Logo Design Adelaide

Your business logo occupies a very special place hence you should never undervalue its importance. Logo Design Adelaide is a element that symbolises your business.

Logo Design Adelaide

Your logo occupies a very special place hence you should never undervalue its importance. Logo Design Adelaide is an element that symbolises your business.

We offer value for money when designing a logo in Adelaide.

Why is a logo so important for your business?

A logo is so much more than just an image and some text. It is the face of your business, we all know that first impressions is everything. A logo is a point of recognition for your clients and and most important the foundation of the branding of your business.

A professionally-designed logo is the best way to convey to your customers that your business is first and up-most professional, trustworthy, and provides quality service or goods.

Your logo is not your brand. Branding is completely different, a brand is the experience and perception your customers have of your business.

But your logo is important to your business because its job is to communicate your value, quality and ownership of your business. Your logo is imprinted on your products, your stationary, social media, website and most importantly in the minds of your customers.

Read about the process behind designing a logo

No escape!

Logos do bombard us. Think of cloth labels, or running shoes (Nike), and computers (Apple). From the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep, they’re are part of our daily lives.

The average Australia sees 14,000 logos, adverts and labels in one day.

Look around. How many logos can you see?

Because we are producing such a ridiculous amount of information, we’re seeing logos that are so similar to each another, and this can pose a problem for businesses that are trying to differentiate themselves visually, but it can also create an opportunity for graphic design agencies who can create iconic designs that stand out the crowd.

A logo-less business is a faceless human

For hundreds of years, we have needed and desired some sort of social identification. For example think of a farmer who brands his cattle to mark his ownership, or a stonemason who chisels his trademark on his work.

Try this… close your eyes and picture McDonald’s, what comes into your mind? the golden arches? For those businesses and companies that have a strong brand identity, it’s the identity that consumers often think of first, rather than what they sell. Think of Apple, Nike, Microsoft, Google, and Starbucks.

Chances are if you didn’t see their logos, you would still have a fairly good idea of what their logos look like. Mind you, a huge marketing budget is necessary to achieve this sort of brand recognition of such organisations, but it’s important to “put on your best face.”

Symbols transcend boundaries

To sell products all over the globe, your brand has to speak a lot of different languages. This is why we have logos because they are easy-to-identify symbols that need no translation. Recognisable regardless of language or culture, logos which are symbols enable businesses to cross barriers, globally compete and maintain brand consistency across a wide range of marketing media.

Rethinking the importance of brand identity

We usually judge books by their covers, whether it’s right or not, it’s just how we are programmed.  That’s why the perceived value of a product or service is usually better than the actual thing. The same identity seen over and over again builds trust, and trust keeps customers always coming back for more.

It’s kind of like putting a face to a name— logos help people remember their experiences with business and companies.

It’s important during initial discussions with any design agency, as a way of driving home the importance of choosing us your’e preferred designer.

Elements of an iconic design

Anyone can design a logo, just like anyone can paint a house, but not everyone can design the right logo or paint a house like a professional painter does.

A successful logo may meet the goals set in a design brief, but a truly iconic design will be simple, enduring, relevant, memorable, and adaptable.

So many requirements may seem like a large order. But remember, you have to know the rules in any creative endeavor before you can break them successfully.

A Michelin-star chef doesn’t just grab ingredients from thin air. They take a tried-and-tested recipe and adapt it to create their signature dish. This same rule also applies to creating a brand identity.

The basic elements of a classic iconic logo is the ingredients in your own recipe, so let’s examine each one closely before you go out and earn your own awards.

Keep it simple

I am sure you have heard keep is simple, and that’s because the simplest solution is often the most effective. Why? Because a simple logo helps meet most of the other requirements of iconic design.

Simplicity helps a logo be much more versatile. Adopting a minimalist approach assists your logo to be used across a wide range of media, such as business cards, billboards, pin badges, and websites.

Simplicity also makes your design easier to recognise, so it stands a greater chance of achieving a timeless quality. Think of the logos of large corporations like Apple,Nike, Mitsubishi and Samsung. Their logos are simple, and they’re easier to recognse because of it.

And simplicity helps people remember your design. Consider how our minds work, and how it’s much easier to remember a single detail, such as Mona Lisa’s smile, than it is to remember five: the clothes Mona Lisa wears, how her hands are placed, the colour of her eyes, what sits behind her, the artist (Leonardo da Vinci—but that one you did know, didn’t you?). Look at it this way: If someone asked you to sketch the McDonald’s logo, and then sketch the Mona Lisa, which would be more accurate?

Make it relevant

Any logo you design must be appropriate for the business it identifies. Are you designing for a accountant? Then you need to not go with the fun approach.  How about a cancer organisation? A smiley face clearly won’t work.

Your design must be relevant to the industry and the audience to which you’re marketing for. Getting up to speed on all these aspects requires a lot of in-depth research, but the investment of time is worth it.

Without a strong knowledge of your client’s world, you can’t hope to create a design that successfully differentiates your client’s business from its closest competitors.

Incorporate tradition

When it comes to logo identity, it’s best to leave the trends to the fashion industry. Trends come and go and the last thing you want to do is invest a large amount of your time and your client’s money in a design that will become dated quickly.

Longevity is key, and a great logo should last for the duration of the business. It might get refined after some time to add a little freshness, but the underlying idea should remain intact.

Aim for individuality

A individual logo is one that can be easily separated from it’s competition. The logo has a unique style that accurately portrays it’s client’s perspective, so how do you create a logo that’s so unique?

The best strategy is to focus initially on a design that is recognisable. Working in only black and white can help you create a more distinctive mark, since contrast emphasises the shape or the idea. Colour really is secondary to the shape and form of your design.

Commit to memory

A iconic design is one that people will remember after just one quick look. For example, think passengers traveling on a bus, looking out the window and noticing a billboard as the bus drives past. Or what about a pedestrian, looking up just as a branded truck drives by. Quite often, one quick glance is all the time you get to make an impression.

But how do you focus on this one element of iconic design?
It sometimes helps to think about the logos that you remember most when you sit down at the drawing table. What is it about them that keeps them ingrained in your memory? It also helps to limit how much time you spend on each sketch idea—try
30 seconds. Otherwise, how can you expect an onlooker to remember it with a quick glance? You want viewers’ experience with your client’s brand identity to be such that the logo is remembered the instant they see it the next time.

Think small

As much as you might want to see your work plastered across everywhere, don’t forget your logo may also need to accommodate smaller, and necessary applications, such as clothing labels or favicons. Clients are usually excited about a adaptable logo, since it can save them a substantial amount of money on printing costs, brand implementation meetings, potential redesigns, and more.

Simplicity is key in creating a flexible design. Your logo should ideally work at a minimum size, without any loss of detail. The only way to accomplish this is to keep it simple, which will also help your chances of hitting on a design that is likely to last.

Focus on one thing

Designs that are iconic and stand out from the crowd have just one thing to help them stand out. That’s it. Just one. Not two, or three. You want to leave your client with just one thing to remember about your design. Your client’s customers won’t spend a lot of time studying the logo. Usually, one quick glance, and they’re gone.

The vital key ingredients in your signature dish

We’ve talked about the elements that should be part of your iconic logo. How memorable are these elements for you now? Since they’re not as easy to remember as a brilliant minimal black-and-white design, it might help to do a quick review:

  1. Keep it simple. The simplest solution is often the most effective. Why? Because a simple logo helps meet most of the other requirements of iconic design.

