Last week in Spotlight on Logo Design Part 1, we had a look at the initial preparation stage of the logo development process including the importance of market research and how to start defining your brand identity or as we like to call it, “personality”. If you missed the article then you can find it here.
To summarise, you’ll have developed your vision board (no it doesn’t have to look pretty, just functional), along with some keywords which identify characteristics of your target market. Together these will have provided you with a starting point as to exactly how your business is going to meet the needs of your target market. To illustrate this point, let’s use BabyCakes, the baby care products example we used last week. We identified that your primary target market is women under 45 with young children who were stressed out, tired and time poor. So are you going to try to flog her baby care products? No. You’re going to show her through BabyCakes’ brand identity that you understand her needs, want to help her relax and take the pressure off so she can enjoy time with her children.
How are you going to do that? Well that will come through in the graphics, brand colours, photography, copywriting and overall style used in your marketing materials such as logo, stationery, website and advertising. Here is where you’ll need to find a creative design agency that understands what you are trying to achieve and translates all of the above information into interesting and compelling visuals that communicate your brand message effectively.
How To Find The Right Design Agency
This is fairly subjective and there’s no right or wrong formula, but it does come down to a few basic principles – budget, communication and creativity. The best bet is to narrow your list down to three agencies, maybe one from the top end of town and two smaller studios.
The first question to ask is can you get what you need within your budget range? If upon receiving quotes you realise that your expectations are way out of line with industry pricing, then it would be wise to scale back on your project. It’s better to get one really good logo that will service your business for the next five years, than an entire branding suite for the same price that doesn’t look professional or meet your marketing objectives. Secondly do you feel comfortable with the designer or the account manager? As the project develops you’ll be required to communicate feedback so feeling intimidated or ignored is only going to frustrate you. Finally look at the agency’s online portfolio and see if you like their previous work. If they don’t have one then ask why. It’s standard industry practice to showcase creative work and case studies online these days.
Another thing to keep in mind is the type of client base the agency has on their books. They may sport some big recognisable brands, but they’re probably charging accordingly. Most small businesses can’t afford these types of budgets. Check to see if there are any small businesses featured. What have they done for them? Make sure that your brand is not relegated to the unimportant pile because you’re not a huge corporate entity (yet!). The agency should be just as interested in your project as they are in the big budget ad campaign they are doing for a large franchise chain. Don’t sell yourself short. There are plenty of boutique agencies who enjoy helping small businesses develop a new brand – like us!
Also worthy of note is the often mentioned “I’ll get my friend’s daughter’s boyfriend’s sister to do it. She’s creative.” Hmmm she may well be creative, however does she have any experience in commercial art, marketing, client communication, meeting deadlines and preparing artwork for print? These are the crucial skills required to bring your design project to a successful completion. Without them you could find yourself floundering away trying to organise an inexperienced person, wasting a huge amount of time that you probably would prefer to spend on your business. It’s a well worn cliche, but apt in this case – you get what you pay for. Don’t skimp on this most important aspect of the business development process.
Once you’ve chosen your list of agencies, the next stage is to submit quote requests. With all design projects, but especially logo design, be specific as possible. If you already have a sketch up or a solid idea of what you want, then make this clear from the outset. Also let them know you have a brand direction to follow. Designing creative from scratch as opposed to converting an established idea into digital art makes a huge difference in price.
You will also want to specify how many concepts you expect and the number of alteration rounds that will be required to produce a finished piece of artwork. Generally speaking, if you are fairly sure about what you want then one to three concepts, with three to five alteration rounds should be sufficient. This generally gives you enough room to explore different ideas and approaches before settling on a final design style.
When comparing your quotes look at what you’ll receive in terms of number of concepts, number of alteration rounds and finished logo formats. Also look at what process the agency has in place should you go over budget and still not be satisfied with the final result.
Developing A Creative Brief
Once you have chosen an agency and agreed to a quote, it’s time to get down to business. The first step is to write up a creative brief. This document pulls together all the information developed when establishing your brand direction. It doesn’t have to be a thesis, just submit your vision board along with your keywords and target market breakdown. Also include a short description of the mood you would like your logo to communicate such as fun and funky, young, enthusiastic or serious, reputable, down to earth etc. You could ask the designer to explore specific font or colour options in at least one of the concepts if you have seen it used effectively in another design. Fundamentally you are trying to provide the designer with a starting point by giving them an insight into your product or service and marketing strategy.
The main thing to keep in mind is that you’re trying to give a bit of direction to the creative process, without being overly prescriptive. There have been many occasions where a client presented me with a definite logo design idea, which I knew was not going to work. In this case by all means explore the idea, but don’t waste time and money trying to force a concept to work when it clearly doesn’t. It’s also not in your interests to place so many limitations on the designer that they aren’t free to present you with fresh ideas that you had not previously considered – after all that in essence is their job. The You Tube below might give you some hints on what NOT to do!
Next week in the final of this series on logo design, we’ll look at the concept stage, how to evaluate what works and what doesn’t, as well as deciding on final artwork.