sometimes you have to design a low budget logo to give a client a complete package. I just finished a website in wordpress for a client but as it sometimes happens, he asked if I could design a simple logo for him. when you design you need to pay close attention to what clients are saying. like peter drucker put it ‘the most important part of a conversation is listening to what hasn’t been said’. focusing on one word ‘simple’ tells me more about what the client is looking for. they already ask you ‘how much you charge for a logo. you give them a quote. they want a logo but how much are they prepared to pay for it.
so in their mind, a simple logo should cost less than a complex one. most people won’t tell you ‘I want a logo that is cheap’ but when they say they want something simple, you should get the message that they want something inexpensive. budget is a very important consideration when designing a logo. you don’t want to spend hours on great artistry to present a client a bill that he simply cannot afford to pay. that may create friction and you would want to avoid that. so I start with setting a cap on what I would charge the customer.
with that I know that I need to limit the time I spend on the project to a maximum of hours. beyond that, either I start losing money or I have to charge more. this client is in the cleaning business and his business name is ‘prime dry cleaners’. so I have 2 words that give me the information that I need to brainstorm on: ‘prime’ and ‘cleaners’. dry is not very relevant at this point because it doesn’t add anything to the concept of ‘clean’. when you design a logo you have a few issues to solve:
- what typography, style and symbol are you gonna use?
- how do they relate to or enhance the concept?
- how do the various elements relate to each other spacially.
for a symbol, I decided to use a clothes hanger because it’s very easily associated with dry cleaning. now you cannot just put a hanger there and hope to let it do the trick. you have to think size, positioning. for the sake of simplicity, when I start with a logo, I focus on the graphic layout without adding color element. you have a hanger and two words. words have different lengths but they also have different relevance to the concept. ‘prime’ is just a modifier. so it should be in a font size that is bigger than ‘cleaners’ for instance.
when you think of the space that your words and symbols are gonna occupy, it’s also good practice for designers to think of the negative space. negative space is the area that is not occupied by any elements of the design that sometimes people unconsciously read. if the shape of the negative space cnveys a message that conflicts with the concept of the logo, you’re in trouble.
I remember the first years that I started as a graphic artist, some people asked me to design a logo for them. it was something like ‘africa house’. I thought that I had a nice concept with africa starting with a bold capital a and a hut and palm tree. but to my surprise when I first showed it, one lady in the group said ‘it looks like a champagne glass’. I defensively asked ‘where do you see a champagne glass?’ when she showed me the round shape under the bridge of the letter a, it kinda looked like a champagne glass. but since I was green and unpolished, I vehemently argued that it was an ‘a’. in hindsight, she was right and I should’ve handled the situation more tactfully.
after you laid out all of the elements visually, it’s not rare that you elaborate on the original idea. try different composition, different angles. until you have 3 to 4 drafts. by the time you have completed the 4th draft, you have a pretty good idea of which one is the best. sometimes clients select something different but in most cases, they select the one that you anticipated. some may ask ‘why if you know the best, don’t you just show that one to the client?’
the not so obvious answer is that it’s much easier for the client to reach that conclusion if he has something to compare it with than if it’s stand alone. in some projects the color scheme is obvious because of the cultural relationship – think irish pub, Italian restaurant. some other times, it’s the clients themselves who tell you what colors they want on their logo. unless color is specified or implicit, I provide black and white draft so as to force client to unconsciously focus on layout and semantics alone. I tell them to look at it and tell me what their favorite colors are. some tell you, some don’t. if they tell you what colors they want, that’s what you will go by.
if I feel that it’s the wrong choice of color, I will make one draft with their colors and another one with a more appropriate color combination and show both. it usually causes enough confusion that they feel inclined to ask you ‘which one do you think is best?’ that will be the pretext for you to tell them why you think that the ones you chose were better ones. most clients will defer to your advice, except some strong-willed ones who will try to argue that their choice is better. in that case you remember that the customer is always right. it’s better to lose an argument than lose a client.
though design is not art, the approach is not very different. you try to get a very polished product that you will be proud of and client will be happy with. the only real difference is that when you work on a design project, time is a factor. if the budget is limited, you have to plan and execute accordingly.