  2. Make it relevant. Any logo you design must be appropriate for the business it identifies. For example, as much as
    you might want to use a fun design that makes everyone smile, this approach is not ideal for businesses like the local crematorium.

  3. Incorporate tradition. Trends come and go. With logo identity, the last thing you want is to invest a significant amount of your time and your client’s budget in a design direction that looks dated almost overnight.

  4. Aim for distinction. Begin by focusing on a design that is recognisable. So recognisable, in fact, that just its shape or outline gives it away.

  5. Commit to memory. Usually one quick glance is all the time you get to make an impression, so you want your customer experience to be such that your logo is remembered the instant they see it every time.

  6. Think small. Your design should ideally work at a minimum of around one inch in size without loss of detail so that it can be put to use for many different applications.

  7. Focus on one thing. Incorporate just one feature to help your designs stand out. That’s it. Just one. Not two, three, or four.

    Remember rules are made to be broken

By sticking to rules for creating logos, you stand a greater chance of delivering timeless logos that leave your clients wanting more. But can you do more? And do you always need to play by the rules? Keep in mind that rules are made to be broken. It’s up to you to tread a new direction and break through the boundaries to create logos that are a cut above the rest. Whether your results are successful will obviously be open to interpretation, but you’ll learn so much more and so much faster when any potential mistakes are your own, rather than someone else’s.

Laying the groundwork

At some point during the process, you may find yourself educating your client about logo design, but first you must understand your client. Without knowing the finer details of your client’s business, their reasons for seeking a brand identity, and expectations of the process and the final design, you can’t possibly be successful.

Gathering these sort of details takes a significant amount of time, especially when you’re busting to get started on the fun bit — designing. But if you shorten on the time and attention required at this early stage and dive right into the design work, you risk completely missing your client’s mark.

Ironing out jitters

At the onset of just about any design project, you or your client, or sometimes both of you, will likely be feeling some anxiety. That’s because, as any designer with a bit of experience can attest, the client-designer relationship doesn’t always run smoothly.

You need to be careful choosing your clients, in the same way that clients often choose from a number of design agencies. Always remember that you’re being hired because you are the experts. The client should not assume the role of telling you what to do, they should be comfortable simply letting you do what you do best — create iconic brand identities.

If you feel uneasy in any way about your relationship with the client, you should definitely find a way to discuss it with them. There’s nothing like great communication to get a clear sense of what is expected, both on your part and on the part of your client.

Most clients will be anxious about the process of having a brand created for their business. They see ideas as a big risk. So the more in-depth your initial discussions, the more at ease you will make your clients. It may be that it’s their first time working on an identity project, and it’s up to you to show them how smoothly the process can flow.

It’s all in the brief

Understanding your client’s motivations involves a lot more than simply setting minds at ease. We are not mind readers, so a series of specific questions and answers about your client’s needs and desires is the first order of business. You then turn this information into a design brief that reflects the expectations of both you and your client for the project.

The brief plays a very important role in guiding both you and the client to an effective outcome. There may be stumbling blocks that crop up along the way—your client may disagree with a decision you’ve made, for instance. It’s at points like this when you can return to the details of the brief to back up your stance.

That’s not to say you won’t make changes to the design as a result of an disagreement, you want to please your client. But the design brief exists to provide both of you with concrete reasons for making decisions throughout the design process.

There are a number of ways you might gather the information you need from your client: either by telephone, email, video chat, or better yet in person. I find that with clients, it’s useful to pose questions in the form of an online question or email. As opposed to others, I might feel that more face-to-face time is necessary. What matters most is that you’re able to extract as much relevant information as possible, and at the beginning of the process.

Preliminary information to ask:

  • The organisation’s name
  • Location
  • Number of years in business
  • Number of employees
  • The product or service sold
  • The challenges faced
  • Who the competitors are

You also need to determine who the decision-maker is and whether you will be dealing directly with that person through the project. Dealing with the decision-maker, or the person or committee who has the final say over the company’s brand identity—isn’t as critical during the information-gathering stage as it is when you present your ideas.

When working with larger businesses, it will be likely that your point of contact is the employee, rather than marketing person. This person will help you to gather all the necessary information to be included in the design brief. Later in the process, he most likely will introduce you to the decision-maker or a committee. But for now, the focus is on information gathering.

Asking tougher questions

The crux of a good design brief lies in the questions you ask. Obtaining this information is not difficult. You just have to ask.

What follows are some suggested questions to use as a starting point. Keep in mind, however, as you form your own list, that the needs of each industry and every company vary.

What does your audience care about?

Asking this question not only helps focus about what appeals to your client’s customers, but it also shows that you have an interest in your client’s customers, and not a simple wish to please personal tastes.

How do people learn about your product, organisation,
or service?
Knowing how your client reaches out to its customer base will help you picture how and where the new logo will be used.
This knowledge will affect the type of design you suggest and ultimately create.
If the company promotes itself via leaflets
at trade events, you might remind the decision-maker that his multi colour rainbow effect will cost more to produce than, say, a cool grey monotone design.

Having an understanding of the client’s promotional strategies not only allows you to play a role in helping the company stay on track, but also enables you to deliver a cost-effective design that works on many levels.

Why does your audience need a new brand identity?

Your client is forced to articulate why they need a new identity design. Sometimes businesses are reacting to competitors—a rival may have launched a new visual system, for example—and the business wants to respond by doing the same. In this case, encourage your client to proceed slowly and cautiously, and refrain from responding to a gut reaction. The business may have built enormous equity around a strong and longstanding brand identity, so it’s vital not to disregard it entirely and all at once.

What words do you want people to associate with your business?
You may want to suggest a few adjectives, such as “professional,” “creative,” “traditional,” or “modern,” to help get your client started. The replies can direct you towards specific styles of design.

What logos do you think will appeal to your customers, and why?
By switching the focus away from your client’s taste and onto those of the customer, you keep the process aimed at the good of the business as a whole, and not just the personal preference of one person.

How many people are responsible for use of the identity of the brand?
It’s important for your client to keep a tight reign over these of the work you create. An example, you don’t want a low resolution “saved for web” logo file to be enlarged and used on the cover of a printed sales manual. It defeats
the purpose of hiring a specialist. By asking this question, you invite a followup conversation about the importance of brand guidelines. You might even, at some point, offer to create a logo style guide that illustrates for the company how to use, and not use, the design.

Give your client some space and time

These questions should will be enough to get you started. You likely will have more to add, because every industry has its own specific requirements and expectations.

As you pose your set of questions, make sure that you don’t rush the client to answer them. We all appreciate some
space to consider answers in our own time, and you’ll end up gaining more insight, too. Welcome the opportunity to answer seemingly off-topic questions, because at this stage every detail helps.

But always maintain focus

Don’t allow your client to confuse this as a chance to be a dictator; instead find this as an opportunity to really focus on the job, and on the benefits the outcome will achieve. It’s precisely this level of focus that will provide you with all of the information you need to do your job.

The answers you’re provided should spur some ongoing discussion about logo ideas.

Homework time

Once you have all of the information, spend some time reviewing it. Ask yourself what are your client’s concerns?

 What is it truly selling? And how does the company want to present itself in it’s market? Logos that are pretty may win awards, but they don’t always win marketshare.

The next step of the information-gathering stage involves conducting your own research. Learn as much as you can about the company, its history, its current brand identity and the effect it has had on it’s market perception.  You also need to focus on how your client’s competitors have branded themselves, picking up on any weaknesses you see and using them to your advantage in your design.

