If you’ve been in your industry any good length of time, there are probably things about it that seem obvious to you but are big unknowns to those on the outside. In my 10+ years as a designer, the steps for developing a logo have become second nature, almost subconscious. But in working with many different types of clients, I’ve realized that not all of them come to the table with an understanding of how logo design works. If you’re not a designer and haven’t worked with one before, that makes sense. It’s not your area of expertise (it’s mine).

So, what does the logo design process look like?

I outline these steps in each proposal I send out for logo design, and today I’m sharing with you. I hope, if you’re a business owner reading this, it helps demystify the process and give you more confidence when hiring a designer to help with your own logo. If you know what to expect, investing in a quality logo design suddenly seems less risky and intimidating.

Important note: the process below only works and takes place AFTER you’ve figured out your business’ core brand values and messaging.

1. Discussion

Before I can deliver a logo design that is perfect for your business, I have to understand it. That means getting to know your products or services, your industry, the market you’re catering to, your goals, the personality and vibe you want to give off, etc. Above all, I need to get an angle on what makes your business unique. This is the step that requires the most client participation, as no one knows your business better than you (and I can’t just make details up). For me, this means providing the client with a branding questionnaire to fill out, and also usually hopping on the phone to discuss and clarify afterwards. It is always better to err on the side of too much information than too little for this step.

2. Research & Brainstorming

I take all of that lovely info you provided on your business and let it simmer in the creative side of my brain. I look at competitors and the general industry to get a feel for what’s expected and what might help you stand out. I might note down ideas for specific visuals I want to explore. I’ll probably jump on Pinterest to see if any color palettes or logo styles jump out at me as a good fit for your brand. This step is basically gathering the pieces, stirring them together, and sorting through what might be a viable concept and what wouldn’t. I usually allot roughly 1 week to this part of the process, unless a particularly strong idea jumps out at me before then.

3. Prototyping/Sketching

After I’ve accumulated and weighed ideas, I sit down and start to really try them out. Depending on the vibe of the client’s brand, this may include hand sketching, or I may jump right into Illustrator. I try out different type treatments. I try out different symbols. I try out different ways to combine both of those, or leave them freestanding. My artboards in Illustrator for an initial round of logo design concepts are always a mess, as there are just so many different ideas to keep track of and try.

4. Refining for Presentation

In the course of step #3, I narrow in on the best options. These chosen few (usually 3-5, out of 10-20), get cleaned up and refined in Illustrator. A color palette may be applied, though not always- sometimes I like to leave it in B&W for the first round of concepts, and only explore color options once a logo direction has been chosen. Once they are polished, I make a PDF to present to the client, usually with a brief summary of the reasoning for each logo design.

5. Edits

After the polished initial concepts are sent off, it is in the client’s hands. Sometimes, one logo strikes them as perfect, as-is, based on everything we discussed in step 1 (I certainly aim for this). Other times, though one concept is a clear stand out, it needs some minor alterations. A client may feel it doesn’t emphasize a certain quality enough, or have a different association with the color or symbol than I intended. It can be tricky to extract what specifically the client feels is not quite right about a concept, but I’ve become better at this over the years. Once we’ve identified the problem point, I’ll go back to the drawing board, and tweak the chosen concept. I generally present around 3 altered versions of that original concept, each addressing the problem point in a slightly different way. I include 3 rounds of edits as a standard, and usually it doesn’t take that many to land on the final logo design.

6. Final Version

Success! Your business has a brand new logo. Ideally (and most often), both the client and the designer are happy with the end result. The client signs off on the final logo. I package up the logo files and send the final invoice. The client pays said invoice in a timely manner, and I deliver the spick and span new files, ready to use.

And that’s it! A relatively painless process, once it’s all laid out, don’t you think?

Bonus note: this process isn’t even exclusive to me. If you have a good designer, the process should be almost exactly the same. The specifics of how they handle brand discussion or number of revision rounds may differ, but the logo design process is pretty universal.

Extra bonus note: these same general steps apply to almost any design project!
Discussion > Research > Prototyping > Concept Presentation > Edits > Final.
The details of what’s included in each step might change from project to project (and should be laid out in writing beforehand), but the general flow is the same.

Did this help clear up the logo design process for you? Are there any other process questions I can answer?