Are you designing logos for portfolios or clients?

28
Back to the Blog

lovvve

I was recently having a discussion with another designer who claimed that most talented logo designers are naturally gifted. The gist of his thoughts was that some designers simply had an ‘eye’ for creating brilliant logos. In his words, you either had ‘it’ or you didn’t. To give examples of designers who he thought had ‘it’ I was referred to some logos he had seen on a popular logo design gallery.

If a logo design was a competition based on which designer had the coolest portfolio, I may be able to see his point, however that’s simply not the case.

The critical problem with this view is that it looks at logo design in complete isolation, devoid of strategic thinking, with its only purpose to look good.

While a logo should be visually appealing, it also should be designed with thorough understanding of the client and their strategic goals in mind. As graphic designers, it is our job to translate this understanding to the audience through design, not simply draw pretty pictures.

Sometimes I think it is worthwhile taking a step back to remind ourselves who are we designing our logos for.

Design for your client, not your portfolio. The real world is not a Dribbble showcase.

What are your thoughts?

###

Enjoyed this post? Please show your support by subscribing to our RSS feed and following us on Twitter.

Image by minnixs

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Are you designing logos for portfolios or clients? | Logobird, Logo design -- Topsy.com()

  • http://twitter.com/markmccorkell Mark McCorkell

    Yeah, I hear you! It really is one of those things that some Designers overlook. A logo designer is ultimately providing a commercial service – very different to artists who’s goal is to create something off the wall every time, without any specific commercial goal.

    Although, when you get the right clients, you can get some real scope to do something special. I always say it’s about listening – the more you listen, the more you will understand what they need. And the more you understand what they need, the more likely you are to nail it!

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

      Your artist vs designer comment is spot on. Thanks Mark.

    • http://www.madebycube.com/ Stephen Kistner

      Spot on! Design and art are two very different things. Design is a process in which the end result is to promote the business or service it was designed for, whereas art, while there is a process to it, is just art. It may have an underlying meaning that the artist wants the viewer to take away from it, but it has been created using specifications set by the artist, not a client.

  • http://twitter.com/markmccorkell Mark McCorkell

    Yeah, I hear you! It really is one of those things that some Designers overlook. A logo designer is ultimately providing a commercial service – very different to artists who’s goal is to create something off the wall every time, without any specific commercial goal.

    Although, when you get the right clients, you can get some real scope to do something special. I always say it’s about listening – the more you listen, the more you will understand what they need. And the more you understand what they need, the more likely you are to nail it!

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

      Your artist vs designer comment is spot on. Thanks Mark.

    • http://www.madebycube.com/ Stephen Kistner

      Spot on! Design and art are two very different things. Design is a process in which the end result is to promote the business or service it was designed for, whereas art, while there is a process to it, is just art. It may have an underlying meaning that the artist wants the viewer to take away from it, but it has been created using specifications set by the artist, not a client.

  • http://www.owenjonesdesign.com Owen

    True but the better a designer is at producing good designs for their portfolio/logopond/dribble profile etc, surely the more likely that they will be able to spot a good idea and execute a unique, ownable and appropriate mark or type solution for their client?

    Not necessarily, I guess. But I’d imagine most of the time.

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

      In theory a good designer should be able to Owen, but the skill set required to consistently pull-off successful client work is much more complex.

  • http://www.owenjonesdesign.com Owen

    True but the better a designer is at producing good designs for their portfolio/logopond/dribble profile etc, surely the more likely that they will be able to spot a good idea and execute a unique, ownable and appropriate mark or type solution for their client?

    Not necessarily, I guess. But I’d imagine most of the time.

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

      In theory a good designer should be able to Owen, but the skill set required to consistently pull-off successful client work is much more complex.

  • http://leightonhubbell-blog.com leighton_hubbell

    You beat me to it. I was thinking about this very subject.

    It seems as of late, that there are a staggering amount of really great ideas that are thrown up on the forum and showcase sites for review and critique. Judging from the huge amount of visual puns and cheeky names that seem to appear, I would venture to say that a great percentage of the work was done completely for their own portfolios and not a real project.

    This is not to say that there is anything wrong with doing nice work for your portfolio, or trying to build up a book for seeking new clients. I have done my share of that in my own career. But, doing great work for your book and doing great work for clients are two totally different things.

    What I find especially interesting in these times of $200.00 commodity-based design is how astonished everyone is about how much Landor or Wolff Olins gets for a logo design. Aside from the fact that they are a large design firm with rather impressive credentials, there is much more involved in getting great work approved than just designing it. Between the meetings, the application parameters, the marketing goals, the creative brief, the budget constraints, strategy sessions and both client and design team’s egos, it truly is remarkable that great work still happens – but, it does. And they get paid for these efforts, both in a great fee and building an even better reputation. So can you.

    It used to puzzle me why I would see so many design school word-pun logos in all the web showcases. You know, make a cool pun illustration out of the actual word and give it a color. I think the main reason is that once you feel like you’ve done something pretty nice and get good feedback, you can’t help but want to crank out more. Everyone likes to get a pat on the back from their creative work.

    If that’s all you want out of it. You should be a fine artist and create the work for own personal gallery and forget all about having to get the work approved and paid for.

    Constantly creating work in a vacuum with no one to answer to doesn’t help you conquer the day-to-day challenges of getting your designs produced. It is no wonder that so many new designers have so much trouble coming up with these logos. There are no parameters. Even I can’t create work without any parameters or design criteria. It’s not challenging and isn’t much fun.

    Sure, you can gripe all you want about clients not wanting to do great work. But, maybe it’s not that they don’t want it, maybe you’re not selling it well. Perhaps that’s what you should be working on instead of more portfolio pieces.