Skirting the hazards of a redesign

When clients approach designers for brand identity jobs, the projects generally fall into one of two categories. They either represent a newly established company in need of a new identity, or an already established company that desires a redesigned or refined brand identity.

If your project falls into the first category—designing from scratch—the process is much simpler, since there’s no brand equity for the designer and client to consider. But if you’ve been asked to do a redesign, the stakes are much higher, for both you and your client.

Think about it. Which scenario is potentially more damaging: Nike ditching its internationally recognised “swoosh” logo in favour of, say, the outline of a shoe, or a new business named “Pete’s” commissioning a visual identity to help sell its custom t-shirts? Because of Nike’s stature, stock, and visibility in the marketplace, the potential for damage to the company’s identity is much greater.

That said, a redesign project tends to be much more lucrative for the designer than creating a design from scratch. Because established companies need to be protective of the equity they have already built around their identity, a lengthier, more stringent design process is required. Every decision requires more thought, and more discussion.

What are the reasons for rebranding?

While the lure of a high-paying redesign might initially seem like a win-win, it’s critical that you understand from the outset why your client is looking to rebrand. It’s not unusual to find that a company hopes the buzz associated with the new identity will increase its sales in the short term. But rebranding simply for the sake of it or to follow the latest trends can result in disaster. It’s up to you to talk with your clients about the specific reasons for their projects, and advise them about which course of action makes the most sense. Without this type of guidance, market leaders can end up throwing millions away, and your reputation with it.

Let’s take a look at an instance in which designing a new brand identity to replace a well-established one had unintended and punishing consequences.

Don’t squeeze too hard

In 2009, PepsiCo attempted to stimulate sales of its premium fruit juice brand Tropicana by hiring the Arnell Group to redesign its packaging. PepsiCo and the Arnell Group thought it would be a good idea to give Tropicana’s brand identity some new energy, and make it more relevant to the times, said Peter Arnell, founder and CEO of the Arnell Group.

Pricing design

The age-old question of, “How much should I charge my clients for identity design?” is one that every designer struggles with at some point. So if you don’t know what your skills are worth, rest assured you’re not alone. I still wonder whether I’m doing myself justice with the rates I’ve set, and I’ve been in charge of my business for what seems like a very long time.

You cannot accurately price a design project without first understanding the needs of your client. Designers who advertise a list of predetermined prices for x amount of concepts with x rounds of revisions are attempting to commoditise a profession that by definition cannot be commoditised.

Every client is different, so every design project will be, too.
It makes no sense to pigeonhole your clients into a specific price bracket. What works for one will not work for another, and your time—and profits—take a big hit when you limit yourself to a set range and attract clients on the basis of price alone.

The design pricing formula

Pricing design is far from an exact science, and even when you think you’ve covered every possible factor for determining your costs, another one will crop up and force you to recalculate. But it’s still important to consider what affects the amount you quote, and how you can ensure you actually make a profit.

Pricing generally varies depending on a number of factors:

  • Your level of expertise

  • Project specification
  • Expected turnaround time
  • Additional service and support
  • Level of demand
  • Current economy

    Let’s take a closer look.

    Your level of expertise

    Only you can determine how much your skills are worth, and this value is the result of your experience in dealing with clients. I frequently ask myself if I’m charging too much or charging
    too little, and I reckon every other designer does too. But the main goal is to make sure you’re adequately compensated for your level of experience and education; your reputation; the overhead you incur for office space, equipment, electricity and heating, health care, and living costs; and the expenses you will incur as a result of working through the design project with your client (travel costs, your time, and so on). Clearly these elements will differ from person to person.

  • Project specification

    Let’s say you’re working with two clients at the same time.
    One is a local shoe store owner who is just launching his first business, and the other is a 500-person-strong multinational company that has been in business for 50 years and needs a rebrand.

    You won’t need to research the shoe store’s company history. Nor will you need to draft an identity style guide, since most likely just the owner will be dealing with the application of your design. And you won’t be booking international flights for brand meetings. So the shoe store project will obviously cost you and your client less than the multinational company project.

    As much as I’d love to give you specific figures, only you can determine how much less.

    Expected turnaround time

    If a client is under pressure to have a job completed within a tight time frame, you should consider applying a “rush job” markup to the project. Accepting the request means that you, too, will be under increased pressure to get the job done,

    and might result in a rescheduling of your existing projects. I recommend a markup of 20 percent to 50 percent, depending on the urgency of the deadline.

  • From pencil to PDF

    To be a good designer, you must be curious about life; the strongest ideas are born from the experiences we have and the knowledge we gain from them. The more we see and the more we know, the more ammunition we can stockpile for generating ideas.

    I’m frequently asked how to integrate this stockpile into actual logo concepts, and that’s what we’re going to focus on in
    this chapter. We’ll look at the two vital steps in this process— mind-mapping and sketching—and then talk about what to include when preparing your presentation PDFs for the client.

    Mind-mapping

    Using mind maps helps you consider as many different design directions as possible, and at the stage when they’re most needed. It’s a relatively straightforward process of word association. You write a word that’s central to the design brief, and then branch out from it, writing other words that spring to mind. These additional words could come after some thought, or after researching the central topic. The idea is to form as large a “thought cloud” as possible, giving you a strong tool to refer to when it comes to the next stage—sketching.

    Mind-mapping is particularly useful in the design profession because it’s very effective for working through these important steps of the design process:

Collecting your thoughts

Generating ideas

Getting into a creative groove

Associating words with images

I’ve been using mind maps for as long as I’ve been studying design. It’s a tried and tested formula, and other designers often ask me to provide more detail on the intricacies of this practice. So let’s take a look at one or two of them.

The fundamental necessity of the sketchpad

A by-product of sub-par design courses is that aspiring designers today see computers as the only truly necessary tool. On the contrary. By removing the computer from the creative process, you gain much more freedom when translating
your thoughts.

You learned to draw before you learned how to use a computer. Why? Because it’s easier. It’s less restricting. And it’s more creative. You want a circle here? A stroke there? No problem. Just do it. Translating the same process to a computer requires unnecessary steps that hinder your creative flow.

Black and white before colour

Now let’s look at an example in which only the best ideas were presented, and with great skill and foresight.

160over90, a design agency in Philadelphia, was given the task of rebranding the Woodmere Art Museum, which houses what it calls a “rich, three-centuries-and-counting legacy that includes American art from before we officially became America.”

Like any good agency, designers first worked up a series of sketches before presenting the three strongest logos to Woodmere—the monogram, the signature, and the perspective. The agency’s standard practice is to initially present designs only in black and white, since its designers have found that colour biases a client’s ability to focus on the form and ideas that the logo communicates.

Where Photoshop comes into play

Showing your designs in context—in other words, as they will be seen by others—is key to helping your client visualize how great you can make the company look. It’s comparable to buying a car. The car might show a fresh paint job and have that “new car smell,” but unless you take it for a test drive, you won’t be entirely convinced. That’s why showing your logo designs in context can be what finally cements the deal with your client.

Using Photoshop to add your logo concepts to photos of cars, building signage, billboard space, business card mockups, and so on, you can augment the PDFs of your best ideas for your presentation to the client. The more variety you create, the more consistent the usage becomes, and the more attractive the outcome will appear.

Most clients won’t have time to concern themselves with every step in the design process. They’ll be focused on the end result, so the more tangible your concepts appear, the more the client will be able to visualize the benefits.

