Every designer has a little bit of a different process for how they arrive at a brand identity or solution for their client. This is an explanation of my branding design process. 

In this post, I will walk you through each step of my design process and give an idea of what it’s like to work with me to develop your brand. This process is pretty much the same if you are working with me as a business owner or if you’ve hired me as a contractor with your agency to develop a brand for your client.

Starting the Branding Design Process – The Initial Contact

Usually, I get a call or email asking me if I’m available or what my rate is for a branding project. I like to do a phone call to find out more information from you and get an overview of what you do. I also explain the design process a little bit and let you know what my availability is.

Gathering Information

Questionnaires – these are currently two documents that ask 20-30 questions about your project, who you are and get an idea of what your budget is. I like to ask questions like who your target market is and what your goals are for the project. I also ask who your competitors are which is a piece of info I use in the next document, the creative brief. Another important question is the timeline. It’s really helpful to know this upfront because I may be booked out, or ready to start right away. If we can get on the same page around the timeline upfront, that really saves a lot of trouble trying to wrangle my schedule (or accommodate yours!) later on.

The Estimate/Contract

From the answers to your questionnaires, I’ll formulate an estimate of what the project will cost. I’ll also outline what deliverables you need, outline or propose a timeline of the project and give you a project calendar, and I’ll include my standard contract. These details are sent along with my standard contract. The contract includes things like what to do if we go outside the scope of the project, and what happens if there’s a thunderstorm and the power goes out and my computer gets blown up all in the same day(not really. But you get the idea).

I have also had clients that provide me with a contract of their own to sign or a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). If you are thinking that you might need to have me sign a document, just let me know.

The Creative Brief

This document is a summary of all the answers to the questions from the questionnaires presented in a way that will show us the way forward. It also includes a small study of what your competitors are doing. This is really important to make sure that you are at least aware of what their branding looks like for two reasons:

  1. Copyright infringement. We need to make sure we don’t accidentally arrive at a branding solution or a logo that actually looks really close to what a competitor already has established in the world.
  2. In order to better differentiate yourself from your competitors. We certainly don’t want to look like them.

I include recommendations for the brand if I have any — for example if the current brand is in one category and you are trying to move to another (say, they want to move from being perceived as a “value” brand to being seen as more of a “luxury” brand) then I will include some thoughts on strategy of  how I might go about doing that.

Decide on the general direction through a mood board

A mood board, which I wrote about here, is a document that shows a general design direction that I would like to go in with your brand. For example, is the branding going to be minimal, or ornate? Bright colors or neutrals? Illustrative or just a wordmark?

The mood board will show examples of work that is already out in the world. It may include pictures of fine art, logos, packaging, patterns, colors, font ideas, and photography styles. It’s important to remember that these works are other people’s work- used on a mood board only for inspiration or to communicate a style that your design may follow. Don’t expect exact elements from the mood board to show up on a design.

What if you don’t like the mood board?

That’s fine! I want to make sure you like the direction I’m going before we continue in the process. The mood board should resonate with what has already been stated in the creative brief and should show how the values of the brand are going to be visually communicated. If you don’t like the mood board, that’s okay, but keep these things in mind:

  1. Can you tell me specifically what don’t you like about it?
  2. Remember that this is your brand- not you or your personal style (though I know sometimes those are tightly intertwined)
  3. What ideas/suggestions/ direction would you rather see? This is just the start to a conversation— it’s not the final word!

Round One or R1

Okay, so we have an approved mood board – now what? I start going to work on the first round of branding. Usually, I’ll start with the logo or wordmark since to me that is the most important piece of the branding.

These things will likely be in the first round:

  • Logo sketches
  • Colors
  • Font ideas
  • Pattern ideas
  • Sketches to show a general concept or direction
  • Black and white art (colors not incorporated yet)

The first round is usually pretty rough- I will sometimes show my pen or pencil sketches or scanned in versions of these. This is because refined and digitized drawings take a lot of time, and honestly, I don’t want to invest that time if I’m not sure you’ll like the idea (and I don’t think it’s fair to bill you for that time without a buy off on the concept, either).

My first round is always black and white. It’s easier to see the concept when you aren’t adding the layer of meaning that color brings to the table! I try to keep it easy for you to respond to an idea and not have too many things going on at once.

Your job as the client is to give me feedback or ask questions on the first round. If you are really liking (or really hating) a design idea, I love to know why. If you have other ideas, I’m open to hearing them. If there is a sketch that is sorta hitting the mark but not quite, that is something we can look at for the next round and try to keep refining.

Round Two or R2

This round is a more refined version of sketches from the last round. At this point, I may still have black and white drawings but will probably also start exploring color.

Your job as the client will be to give feedback on the sketches, fonts, and colors used and try to be as decisive as possible. At this stage, there may be several color options, but the final logo should really only have one main color version— so if you need to take your time to make a decision, that’s okay!

Final Round or R3

This round is really just minor touch-ups, small adjustments and then delivery of the final package. This round should not be a time when you are asking for a major overhaul or shift in the design (that would have happened in R 1 or R 2)

What is in the final package:

The final package includes jpeg, pdf, tiff, eps file types in both print and web (cmyk and rgb) color space and a color, black and white, and/ or simplified version of the logo. The branding package will also include color specifications (color codes), pattern swatches, and fonts. It will also include a document that is called the brand guidelines.

Brand guidelines are a guide of how the logo and fonts will be used (or advised to be used) moving forward. Here’s an example of brand guidelines:

Effectual Nutrition_Branding Final Brand Book

I have found that this process really works for me and helps my clients have a clear path to a unique logo design that successfully represents their brand! I’ve had several clients go through this process with me, and they love the way we arrive at a solution together. 

Yea, but how much does all this cost? 

Ah, the cost question. Here’s the deal. Because I do put so much research and effort into your brand, you end up with something that is unique and meaningful to you and your business. I bring a lot of time, expertise and skill to the table when I take on a new client. This is not the place to look if you want a logo that costs $5. This is not the place to look if you want a logo that costs $100.

To work with me on a re-brand, my project estimate will start at around $1200.

I’m happy to send you a customized estimate, but in general, that’s what I charge. I really like what this blog post has to say about logos and what to expect to pay for them. As always, please reach out if you have any questions about pricing or need a detailed estimate for a project.

I hope you learned a bit more about me as a designer and how I like to work! If you have a branding project or logo design you’d like to talk to me about, send me an email at darlene (at) picklejarstudios (dot) com.