There are a few schools of thought when it comes to providing logo options to clients as a part of the design process. Some would say that it confuses the process and can leave your client doubting your expertise, after all, you’re the expert and they are looking to you for guidance. Others would say that by creating a few carefully crafted options you are showing your creative chops while illustrating how well you’ve listened to their ideas and answers to creative questions.
I’m in the latter school of thought when it comes to logo design….with a few important caveats.
1) Not every stage of the design process requires options.
By providing options in the early stages of the design process you are involving your client in the decision-making process and gleaning more ideas about their preferences that they might not have articulated in the creative brief.
However, once an option has been selected there is no real point in presenting more options unless you’re simply making refinement adjustments to your client’s selection. Presenting more options at this point might frustrate and confuse your client.
2) Make sure your logo options match the creative brief.
Nothing is worse than having to explain why none of your designs incorporate the client’s set of must-sees. If you can’t back up your creative solutions based on previously agreed-upon terms be prepared for rejection.
However, when each option follows the creative brief and represents a snapshot of possible options you’re showing that you have considered a multitude of viable solutions. When your client has this concise set of options to choose from they feel included and heard.
You can include a rationale that provides evidence to support your choices following the creative brief and allow your client some time to make a decision.
3) Make sure your logo options are recognizably different from a distance.
Simple colour tints and shades don’t make too much difference in the early stages of logo design. If a set of options are simply subtle permutations of another option pick your choice of one for presentation. The time for details comes last.
4) Don’t include logo options you don’t like.
This sounds like a very stupid thing to say, however, sometimes as designers we get so caught up in creating multiple options to prove our creative worth that we include something we would not have chosen for ourselves. Put a limit on the number of options you will present and stick with it. If an option is not working out ditch it.
You should only present the logo options you would be proud to use yourself. After all, a project done well can always be used for your portfolio. A project you don’t want to be associated with will only haunt you.
NOTE: There is no image for this section. I do my best to delete the option that I don’t like and erase it from my memory. Why would I hang onto my worst work? A question for another post perhaps.
5) Try to leave colour out of it.
Logo options should be in black and white in the concept phase unless expressly requested otherwise. A good logo should stand out without including pops of colour. By removing colour you are forcing your client to assess the options based on form and function alone. Colours can be polarizing and everyone has their preferences. I’ve seen some great designs tossed to the wayside because the client said they weren’t the right colour.
If you are going to have colour in the early stages try to show what the logo would look like in black and white as well. There will almost always be a time when a single colour black or white logo can be used.
6) Don’t turn your logo options into a pick your combo lunch special.
This tip is difficult to get some clients to comprehend. When we are given options and we don’t see the exact option that resonates with us or we get paralyzed by choice we have a tendency to want to take different elements from various choices and mash them together to make a new option. The conversation then becomes similar to the takeaway combo lunch special where you choose a drink, a main, and then a side dish – the possible combinations seem endless. The result is the soul-crushing Franken-logo that often leaves someone displeased with the outcome. What’s worse is when you’ve devoted your time to creating the logo abomination only to get the same unsatisfied response from the client and you start the process over again.
One way to avoid this is to be confident in what you present and make sure each option is on a separate page with rank indicators in order according to your favourites. It’s like being the chef that says “no substitutions” and also has a recommendation or special of the day. I always add a tab at the top of the page that indicates my first choice and I always have a rationale to back it up.
When this approach doesn’t work I still try to keep the Franken-logo away from the villagers by asking what the client likes and dislikes about each logo option with a promise of a new option that takes those thoughts into consideration.
7) Write a concise rationale.
Not everyone thinks or creates in the same way. If they did the world would be boring. However, it is for this reason that you might want to consider your reasons for design choices and how those are based in fact rather than your personal preference. A client has the luxury of choosing based on preference and that is a fact. The designer needs to create based on a combination of facts and preferences on order to develop the best-rationalized outcome.
Let me break it down using a couple of examples:
FACT: Black and white create the highest contrast possible while colours opposite each other on the colour wheel create the highest contrast colour combos.
PREFERENCE: I like blue.
OUTCOME & RATIONALE: Dark blue on white and Dark blue on bright orange have been used to create the highest possible contrast while using your preference of the colour blue.
FACT: Bebas Neue Pro is a modern condensed sans serif font family that has been compared to Helvetica but is more affordable.
PREFERENCE: I want a modern font that’s like Helvetica, but I don’t want Helvetica.
OUTCOME & RATIONALE: Bebas Neue Pro was selected because it is modern and readable like Helvetica, but its uniqueness and affordability make it ideal for your new logo.
By stating things clearly in terms that address both fact and preference you are able to provide a rational and pragmatic reason for your design choices that brings validity to your logo design option.
SO WHY EVEN PROVIDE OPTIONS?!?
In the early stages of the logo design process, you are still getting to know your client and better understand their business. You are also in the process of establishing a business relationship. If your client is going to trust your decisions it is important to include them in the creative process. You are the expert, however, you are going to have to prove it.
Logo options help guide the design process and give insights into the mind of your client. You’ll be able to understand their preferences for future design solutions by the choices they make.
By providing logo options you are illustrating the value and importance of your design process. You are also showing your dedication to getting the project completed correctly the first time.
Alternatively, by presenting one logo option you are effectively saying that you know everything about your client and that there could only be one possible solution for them. This is dangerous territory to be in. If you get it wrong your client may think your hubris isn’t worth working with you. You can also expect to have to go through many logo changes and reiterations to make it to the solution. If you get it right kudos, your mindreading skills are on point. JK. This can happen from time to time, however, you can expect you to get it wrong more than you get it right.
Finally, these tips are not rigid rules. As best as I try to follow them and find they work for me there are always exceptions. You may find another way to produce logos for clients that works best for you. The main idea is that options are not a bad thing and by creating options you are giving your creative problem-solving skills a boost while involving your client in the design process.