As much as we like to think otherwise, books are judged by their covers, so make sure your identity presentations—the PDFs and mockups done in Photoshop—look professional.

Make sure, too, that you save your PDF files with the date in the actual filename, since there might be some back-and-forth with your client. Seeing the date in the filename helps with version control and ensures you and your client are looking at the same document when talking things through on the phone.

The pen is mightier than the mouse

We’ve looked at what happens up to the point of the initial client presentation. You’ve put a lot of hard work into mind-mapping, sketching your ideas, and presenting only the best options to the client.

The PDF is in your client’s hands, and you’re awaiting feedback.

Let’s recap the main points:

Mind-mapping helps you consider as many different design directions as possible.

Even the most simplistic designs are helped by an extensive sketching session.

A pen or pencil offers much more control and creative freedom than a computer mouse, so don’t use a computer until your ideas are in place.

Don’t fret if you think you can’t draw, because what’s important is that you document your ideas so that you can either build upon them or rule them out.

Don’t be tempted to show a client all of your sketches, because there will undoubtedly be directions you don’t want to pursue, and it would be most unfortunate if the client chose one of those directions.

Make sure your PDFs help the client focus on the idea, and not on an easily changed aspect like colour.

As much as we like to think otherwise, books are judged by their covers, so make sure your identity presentations look professional to keep clients on board.

At this stage of the process, you might consider the job nearly complete, but don’t forget you still need to present your ideas to the client.

That’s where we’re headed next.

The art of the conversation

You’ve met with your client and gathered information.
You’ve conducted thorough research, spent hours sketching, and worked on digitised versions of your strongest concepts. Now you’re ready to make that client presentation—a stage of the process that can cause undue pressure and anxiety.

If you’re one of many designers who finds presentations a
bit daunting and unpredictable, one of the ways that you can alleviate the pressure is to try and look at client presentations from a different angle. Delivering your ideas shouldn’t foster the worry associated with a “big reveal.” At the same time, this stage of the process is about way more than simply showing a few pictures and asking, “So, what do you reckon?”

Presentations are really nothing more than a conversation with your client. If you’ve fostered that conversation throughout
the design process—by listening to your client and responding thoughtfully, by clearly articulating how the process works, and by maintaining the dialogue with the decision-makers in the organisation—then the presentation itself is just a continuation of that ongoing conversation.

But presentations are also about the art of delicate negotiation, just as much as they are about the designs you’ve generated. You need to be clear and concise with your explanations. You need to know how to persuade your client that your design (or one of them) is the best possible visual representation for his company. You must also know how to edit your thoughts so that everything you say has a valid reason for being said.

Deal with the decision-maker

It is very important it is to make sure you deal with the decision-maker during at least some phases of a project.  I’ll be referring to the decision-maker as the “committee,” since the clients you want to attract will probably have more than one person involved in choosing a visual identity.

Working directly with the committee for the duration of the project isn’t always possible—most likely you will have been working with a single point of contact (perhaps a brand manager as opposed to a CEO or board of directors) at least some of the time up until this point. But when it comes time to deliver your design ideas, dealing with the committee is critical. The last thing you want is for your carefully crafted explanations to devolve into a game of “phone tag,” in which rationales are conveyed and usually quickly distorted through a mediator.

Uh oh, you say, not the notorious “design by committee”!
I know, I know, some of the worst work in the world has resulted from committee reviews. If one individual opts for a certain element of one design, while others like different details of other designs, it’s easy to end up with a completely different design from the ones you worked so hard to produce.

However, if you are in control of the committee review process, you can use the strengths of each participant to iron out any kinks in your strongest concepts, and ultimately produce an iconic identity design that both you and the committee as a whole are delighted by.

Ensuring you get to present your ideas to the committee rather than to your point of contact doesn’t happen overnight. It’s an ongoing process—a series of steps or rules you must adhere to from the very beginning of the project to make sure that when the time comes, you get to present your ideas directly to the people who will be making decisions about them.

Conspire to help

An introduction to any client usually begins with a single point of contact. You could be dealing with a nonprofit organisation, in which the committee is often a board. In this case, your contact might be an employee. Or maybe your client is an architectural studio, with the committee comprising the partners in the firm. Your contact might be an office manager or marketing assistant who is not a partner or even an architect.

According to Enns, this contact will most likely be justas frustrated as you are about the potential pitfalls of committee-based decision-making. In these cases, empathy is a powerful marketing tool.

By placing yourself in your contact’s shoes, you will likely see that presenting the design ideas to the committee as a whole is at the top of her priority list, too, and that any help you can offer will be greatly appreciated.

From the beginning, you should make it very clear you’re there to help, and that you’re well-versed in helping people like your contact achieve approval from the committee. Together, the two of you can conspire to ultimately win the confidence of the committee.

Avoid intermediation

The first rule—conspire to help—is also part of the second rule: avoid intermediation at all costs at presentation time.

Think about it. You may have been hired as an expert, but if your designs are presented by your contact—a subordinate of the committee—they could be perceived with lesser value. And what if there are objections to your design decisions? How effectively can these be addressed by your contact?

You also have no idea what your contact’s relationship might be with the committee or whether any personal issues exist that could interfere with the committee’s acceptance of your ideas. “Office politics” might exist within the committee itself that interfere with committee members’ acceptance of your designs—issues that your contact is powerless to subdue.

When you think about it, having someone else explain your design decisions places an unnecessary barrier between you and the decision-maker. You need to remove anything that can hinder the process at this very delicate stage.

But sometimes this is easier said than done. One identity
design project I worked on early in my career was particularly challenging in this respect. My client was located in Greece, and my point of contact was one of two partners, with both partners having an equal say over the final design decision.

The issue was that while my point of contact spoke fluent English, the other partner did not. I knew this meant the explanation for my design decisions held the potential to be lost in translation, with my point of contact acting as mediator, but I wasn’t sure how to work around it. I ended up presenting to my point of contact, and at a later time, which in some instances was a few days later, he presented to his partner. Not only was the translation a potential hindrance, but the delay between presentations led to vital reasoning being ommitted or forgotten.

At the time, I wasn’t aware how damaging this could be to the design outcome. As it turned out, my client rejected all four of my initial concepts in favour of a much more generic solution that the partners had created between them. Neither partner had any design experience, and as much as I tried to persuade them against their choice, it was too late. I had already lost control of the process.

Even when all the decision-makers speak your language, getting your point of contact to agree that you are the only
one who can present your ideas to the committee can sometimes be a challenge. That’s where Rule #1 comes into play. You’ve already positioned yourself as someone who’s there to help—someone who can aid in the task of gaining committee approval. To further your cause, you might also offer to deliver a dry run of your presentation to your contact before the committee gets a chance to see it, so that your contact is more comfortable about your intentions.

 Take control

Once you’ve attained the goal of meeting with the committee, what’s critical is that you control the meeting from the very beginning. Keeping a tight reign on proceedings will help immeasurably in securing approval for your design concepts.

But before you unveil your designs, it’s worth remembering that months could have passed since the committee discussed the details of the design brief. CEOs, directors, and business owners all have a lot of other concerns, so by jogging their memories, you’ll ensure that everyone’s in tune with why time and money are being spent on brand identity.

Briefly state the project background—why a new or refined identity is needed, what the goals for a new design are, and how having a new identity will actually help the company turn a profit. You can judge the depth of detail you should go into by the amount of time that has passed since the briefing stage.

