A Look Inside My Logo Creation Process

Self-portrait. I’m sketching negative forms into a logotype concept for SWANA.

One of my creative specialties is branding and logo design. There’s something about a blank page that makes me tingle. I love researching the client and coming up with something unique to them that can’t be recycled for anyone else. All the while, I add designer touches like embedded images and golden proportions. Basically, logo design is one of the most challenging yet most rewarding jobs of the graphic designer. That’s why I make my logo designs from scratch. A look inside my logo creation process reveals the golden rules of logo design.

What Makes a Good Logo Design

My logo creation process follows several steps to ensure I’m making a good logo design for my client. The first step is understanding the golden rules of logo design.

Indeed, the creative challenge of a logo design is that every logo must be:

  • Original,
  • Unique, and
  • Functional.

Original Logos

Recycling or reusing ideas from another business or another project might save time. However, that logo design wouldn’t be the original work your client needs. Furthermore, you risk visual plagiarism. Finally, recycling or reusing ideas can also make it difficult to establish a logo design that’s unique to the client. Original logos have that creative touch that can only come from the designer themself.

Unique Logos

A logo design shouldn’t be generic. Sometimes a logo design can be trendy.

For example, event logos change often with time and place. A trendy design is easy for viewers to remember it. Still, some elements must be visually consistent to eliminate brand confusion. It must further be unique so that viewers distinguish your brand from the rest of the trendy pack—else, the logo fails in originality.

Basically, the best way to boost brand awareness and differentiation is with a unique logo design.

Functional Logos

Logo designs should fit into the client’s brand and marketing plans. It might make sense to propose logo variations that increase complexity in larger sizes while still maintaining the core logo design. Responsive logos are brilliant examples of progressive enhancement/graceful degradation in a logo design.

Lara Lee Design | A Look Inside My Logo Creation Process, View More

Client Research Informs a Professional Logo Design

Before capturing the “essence” of a client in one, succinct logo design is a solid understanding of the client, their USP, and their industry.

The best place to start researching is the client themselves. Use information from the client questionnaire like this one. Additionally, read over the client’s website and latest news to find big ideas and themes. Look to phrases, topics, and events for clues. Learn common terminology, and jot down ways capture the concept in ways people can easily connect with. This is a great way to learn about your clients’ industries.

Additionally, sometimes I need to educate myself on different cultures as well. Colors and hand gestures frequently have different or opposing meanings across cultures. Artistic motifs may vary as well.

For example, I encountered this obstacle during my logo creation and exploration of Asia Source. Asia Source is an expo for primarily Chinese stone and tile manufacturers. I wanted to recognize that not all Asian art looks the same. Chinese art, architecture, gardens, symbols, writing, etc. look different from other Asian countries like Japan, Korea, and India. As a result, I scrapped a few concepts, but my designs were stronger and more informed by my research.

Therefore, different areas of client research inform different parts of my logo creation process. Overall, the unique combination of research here lays the foundation for a unique logo design.

How My Logo Creation Process Explores Core Ideas

The best logo design probably isn’t a literal depiction of something about the client. Firstly, a super literal idea might be too specific and allow little room for growth or flexibility. Secondly, a literal idea might say something about how the client and what they do, but not what they do differently from others. If someone else in the client’s industry can also use that logo, the logo is not unique enough.

Therefore, when I explore core ideas during logo creation, I favor abstract concepts.

For example, my logo design process for SWANA’s corporate logo explored the client’s overall mission of transforming waste to resource.

Although SWANA is the Solid Waste Association of North America, depicting literal trash may not be the best impression from a business logo. Therefore, in my logo design strategy for SWANA’s new brand, I explored the idea of “waste to resource” by illustrating changing forms.

Concept exploration for SWANA challenged me to find ways to visually represent “waste to resource” during the logo creation process.

Check out the  SWANA case study!

I brainstormed ways to capture this abstract “waste to resource” idea visually, such as:

  • Arrows for movement
  • Negative space for waste elimination
  • Golden ratios for natural harmony and balance
  • Gradient colors for change
  • Icons of the trade

More Concept Exploration Examples:

Logos for the Texas State Society Black Tie & Boots Presidential Inaugural Ball explored not only several different concepts from boots to bluebonnets to cattle brands, but also several different styles, like pure type to elaborate illustration.
SPC Turkey Trot logo design concept explorations work the turkey mascot in different creative angles.

The Best Part of Logo Creation: Drawing!

My favorite step in the logo creation process is drawing. With my client research papers laid out on my desk and some quick Pinterest research of art and trends on my screen, I grab a blank piece of paper.

I’ll often start jotting iconography inspired by my research. I’ll draw spin-offs with different creative treatments, simplify forms, and combine concepts.

Early steps in my logo creation process involve jotting down key themes and sketching relevant iconography, like those shown on this Post-It note beside sketches for the NAB Show Las Vegas’ In-Vehicle Experience (IVE) pavilion.
High-fidelity logotype sketches for the In-Vehicle Experience pavilion at NAB Show in Las Vegas.

Then, initial sketches are low fidelity. There’s no point getting lost in detail when the layout doesn’t work or looks too boring.

My logo creation process isn’t always polished. My logo designs for NTP's Asia Source expo are just scribbled, wavy lines on red Post-It notes.
The logo creation process for the NTP Asia Source played with capturing stone in the logos, from the river rock in Chinese gardens to black lines from famous Chinese marble.

I take care to avoid some looks when designing a logo. Firstly, a logo design must not be generic. Visual elements must reference the unique identity of the client in some way. Clients commonly tell graphic designers they don’t want “clip art logos”—so add some creative edge!

Inked logotype sketches for the new CSG Creative logo.
High-fidelity logotype sketches for the new CSG Creative logo.
Ink sketches for the APTA Expo logo design experiment with breaking up the letter forms.
Logo creation for APTA Expo explored ways to combine road and rail for a transportation expo.

I identify logo concepts that are working and pull a few to re-draw in higher fidelity. The best ones I import into Illustrator to digitize. Illustrator can automate this step with Image Trace. Yet, I prefer using the Pen Tool for a hand-crafted approach. I tweak lines, remove awkward points, and manipulate shapes quickly and easily.

My Logo Creation Process In Sum:

Although logo design can be a challenging process, I love how interesting it is to capture the things that make my clients unique and interesting.

My advice for other logo designers is simple:

Follow the three golden rules of logo design—make logos original, unique, and functional—to create long-lasting, professional logos.

Don’t be afraid to explore abstract concepts.

Go ahead and dig into the details of client research.

Ultimately, your own logo creation process is up to you! Add your own creative flair, and enjoy making good art.