Creating a Powerful Logo
May 25, 2017 | by David Moncur
I believe the majority of business and marketing leaders have a vision for how they want their brand to be perceived in the market, and they understand that having a powerful logo is a key component in communicating that brand to the world. What they don’t typically understand however, and often devalue, is the set of steps, skills and experiences that are required to create something as seemingly simple as a logo.
Great creative is a journey—and all great creative projects (including logos) go through a process in order to attain a certain caliber. While the exact process for creating a great logo will vary from creative team to creative team, there are some important fundamental steps I feel are necessary in producing any professional grade work.
Here’s how we do it at Moncur:
Step 1: Discovery
I think you can’t do anything well without research.
When designing a logo, it’s critical to first study the competitive landscape in order to understand the visual field the company is playing in. Each industry tends to have a unique aesthetic in terms of the colors, styles and symbols that define the space. I believe a strong company logo is one that fits into the aesthetic of the industry, but is also unique to, and better than the rest.
Great designers can look at a competitive field and deconstruct the elements of those brands to gain a deep understanding of what will and will not work for a company, ultimately informing a design that strikes the perfect balance between fitting in, standing out and making a difference.
Beyond competitive research, I also think it’s almost impossible to come up with a good idea without inspiration. Specific inspirational research can make a huge difference in the creative process and being inspired by related concepts and visuals can spell the difference between WOW! and Ho-hum.
Personally, I believe that inspiration is a lifestyle choice, not just a task in the design process, and that the most creative minds have an ability to look out in the world and constantly make meaningful connections. At Moncur, I challenge our creative team to live creative lives, pay attention and always be curious. By doing that, they’ll always have inspiration to draw from and be able to make smart design choices and connections.
Step 2: Ideation
All ideas have to start somewhere.
Based what was gathered in Discovery, our designers begin by sketching design elements on paper—exploring and combining shapes, letterforms and illustration to establish the feeling they’re looking for. There is an art to selecting which elements to use, and to understanding how different type or iconographic choices reference different visual or thematic concepts.
Oftentimes, the most successful logos are very simple or abstract. While there are lots of exceptions to that thought, I’m a strong believer that a logo shouldn’t ever get overly complex or try to say too much. A logo will have to exist with all of the other brand elements in lots of different communication settings and if it is trying to tell too much of a story, it can be a recipe for trouble as a company’s brand grows and evolves over time.
Step 3: Translation
When you alter the form of something, you alter the feeling.
Translating sketches from paper to the computer makes a design feel more real, which often helps determine which concepts are the strongest. The high level of finish to a computer rendered concept can also really change how the mark works, so translation can be a critical stage in the development process.
In this phase, it’s all about understanding how to fine tune the details of great logo concept (composition, hierarchy, type, precise kerning, etc.) in order to find the right balance of elements that achieve visual harmony.
Step 4: Refinement
Though refinement comes greatness.
Once the designer has identified the concepts that feel the strongest, it’s important to test those designs across all applications in order to figure out which final tweaks and adjustments are going to be necessary to create the desired result.
We typically experiment with different sizes and variations of a logo and any associated icon (full logo, logo with tagline, just the icon on black, white, color and photo backgrounds, etc.) to make sure wherever the design is going to being used, it will be successful.
At this stage, it’s also important to go back to the initial research and do one final check against competitor logos to see if it does truly fit, while achieving our initial goal of being unique and also best in class.
Step 5: Presentation
The perfect presentation.
When we’re preparing to present design concepts to a client, we like to create extensive brand boards that outline all the different logo executions, color palettes and even mockups of how the new logo will look on different items and communications.
I believe that seeing something in context is the very best way to judge the work, and gives a much more realistic and meaningful look at the logo that’s about to become the cornerstone of the brand. Additionally, a beautiful logo design used in the wrong way can diminish the integrity of a brand, so providing a client with visual guidance on how to apply their logo in different applications is a critical final step.
From discovery through presentation, Moncur’s process for creating a powerful logo is far from simple. Yet, these are the steps that I believe are necessary to take in order to produce great creative that will make an impact in the market.
Business is a game. Competition is high. If you want your brand to stand out, you need to play hard and commit to a creative team and creative process that works.