Your Logo: The Branding & Identity Process

October 4, 2018
By John Hawley
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How is brand defined?

The scope of branding and identity is enormous. With applications ranging from your logo, to animated motion graphics, or even billboards at baseball stadiums. The root of all of this stems from consistency in branding representation, which plays a major role in every single stage of the branding process.

Let’s take a step back, first. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the different parts that surrounding branding. Not to mention, all of the graphic design lingo that is paired with it. Here’s a simple breakdown of the common terms used.

 

Icon representing Brand

Brand

This is the public’s overall perception of your company.

 

Icon representing Branding

Branding

These are the actions taken to build your brand towards a certain image.

Icon representing Brand Identity

Brand Identity

Includes the tangible expressions of your brand (logo, typography, colors).

There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to your brand, but it all begins with your logo. This is the visual foundation of your brand, branding strategy, and brand identity. It’s one of the very first interactions customers and clients have with a company, and that’s why it’s important to set the right impression. A logo should be a source of pride of ownership—it should feel exciting to share a logo: to friends, family, and especially customers and clients. And the process should be equally exciting. So let’s jump right into it.

 

Where it all begins — the logo

Some people are shocked to hear how long a powerful logo can take to create. Especially because the design seems small and contained. However, getting a logo to that point is a highly involved process. Simply put, something simple to understand is usually pretty difficult to conceptualize.

The reason for this is that every successful logo design, whether from the ground-up, or a redesign/refresh of an existing brand—will always involve the same steps. There are no shortcuts to designing an effective logo, short of an unlikely spark of magic. And although designers may be compared to visual magicians, as professionals, we don’t have the luxury to gamble with magic. Instead, we have a process. Following this process allows us to achieve results every time without fail.

  1. Information Gathering
  2. Design Research
  3. Sketching & Idea Generation
  4. Concept Development
  5. Recharge & Review
  6. Finalization & Approval
  7. Branding Guidelines & Moving Forward

 

Information Gathering

Any good creative agency knows that this is one of the most important and potentially time-consuming stages of logo creation. The reason for this is because, naturally, designers will not know your company as well as you do. That said, we take the time to learn your company inside-out first, to visualize it in the way it’s meant to be envisioned.

Naturally, the goal for designers doing this is to get as close as possible to understanding your company as the owners do. This is so that we can create a mark that functions well and is aesthetically representative of the business.

To achieve this, it’s commonplace for clients to fill out a questionnaire known as a Design Brief. A design brief is essentially a document with questions about your company. It includes multitudes of questions, such as “Who are you competitors” or “Who is your target market”, for example. Of course, we understand that filling out detailed, in-depth questions may not be the most exciting part of the process. That said, it’s absolutely pivotal in helping the designer familiarize themselves with your company. This is what enables us to properly diagnose solutions for your branding identity, and also helps us understand what the tone and style should be for the logo moving forward.

 

Design Research

Now that we know about who you are directly from the source, it’s time for us to dig deep and do our own research. This research revolves around learning more about the industry, the history, the competitors, and the perception of its clients and customers. We figure out how we can make our clients have a logo that stands out among the competition. A common strategy used is building word maps—connecting related thoughts and ideas about the industry and the objective of branding and brand identity.

The visual idea generation process always begins on paper. We explore potential avenues, drafting out rough potential directions of the logo mark. We iterate and iterate until we get it where it needs to be.

 

Your logo begins as a sketch, and ends up a fully scaleable vector once the process is completed. This ensures you logo can display at any size, no matter how big or small.

Then, we take our sketch to the digital realm and ensure we create a vector format. What this means is that no matter the size of your logo, it will be looking crisp and in full resolution!

 

Sketching & Idea Generation

Finally, this is the moment pencils and pens come in contact with paper. We begin exercising our curiosity and creativity. Based on what we’ve learned from the design brief and our own research, we begin sketching out every potential idea and direction for the design of your logo. Every idea, big or small, successful or not, is jotted down. No stone is left unturned. We cover our bases and try out as many ideas as possible—flexing and bending the limits of whatever direction they may lead. Lastly, we choose the ideas that are worth pursuing further.

Early concept development for the Tampa Bay History Center's logo.

Shown above: A mere fraction of early concept development for the Tampa Bay History Center logo.

 

Concept Development

Now we start to take things to the next level. First, we take the successful ideas generated on paper and move them to the digital screen. By recreating and finessing what we’ve sketched, we can begin drafting out polished, vector versions of your potential logo. During this effort, we take into consideration a plethora of design best practices. From ensuring the logo works at any size from small to tall, or that it’s flexible enough to work in a variety of different color formats—we have it covered. Additionally, we do extensive research when deciding on what’s the best typeface and color for the logo. We take into consideration the type of style our client is going for, or what helps them stand out from your competitors. Simply put, we tailor each of these decisions to the client’s bests interests and desires.

 

Reflection & Review

After we’ve pushed the final logo concepts to where they need to be, it’s time for a little R&R (Reflection & Review). This an easy step to overlook or dismiss, but is absolutely crucial for creating the best version of a logo possible. We take this time to step back from our work and let things settle. This allows us to come back to the logo with fresh eyes, so we can objectively analyze and review our work. After we have reviewed our work, we move on to finalizing the logo.

Logo for the Tampa Bay History Center we designed at Mighty Fine Design Co.

The final version of the new Tampa Bay History Center logo.
You can view the case study here.

 

Finalization & Approval

Once we reach a direction that we can be excited about, we finalize the logo by ironing out all the rest of the details, and make our final adjustments. Once we have final approval, then it’s time to celebrate a job well done.

Branding guidelines for the Tampa Bay History Center

The branding guidelines for the Tampa Bay History Center outline the basics of the branding—from color to typography, incorrect and correct usage of the logo and beyond.

 

Branding Guidelines & Moving Forward

Although the logo is completed — we don’t just stop there. After the logo is finalized and approved, we create branding guidelines. Simply put, this is a document that details the fonts/typefaces, colors, applications, and a general visual style guideline to help your branding stay on track. It’s essentially a “rule-book” for your logo and branding of the Dos and Don’ts.

This document is great to have because it reinforces how to stay consistent with your branding efforts. If you need to work with another creative firm, you’ll be able to pass along your branding guidelines, and the transition will be much smoother. Since they have the “rule-book”, they will immediately know the ins-and-outs of how to stay consistent with your existing visual branding. Most importantly, this saves time and money on your end because it takes the guesswork out of the equation. Designers will know exactly how to best utilize your logo and create content in line with what you have already.

 

Final Thoughts

Your logo is the hub of all of your branding efforts, so it’s important to make sure the process is done correctly. Skipping the proper logo development process is risky, as you may end up with a logo that doesn’t suit your needs, which leads to short shelf life.

Ensuring the proper procedures are followed ensures that you end up with a modern, flexible, timeless mark, that will suit your needs for years to come and ensures your branding stays in line with your vision.

Here at Mighty Fine Design Co., we’re not rocket scientists or magicians, but we do know a few tricks — like when to go big and when to lay low. Let us know if we can help bring your logo to the next level.

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