While there's definitely creativity and a basic design knowledge involved in creating a one-of-a-kind logo, there's also a system behind it all.
I've always been curious about how other designers go about their creative process, so today I’m taking you behind the scenes to give you a peek at what my logo design process looks like from start to finish.
1. Start with inspiration
Each creative approaches a project differently and draws inspiration from different places, but I’ve learned that I work best when I have a visual reference at the outset of my design process.
I use both my client’s answers in their homework and the images they’ve compiled in their Pinterest board to create an inspiration board of photos, colors, and patterns.
This not only ensures that my client and I are on the same page on the overall aesthetic of the brand, but it also serves as inspiration for the remainder of the project, especially when I design a logo.
For example, this inspiration board for Bulloss Photography allowed my client and I to choose a color palette and visual direction from the start of the design project.
The varying shades of pink, florals, and circular elements (like the citrus image and the cake) are all elements of the final logo.
Related post: How to Create a Clean and Cohesive Inspiration Board
2. Sketch ideas for the layout
As tempting as it is to start a logo in Illustrator, I’ve found that I’m most creative when I start on paper.
Sketching concepts allows me to get ideas out quickly and mess up a little more (and sometimes a “mess up” can be just what I need to spur a new idea or get out of a creative rut).
Not only is it faster for me to experiment with the layout of a logo on paper, but I’m less likely to focus on the details when I’m sketching ideas.
While focusing on the details is important in the later stages of the process (like type spacing and illustrations), it can hinder me from looking at the bigger picture in those first creative stages of logo design.
For sneak peeks at my sketches, follow along on Instagram - I’m plan to share more behind-the-scenes looks at my process in the coming weeks!
3. Explore/customize fonts
Once I have some logo concepts in mind, I take the ideas into Illustrator and begin experimenting with type.
Although my font library continues to grow, I often like to take a look at different options on font websites when I work on client projects.
My go-to is MyFonts.com, and I use their “enter your own text” option to get a good preview of what the text will look like. If I find a font contender, I’ll take a screenshot and outline the text in Illustrator to give my clients a preview of the type in the logo concept before I purchase the font.
Depending on the concept of the logo, I’ll occasionally alter a font to to make it fit the composition better or differentiate it and make it more distinct.
For example, in the Grace to Be Free logo, I extended the left side of the “f” in order to create balance. It may be simple or seemingly insignificant, but changing up the font can have a large impact on the overall appearance of a logo.
Related post: My Top 23 Favorite Fonts
4. Add a one-of-a-kind feature
A common design rule of thumb is to highlight one feature in a logo. Just one.
If you look at some of the best, most recognizable logos, they aren’t complicated; there’s usually one key aspect of the logo that stands out.
For Nike, it’s the swoosh. McDonalds, the golden arches. Apple, the apple. NBC, the peacock.
They didn’t go overboard with bells and whistles; they kept it simple.
So for each of my clients, I try to focus on one element that will make it stand out or cause it to be memorable.
By keeping it simple and sticking with one focal point, the logo is more memorable and recognizable in the long run
Related post: The Do's and Don'ts of Logo Design
5. Experiment with color
After I've worked out the composition and narrowed down the key elements of the logo, I start to bring in color.
Using the inspiration board as a reference point, I experiment with different color options in Illustrator until I find a good fit.
Like the last step, I usually keep the colors fairly neutral with one pop of color, but it also depends on the overall aesthetic of the brand; Bulloss Photography was an exception to this rule because they wanted something bright and cheerful.
Related post: The Psychology of Color in Branding
6. Consider variations
When I'm creating a logo, I'm constantly thinking about how each element - the fonts, colors, illustrations, etc. - can be used elsewhere and function within the entire brand.
I'm also considering how the logo can be rearranged or broken apart to create different variations for versatility.
With Magnolia Media, the pink illustrative design in the primary logo was carried over into the smaller, simpler mark that could be used for smaller collateral pieces and icons.
The logo could also be simplified by removing the pink design, which allowed for even more versatility within the brand.
7. Revise, revise, revise
When I was in design school, one of our professors required 100 distinct, sketched logo concepts when we were creating our own personal brand.
Once we were done, he had us go through and circle 10 of the best concepts and then create 10 more variations of each concept. Then we would go through once more, choose 5, and come up with 5 variations of each of those concepts. That's 225 logo concepts in all.
We all thought it was torture (and a little overboard) at the time, but it forced us to get creative and push ourselves further than we would have gone otherwise.
And looking back, it helped prepare me for freelancing and working with clients.
An idea can always be pushed one step further, even if you think you're at the end of your rope. I've had more than one client who loved a concept but thought it needed a little extra "umph."
And although it may have seemed pain-staking at the time, it encouraged me to come up with an even better option in the long run.
And even after my client and I have settled on a logo concept, it still takes revising. I revisit spacing, color, layout, and grid structure and make any final tweaks that are necessary.
The most important part of this entire process?
There should always be a reason behind every decision within a design, and especially within logo design. Although it may look as simple as throwing a font and an illustration together to create a logo, there's a lot more that goes into it than meets the eye.