The more time that has passed, the more detail you’ll want to provide. But don’t go overboard. It’s just a refresher, not an essay, and your audience is comprised of very busy people. A couple of minutes talking should suffice.

As clear as you think your ideas are, you might find a little design jargon slip into your language here and there. This can quickly lose your client’s train of thought, so remember, you’re not talking to another designer. Make your points clearly, without jargon, and keep them related to the original design brief.

Outline the ground rules

Once you’ve brought everyone up to speed, you want to maintain control of the presentation by outlining a few ground rules.

Committee members will often see the showcasing of design ideas as an invitation to make their own design decisions.
It’s your task to remind the committee that while their input
is critical, they should resist the temptation to jump into the design fray themselves. You’re the expert, and if the discussion devolves into them telling you what colours or fonts to use, the brand will inevitably be weakened.

Let them know that what you need from them is strategic input and executional freedom. Something like, “So let me know if you think the creative isn’t meeting our agreed-upon strategy, but refrain from trying to figure out and suggest how to fix it. That’s what you’re paying me to do.”

You might even provide the committee a few examples, like “Say you think a blue is too weak for an organisation trying to present an image of strength. Or say you think the typeface is too old-fashioned. Voicing those impressions is critical to the success of a project. But refrain from saying ‘Make the blue darker’ or ‘Why don’t you try Arugula Modern?’ You have to trust that I can find the right design solution based on your feedback. Otherwise, we risk diluting the strength of the brand identity because I’m listening to the design ideas of too many non-designers.”

You might also find that many committees contain one strong personality within the group—a person who holds more influence than the others simply because he is more outspoken. This can create awkward dynamics and undesirable outcomes. However, as an outsider merely enforcing protocol, you have the ability to bring balance back to the committee when insiders could not. Do not underestimate the value of this outside facilitation! Take control and hold your ground.

Don’t wait until the presentation

Of course, if you haven’t maintained some level of control from the very beginning of the entire process—way before the presentation—you likely will have a difficult time maintaining control at this point. The relationship you have with your client throughout the process is vitally important for the acceptance of your ideas.

“Early in your first interaction with the committee you have the choice of establishing the relationship as either one of patient (client) and practitioner (agency) or one of customer and order-taker,” said Enns. “You will be viewed as a doctor or a waiter, depending on the degree to which you take control of the situation.”

He’s right. It’s an easy trap to fall into—finding yourself as an order-taker—and during my earliest projects it happened far
too often. The client would tell me to use this typeface, or that colour, and I’d say, “No problem. Expect to receive the changes by tomorrow.” In such instances the client is doing your job, only without the benefit of your design education and experience. This is hardly helpful when creating iconic brand identities.

 Keep the committee involved

There’s an old saying, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Whether you consider the committee a friend or foe, you can help to close the deal by defining the role of the committee in the client-agency relationship very early in the process. Part of this definition should make very clear at which points in the process input will be helpful, and when it will be counterproductive.

Knowing that the committee is indeed part of the process and that its feedback is vital to the project’s success is highly reassuring to any client. The committee will be far easier to work with when it is included in development along the way— especially on the strategic issues that characterise the early part of the relationship—rather than apprised of it afterward. You just need to set the ground rules for how and when that feedback comes in.

We were hired in 20010 by a landscape gardening firm to create its first brand identity. For the first few weeks, and after a number of face-to-face meetings, the design process was running smoothly, but when it came time to present my ideas, things quickly turned sour.

What I didn’t know was that even before I was hired, the committee already had a firm grasp of the design they wanted to see. They wanted me to bring it to life rather than create a visual representation from my own research and brainstorming. The only hitch is that they didn’t inform me of this desire. Instead, they considered the possibility that I might create a design they liked even better and so decided to remain mum.

I strongly believed that the ideas I presented were more relevant to my client’s audience, but the reality was the committee members had already attached themselves to their own original idea. So the month I spent on research, brainstorming, sketching, and conceptualising was not important to them.

Had I been more thorough about setting the ground rules at the beginning of the project, I could’ve saved a month of misused time. I should have said something like, “With your help, I will create a number of possible design directions
that are ideally suited to your potential customers. Once the different ideas have been presented, we can choose the most effective option and either move forward with it, or tweak it a little after your feedback.”

Had I been more thorough about setting the ground rules at the beginning of the project, I could’ve saved a month of misused time. I should have said something like, “With your help, I will create a number of possible design directions
that are ideally suited to your potential customers. Once the different ideas have been presented, we can choose the most effective option and either move forward with it, or tweak it a little after your feedback.”

Of course, I also should have asked in the initial meeting if my client had any preconceived design ideas. Regretfully, I didn’t. Your goal at each meeting is to attain approval and consensus among the committee. What you don’t need is to have worked through a solid strategy for your final concepts only to hear concerns about the underlying message. Strategy is one of the first aspects you and the committee should have reached agreement on, and revisiting it at this late stage is extremely counterproductive.

Don’t forget to under-promise and then over-deliver

Maintaining accuracy in hitting your deadlines is key to a healthy client relationship. Think of the last time you purchased a product online. You wanted to know when to expect delivery, didn’t you? Design clients are no different when it comes to revisions. They depend on you delivering when you say you will. So when you’re unsure how long a task will take to complete, always give the client an estimate that is longer than the amount of time you’re guessing it will take.

Why? Because unexpected setbacks can crop up at any time. Think of the computer you work on each day, the Adobe software you use on a regular basis, the Internet connection you pay for, the electricity that powers your office, and your good health.

All of these necessities are by no means guaranteed, and it almost goes without saying you’ll have a computer problem at one time or another that will affect your productivity. Even if your equipment stays up and running, a human being can let you down. That’s because even the most independent designer relies on others to get the job done.

Because my client was aware of the extended time frame, he was happy to accommodate my personal needs.

So factor the worst into your delivery time frame, and then impress your client by delivering ahead of schedule when things go smoothly.

Swallow that pride

It’s important to reiterate that the design process always includes more than one party. And where discussions of any kind take place, you should always be prepared to swallow your pride and listen to the feedback. Of course, you should also expect your client to stick to the ground rules laid out earlier in this chapter. If not, you may need to remind the committee of those rules now and then.

Clients often do make suggestions that you might initially disagree with. Here’s a case in point: I produced two strong concepts for Berthier Associates—the interior design firm mentioned earlier in this chapter—and the committee thought my preferred option (opposite top) was too organic to represent the company’s structured approach. In retrospect,

I realise that their choice (opposite bottom) was much more suited to the firm. And, it looked great on their business cards.

Rather than getting defensive, I delivered on the request. But I also coupled the idea with another that I believed was an even better improvement, and explained why when I presented it.

Once the results were compared, it was easier for the committee to deem its design idea unsuitable. Clients are much less likely to resist your ideas moving forward if they’ve seen a graphic representation of how their own strategic interpretation pans out.

Remember during your presentation that what you’re selling at this stage is the idea behind your best designs. Remind your client as often as necessary to focus on just the idea—the story behind the design concept—not the intricacies of the mark, or the particular choice of typeface.

These lesser details can be ironed out when a single direction has been agreed upon. Otherwise, you could end up supplying revisions for more than one direction, which is an unnecessary cost for both parties.

Keep in mind, however, that things won’t always go your way. Throughout my years of self-employment, I’ve presented brand identity projects to around 60 or 70 different clients. Two or three of my earliest presentations were so unsuccessful that they caused a stalemate in the process, and both my client and I lost out. Yet I’ve learned just as much, if not more, about the client relationship from those debacles as I have from the more successful ones.

