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Apples and Oranges

Since I started my career I’ve designed enough books, catalogs, and brochures to fill the luggage compartment of a Pontiac Bonneville. But until this year I had never designed a logo—and I’m struggling. Not so much with the work itself, but with finding the language to communicate effectively with my clients, solicit constructive input, and manage expectations.

Do you specialize in designing a particular kind of material—ads, websites, posters, logos? How do you approach a project in a genre that you’ve never tackled before? What was familiar about the experience, what was foreign? How did you talk to your clients about the work? And last but not least, how did it turn out? Illustrations encouraged.

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PUBLISHED ON Apr.29.2003 BY rebecca
Damien’s comment is:

Last year, I got a project to design an identity with collateral and a web site. Like yourself, I'd previously designed other suff, specifically enough web sites to fill an... iPod, and I hadn't designed a logo for over ten years.

I normally sketch whenever I start some form of design. Even if it is some boxes for the page layout for a web site.

I found it took me a lot longer to get into the 'mood' of designing a logo. It was alien, I didn't have a whole system available to hide or swallow the mark - I had to develop something that could stand sort of on its own. Everything else would start from this mark and the colour palette.

The process was still the same. Research. Concept then Design.

I referenced as many books as I could - naturally Heller's on Rand and so on. I quizzed the client until I think they hated me and wished they had chosen someone else to do the job. Then I think I started working on something else.

The logo began to appear when I got over my fear of doing something crap and became happy that it was inevitable it would be crap and my real job was in convincing the client to pay for it. No - I'm kidding. I presented the concept. She, the client, loved it. And I destroyed it in my layout and design of a website.

In truth the real help came from asking someone else to art direct the logo for me. I showed concepts to someone else who could help recognize a strong approach and help me disregard weak ones.

I have some additional images of another logo I did soon after, where I again worked with someone else to get it done. But it has a 'swoosh' in it - because the client asked for one - so I'm not showing it this early in the morning.

On Apr.30.2003 at 08:02 AM
Damien’s comment is:

I had meant to add as well, that one of the reasons I found the project so difficult was because I was always fearful that I wouldn't develop something original. And in fact it would be only slightly different from something I once saw, perhaps some time ago.

I still don't know if it is as unique as I think it is - but I did make sure no competitors at the time had similar identities.

Today, depending on the project, I think I would probably refer an identity project to someone else. I know plenty of people that are better at designing identities than I am and find it as natural as I do working on other graphic design or interactive projects. I would only take it if I had the extra time to spend on it.

Okay - thats it, I promise.

On Apr.30.2003 at 08:14 AM
rebecca’s comment is:

Today, depending on the project, I think I would probably refer an identity project to someone else.

*slapping forehead*

On Apr.30.2003 at 09:48 AM
Chris’s comment is:

I really like that pleiad logo by the way. It's sharp and professional.

I'm new here by the way, I'm Chris. My company is Tornado Design (www.tornadodesign.com).

On Apr.30.2003 at 11:48 AM
Damien’s comment is:

*slapping forehead*

Cheeky girl. So come on - lets see your stuff. We all know your book work is fantastic...

And thanks Chris - nice of you to say.

On Apr.30.2003 at 11:57 AM
rebecca’s comment is:

So come on - lets see your stuff.

Oh no. No way. Not until it's finished, approved, printed, and distributed.

That's a topic for another day. "Sharing Unfinished Work: Seeking Critique or Courting Disaster?"

On Apr.30.2003 at 01:55 PM
armin’s comment is:

Since last week I have been designing a magazine, nothing huge, just 20 pages. Shit it's hard! I had done a couple of editorial spreads at school and I read a lot of magazines so I figured I wouldn't have any problems in designing the thing but man! And I have poor craftsmanship, so putting the mock-up together felt like giving birth. I can't show it yet, since it hasn't been approved or finalized.

The first portfolio site, which was also my first website, I did is kind of funny, and not in a HaHa kind of way. I don't have it on my server right now. And I'm kind of away from my stuff. So I'll also post it later.

