Part 1: Preparation
Before you even do so much as a thumbnail, you need to do your research. Examine the intent of the logo, the company, its product or purpose in as much detail as possible. Talk to members of the company’s marketing department or ownership if possible. Listen carefully to what they say about their company (and HOW they say it). Get a feel for the excitement they have towards their product or service and adopt it. Immerse yourself in the intricacies of the business. Don’t just know what they do; UNDERSTAND what they do. Ask whatever questions you deem important to help you comprehend the public identity they wish to convey through their logo (and subsequent print materials, i.e. corporate identity items like business cards, letterhead and envelopes). Believe me, it will help in the long run when it comes time to actually sit down and design the logo.
Research the name of the company. Usually it means something, whether it is a person’s name or a word pulled out from a dictionary usually that word or name was chosen for a reason. Find out why it was chosen, what it means and where it came from. Research the logos of the competitors. See what they’ve done. See if their logos hit the mark or miss the point. Teach yourself to learn from their wisdom or their mistakes. You can find a lot of inspiration and direction with a little dedication and willingness to put some time in on research. It doesn’t matter if the company is a brand new startup, or has been around for 100 years. Either way, there’s no way you can know a company better than those who run it, so take the time to learn what you need to learn in order to understand the task at hand.
Once you’ve done your research and have a good idea of the message the logo needs to convey, you’re ready to sit down and start your thumbnails. Do at least 50 thumbnails; more if necessary and sort out the different variations and design elements you have in your head. It will help you in the long run to identify the attributes and designs that you will use when building your logo. It’s a good idea to show a client several different logo options. I will usually show no fewer than ten distinctly different designs to a client. From that initial presentation, the client may choose a logo out right. He may ask for some revisions … or he may ask to see a whole new set of logos. Either way, you should have enough information from that first presentation to hone your approach and better define your strategies for the particular logo.
The research portion of logo development is not only critical, but it is often the most time-consuming aspect of the logo development process. If you question the cost of the logo development process, consider how many hours go into the research phase alone. It is not uncommon to spend several dozen hours engaged in researching the company and its competitors. Is it time well spent? Absolutely. If you don’t understand the business, its goals, its mission or its completion, how can you expect to develop a logo that adequately conveys or contributes to the brand identity?
In short, do your homework.