Beyond the Brief – Undertanding a Logo Design Client

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Creatives Understand

After first getting the initial details of a new logo design project, the first thing most designers want to do is fire-up Illustrator and start playing around with concepts. I know instinctively, that is what I usually want to do.

In order to develop a logo that is truly representative of an organisation however, it is essential to gather as much information about your client as possible. In fact, I would argue that when it comes to designing a logo the more information you can gather, the better.

While a succinct and well-written design brief should be the primary tool for obtaining information from a client, to rely on the brief exclusively can be short-sighted.

If you are a serious self-respecting logo designer, going beyond the brief, and conducting further investigation of your client can go a long way to helping you create a more relevant and successful logo design.

Interview Your Client

In my experience, often clients either fail to understand the importance of providing detailed information in the design brief, or are just straight out lazy so don’t complete it in full. This is when interviewing can come in handy.

An interview gives you the opportunity to fill in any blanks that may have been left out in the design brief. Additionally it is a chance to ask the client for more detail on any ambiguous points.

I also use an interview to get more of an intimate sense of the likes and dislikes of the client. Ultimately, whether we like it or not, the taste of the client is going to play a large role in the selection of the final concept. The more I know about how the client thinks, the less time and money I am going to waste coming up with inappropriate concepts.

Obviously face-to-face interviews are usually preferred. Telephone, email or video conferencing can also be used where distance is a problem.

Research

Depending on who your client is, the amount of research you can do may be limited. Obviously if your client is a start-up there is not going to be much information available. Regardless, Google is your friend.

Once I secure a new logo design client, the first thing I do is begin researching to gather historical information about the client (if any). While much of this information may not directly influence the design, the context it provides can influence its imagery and character.

Apart from researching the client, it is imperative to also gather as much information as possible about the client’s competitors and target audience. Understanding these two factors helps to get an idea of how the logo design should be positioned in the market.

Pay A Visit

With most clients located hundreds or thousands of miles away, it is usually impossible to physically visit their office in person. When it is possible however, the information you can take away can be invaluable.

I find that almost every organisation has a unique atmosphere to it. Something that is quite intangible and impossible to understand unless you spend a little bit of time immersed in it. For me at least, 30mins to an hour onsite is usually enough time to pick up “the vibe”.

Another great thing about visiting a client’s office is that you can start to look around and see how the new logo could be integrated in the environment. You never know, you may spot something unique in the surroundings, that could ultimately inspire the final logo design.

Final Thoughts

Going the extra mile to understand your client can greatly improve the relevance and effectiveness of the final logo design.

About a week ago, I read a great post over at Processed Identity titled My Clients are Paying for the Process First and the Logo Second. It is a great read and I strongly recommend that you check it out.

In the current environment where we are flooded with $99 logo templates and design competitions, it is important to remember that it is the culmination of steps taken during the logo design process that separates the good logo designers from the bad.

Share your opinion

How do you go about gaining a deeper understanding of your logo design clients? Do you think that a design brief is enough?

Photo by karmablue


  • http://designluv.com Marnie B

    I almost barked up when I read the first paragraph: I had misread it and thought you said the first thing designers must do after reading a brief is fire up Illustrator, and I was going to disagree.

    99% of my logo design clients will skip questions in the brief, provide one-line answers or straight up ask why they need to complete one at all, which is where I do what you suggested and interview them.

    It really does work quite well!

    Really great post, I loved it. And you’re right – it’s important to show WHY designers charge more than $99 for a logo. It’s because we spend our time doing more than just designing.
    .-= Marnie B´s last blog ..Beginners guide to a beautiful jQuery Form Pt. 2/2 =-.

    • http://www.logobird.com.au Duane Kinsey

      Hi Marnie, I agree it can be really frustrating when a client does not provide detailed answers in the brief.
      Even though I take the time to explain to most of my clients the importance of the brief, it is still difficult to get most to fully understand its importance. That is why most of the time a follow up interview is usually a necessity.
      Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  • http://designluv.com Marnie B

    I almost barked up when I read the first paragraph: I had misread it and thought you said the first thing designers must do after reading a brief is fire up Illustrator, and I was going to disagree.

    99% of my logo design clients will skip questions in the brief, provide one-line answers or straight up ask why they need to complete one at all, which is where I do what you suggested and interview them.

