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Many people, and rightfully so, aren’t aware of the sheer amount of time and effort that goes into creating a strong brand identity—aka, a logo.

Understandably, many potential clients are stunned when I tell them my logo design prices (let’s just say a logo should cost you more than a nice dinner.) In fact, most professional designers would agree: a logo takes a lot of time, thought, skill, and effort. All of this amounts to the logo design’s process, which ends up taking many hours, not minutes.

While some designers’ own processes differ, I think it’s safe to say they all follow a similar structure. Here’s a peek behind the scenes at what typically goes on when I design a logo.

Step 1: the design brief

First things first: picking the client’s brain. Before any designing can occur, this must happen first. I spend about an hour with a potential client, and ask them a ton of in-depth questions about their business, their industry, their audience, their competition, and their goals. Here’s what the logo design brief that I use looks like.

Step 2: the project proposal

Once I have all this information, I’ll go home and put together a project proposal which will detail everything the client needs to know: how much the project will cost, what the timeline and deadlines are, what deliverables they can expect to receive, and what the terms of agreement are.

Step 3: proposal approval/deposit received

After the client signs the proposal, saying they’re agreeing to everything, and I receive their down payment (a standard procedure among most designers), I can now get to work.

Step 4: further research

This is where I take a deeper look into my new client’s business and industry. I research their own company, how long they’ve been in business, what type of work they do, and what sets them apart from their competitors. I also take a look into their desired audience, mostly what type of demographics they’re aiming for. This gives me clues about what their target market cares about, and what might appeal to them the most.

Step 5: research into competitors

As you can see, designing a logo takes a lot research! I spend some time looking up my client’s competitors, usually mostly local, and see what they’re doing in terms of visual identity. Most of the time their own logos suck, which is good, because it means my job will be easier to blow them out of the water. But sometimes, my client’s competitors have very professional branding, logos, and marketing materials, which makes it a bit trickier to outdo them. Luckily, I love a challenge.

Step 6: look for inspiration

This is when I turn to professional design resources; I look through numerous logo design books and websites, and put together a compilation of logo design from similar industries. This helps me get an idea of the direction the client’s own logo should go in, and gives me some inspiration on different ways of problem solving.

Step 7: preliminary brainstorming

This is where the fun begins! Before I turn to the computer, I first spend some time putting pencil to paper. I write out word associations, draw some mind maps, and sketch a good number of logo concepts. Since this is brainstorming, I draw out everything, even the crappy ideas. I can edit and refine things later.

Step 8: client presentation

For the initial logo presentation, I almost always meet in person with the client so I can walk them through the ideas and strategy behind each concept. I get to listen to their feedback and provide my own, and take lots of notes.

Step 9: logo edits

Usually the client has selected a single concept direction to follow, and we focus on developing it further to completion. Sometimes a client will have an idea and I tweak it so that it works, other times I have my own possible solution that I haven’t tried before. The single concept direction has now turned into several possible designs with small variations. These are usually emailed to the client, and it’s common after the first round or two to select a final logo design and move forward with it.

Step 10: typography

Sometimes the logo design is a simple wordmark, other times it is the traditional icon with the company name underneath or next to it. For the latter, choosing a suitable typeface, or font, is the next step. I still work in black and white when selecting the options, since we want to focus on one variable at a time. I usually present anywhere from six to a dozen or so different options of the same logo icon with different fonts to pick from.

Step 11: color

Once we have a font chosen, and the final layout of the logo locked down, it’s time to start working in color. I go through some of my favorite color books and look for appropriate color schemes for the client’s logo. This is where I take into heavy consideration the audience and industry we’re dealing with. Once again, I select 6-12 strong color combos, apply them to the logo, and present them to the client. Together we select the best solution for their business.

Step 12: final presentation, payment, and files submitted

We are on the home stretch! If the client is happy with everything, I hand over all the logo files in a logo package, which includes Illustrator files, jpg, pdf, png, and anything else they might need or have requested. I accept final payment, and that concludes the end of the logo project.

So…how long DOES a logo take to design?

I know all these steps sound like a lot, especially for something as simple or small as a logo. But if you understand the importance of a company’s brand identity, then it might make a little more sense why so much time, energy, and effort goes into a logo’s creation.

So the simple and honest answer is, it depends. Do you think I, or anyone, can squish all these steps into an hour or two? No. Granted, some steps can be reduced or even eliminated, but in general, a solid logo can take anywhere between 10 and 30+ hours. Most of the logos I personally do fall in the 15-20 hour range.

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