Staying motivated

Design inspiration is a bit of a cliché. I’m asked time and again where I find the inspiration to do my job, or how I stay inspired, but it’s important to remember that what we do, as designers, doesn’t need inspiration in the true sense of the word.

The ability to successfully complete the identity design process comes from the result of years of study, practice, and experience, as well as following a clearly defined set of steps— steps that have been detailed in the preceeding chapters.

However, motivation, not inspiration, can sometimes be an issue. You’d be naive to think that at some point during a long career in design, your motivation won’t wane. A seemingly never-ending project; overly harsh criticism from your peers; the discovery that, after weeks of work, your favourite design concept has already been created by someone else for a different company; or simply being stuck at your computer for hours on end every day—all or any one of these factors can suck the motivation right out of you.

Never stop learning

You will never know all there is to know about design.

Our profession is constantly evolving, so to stay in the game you need to evolve with it. To get a sense of where our industry is headed, you need to look at where it’s been.

There’s an incredible amount we can learn from the great iconic designers that came before us: people like Paul Rand (IBM logo), Paula Scher (Citi logo), and Tom Geismar (Mobil Oil logo). Those who have worked through a lifetime of design have amassed an incredible amount of experience, and I never tire of listening to their stories and anecdotes.

Those who have worked through a lifetime of design have amassed an incredible amount of experience, and I never tire of listening
to their stories and anecdotes.

New-York-based Ivan Chermayeff has this to say about design: “To be effective over a reasonably long lifetime, all identities must be simple and appropriate. However, if they are not original or in any way provocative, thought-provoking, and noticeable, they will not accomplish their task.”

When you think about it, our peers are our biggest sources of motivation. There are few things in design that I enjoy more than seeing and reflecting upon the identity work of other designers.

It pushes me to improve, and the most talented designers are those who have an interest in everything. I’ve already mentioned that you need to keep actively learning about the world, our history, and how we live our lives. You’ll find a list of many iconic designers in the resources section at the back of the book, which you can use to further your knowledge of iconic design.

Be four years ahead

“I remember reading somewhere—and, sorry, I can’t remember who said it—that a designer’s tastes were seven years ahead of the general public,” said David Hyde of studio hyde (aka davidthedesigner.com). “And that the art of being a successful designer was to be four years ahead. It’s that elusive year four that still motivates me.”

Create for you

“As a designer, I have found that I need to have creative experiences outside my client engagements, opportunities to create with no one to satisfy but myself,” said Jerry Kuyper of Westport, Connecticut-based Jerry Kuyper Partners.

“This allows me to listen and collaborate with my clients more effectively. I also remind myself to go outside—the graphics are amazing.”

Step away from the computer

As awe-inspiring as computers and the Internet are, they’re still just tools we use to achieve our aim—creating iconic design. Our best achievements are born from our thoughts, and deftly interpreting the needs of our clients, neither of which have anything to do with the computer. Trying to brainstorm and generate ideas on the computer adds unnecessary friction to the design process.

“Although this is no longer the case, our business used to be made up of people who could draw,” said designer Gerard Huerta. “This is how ideas were related to those who could not visualise. When you are stuck, walk away from the computer and draw. It will teach you how to see.”

When you’re fighting the urge to conceptualize design ideas at the computer, remember that design has been with us a lot longer than computers. Not just any design either, but design of a calibre to match or better what we can produce today.

So shut your computer down for at least the initial stages of the design process. Think things through. Grab that pen and pad you carry and start making notes and sketching ideas.

Balance your life

“Balance is the key,” said California-based designer Lauren Krause of Creative Curio. “Balancing work-life, online-offline, digital-analog, personal-professional. Balance puts life into perspective, helps us to not lose our passion to bitterness, shows us inspiration through other experiences, and helps us maintain our sanity.”

Journey back in time

I need only look at my earlier work to see the journey I’ve taken as a designer. You should try it, too. Dig out some of your earliest identity design projects and compare them to what you’re working on today. I find it helps. Sometimes I cringe. But it helps, because I can see the progression.

Show relentless desire

“Every designer has a level of insecurity that can only be abated by the creative peer group respect or commercial success of their work,” said Martin Lawless, creative director
at London-based 300million. “Sadly, the warm, fuzzy, proud feeling of security doesn’t last long. Sometimes, it’s as short as the length of time it takes to make the winding walk back from the awards podium to the table of smiling workmates and your half-drunk client.

But don’t overwork yourself

Do you know the famous line from Stephen King’s The Shining? “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Just like in the movie, starving yourself of everything but work will only lead to unhappiness.

Using timelines and schedules allows you to more precisely factor how long specific tasks will take, and helps ensure you’re not under any undue pressure when it comes to delivering to the client. Of course, the design process usually takes longer than most people think, and a certain level of overwork comes with the territory.

“Motivation comes from the relentless desire to get back to that briefest pause on the mountaintop. It’s as simple and as hard as that.”

We all get stuck, no matter who we are

“We all get stuck as designers. Don’t forget that,” said Eric Karjaluoto of Vancouver-based smashLAB. “No matter who you are, the number of accolades you’ve received, or the past successes you’ve had, it’s still hard. You can look at this a few ways, but I largely take comfort in it.”

“Becoming a good designer is, in my mind, directly related to one’s curiosity and willingness to work,” said Karjaluoto. “If you keep asking questions and deliberately practicing your craft, you get better. It’s that simple. So when it feels difficult and you want to scream, grab a pencil and a big blank sheet of paper, and just start drawing. With each iteration you’re closer.”

Start on the right foot, and stay on the right foot

When you’ve carefully prepared for a project by asking your client plenty of questions, it makes everything run more smoothly. But don’t stop this methodical approach once the questions are answered. Attending to and working through each step of the design process will make things much easier for you in the long run. As strange as it might seem, skipping a step only creates more work for you down the road when your client hasn’t received the desired result.

Find common ground

“Perhaps one of the biggest killers of motivation in an
identity project is client feedback,” said designer and author Armin Vit of UnderConsideration. “Specifically, client feedback that challenges in one way or another the solutions we
have presented.

“But for the most part, this is where the real challenge of graphic design lies: finding common ground between you and your client in order to solve a visual problem.

“Remember that there are dozens of ways of visually solving any given problem, and most of them are equally valid.”

“If the client has reservations about the size or colour of something, try another 12 sizes or colours,” said Vit. “If the client doesn’t like what you showed her, try another dozen options. It doesn’t mean you have to show her all of them, but at the very least, do it for yourself. You owe it not just to your client, but to yourself. Explore.”

Deadline looming

“A deadline can be a designer’s greatest single source of motivation,” said Blair Thomson of UK design studio biz-R.

It’s worth adding that your deadlines must be realistic, so always account for unexpected delays. Otherwise, you’ll end up placing yourself under undue pressure.

Think laterally

The brain forms routine patterns, in which the more we carry out the same task, the more ingrained and natural the pattern becomes. Before you know it, you’re in a rut.

One of my favorite authors is Edward de Bono, regarded by many as a leader in the field of creative thinking. “Creative thinking is a skill,” said de Bono. “It’s not just a matter of individual talent. It’s not just a matter of sitting by the river and playing Baroque music and hoping you get inspired. That’s very weak stuff.”

Just as you can learn how to speak another language, so too can you learn how to be creative. The aim of thinking laterally is to consider possibilities that are outside your normal train of thought.

