I actually wrote this post well over a year ago – but it seems as timely as ever.
If I’m asked to design a direct mail piece, I often know the rough total cost and how long it will take me because I’ve been doing it for a long time. But I also know the design is reactionary. We develop the creative brief and offer, Jen and I discuss the tone of the copy and i go over her first draft, then I design the pack based on audience, tone, ask, etc.
Also, a lot of the time, there is no budget or time to sit around pontificating about things. Read, react, design. That doesn’t mean I don’t think about things – I do. Is the type big enough and clear enough, does it suit the subject matter or audience, does it say something clearly, do we need a visual, one colour or four, is the logo big enough, will there be room for all of that copy, what are we saying, what do we want the donor to do, does this have impact, will the donor open the envelope, etc.
You may be only paying $1000 for the design of direct mail pack, but you are getting well almost 15 years of doing, testing, looking, asking… experience.
Logos on the other hand – are totally different.
It’s the challenge of creating something that is memorable, communicates an idea or USP, visually defines and sums up what a charity does or who they do it for, gets across the theme of an event… you get the idea.
It’s the challenge of finding the right sort of font that is appropriate to the charity and it’s donors, or the right type of visual that distills everything your charity stands for.
It’s not easy and it’s a lot of work. It takes time, talent, patience and concentration.
Can you get a logo for $25? Of course you can. Just take a look right here.
But I can’t do it for you. Most other professional designers can’t either.
My first step is brainstorming all of the sorts of words or visuals that might be associated with your charity or event. I can easily spend a few hours – as all of these words help define the sorts of visuals that might work. I look at the name of your organization. What does it say, what do we want it to mean. Who is your audience? Who are your donors? What do we want the name to say to them.
I scribble any shapes or visuals that come to mind as I continue to write all the things i can think of that have to do with your charity and cause.
I also start to make a list of all of the visual clichés that are associated with your cause – you all have them. (By the way, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using a visual cliché – so long – as a old creative director once told me – you use it differently).
I start to think about type and fonts.
I typeset the name of your organization over and over, in typefaces that may be suitable. Some fonts have a lot of personality – or the good ones do. All the while remembering, what does it say? What do we want it to mean? I would love each of my clients to have custom fonts that they could use for their logo and marketing – but at the very least, when using an off-the-shelf font, I find ways to make it unique by tweaking some of the characters.
Next comes the visual brainstorm. I go back to my list of words and start to use them to discover ways I can visually express them. Again I may make another list of words or just quick thumbnail drawings of ideas. This is the real time of discovery. And often there is no end. I just keep pumping out idea after idea, all very quick, not stopping to censor myself or my ideas. If I see something I like, I may try to approach it from different angles – “How can I express time? What are the visual clichés to express time? How many different ways can I show or communicate a clock?” Over and over. There is no perfect idea here.
Once I’ve completed this process, it’s time to start putting some of these elements together. Most designers use a program called Adobe Illustrator to design logos. Illustrator is a vector based program (as opposed to a raster based program like Adobe Photoshop) which allows us to control the number of colours and most importantly, makes what we design scalable. As I start to marry visuals and typefaces, the logo starts to come together – but it is also another period of discovery as you try to make the type fit into and with the visual. Maybe the type is the visual. Maybe the visual is the name of the charity. Maybe you need both. Again, I just want to keep circulating the ideas. This is not the time for tweaking and art directing – making sure everything is perfect. And as I work, I find new ideas forming and as I put one concept together, I move onto another. This process can be endless. There is no ONE solution. And it usually ends when your time is up and actually have to present some concepts to the client.
I select 2-4 ideas that I feel work the best and present them to you, the client, as “black only” files.
Why? Because I want you to focus on the concept I am presenting. I don’t want to talk about how you don’t like blue I’ve chosen.
If I’ve done my job right, after I present them to you, you will say – “this is going to be a difficult choice”. And it so it may seem once you first see them, but once we talk them through a bit more, and get a chance to sleep on it – there tends to be a clear winner. One that really stands out to you.
My absolute worse case scenerio are the words “let me show this to my board.” Then I know I am in deep trouble.