    It really does work quite well!

    Really great post, I loved it. And you’re right – it’s important to show WHY designers charge more than $99 for a logo. It’s because we spend our time doing more than just designing.
    .-= Marnie B´s last blog ..Beginners guide to a beautiful jQuery Form Pt. 2/2 =-.

    • http://www.logobird.com.au Duane Kinsey

      Hi Marnie, I agree it can be really frustrating when a client does not provide detailed answers in the brief.
      Even though I take the time to explain to most of my clients the importance of the brief, it is still difficult to get most to fully understand its importance. That is why most of the time a follow up interview is usually a necessity.
      Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  • http://www.processedidentity.com/ Steve Zelle

    Duanne, Great overview of why it is so important to resist the urge to start sketching at the beginning of any project. Gathering and processing information is a huge part of what we do every day. This information guides the creative — without it, you are left with an aimless and hollow pretty picture.

    I very much appreciate the Processed Identity link as well
    .-= Steve Zelle´s last blog ..Do Clients Deserve the Blame? =-.

    • http://www.logobird.com.au Duane Kinsey

      Great comment Steve. I agree it is important to process all the information before putting pen to paper. Cheers!

  • http://www.processedidentity.com/ Steve Zelle

    Duanne, Great overview of why it is so important to resist the urge to start sketching at the beginning of any project. Gathering and processing information is a huge part of what we do every day. This information guides the creative — without it, you are left with an aimless and hollow pretty picture.

    I very much appreciate the Processed Identity link as well
    .-= Steve Zelle´s last blog ..Do Clients Deserve the Blame? =-.

    • http://www.logobird.com.au Duane Kinsey

      Great comment Steve. I agree it is important to process all the information before putting pen to paper. Cheers!

  • http://www.creativesquall.com Tad Dobbs

    Duane,
    Great article. I’m completely agree with all of the points you’ve made. A successful logo design always comes from great research, and more importantly an open dialogue between the designer and client. As an added benefit to the interview, I’ve found that my clients tend to learn a lot more about me and my process while I’m interviewing them. This goes a long way to instill the idea that design comes from strategy and problem more than fine polish and execution.

    • http://www.logobird.com.au Duane Kinsey

      Great comment Tad. Agree with you 110%.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  • http://www.creativesquall.com Tad Dobbs

    Duane,
    Great article. I’m completely agree with all of the points you’ve made. A successful logo design always comes from great research, and more importantly an open dialogue between the designer and client. As an added benefit to the interview, I’ve found that my clients tend to learn a lot more about me and my process while I’m interviewing them. This goes a long way to instill the idea that design comes from strategy and problem more than fine polish and execution.

    • http://www.logobird.com.au Duane Kinsey

      Great comment Tad. Agree with you 110%.
      Thanks for stopping by.

    • http://lava360.com lava360blog

      very useful tips and good explanation. thanks for share
      .-= lava360blog´s last blog ..Spectacular Fashion Photography By Andrey & Lili =-.

  • http://lava360.com lava360blog

    very useful tips and good explanation. thanks for share
    .-= lava360blog´s last blog ..Spectacular Fashion Photography By Andrey & Lili =-.

  • http://www.etchd.com/ Bernadette

    Hi Duane,
    Yes I agree that it’s tricky sometimes for clients to understand what they are paying for and to understand the difference between the $99 logo and a really great custom design.
    Expanding on your point and Steve’s about process first logo second. I believe that what you as designers are being paid for is the ability to form both instantaneous and lasting connections with customers and to create the first, “I love this!” moment.

    • http://www.logobird.com.au Duane Kinsey

      Great comment Bernadette. Would be great to hear more from you on exactly what creates an “I love this!” moment. Cheers.

  • http://www.etchd.com/ Bernadette

    Hi Duane,
    Yes I agree that it’s tricky sometimes for clients to understand what they are paying for and to understand the difference between the $99 logo and a really great custom design.
    Expanding on your point and Steve’s about process first logo second. I believe that what you as designers are being paid for is the ability to form both instantaneous and lasting connections with customers and to create the first, “I love this!” moment.

    • http://www.logobird.com.au Duane Kinsey

      Great comment Bernadette. Would be great to hear more from you on exactly what creates an “I love this!” moment. Cheers.

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