How do you do this? I find that sketching each and every idea that pops into my head, and then studying the sketches with the design brief in hand, allows me to produce more sketches that wouldn’t have come to mind without such analysis. Turn your design concepts upside down. Look at them from afar. Ask someone to share some thoughts about your sketches. The more creative your ideas, the happier your client becomes, and the more satisfied you will be with the results.

Improve how you communicate

“The single biggest motivation killer for a young designer is the client who wrecks your designs with seemingly pointless changes and unjustified revisions,” said Adrian Hanft, creative director at Red Rocket Media Group in Colorado. “While design school has pumped you full of talent and technical knowledge, most people aren’t prepared to deal with the heartbreak that comes with the first time a client transforms your masterpiece into manure.

“To stay motivated, you need to look at every encounter with a client as an opportunity to improve the skills they didn’t teach you in school: how to communicate with people. As you get better at educating and interacting with your clients, you’ll find that fewer and fewer of your designs get ruined and your great ideas aren’t being abandoned on the cutting room floor.”

Manage your expectations

If you expect clients to be overjoyed with your design work, you’ll miss the opportunity to be pleasantly surprised. In fact, you’re only leaving yourself open to disappointment. By maintaining modest expectations, constructive criticism from the client can be much easier to handle.

Always design

“Work on a design piece that really inspires you, whether it’s
a book, magazine, business card, poster, website, anything that gets your juices flowing,” said Antonio Carusone of AisleOne. “Always design, even if you have no purpose. It keeps you fresh and motivated.”

Follow your bliss

Author and designer Maggie Macnab of Macnab Design offers some fitting advice: “You have to follow your passion in life, regardless of the consequences. For me, that has meant continually developing as a human being throughout the experiences of my life.”

“There’s a certain integrity with staying true to your soul, and it carries into all avenues of your life,” said Macnab. “If something isn’t working for you, find out why. Maybe you are in a learning curve and need further development before you can dovetail with it. Maybe it just really isn’t a fit and you need to move on. Explore always and discover. If you feel a quickening in your blood, it’s the first indication you’re on the right path. Read, look, go, be. Most importantly, love the life you are in. You only have one, and only you can have it.”

Not everyone is as fortunate

I once read that if you have change in your pocket you’re richer than 70 percent of the people on the planet. It’s a sobering thought that helps put our “westernised” lives
in context. In the grander scheme of things, I’m incredibly fortunate to have grown up in a secure family environment, with a roof over my head and food on the table.

How does this motivate me? I want the same for the children
I hope to raise, and by pushing myself to become a better designer, I can attract more rewarding projects (both financially and emotionally), and help secure a stable future.

Never take financial security for granted, and step back once in a while to look at the bigger picture.

Similar looking logos

Q: I’ve been accused of ripping off someone’s logo today,
and would appreciate your advice before replying to the accusation. Basically, both of our logos are very similar, but I wouldn’t harm my reputation by copying anyone. How would you deal with this?

A: With millions of companies in existence, and with the most iconic logos being simple in appearance, it’s almost guaranteed that if you look hard enough, you’ll find a similar design to every other. When a trademark lawyer is assessing the strength of a possible case of copyright infringement, what’s most important is whether the two logos are used in the same industry or for the same profession. If they’re not, the lawyer will likely tell you there isn’t a case. If they are, well, lawyers don’t come cheap, so do your research into good ones and be prepared to spend.

U.S.-based designer Mike Davidson has this to say about being original: “Tell yourself at every step in the design process that someone has undoubtedly already thought of this, and then ask yourself what you can do to really set it apart.”

In design, and particularly where logos are concerned, it’s harder to escape the thought that everything has already been done. Whether that’s the case or not, you must push yourself to produce ideas that are original to the best of your knowledge, and never settle on an idea you have seen elsewhere.

Rights of use

Q: When you and your client have settled on a finished identity, do you protect it with a copyright so that they must buy stationery, print collateral, and so on from you?

A: Stationery design should be discussed with your client at the beginning of the working relationship. Identity projects are about more than just a logo. They’re about a complete visual identity—from business cards and compliment slips to vehicle graphics and billboard design.

If a client approaches you asking for a logo in isolation
(i.e., without application on a range of marketing collateral), you should advise her that in order to get the most value from your working relationship and the design, she should take advantage of the expert guidance you provide regarding how best to apply the logo across the gamut of corporate literature, stationery, and advertising.

Bringing a new designer or design studio on board to design the stationery will likely cost your client more, since the new designer will need to do his own research to get up to
speed on the company—something you’ve already done.

However, if at the beginning of the project your client declined the idea of contracting with you for stationery design, chances are that if you executed each step in the design process like the expert that you are, she’ll most likely change her mind and ask you to do it anyway.

With that said, clients should receive full ownership of your design. The only right you should preserve is the right to use the work for self-promotion (i.e., in your portfolio).

Online portfolio creation

Q: Do you have any advice for an aspiring designer who wants to create a professional online design portfolio?

A: Broadly speaking, I’ve found there are five common design portfolio mistakes that if avoided will stand you in good stead.

Here they are:

  • Overuse of Flash. Many designers see Flash as a tool to showcase how creative they are, but in reality, Flash isn’t always visitor-friendly. There have been many occasions when I’ve been asked to critique a design portfolio, only to get hung up on a very slow-moving progress bar telling me how little of the site has actually loaded. Your portfolio should load as quickly as possible—at least within a couple of seconds—because that’s all the time you have before your visitor gives up and clicks the Back button. You might decide to use Flash designs as a small accompaniment to a website, but my advice is to steer clear altogether and not overcomplicate things. The focus of your portfolio should be the work you have created for others, and not the latest web design trick you’ve learned.Using thumbnail squares that don’t show what the project is. If you’ve spent even a short period of time browsing portfolios, I’m sure you will have seen at least one that displays the work using a grid of thumbnails, in which only a small section of each design is showing in its respective thumbnail. Visitors are somehow supposed to guess what else is in the image before clicking through the rest, assuming they have time to click on every one of the 20 or 30 squares. This is asking your potential clients to play a game of “guess what’s behind the door,” and believe me, it’s a poor game to play. Show visitors what you can do. Show all of each design. You only have seconds to capture their attention.
  • Hiding contact information. Visitors will view your website for two main reasons: to see the quality of your work, and to hire you for their design needs.Regardless which page of your site a visitor is viewing, it should only take one click to get to your contact information. Making this happen is easy: Just place a Contact button in the hot spots on the page where people are most likely to look, such as in the site navigation at the top or left of the page. Providing more than one way to contact you, such as a telephone number, email address, contact form, Skype username, or post office box, is also helpful.Showing images in isolation. Even well-respected studios make this mistake—showing images with no description. Without giving details about the project goals, you leave it up to your visitors to judge your work on aesthetics alone. But to truly judge how good your design work is, visitors need to know the story behind it: your reasons for choosing a particular design, how it’s relevant for the company it identifies, and what image your client wanted to portray. It’s these details that can really make your portfolio stand out.
    • Background music. I’m surprised I need to mention this, but automatically loading background music is one way to have your potential client disappear before you can say, “Come ba… .” Just because there’s an option to mute the sound, doesn’t mean your client will bother. And who’s to say how loud your visitor’s speaker volume is? You could have the best music taste in the world, but forcing it on others is a bad idea.

      So that’s a little about what not to do when creating a design portfolio. Now let’s talk about what you should do.

