Hi loves! Today we're moving along in our logo series to talk about how to brainstorm a logo. While this post is more of an approach aimed at designers, it can be helpful for anyone embarking on a logo creation process of his or her own. I do believe that working with a graphic designer who is knowledgable about and experienced in branding is always your best bet when trying to posture yourself as a professional, but I also understand that sometimes you just don't have the budget.
Maybe you already understand the why behind iconic and memorable branding; you just don't have the technical skills to make it happen. This approach can be helpful to you when hiring a graphic designer to execute your vision.
Many people, myself included for the past 2 1/2 years, jump into logo creation without the proper time investment. I've done this against my better judgment for the past few years because I simply did not have the time to devote to research when being paid $50 to $75 for a logo. As an entrepreneur, we often start small. We charge small fees and work on building up our portfolios for a few years. Now that I'm moving past that stage in my business, I'm working on my design process and implementing the proper steps that one should really take when creating a brand.
The first step is the discovery process. If you're working on your own brand, it's time to get honest with yourself. There are a lot of factors to consider, and now is the time to dig deeply. A few helpful questions to ask yourself (or your client, if you're helping someone else brand herself) follow.
- What products are you going to be selling (or do you already sell)? Is this likely to change, or are you committed to your current line? If you see yourself expanding beyond your current offering, don't box yourself into a certain design that won't apply later.
- Who is your target audience? Who are you currently reaching, and who do you WANT to be reaching? (This is a good time to mention finding a smaller niche. I've learned a lot about this recently, and I think it's worth noting. Entrepreneurs notoriously try to reach too broad an audience and do a major disservice to themselves in the process. So keep that in mind during this discovery process. If you're an existing business, maybe you can start thinking about drawing in a smaller niche instead.)
- What do you want your ideal client to feel when he or she buys your product/uses your service?
- What are some adjectives that describe how you want your business to be perceived?
- What's the price range of your items?
- What are your short- and long-term business goals?
- What is your design goal? If you're a new business, this will look different than if you're an existing business re-branding yourself. If re-branding, you probably have a good idea of what didn't work and how you can change that.
- What's your sales process? How do people find your business?
- List your largest competitors. What about their designs do they do right? What can you do differently or better?
I ask my clients more questions than this in our discovery process, but this is a great start. It's not a perfect science, but writing this all down can help draw out ideas and pinpoint weaknesses. If you're giving this information to a designer with branding experience, this will be very helpful for him or her in understanding your business, your challenges and opportunities, your competition, and your style.
Next in the process is the reflection and study time. As a designer, I like to spend a few days reading over my clients' answers and studying their businesses - either what they've already done or their projected business plans. I begin to poke around and study the competition and try to identify their design strengths and weaknesses. It's important to understand the emotional element in branding. Branding a company is about much more than what they sell. Understanding how a product or service makes the customer feel will tell you or your designer a lot about what direction you should take.
There's a science behind color and its relationship to branding. Research tells us that logo color can often play a huge role in the way your company is perceived and how people feel when they see your logo. Blue logos invoke feelings of confidence, success, and reliability. Green logos inspire feelings related to environmental friendliness, toughness, durability, masculinity, and sustainability. Pink logos portray youth and imagination. Yellow logos create feelings of fun and modernity. Red logos invoke feelings of expertise and self-assurance. Purple logos stir feelings of femininity, glamour, and charm. There's an interesting color rundown here and here if you're interested in learning more.
Honing down your branding mission (or that of your client) is another great step toward design that's on point. I would consider the most important aspects of branding brainstorming to be understanding the branding mission, who the target market is, what they should feel when they see the logo and how the company wants to be perceived. Those things alone can absolutely be enough to create an amazing and effective logo and/or branding.
If your mission is to appeal to young teens and position your company as different from others like you in some large way, you or your designer will understand that the design must be fresh and edgy and communicate the difference between you and your competitors. If it were me in this example, I would start by exploring some fun color schemes, funky fonts, or big, bold lettering. What we often fail to remember is that our own design style as entrepreneurs does not always translate to our target market's design style. And this is where I find a graphic designer with branding experience to be imperative. If you have a really firm grasp on your demographic and what they find visually appealing, you're on the right track!
Once you understand these elements well and you've been able to put into words all that you're after, you can start sketching out your ideas (if you're doing it on your own). It was actually a book on naming your company, Hello My Name Is Awesome, that gave me a new perspective on this initial brainstorming process. In the book, the author explains her naming process. It involves things like jotting down the adjectives that first come to mind. Shoot for 10 or so. I do the same thing using an initial questionnaire I ask my new clients to complete. I use the adjectives they provide, as well as some I've come up with on my own. Next, go to Google and land on a Thesaurus page. Start typing in those adjectives one by one. When some of those new words jump out at you, start jotting them down, too.
Let's work with an example. Say you want your brand to be perceived as an easy solution to a problem. I would jot down some words like easy, simple, problem-solver, panacea, effortless, piece of cake, cakewalk. Then I'd go to a thesaurus and start searching those terms. A few words would probably jump out at me to use in my brainstorming. For me it would be painless, uncomplicated, no sweat, smooth, elixir, cure, potion, etc. You can take these words and really run with them, looking up (or thinking of on your own) new words to branch off from others. In my example I decided to run with "cakewalk" and make a theme out of it. Unfortunately, this project never came to fruition for me because I wanted "cakewalk" to be an actual part of my business name, and it already existed within my own industry. But I had so much fun mapping out that whole theme in my head, from logo to package names to artwork! Next, check out Google Images. Start typing in some of the words you've jotted down and see where this takes you. Sometimes, as was the case in Hello My Name Is Awesome, it can take you down a new path. For the author, words like "cold" wound up with photos of snowboarders, which took her down a new path to explore when branding an ice cream store.
SKETCH OUT IDEAS
Once you have come up with a theme or idea based on this idea mapping, get out your pen and paper! It might be counterintuitive, but sketching on paper is incredibly helpful. When I started taking my first round ideas to paper, it opened up a new world to me. Previously, I'd relied on the tools I had in Illustrator. While you can do quite a bit, often you get held back by the restrictions when working on your first drafts. I don't always want to go to elaborate extremes to create a draft. But if I sketch it out first on paper and I see that it looks amazing, I'll be willing to put in the work to do more advanced things in Illustrator. Plus, there's just a time lag there. If I'm working in Illustrator on some initial ideas as they pop in my brain, I might get taken right off the idea path I was on by getting caught up in the technical aspects of trying to achieve certain effects. You can quickly erase or re-work graphics on paper, and when you've settled on an idea that seems pretty solid, you can take it into Illustrator (or whatever program you use). I draw pretty terribly, but that doesn't matter because I can clean it up in Illustrator. Don't be afraid to go far out there. Since implementing this method, I've used ideas that I probably wouldn't have taken the time to work up in Illustrator because they sounded pretty extreme compared to the ones that I was just sure would work.
In general, the ideas that seem brilliant on first pass rarely end up being the designs I go with. I almost always seem to accidentally stumble upon some of my favorite designs when sketching things out and letting my brain guide my hand, almost subconsciously.
Stay tuned for our next post in this branding series, coming later this week!