All the Non-Design Work That Precedes the Logo Design

September 27, 2012 | Branding, Design Basics, Logo design, Startups

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What goes on in a design project before we even start a sketch?

People hire us for our design work but it’s really what happens in advance of the design that makes our projects successful.

Whether it is a logo or a web site design we always like to start with a discovery phase that will drive the designs and help us to evaluate the designs using some established metrics. The extent to how much research we do depends on the scope of the project. This can be a thorough evaluation of competitors and audience, or it can be basic fact finding about the market position that a product or service wants to hold.

How much research on positioning should you invest in?

If you are a considering starting a small business, one piece of advice you will hear frequently is to look at the market and determine where there is a need. What are people looking for and not finding?

The same research that helps you evaluate the market can help you develop your brand identity. Your prospective customers may currently find solutions that position themselves as high tech, but not friendly. Or they may solutions with a high expertise level but are not local. Armed with this knowledge, we can figure out what elements should be part of a logo design or a brand’s broader visual position.

Who should do your research?

When we work with new clients, some of them have spent a lot of time doing this type of preliminary research. Others want to rely heavily on us to do this for them.

Ideally it will be a mix. You always know your industry better than we do. But we have the eyes of an outsider. This perspective can be extremely valuable. Plus, our research gets viewed through our lens of experience in matching market positioning to brand and visual positioning.

In fact, we always prefer to verify the data and references our clients give us.

For example, our clients may be considering only their closest and truest rivals as competitors when really there are many others who are important. These competitors may be on the outskirts of your geographic target, or their core offering is not the same as yours, but you overlap.

These differentiators may seems large and distinct to you, but may not be that clear to your prospects. You should be aware of these players if you want to do a thorough analysis of your marketplace.

Some people are surprised that we do this type of “business” research. But without this, you are evaluating design mainly on aesthetics and not on how they will work for your business.

Sorting out your internal positioning

A good logo is a balance between showing the personality of the organization and speaking to the target audience. For some small businesses, especially one-person companies or other micro businesses, it can be hard to let go of the look you want to convey. Even if it doesn’t connect with your prospects.

Another problem people have when hiring a designer for their logo is clearly articulating who you are and what makes you different. Synthesizing this is at the heart of the process that precedes the designing of a logo.

Here is a typical description I hear from a small business owner looking for a new logo:

I’m looking for something classic but modern, simple but not plain, conservative but not boring.

Everyone wants to walk that fine line of good taste without looking stodgy. And, as you can see, there are some inherent contradictions in these descriptions. It is about finding a balance.

Listening and interpreting

I’ve found that listening carefully and translating that information into graphic format is what we do exceptionally well here at Visible Logic. Before we even start to sketch out designs, we make sure that we are focused on the right things.

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