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

      Thanks for the brilliant comment Leighton. It’s about twice as long as my entire post:) Sincerely appreciated.

      • http://leightonhubbell-blog.com leighton_hubbell

        You’re welcome. Sorry about that, I got on a roll there. Maybe next time I’ll go ahead and write my own blog article. :)

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

          No need to apologize! I love long comments. Especially when they are as detailed and informative as yours. Thanks again Leighton.

  • http://leightonhubbell-blog.com leighton_hubbell

    You beat me to it. I was thinking about this very subject.It seems as of late, that there are a staggering amount of really great ideas that are thrown up on the forum and showcase sites for review and critique. Judging from the huge amount of visual puns and cheeky names that seem to appear, I would venture to say that a great percentage of the work was done completely for their own portfolios and not a real project.This is not to say that there is anything wrong with doing nice work for your portfolio, or trying to build up a book for seeking new clients. I have done my share of that in my own career. But, doing great work for your book and doing great work for clients are two totally different things.What I find especially interesting in these times of $200.00 commodity-based design is how astonished everyone is about how much Landor or Wolff Olins gets for a logo design. Aside from the fact that they are a large design firm with rather impressive credentials, there is much more involved in getting great work approved than just designing it. Between the meetings, the application parameters, the marketing goals, the creative brief, the budget constraints, strategy sessions and both client and design team’s egos, it truly is remarkable that great work still happens – but, it does. And they get paid for these efforts, both in a great fee and building an even better reputation. So can you.It used to puzzle me why I would see so many design school word-pun logos in all the web showcases. You know, make a cool pun illustration out of the actual word and give it a color. I think the main reason is that once you feel like you’ve done something pretty nice and get good feedback, you can’t help but want to crank out more. Everyone likes to get a pat on the back from their creative work.If that’s all you want out of it, you should be a fine artist and create the work for own personal gallery and forget all about having to get the work approved and paid for.Constantly creating work in a vacuum with no one to answer to doesn’t help you conquer the day-to-day challenges of getting your designs produced. It is no wonder that so many new designers have so much trouble coming up with these logos. There are no parameters. Even I can’t create work without any parameters or design criteria. It’s not challenging and isn’t much fun.Sure, you can gripe all you want about clients not wanting to do great work. But, maybe it’s not that they don’t want it, maybe you’re not selling it well. Perhaps that’s what you should be working on instead of more portfolio pieces.

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

      Thanks for the brilliant comment Leighton. It’s about twice as long as my entire post:) Sincerely appreciated.

      • http://leightonhubbell-blog.com leighton_hubbell

        You’re welcome. Sorry about that, I got on a roll there. Maybe next time I’ll go ahead and write my own blog article. :)

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

          No need to apologize! I love long comments. Especially when they are as detailed and informative as yours. Thanks again Leighton.

  • http://twitter.com/staceylaneinfo Stacey Lane

    Yes! This is the best thing I’ve read all month!

  • http://twitter.com/staceylaneinfo Stacey Lane

    Yes! This is the best thing I’ve read all month!

  • Josh Hayes

    “Sometimes I think it is worthwhile taking a step back to remind ourselves who are we designing our logos for.”

    I completley agree, it is always nice when a finished design is well recieved by your design peers on showcase sites – but it never beats the satisfaction of meeting the client’s needs.

    In my opinion, a lot of designer’s seem to approach an identity brief more like an illustration brief i.e. the look of the finished product rather than the necessary foundation as to ‘why’ the logo is being created. I’ve said it before, but I can’t stress it enough; design (logo design in particular) is about solving a problem, once you have your solution you form your image – too often the image is formed then the ‘solution’ is invented to justify it.

    Great article.

  • Josh Hayes

    “Sometimes I think it is worthwhile taking a step back to remind ourselves who are we designing our logos for.”

    I completley agree, it is always nice when a finished design is well recieved by your design peers on showcase sites – but it never beats the satisfaction of meeting the client’s needs.

    In my opinion, a lot of designer’s seem to approach an identity brief more like an illustration brief i.e. the look of the finished product rather than the necessary foundation as to ‘why’ the logo is being created. I’ve said it before, but I can’t stress it enough; design (logo design in particular) is about solving a problem, once you have your solution you form your image – too often the image is formed then the ‘solution’ is invented to justify it.

    Great article.

  • http://www.madebycube.com Stephen Kistner

    Well said Duane! This is exactly why, aside from the spec work part, design contests fail. There is no one-on-one work between the client and the designer, thus the client or contest operator just picks the design he/she thinks looks the prettiest. It’s not about how many gradients or drop shadows you apply to the logo, it’s about how well the company’s values and products are portrayed through the design. I’m so glad I came across your site, I really enjoy your articles!

  • http://www.madebycube.com Stephen Kistner

    Well said Duane! This is exactly why, aside from the spec work part, design contests fail. There is no one-on-one work between the client and the designer, thus the client or contest operator just picks the design he/she thinks looks the prettiest. It’s not about how many gradients or drop shadows you apply to the logo, it’s about how well the company’s values and products are portrayed through the design. I’m so glad I came across your site, I really enjoy your articles!

  • http://thinquetanque.com Jason Day

    I had this same discussion with other designers, where I argued that designing for a random noun/adjective mix did not constitute good logo design. A logo has a specific purpose, and I found a lot of those sites consisted of creating an interesting word pairing, such as bark shark, and then designing a dog with a strapped on fin. The design would often be good and interesting, but didn’t constitute logo design as it didn’t fall within any of those parameters. There was no purposein mind, only a “hey, that’s clever” scenario.

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

      Exactly my point, Jason. There is a distinct difference between clever and good design.

      Thanks for stopping by to comment.

  • Amazing Ese

    THIS ARTICLE IS GREAT! 11 POINTS TO THIS =D

Back to the Blog