      I began my main blog at davidairey.com back in October 2006. Prior to its launch, and for at least a few months afterward, I had no idea if such an addition to my static portfolio would help me attract new clients. But my website has since grown to become the cornerstone of my business, and, together with my second blog at logodesignlove.com, it receives more than 250,000 visitors per month, with approximately 1 million monthly page views.

      You can achieve that, too. In fact, you can surpass it, and your first step—if you haven’t already done so—is to launch your blog. Think of it this way: Without me publishing a design blog, you wouldn’t be reading this book, because my publisher would never have known to ask me to write it.

      Put another way, how and what you write about can give potential clients huge insights into your talents and professionalism.

      Your articles can also go a long way toward helping you achieve “first page” search-engine rankings. At the time of this writing, if you were to search Google for “graphic designer,” you would find me in the top 10 results. I simply could not have achieved that without the work I put into my blog.

      If my clients don’t find me through an online search, they find me through word of mouth via another client who found me through my online articles. It’s an incredible sales
      tool, and one that also acts as a significant learning tool.
      The comments my readers leave on individual blog posts have taught me a great deal about design, printing, search engine optimisation, marketing, branding, social media, and lots more. To them—to you—I owe a great deal.

      One way to set up your own blog is to visit WordPress.org and download the freely available blogging platform. The only costs you incur are the price of a domain name and an annual web hosting package. I use GoDaddy for domain names, and Crucial Web Hosting or ICDSoft for hosting. You may find more suitable providers, but they work well for my purposes.

      Seal the deal

      Q. Do you have any tips for convincing clients to work with you? I get a lot of inquiries, but very few potential clients go on to hire me.

      A. It’s always worth reinforcing to clients that the design process is an investment and not simply a cost. Tell them that building brand recognition and brand association are a company’s biggest and most valued assets.

      In addition, your website should be an invaluable source
      of help when it comes to clinching a client agreement. You must present yourself in a professional manner. That said, if you have a Facebook account, and you use it for personal photos and chat, keep it for your friends only. Potential clients will check up on your trustworthiness. You can be sure of that.

      Speaking of trust, another tip is to show client testimonials on your website. You want people to know what others think about the service you provide, so at the end of every project, be sure to ask for their thoughts. But when asking, don’t specifically use the word ”testimonial” because it’s like trying to put positive thoughts in your clients’ mouths. Instead, ask what they thought of the working relationship. Ask what was good and bad about the whole process. That way, not only will you get something positive to add to your website (on a testimonials page, for example), but you will also learn how to improve upon what you do.

      I go one step further and ask for a small photo of my client to display alongside the testimonial. This can provide a greater sense of validity to the words you show.

      Overseas clients

      Q. I’ve found that a few companies were reluctant to hire me
      as their designer because I’m in a different country. Does the distance really affect the process?

      A. The vast majority of my clients are overseas. This is mainly a result of my strong global search engine rankings, but also, gratefully, due to word of mouth—for instance, I will work with one client in Canada, and she’ll tell a business friend of hers about me, leading to another overseas client.

      Having a physical location in a different country from many clients hasn’t adversely affected any of my design projects. Communicating via telephone, video chat, email, and instant messaging provides ample opportunity for the working relationship to run smoothly.

      How many concepts?

      Q. How many design concepts should you present to clients?

      A. Sometimes one is all it takes, but more often than not, I’ll give my clients a choice of two or three. Think about it.
      If you were having another designer create your brand identity, would you be okay with accepting the one design he gives you, or would you be happier to get a choice?

      You’re much more likely to reach a smooth agreement when you involve your clients as much as possible.

      Be wary of presenting too many concepts, however, because it’s a lot easier to choose one from two than it is to choose one from 10—even if all 10 ideas are good.

      I see a lot of designers using online client questionnaires in which one of the questions they ask is, “How many concepts do you need?” The question will be followed by a choice of one, two, three, or four. This is bad practice. How can your client determine how many ideas are needed before the right one is created? You, as the designer, can’t even answer this question until you have begun designing.

      If clients ask how many ideas they will receive, it’s much better to say, “between one and four,” than to have them choose four, charge them more money, and then force yourself into the possibility of having to present a weak idea. Remember, this isn’t a dog and pony show. You’re working through a stringent process to determine the strongest results. The number of possibilities can only be determined during the course of the project. Not before.

      Friends and family

      Q. What are your thoughts about doing design work for close friends and family? How do you work out your prices for them?

      I’m always conflicted about this because I know they expect a reduced price, and I don’t want to be the bad guy by refusing. They usually don’t know the time it takes to complete design work, so in their minds they believe it can be done on the cheap.

      A. I’m reluctant to work with friends or family because there’s always a danger that exchanging money between people close to you can ruin your relationship.

      But, of course, it can also be difficult to say, “No.”

      You should treat your relations as you would a normal client, and don’t neglect the terms and conditions you usually work under. You might feel compelled to offer a discount, but ask yourself if a lower rate is worth a potentially damaged relationship. If you do offer a discount, be sure to show it on your invoice. This will reaffirm to your friend or family member that she is getting a very good deal.

      Design revisions

      Q. How many revision rounds do you allow your clients?

      A. When I started in self-employment, I would always tell clients at the beginning of the project that they could expect x number of concepts and x number of revision rounds, and that anything else would cost extra. Now that I have more experience, I can see the flaws in that method.

      What happens if you tell a client you will create two concepts with two rounds of revisions on a chosen option, but, after which, you know the result is poor? Do you go ahead and supply a poor design because your client hasn’t paid you more money? Absolutely not. By specifying a number at the outset, all you’re doing is limiting the results. We can’t produce iconic designs at every attempt, just like an Olympic runner won’t come first in every race. You can determine the amount of necessary designs only during the course of the project.

      Project time frames

      Q. I’m always asked how long it will take to create a brand identity, but can never seem to give an accurate answer. What do you tell clients?

      A. I also find this difficult because projects always differ. There are so many variables, such as how closely involved your client wants to be and how many revisions it takes before both of you are satisfied with the result. You might also arrive at an iconic design within a few hours of sketching, whereas at other times it could take a week of exploration.

      During initial discussions, I tell clients that time frames range from two weeks to three months. It’s not until you’ve created a detailed design brief that you can be more specific with your client, and you may well find a project could only take one week, or it might turn into a six-month gig.

      The short version is, give your client a range of times, and tell him you can be more specific once you both have signed off on the design brief.

      Researching the competition

      Q. How much research do you conduct into your client’s competitors?

      A. A great deal. I mentioned previously in this book that if your client is to win (i.e., gain an edge within his market), then there must be a loser. It might sound a little harsh, but that’s business, and you’re being paid to increase the profits of your client.

      Quantifying the amount of research into an actual figure or timescale isn’t possible, because—and I hope you haven’t grown tired of me telling you—each project is different, and every client will have a different amount of competition within the particular niche.

      Internships

      Q: Do you recommend that young designers gain experience through an internship?

      A: The value of an internship depends on two things: the quality of the company you’re interning with, and your willingness to learn. I interned for three months with the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation in Pittsburgh (now the Printing Industries of America). I learned a great deal, but that’s not to say you can’t achieve iconic design without such an internship.

      If you’re looking for work experience, contact the companies you want to learn from, regardless whether they advertise for interns. The same applies when looking for jobs.

      Rather than compete against the hundreds of applicants who search through the same job boards, make a list of respected companies responsible for excellent design
      work, find out who is responsible for hiring, and send them a handwritten letter introducing yourself and saying you will follow up with a phone call.

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