10 tips for getting great brand design from a graphic design firm

Professional Graphic Design Services: The Process Matters

vortex-logo-brand-designEvery organization needs a logo to accompany branding activities. If you’re a startup, you’re looking for a way to represent products and services. If you’re already established, an update may be in order due to changes in the expectations of the marketplace, an updated vision/mission, or a stylistic refresh to keep you ahead of the competition.

Whether you are a startup or well-established organization, these 10 tips can help improve the process of working with a graphic design firm:

1. Discuss goals upfront

  • Use a Creative Brief process to establish qualitative design objectives and parameters – A Creative Brief document may run 2-3 pages in length. Components of the brief include responsible parties or departments, deadlines, mandatories, an overview of the “landscape” that the logo will exist in, primary and secondary applications of the mark, competitors, and general observations about design goals around style, color, and restrictions.
  • Scope of work – The scope of work defines the range of work, or what’s expected as part of the final deliverables. As a client, you should consider what materials and elements you want included. For example, a fairly limited scope might include a logo mark and documentation about its inherent geometry, along with a group of digital file versions and a limited set of templates. A more expansive scope would include the above along with graphic and editorial brand mark guidelines, sample usages, do’s and don’ts, and a suite of design templates for print, digital and even architectural signage.If you don’t clearly spell out the scope of work up front, you’re likely to incur unexpected fees, or not get the elements most needed. A responsible design firm should be able to document exactly what they’ll deliver before the work begins.
  • Establish a work plan – Effective project management depends on having a mutually agreed upon plan of action. Your design firm should propose and document the steps in concepting, design process and assign deadlines and work schedules that are achievable. Be sure to include holidays, vacations and allow adequate time for approvals. A well thought out plan helps keep everyone focused and committed.
  • Timing – Goals and plans are important, but occasionally the timing of the project can veer off course. Be sure to allow for unexpected delays for both client and design firm. Legal issues, compliance, and approvals are just three areas that can force a change to your planned timelines.

2. Assign a single point of contact and agree on decision-making responsibility.

Make sure that you have an agreed on person as a point of contact, as well as decision-maker for both the design firm and client. While group discussion and crowd-sourcing of ideas can be a healthy part of creative reviews, voting and polls can lead to a blurred vision of excellence.

The reality of creative work is that no one solution can or will please everyone because we all come to our aesthetic sensibilities from unique experiences.

To ensure success, your organization should give one person (advised by many) final authority as to what is selected and approved. Work with an experienced design firm who can come to the solution with a disciplined creative process that is not influenced by personal preferences.

3. Let the design firm create, and ensure they have ALL the information upfront.

There’s a fine line between giving a design firm free reign or allowing them get off track because of lack of information.

If you have preconceptions about the design solution or input that can shape the design, that information should be put on the table during the goal-setting phase. If you don’t share everything, these kinds of issues will find their way to the surface during the process and end up derailing your timeline or budget.

If you find yourself in a situation where you have already worked on a logo project with another design firm and were unhappy with the results, be sure to let the new creative team know what happened and where it went wrong.

4. Use outside perspective in a limited capacity

Design solutions can be difficult to judge when the process is extended and steps are incremental in nature. A fresh set of eyes can help you get perspective on where you are in the project and where you need to go. Embrace outside perspective, but weigh it carefully against your own understanding of the goals and constraints.

5. Take note of current design trends

A design firm should be able to provide an orientation to design trends that might influence your project. This can help you to understand where your design solution should lie, in the mainstream, or as an outlier. There is comfort in following trends, but you could get lost in the crowd. A responsible design firm should be able to guide you on what is most appropriate for your organization.

6. Trust your design firm’s expertise

If you have made a careful and informed decision about the design firm, you need to trust in their expertise and judgment.

7. Let go of the past to begin anew

Just because your old logo was connected to a celebrated brand, doesn’t mean it’s relevant. Holding on for “old times sake” can limit the potential of the new logo design. On the other hand, there are times when an “evolution” of a logo design is the right approach.

Your design team along with focus group research and financial analysis should help determine the best course of action for your organization.

8. It can take time to see the wisdom of a great idea

Great logo ideas require an open mind. There is a tendency to want to be instantly comfortable with a new idea, and in actuality, that’s virtually impossible. By definition, out of the ordinary logo ideas tend to make people uncomfortable because they don’t fall within the lines of preconceived thinking. When looking at new ideas, you have to clear your mind and use the project parameters and goal statements to measure the work. Focusing on preconceptions can limit the creative process.

9. Keep the process moving, keep the dialogue going

It’s rare that a design process won’t have a few creative hiccups along the way. While the entire schedule should allow time for the client and design firm to “stand back”, pausing the process can jeopardize creativity, focus and effort. If there are second thoughts about solutions, on-going dialogue between the client and design firm is the best way to help resolve logo design issues.

10. Understand that the logo cannot “say everything”

Logos are graphic marks carrying symbolism that is evocative of a company’s product or service. Trying to literally represent a product or illustrate a process the organization provides is a recipe for confusion or anonymity.

Organizations should focus the logo design process on graphically expressing the name and product or service in a broad and simplified way that appeals to a wider swath of the target audience.

Conclusion

In general, reaching creative goals is about teamwork and collaboration between the client and design firm. Incorporating the tips I’ve outlined can help ensure success in your organization’s logo design process. For more information on locating a design firm that’s right for you, my blog on using online search may be helpful.
About the author: Tom Weinkle is a founder and partner of Vortex Communications, a graphic and website design firm who offers graphic and WordPress web design, build, troubleshooting and training services along with search optimization, social media and inbound marketing services. Based in Miami, Florida, Tom has over 25 years of experience in visual communications for the healthcare, medical, law, accounting, software, financial services and banking industries.

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