There’s a common practice in the brand design industry that goes something like this:
- The designer brainstorms dozens of logo concepts, then submits a handful of them to the client.
- The client gets saddled with the task of choosing the best one for their business and the project moves forward with that logo concept.
When I first started designing brand identities, I approached projects like this, too. I would show my clients three or four different logos at the beginning of each brand design project and ask them to choose which one they wanted to use.
But after a while, I began to recognize patterns in the project workflow that didn’t sit right with me. Presenting several logo concepts to clients during branding projects was causing more harm than good.
First of all, my clients were feeling overwhelmed.
And why wouldn’t they be? Choosing such a central piece of your brand identity is a huge task with lots of things to consider. Which concept will appeal the strongest to the intended target audience? Which one incorporates the strongest design principles? Which one conveys the right ideas and emotions?
It’s fun to see your business come to life through design, and my clients were always excited to receive their logo concepts to review. But after the initial fun of looking over the new designs, I noticed that my clients often felt overwhelmed by the task of picking the perfect logo from the batch.
There was always one best concept
Without fail, every time I delivered a batch of logo concepts to a client, I knew which one was the strongest.
The other concepts were well-designed contenders, but I knew which brand identity would best serve the client’s goals and target audience. By layering in additional options for the sake of variety, I was hiding that expertise and making the decision process harder for my client.
And finally, my client’s were slipping into subjective mode
Choosing a logo and creating a visual brand identity is all about strategy, not personal preference. You want your logo and brand to appeal to your target audience first and foremost, which isn’t always the same thing that will appeal to you personally.
My clients had hired me to do the work of designing something that would help them make more money and attract the right people. So they naturally (and rightly) assumed that the strategy work had been taken care of and when presented with multiple logo concepts to choose from, simply chose whichever one they liked best personally.
Enter: the one concept brand design process
It was around this time that I began hearing about a one-concept design approach.
Instead of creating multiple possible brand identities and handing it off to your client to choose, the one concept approach meant you present one solution that best fits your client’s business and the problems they’re trying to solve.
At first, I was worried clients would feel restricted by this approach – after all, doesn’t everyone want choices?
But after implementing this in my own business, I (and my clients) found the opposite to be true. Instead of restricting options, I was able to refine the design process to deliver the most effective solutions, cutting out the confusion and analysis paralysis that my clients shouldn’t have to wade through.
Here’s exactly how I put the one concept brand design process to work in my business
Step One – strategy
The one concept design process (or any brand design process for that matter) would fall short if it wasn’t built on strategy.
Creating a visual brand identity isn’t just about looking good – it’s about communicating the right ideas to the right audience.
The strategy work I go through with my clients allows us to define our goals and direction for the project so that the resulting brand identity will be effective.
The strategy phase includes a detailed client questionnaire, a visual inspiration exercise, and live collaboration.
Step 2 – brainstorming & sketching
After my client and I complete our strategy work and have a clear direction and goal for our project, I start brainstorming the brand identity and logo concepts.
I always spend time sketching dozens of logo concepts and exploring different approaches before I begin any digital design work.
Once I’ve narrowed in on the strongest design concepts, I’ll move those into the next phase of the process.
Step 3 – designing the digital concepts
Next, I take the strongest concepts from the brainstorming & sketching phase and begin to design them digitally.
I continue to refine the designs, identifying the strongest components of each and bringing those together until I have one complete brand identity concept that is in line with our strategy and creative direction.
Step 4 – presenting the brand identity system
I love to show my clients their new brand identity in context so that they can imagine how it will look and function in real-life situations.
Before presenting the brand identity concept to my client, I create a mock up displaying their new logo and supporting elements on business cards, stationery, packaging, signage, web graphics, or other applications that make sense for their specific business.
I also include the entire brand identity system when presenting it to the client for the first time (as opposed to only showing the primary logo first, and developing the other elements later).
I display the primary logo, alternate logo, and brand mark. I also include color and type combinations, brand patterns and illustrations/icons.
This way, my client can see how all the elements will work together as a cohesive brand, and how their potential clients will experience it as well.
Step 5 – refinement
The one concept design process and detailed strategy work I go through with my clients means that the visual brand identity I design for them will be in close alignment with their goals. In most cases, no changes need to be made to the brand identity system I present my clients.
However, I’m committed to working with my clients until they are completely satisfied, so a refinement stage is available at this point in the process. If something isn’t just right, we’ll discuss what isn’t working, and what changes they would like to make.
To make sure our project stays in line with my client’s goals, I always compare the requested changes to the creative brief and discuss how the changes align with my client’s audience.
The results of a one-concept design process
In the end, the one concept design process serves my clients well by putting the focus of our work back on creating a solution that will help their business grow, and not just picking out nice colors and fonts.
The process is streamlined and clear, so my clients know I’m working to create the very best designs for their business, and they aren’t burdened with the task of sorting through multiple potential brand directions.
This process allows for more effective communication, less busy-work, and stronger results.
If you’d like to see some brand identities designed through this process, you can browse through the Jobson Studios portfolio.
call - 616.821.7244 | email - firstname.lastname@example.org | follow along - @sonjajobson
Grand Rapids, MI