I want to give you an idea of what my typical client process looks like from start to finish, because I think it can clear up some things for business owners looking for a better branding solution, and professionals who are wondering how to deal with clients from first contact all the way to completion of a project.
This example is based on a business that already exist but needs a new visual identity. Although the branding services I provide can vary from client to client, most of the projects I take on fall into that category.
Maybe the most important thing is the initial conversation I have with a client. I try to learn as much as I can about their organization, their history, their employees, their goals, and most importantly: their customer. From here, I’m able to discern why the client contacted me in the first place and how they can actually reach their goals.
After learning about what the client is looking for in their business and how I can help, I draft a proposal. This proposal is important for a few reasons. Of course, it explains how I am planning to solve the organization’s problems and help them reach their goals. It also gives a sort of program and timeline to the project, so we both know what to expect. It lists the amount of money I will charge for the project, and lastly, it details precisely what the roles are in this business relationship, the responsibilities of the client, and the responsibilities of the designer.
Though the proposal holds a lot of explanation, the contract is necessary to make sure every detail of every possible outcome is clear. This isn’t just to protect me, it’s to protect my client as well. I don’t want my client to have misguided expectations of this project—I want to leave nothing to interpretation.
The pencil first
If the client is ready for the project and has agreed to the proposal and contract, I get to work. Again this is assuming that the organization has a name worth keeping, otherwise there would be a few more steps in the process.
When I’m designing a logo, I start on paper. Typically, I won’t even draw anything, per se, but I’ll simple write the organization’s name in different ways. All caps or title case, stacked vs. inline. I’m looking for a pleasing visual representation of the name that corresponds with how it’s expressed verbally. Sometimes this part is easy, but other times it’s the hardest aspect of the design process.
I could write a whole blog post just about this stage (and I might!), but to summarize, eventually I start to build more finished logos based on my sketches using the computer. When I have exhausted all the reasonable options and refined the logos I think will work best, I move to the next step.
People who design logos vary at this stage of the process. Some will pick the options they think are best, maybe three, and show those to the client. Others will simply allow the client to dig through all the sketches, drafts, and versions and pick the one they like. I don’t think these approaches lend themselves to the professional work I do. I scour my own sketches, drafts, and versions; I narrow down the two or three that meet all the necessary requirements for that particular client; then I choose the best one.
A seasoned graphic artist who I had the privilege of learning from used to harp about “educating the client”. I don’t think I totally understood what he meant at the time, but after years of working with clients I’ve learned exactly what he was referring to. If I don’t educate my client about my expertise and the value I provide for them, I’ll likely not be able to do my best work. If the final logo is chosen by my client, my services will be tarnished because someone other than the design professional determined the outcome of the project. This is why I come to the client with my best option as a professional, because they are paying me for the knowledge and experience that allowed me to make that choice.
Naturally, I explain the entire process of logo exploration and design, the reasons the final logo works, and what the client can expect from it. I think this is the place where a lot of designers fall short. Without reasoning behind why a logo looks the way it does—why the letters are shaped that way, why the corners are rounded—a logo has no value. It’s $0. Anyone can make a logo worth $0. It takes experience and discipline to create a logo that has value, and that value needs to be explained.
The fun part
Once the client approves the logo, the fun part begins. This is the part where the new visual identity envelopes everywhere the business connects with the customer—business cards, storefront signs, trucks, websites, brochures, etc. I like to encourage the client to implement the new identity everywhere because this consistency is going to get noticed by the people that matter. It’s also my favorite part of the process because it’s great to see something I’ve created become useful and profitable for a business I support.