Jesse Den Herder is the owner of DenHerder Design, an award winning “working class” design studio located in Northern Michigan. By striving to bring an unpretentious approach to design and a strong work ethic to every type of project, he has been able to work remotely for clients from coast to coast.
When Dave first asked me to write about my approach to logo design, I thought it would also be an opportunity to discuss my thoughts on the current state of such a valuable craft. With the rise of crowdsourcing, websites that claim $99 logos and everyone with a Mac trying to be a designer, creative logo design has the possibility of becoming compromised. This has however created an opportunity for good designers to re-affirm the value of their expertise to clients.
However, just being a good designer isn’t enough to get viable work anymore. As designers we have to constantly plead our case that good design = good ROI, which is easier said than done. One of the ways I’ve been able to separate my skills from low-ball logo designers, is by educating my clients concerning my design process. Much like a math teacher sharing their process for an algebraic equation, so I believe the designer should lay out the route from which the successful logo design is achieved.
Here are some steps I use when creating a new logo/identity:
1. Get a clear objective of what the logo needs to accomplish. Understand who the company/brand is: past present and future, mission statement, etc. Whenever possible I like to have the client fill out a “creative strategy” form, to help guide their vision and minimize development time.
2. Market Research: After reviewing the client’s needs and objectives, I study competitors’ logos, and industry trends in general, both past and present.
I’m always surprised by how many clients neglect this step when considering their corporate identity. While as a designer I’m not technically hired to be a business consultant, a good designer owes it to the client to understand the market for which they are designing.
3. Preliminary sketches/brainstorming: I always take a typographical approach to creating a logo, be it a logotype (a logo that includes a graphic) or wordmark (a type-only design). For at least 30 minutes I’ll sketch on paper all the ideas that come to my mind: words, illustration, whatever.
4. Take the best 5 sketches and continue to refine. Then I bring the sketches into digital form. I prefer to start logo projects in Adobe Ilustrator. I try to find a typeface family close to my sketched concepts, or I’ll create a font from scratch.
5. Even when designing a multi-color logo, always make sure the logo will reproduce successfully in black and white.
6. Present 3 good options for first review. It really depends on the client, but I have generally found that showing more than 3 options can be problematic.
7. Testing: Finally I make sure the client’s logo will translate well into all types of media including print, web, corporate identity, etc.
Over the years I’ve refined this approach and applied it to many other types of projects as well as logo design. It can be sometimes be tempting to skip a few of these steps, but I’ve learned the hard way that my end product is a direct result of adhering to my process. Weak process = weak work.
I’ve often heard excuses from fellow designers that “I’m not getting paid enough to be really creative,” or, “It’s up to the client to do the market research.” From my perspective, if a client isn’t going to compensate me to do my job thoroughly, it’s not a project worth taking. In the long run a designer’s reputation is more valuable than a quick payout. It’s important we always view our work as a valuable business asset for our clients, and it’s equally important that they too see our value as well. I think the famous designer Primo Angeli said it best: “…time and money. Without them, design is mere decoration. Neither good design nor fine art.”
To learn and see more, visit http://www.denherderdesign.com/ or visit Jesse’s blog at http://www.workingclassdesigner.com/