At the risk of going into a side rant about boards of directors, there is a reason why some of my colleagues offer discounts to their discounts to NOT involve your board. Simply, if you have a board of 3 people or more, that is 3 or more totally different needs, perspectives, bias’s, ideas, etc that are now going to weight in on these poor little logos – and they will not stand a chance. “Can we…?, Can you…? What if ‘we’…? Why don’t you…?” etc, etc. Bye bye all those hours of time, effort and money – welcome to Compromiseville, second stop, Dullsville… Ok, ok… maybe I’m being a little tough. Bottom line is – you know what they say about opinions – everyone has one and every one will be different.
So, hopefully we’ve declared a clear winner in our concepts! Hoorary!
The next challenge comes with some final art direction and looking at colour combinations.
Usually when developing concepts, I am just trying to get an idea to work. I’m not worrying about the spaces between the type (the kerning), how the ascenders look, is the leading too tight. I just want the idea to come through.
But now – now – is the chance and time to art direct the logo to visual perfection.
Type is a funny thing. In the old days they used to use wood or metal type (some places still do!) and they could control the amount of space between the letters (kerning) or between the lines (leading). The type or fonts we use on our computer are set at a typeface default and a professional will take the type to correct these defaults to make sure each letter dances well with the letters next to it. This kind of teaking can make a massive difference in how the logo looks.
Once the type is cleaned up and looks just the way I want it, I might look at cleaning up any visual I might have used. I try to keep visuals very simple in their shapes and level of detail. Anything can look good when it blown up to fit on your monitor but how does it look when it is printed 0.25″ x 0.25″ in a local newspaper that is using a LPI (lines per inch) of 75? You need to remember that as you work through the logo. That skinny serif or gorgeously detailed illustration is NOT going to cut it and the print guys will want some blood – especially if you try to use it reversed out of a solid tone.
So the type is great, the visual is all cleaned up – it all works. Do a double check and print it off very tiny and very large. Put it up on the wall and look at it from 15 feet away. Turn it upside down and backwards – are there any spaces that don’t look right? Some part of the the type which just stands up like a piece of hair that won’t lay flat? Does it look like a black blob? Make sure it works. And if it does, then we can start to think about and work with – hoorary! – colour.
As I mentioned, I present the final logo as a black only version. If this logo looks amazing in black – then adding colour will be like adding a piece of parsley to a plate. It’s a garnish. Important but not necessary.
I present a black version, a one colour version, a two colour version and a four colour version (a cmyk variation using the spot colours for reference). I also design some reversed out logos using the same spot colours.
I have mentioned this before. For your one colour and two colour versions, please make sure that the designer, or you- if you are the designer, have used a dominant spot colour. Because if I have to work with your gorgeously designed logo and you used PMS 1215 and 7486 – someone is going to pay. Use at least one dominant colour. Always and forever.
I present final logo ideas to the client and upon the approving nod of the head, send all versions that the client will ever need in a electronic file. As a client, you should be asking for your logo saved in a few formats and for both platforms. An Illustrator eps file with all type concerted to outlines – a black version, one colour and two colour variations (and cmyk), as well as any reversed out options. You should be getting all of those versions saved a rgb jpgs and tifs as well. You should know the name of the font that was used and should get a final pdf of the final variations. I include my name, font and pms information on my illustrator files so the next designer will not have to guess if the client does not know.
If you, the client has asked for it, I may even design you a styleguide that shows you all of the ways a designer can use your logo (and also the ways they cannot), but may design up some templates for you to use as reference for business cards, letterhead, envelopes, powerpoint presentations, advertisements, websites and so on.
I am hoping that if I’ve been hired to do this very important job with you, that we can discuss managing and designing the other sorts of brand support materials you will want and need.
I hope this explains why a logo (designed by any professional) will not cost you $25 or less.
Our processes may differ, but most designers are following a similar route to give you a clean, professional, creative and thoughtful logo to represent your organization.
I know what you are thinking – ‘so what does a professional logo cost’?
And my first question back to you is – what is your budget?
I won’t speak for all designers, but please don’t call us if your answer is “$50!”.