On May.01.2003 at 08:36 AM
herman’s comment is:

"if you walk away from it...it will come"

the one thing that i have always done after a client meeting is walk away from the project for at least a day. do something else. the ideas will flow. that has always worked for me and i've been doing this since 1985.

we walk outta that meeting thinking "oh wow...big project...what'm i gonna do....will it be accepted by the client!??

give yourself the time to think away from the process. search your mental files and scout your surroundings. just as we use design books, annuals for references, use your environment.

mental files: all the questions you asked of the client (you did ask questions!?) the who, what, when, where and hows of the project + your creative experiences.

another little secret i use for logos: the dictionary. look up the word (company name), find synonyms, write down definitions...do any of those words create a visual in your head. start there, the rest as i said..."will come"

On May.01.2003 at 02:01 PM
dave’s comment is:

Do you specialize in designing a particular kind of material?ads, websites, posters, logos?

The company I work for does a variety of projects and it seems the different types of projects have their own approach. Some of the internal mechanics crossover from one to another approach.

How do you approach a project in a genre that you've never tackled before?

I learn as much as I can about the communication that needs to take place and then I do what Herman does. My ideas often come when I am working around the house, taking a shower, or driving to/from work.

How did you talk to your clients about the work?

Fortunately my own clients are friends, so there is already honesty and trust built into the relationship, but i just recent learned this from watching my boss get ready for a presentation: Write down the thinking behind the work and present that as part of the project or use it as a reference. That may work better for larger projects, but even if it is only one sentence that describes the meaning of the identity... have it in your mind.

I recently did a couple of comps for an identity. It was for a urologist, who is starting a company to sell the high tech components/tools he has developed. Tools that improve using oscopy tools on/in the human body.

The information about the client and his company came from the design director. Which included the name of the company and what it means to the client, the products and what they do, and the clients favorite colors.

I never meet the client. It was a do it today kinda job. The goal was to throw in on the project to beef up the overall presentation. No design brief on paper, very little time.

Here is what happened:

Company Name: INON ("It's Now or Never", cute right?) maybe not appropriate for the industry, but it meant alot to the client and his wife, who comprise the company. Tools for Endoscopy. He likes purples, reds, and blues.

I found that drawing on my "headpad" (the drawing pad in my mind) was the first thing that i do. Then I did something that I have not done in a while: sketch on paper (tracing paper no less). Once i did the sketch that captured my concept, i produced the digital refinement.

My idea was that the "O" would represent the tool. Did a little google for endoscopy... the tool is like a drain snake. The O is going to coil up. Here is the sketch:

The refinement:

Those happened on the first day.

The next morning we did a quick crit of where we were at. And I learned that the O felt more like a piggy tail. So, I reworked the design, keeping the idea intact:

Then I made another version still using the O as the focal point but referencing the removal of things from the body... a kidney stone that is broken apart with a laser and then removed from the body in small pieces.

I liked that one.

#1 card

#2 card

In the end the client could not use the name because there is already a company in the same field with a name that is too close to INON... Something that should have been looked into first, but none the less I was happy with the experience and the outcome. This was one approach for a project that needed to happen fast.

Other Logo/Identity projects that have time and a budget usually go through the branding process... with mood boards, typefaces...ect

I like the quick non-branding exploration method.

On May.01.2003 at 03:53 PM
Tan’s comment is:

I'm crossing my legs and wincing in pain right now.

nice logo though.

On May.01.2003 at 04:16 PM
Michael’s comment is:

I can relate to Rebecca's struggle with unfamiliar territory because I've experienced it over and over like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. If there is such a thing as a serial generalist, I'm it. Can't tell you how many times I've said (something like), "Interactive CD-ROM? How hard can that be?"

Well, then it turns out to be really hard. But, you get through it and you learn and maybe you do another and you get better at it. And then somebody says, "Hey can you do frozen food packaging?" and you say, "Uh, sure... why not?"

I know the downside to this for me is that I'm not really that good at anything -- not as good as I should be. I've come to understand the value of specialization (both to the studio and to the client) but the tranisition to specialist from jack-of-all-trades has not been easy. In fact the only progress I can really report is that we're not taking any more exterior signage jobs.

Maybe this is another topic entirely -- and perhaps a good seed for a Liska business discussion.

On May.06.2003 at 07:23 PM