1. Consider the client’s real needs
For people whose specialties lie in fields other than design, trying to figure out what they need on their own can be daunting. I can’t tell you how many times proactive business owners have come to me convinced that they need a very specific, labor intensive project, when the solution to the problem they’re actually trying to solve is much simpler.
To give an example, a client may come to you with a wireframe they made for an extremely large and complex website, to thoroughly represent all the intricate details of their business venture. While to them, their vision may seem to accurately present their ideas to the audience, it’s your duty as a Designer — the person your client is paying for your skill and expertise — to advise them that an overly complex site will likely deter an audience rather than generate leads, and instead provide a simple, elegant solution to their actual problem.
Clients will usually appreciate and admire a Designer’s ability to consider their goals and make an informed assessment of the scope and nature of a project.
The client briefed you on what they want, and you have a pretty good idea of where the project is going. Pause right here! Before you start designing, do some research on your client’s competitors, their logos, their audience, your client’s vertical, and anything else you think is applicable. You might be surprised at how the information you uncover can guide your design process. If you Google your client’s business’s name and find 3 other businesses nearby with the exact name, or logos that look similar to your initial vision, these are topics you’ll want to discuss with the client before moving on to the design phases.
3. Brainstorm (the right way)
We’re all familiar with brainstorming, but what a lot of people do (and what I’m guilty of in the past) is less of a brainstorm and more of a brain-drizzle. You might get some ideas from the client, write down a few lists of related ideas based on them, and call it good after about 10 minutes.
Some of the greatest ideas come from totally exhausting all creative options. By this, I mean you need to really brainstorm; write down everything you can possibly think of that’s remotely related to the topic, including vague connotations, random ideas, patterns, everything.
Does this sound like beating a dead horse? That leads me to number 4…
4. Iterate, iterate, iterate
When designing a logo, I’d say the minimum number of initial concept sketches needs to be 100. They don’t have to look good on paper, but they need to convey a variety of ideas and approaches to the design. Go until you can’t possibly think of anything else! I’ll tell you from experience, it’s usually during those, “I’m out of ideas” moments that something revolutionary hits you.
So, what next? You guessed it! Iterate some more. We usually move to digital at this point for ease of duplicating designs, working with typography and colors, etc. Keep going, choose the best few that stand out to you, rinse and repeat.
5. Don’t overwhelm your client
People hire Graphic Designers because they trust their skills and expertise in creating a solution to whatever their creative predicament may be. As tempting as it may be to send your client constant updates on the project, try to resist that temptation. We (along with many other industry professionals, including Bruce Hale) especially advise against sending progress pictures and asking the client to make too many creative decisions. There are many reasons for this, but one of the biggest is that it’s arguably unfair to place the burden of every critical design choice on the customer. While the client’s creative vision and specific design requests should definitely be taken into strong consideration, it can be confusing for them to carefully consider 16 design iterations and decide which one is the best. This is compounded when you send them pictures, which they can then obsess over for hours (wouldn’t you do the same?), ask all their friends’ opinions, and get bombarded with differing opinions across the board from people who may not understand the project’s nature as thoroughly as you and the client.
Instead, we recommend scheduling regular meetings with your client (Google Meet has worked great for us) during which you can show and discuss the progress, align creative visions, and consider any revisions. This way, you’re still keeping your client on board and considering their needs and preferences, while also providing a secure environment for you to offer your professional opinion. Additionally, whittle your iterations down to just the very best 2-3 designs, and show those to the client. Renowned Designers even recommend not doing this at all, relying on their experience, intuition and skill to arrive at a design they know will exceed the customer’s expectations.