Recently, I completed a logo for an immigration consultant and thought it might be helpful to share my process of designing a logo from start to finish. From past experience, I know the design process can seem like a mystery to some people, but I’d like to share the “behind-the-scenes” work that led to the final logo above and hopefully give you a clearer picture of the thought process that leads to a finished design. What better way to shed some light on the design process than with a project I recently completed.
So let’s start with the process. My approach usually looks something like this:
When rebranding, it helps to understand the reasons for the change. Does the identity lack clarity? Is it not effective enough? Does it get lost in the crowd? Here the first step is to define the problem. It also helps to know what is important to convey in the identity and who it’s targeting. The next step is research and the best resource for information is the brand owner since he or she knows the industry best. They also know who their competitors are and this helps to know their brand positioning. After all we want to distinguish ourselves from the competition and this information is crucial.
Then from here, I do a mindmapping exercise, which helps generate a number of ideas. Some good, some bad. The exercise is meant to crank out as many ideas as possible, which can then be filtered down or evolve into other ideas that were not initially considered. The best way to describe mindmapping is, it’s a way of focusing your stream of consciousness and documenting it. In this case, I created a column with a word or phrase based on the research that was done in the prior step. The words included “better life,” “immigration,” “Canada,” “China” and “business.” Then under each word, I listed all the words that relate to it. So for example, under “better life” some of the words I had were “freedom,” “financial well-being,” “community,” “good health” and so on. From this activity, I generated about 100 words or so.
Once I have what I feel is a good list of words, I review them and start to visualize what words might work well as a graphic image. I start sketching these out roughly, not really concerned about the font or colors at this point. Sketching allows me to work quickly and see whether or not the idea is workable. It also allows me to explore a number of ideas and develop ones further. From all the sketches, I filter down to the ones I think are worth showing to the brand owner for feedback. I usually scan these into my computer and lay them out in a PDF with some descriptions to explain the reason for the design. When presenting them, I always let the brand owner know that they are just rough concepts with the goal of finding out what they like so we can move to the next step and refine.
For this project, I explored the idea of using a money tree to represent not only financial well-being, but also the idea of planting roots in a new place. Also, from my research I knew that part of BLIC’s clientele are Chinese immigrants and in the Chinese culture money trees are a symbol of luck and good fortune. I also explored the idea of a passport stamp, though obvious and cliche, it had to be explored.
After reviewing with the brand owner, he communicated for a stronger Canadian theme in the logo, perhaps a maple leaf similar to what he was currently using on his business card. For round two, I explored a more abstract representation of the maple leaf and sketched variations on this idea.
Though it may take a few rounds of sketching and getting feedback before finding the right solution, it’s important to get it right before moving onto the next stage. Moving straight to the computer without a clear idea will require more effort to be spent and potentially on not the most optimal solution. Sketching is much quicker and prevents one from falling into the trap of getting too committed to an idea that may not work.
After presenting some more sketches, it was clear he wanted something less abstract. We also discussed including the Chinese name of the business in the logo. In earlier discussions, the sun was mentioned as a possible graphic. This led me to explore the idea of having the maple leaf act like the sun rising over the mountains, while the rolling fields are a reference to the Chinese name. I dropped the word “Consultants” in the sketches since I noticed the same on the current business card, but later found out from the brand owner that it was a word limit imposed by the card template he had used to create the cards.
Once the decision was made to go with the maple leaf rising over the mountains, I started creating the digital version of the logo and began the font exploration process. We had also discussed separating the English and Chinese so there would be two separate versions of the logo and his desire to include the tagline “Better life, it’s all possible.” I provided a few options for the logo in different fonts and presented them for feedback. The final result is the one seen at the top of this post.
Not only does the new identity fulfill the brand owner’s objective of representing what his business is all about — helping people immigrate into Canada, but the logo is also simple, unique and help distinguishes BLIC from other competitors. Not to mention, the new identity now includes the full company name on his business card!
Sometimes it may take a bit more time in the earlier stages, but it is an iterative process and working through the idea generation, sketching and feedback stages is necessary in order to arrive at the best solution. Usually once the decision is made on the sketch, the rest of the process is relatively smooth and easy.
Hopefully this provides some clarity on the process of designing a brand identity. I hope to share more “behind-the-scenes” on other projects in the future. If this was helpful, please let me know in the comments below or if you have any questions submit them as well.