Designing a Logo: Part 2

Posted by Jane Paradis on

A company logo can be the first impression a customer receives from your brand. YES, the product (the JW jewelry) should always be front and center – but the product will change with the seasons…the logo will be a constant. It’s a first impression and a consistent representation of your brand. As detailed in Designing a Logo Part 1 (read here if you missed it!), I have experience with developing logos and maintaining the brand identity for some spectacular brands. I hold great value in the importance of a strong logo and consistency in its use. Developing a logo system round 1 meant: logo mark, color system and font. In this blog we will concentrate on the ‘logo mark’.

As you know by now, I worked with a former colleague Kathleen Cunningham and developed a logo mark I loooove love love so much. SO, how did we get there?

1. We were both prepared.
2. We were open to new ideas.
3. We talked a lot but had a calendar of revisions agreed upon upfront.

Let’s dive in to this list with some added commentary from my favorite graphic designer Kathleen Kiddo Cunningham:

1. We were both prepared. PREP work is incredibly important. I might be a little more inclined to be organized and prepared, but honestly, if you want to achieve an outcome in a timely manner – you need to do some leg work. MY PREP: The business plan and RFP for the branding were my homework. This allowed me to paint a picture for Kathleen of what the brand was all about, and this ‘picture’ helped her make some critical calls. For example: This brand is digitally native, meaning it will be viewed online most. We plan to build our audience through social media, and 90% of social media is viewed on a mobile phone. For Kathleen that translates to – The brand is digital with a mobile first mindset. That means color and scale REALLY MATTER. There are certain bright colors that do not resonate on screens – like neon color – so working with a color story that comes through on your phone is a priority. Making sure the logo is legible when really small – and in a little circle (think Instagram) – really matters.

KATHLEEN’S PREP: In case I wasn’t prepared, Kathleen had some amazing worksheets that asked her customer about their audience and what they were looking to create with their branding. Kathleen, can you tell us a bit about what you ask clients to do before you start the project and why it’s so important?

KC: Often clients think they are hiring me to execute a design, when what they really want is a solution to a problem. My project launch worksheets, are about implicitly and explicitly understanding my client’s core problem. This helps me approach on-going conversations and get on the same page as the client. The result is clarity and occasionally a refinement of the proposal if we find a more fruitful opportunity.
The most important thing, however, is fully empathizing with our end user. My goal is to keep the consumer (aka end user) in mind at all times. Human-centric designs always have (surprise, surprise) a human at the center! That persona (the aggregate consumer vision) is key to keeping the consumer front of mind throughout the design process. The purpose of my worksheets is to better understand the target consumer’s daily life!

2. We were open to new ideas.
HMMMM. I think I was? I knew a moon was “my thing”. I have been obsessed with the moon since 1991-ish when late-night I had it tattooed on my hip. Pretty dedicated :). Honestly, the moon has always been a symbol that resonated with me, but I was worried because it’s ‘trending’ right now. I looked to Kathleen to translate the moon in a modern way. I needed to be open to different styles and ways to elevate it within the Jane Winchester graphics. Kathleen, you have such a gentle way of approaching new ideas – do you have any advice on how to have open conversations about innovating and new ideas when a client may be ‘stuck’ in one spot?

KC: I am super interested in how our human brains work (yes, this will connect back to my approach, I promise!). Our brains are change-resistant – anything that is new or different, our brain reads as a threat and slaps a big “NO” on innovation. That resistance is actually a resistance to perceived loss – we think change/new/innovation means we need to give something up.*

*If you geek on brains and innovation like me, you should listen to Ronald Heifetz talk about leadership (link).

That’s why I approach design conversations collaboratively and with a sense of abundance. How can we address that underlying fear of loss and change that happens at the gut-level? For many clients, it’s all about active listening. This not only helps the process feel more collaborative, it also helps me better understand and empathize with the end user (consumer). When our vision is aligned in service of the consumer, it’s much easier to introduce new ideas to a client. I’ll sometimes ask a client to “live” with a few brand options; I ask them to literally hang print outs on their home or office wall. This can help the new or the scary become the familiar. Once that “newness” resistance fades away, a client can tell me exactly which one is IT!

3. We talked a lot but had a calendar of revisions agreed upon upfront.
Kathleen and I communicated a bunch via email and met in person for milestone moments in the process. In the RFP I laid out suggested dates and Kathleen revised and finalized before we started the project. There is a temptation to revise ‘to death’ especially when a client doesn’t know what they want. I am more calendar driven, but not all are. Having a schedule really helped us stay on track.

Kathleen, can you talk a bit about staying on track and pitfalls to development that can make your job harder or hurt the outcome of the process?

KC: Iteration is absolutely a key to success. In order to iterate a design in a meaningful way, I also need to have a clear picture of a client’s runway. The runway is commonly determined by time or money and usually both! To stay on time and on budget, I’ll need to use that runway wisely and iterate over and over to deliver a few “favorites” for each round of design.

BUT there are two major timeline hurdles:
Client feedback gets delayed. I always encourage clients to share design iterations with a small test group (usually their friends/family who may fall into the target demographic) and share the feedback with me. Sometimes this can turn into a laundry list of small-picture thinking (focusing on details without articulated business-related support).

When I am faced with this scenario, I have a set of worksheets that help a client return to big-picture thinking and define a test user group together.

Luckily, you were NOT that type of client! You had thoughtful, consumer-focused feedback at every stage.

Creativity logjam. This is a universal creative person’s experience and nightmare! We all go through periods of creative blocks which hamper our ability to deliver our best work on time. I have an imperfect approach to this #alwayslearning…

I have a BUNCH of creative projects going on at once. Along with client design work, I also write, I paint, I meditate, I lead workshops, I read (a lot), I sew, I observe (Tuesday you can usually find me at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, Wednesdays at MoMA…). If one project is feeling impossible, I first switch gears for at least 30 mins. That creative focus switch is a game-changer.

I also have a small network of creative people I adore and trust. Sometimes just checking in with them (how are things in Philly/Chicago/LA/DC?) is enough to get my flow back on.

Lastly, I move my body. Feeling mentally clogged connects with my physical stagnancy. I set a timer and stretch for 10mins or go for a fast-paced walk. When I’m creatively blocked my instinct is to snack and nap — if I can prevent either of those things from taking my brain hostage, the block will eventually pass.

In summary, Kathleen and I had a comfort level and structure that allowed our creativity to take the lead. We were able to clearly define who we want the customer to be and put her first, we allowed ourselves to think of new ideas beyond a predisposed outcome, and we had a calendar (plus some tools to help us if we got blocked). The result? One very happy customer – that’s me – with a logo that I believe will leave a lasting impression.

SOOOOO, you have seen the logo, what do you think? I have received some very positive feedback from friends and family but I’d love to hear more. Does the Jane Winchester logo connect with you?  Let us know with your comments or contact me HERE.

Tons of love and xx, Janie


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