - no commitment - 30 min phone conversation with you. I am booking for January now so get in touch soon to start the New Year under the banner of beautiful designs.