Do Designers just create pretty logos?

"The goal of a designer is to listen, observe, understand, sympathize, empathize, synthesize, and glean insights that enable him or her to ‘make the invisible visible.’"
–Hillman Curtis

If you're just hoping into the Design Transparency Series, check out the intro post here! My goal with this blog post series is to equip, empower and add a little more transparency to the mystery of working with a designer by answering popular questions that you have about the design process and hiring and working with a designer.


Welcome to the 5th post in the Design Transparency Series.

When you are scrolling through instagram or browsing Pinterest, you’ll likely see beautiful logo designs, stationery pieces, and other design projects, and you’ll most likely NOT see messy desks covered in rough sketches, pages of research, pantone chips, and cold coffee.

Most of us only see the final project, pretty and polished and finalized, and not the hours of research and work and strategy that goes into creating that final logo or project. I think designers in general (at least the ones I follow) are doing a better job about showing more of the behind the scenes, but there is so much you can’t show.

This was such a great question that I got when I asked for feedback about design and the process in general and am excited to show you a peek into the process.

“Most people don’t know about the countless hours of research, planning, color theory, sketching, and strategy that goes into each project”  

A lot of people think designers create pretty logos, and sure, some do just that. But most people don’t know about the countless hours of research, planning, color theory, sketching, and strategy that goes into each project. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes, and the curtain is about to be pulled.

The branding process is a vulnerable place to be as a client/small business owner. It opens up things that haven’t been fully thought through, and it challenges some of their ideas about how to market their business and how to talk to their target audience. So as designers, our goal isn't to make something that just looks good. It's to use our expertise and talent to make a brand that will talk to the right target market, will tie back to the mission of the business, work functionally for the business owner, and be able to stand the test of time, all in just a logo mark. 

 

Things that Designers Can Bring to your project:

  • Strategy for your brand and how to build it with your goals and mission in mind

  • Color Theory - how colors affect emotions

  • Knowledge of Typography - how it affects emotions and how to pair fonts well

  • Market Research - really getting to know the client's industry and market, what competitors are doing, what's working and what isn't, and where there is a gap to fill

  • Aesthetics - of course a designer should be able to create something that is functional, but also looks well thought out, and pleasing

  • Implementation and Launch - some designers put a lot of work into their client's launch and helps them through the planning, the timing, and how to do it right

  • Marketing Plan - some designers will help their clients with marketing their launch, new logo, or project through a certain time frame, and can build marketing plans for their clients on where and when to reach their target market

  • Print and Digital Products - some designers are experienced and schooled in print design and the printing process (this is me), and some designers are experienced and schooled in digital products and web design. Some designer build websites to pair with a new logo. Some design printed stationary. Some design social media graphics, etc. 

 

My Process

The process looks different depending on the designer, but most first steps in a branding/logo design process is digging into the “why” behind the business. I take each of my clients through a brand questionnaire, that helps them get clear on their mission, their goals for the business, how they want their customers to feel when interacting with their brand, and how they themselves want their brand to be perceived. A lot of these questions can’t (or shouldn’t) be answered in a few minutes, and instead are taken home and thought about over a weekend or a couple of days.

“My goal as a designer is to build the foundation of your brand before even getting into aesthetics”

My goal as a designer is to build the foundation of your brand before even getting into aesthetics. This means getting clear on your mission and what you are trying to communicate with brand keywords, adjectives that explain the look and feel, digging into who your target audience is, and looking five to ten years into the future to build goals. And throughout the process, we constantly look back at these things to make sure we are on target and not getting distracted, which is so easy to do.

Now after talking over the answers to the brand questionnaire, the research begins. My process looks a lot like researching competitors and the market that my client is going to be entering, or is already in. It also includes researching their target market. Who they are, where they shop, where they live, what they like, where to reach them, etc.

"It allows me to make sure I know what the client is envisioning, and it let’s the client know that I’m on their same level with the business that they’ve let me be apart of."

The next step, and a step that is very common among designers is to ask each client to gather inspiration (if you missed my blog with tips on how to gather inspiration for your project, check it out here) for a moodboard. All of my research goes into pulling my own inspiration for a client moodboard. So while each client is pulling their inspiration, I pull my own to make sure we are aligned and on the same page with the goals for the brand. This also allows for further questions or conversations if our inspiration looks different from each other. It allows me to make sure I know what the client is envisioning, and it let’s the client know that I’m on their same level with the business that they’ve let me be apart of.

Once we have the moodboard set and approved, it acts as a guide for us to go back to as sketching starts and when we go onto the computer. It's so easy to get distracted by things that we see other businesses and designers doing, so having a moodboard that we've both agreed on, and is the basis for the research and answers, keeps both parties on track throughout the process. 

The next step is probably my favorite step in the design process. It's when everything comes together and I can start putting my ideas on paper. You know when you are sitting down to write a post or article, and you just need to get all the ideas out of your head first. That is how sketching starts in my process. I get everything out of my head, and then go back to the sketches that encompass the research, the goals, keywords, and target market and build upon those sketches.

"My goal is to try to get it right before even getting on the computer."

But of course, my process is catered a little towards each client I have. We all get clients who need to see the ideas in a more visual way, so with those clients, the sketching goes straight into adding the top 3-5 on the computer, so that they can understand the sketches better, and then edits are made that way. With other clients, the sketching process takes a lot longer, because my goal is to try to get it right before even getting on the computer. With these, we narrow it down to two or three, and then take them onto the computer. 

Vectorizing and digitizing a sketch is definitely not as easy as it sounds, and there are multiple tutorials on how to do it or see what all goes into it, so we won't get into that here, but with digitizing a sketch, I bring it onto the computer and start making the necessary tweaks to simplify it, smooth it out and create a final look. 

We then add in their color palette, any typography that has been talked about, and start making edits to the final logos, to decide which one is the best for their business, and all of the answers to the brand questionnaire. Like I said before, the branding questionnaire is something that we always go back to, so I try to stress to my clients, that putting in the time to really think about each question is so important for the process. 


Just like the quote by Hillman Curtis states, the goal of a designer is divided between listening and understanding the client and the project, and then creating something out of nothing to build a brand that works best for the client and their target market to get their business on their feet.