Each and every logo needs to either be unique or differentiate a brand from the competition. I sat down with Big Arrow’s Art Supervisor, Chris Charles, to discuss his approach to designing a new logo, and why he licks his chops when he sees the “blank page.”
What’s the first thing you do when someone says, we’re going to need a new logo?
First thing’s first. I read the brief so I can digest the project.
What are you looking for in a brief?
Well, you need to have a good understanding of the subject before beginning the design. So I’ll look for the basics – brand heritage, key insights, the demographic.
And after I grasp that, I’ll ask some follow-up questions. What’s the problem we’re trying to solve? Who are we talking to? How does the audience interact with the product?
Once I read the brief and ask my questions, I begin the exploratory with some of my own research. I investigate the brand; the competition and what they’re doing in the market; other visual cues I think might help.
I also gather a lot of reference. I might pull images of architecture or artwork from the renaissance, propaganda posters, t-shirt trends; it all depends on the subject matter. There are no limits to what you can pull. All the research gets you to your starting point for design.
Can we start drawing now?
Yes! Once my search is finished, I sit and sketch some ideas out. Total stream of consciousness, where you can play with different shapes and integrate your ideas into a solid structure.
Then you’ll start to render some of the sketches in black and white, and eventually color, where you’ll have the beginnings of your brand mark.
Does staring at a blank page in your sketchbook scare you?
No way! It’s exciting because you can create pretty much anything.
It might be scary right off the bat for some, but that’s why you do your homework. Once you have a better understanding of the subject, the fear fades.
Ok, so you’re off and running. How many hours, how many rounds will it take you to get where your ideas are ready to show.
It all comes down to the timeline, otherwise you can go round and round with yourself, and it could never end.
The process takes a couple weeks to a couple months for a full exploration and design, especially if it’s a full-on rebranding opportunity.
Do you ever struggle with getting too attached to your designs?
You definitely have to be careful about getting too attached to your designs, because if someone makes a comment or suggestion you don’t agree with, you’re going to be bitter. Don’t.
Keeping an open mind is important. Remember, you could be working with someone, who has worked in that space longer than you have, or is seeing the project with a fresh set of ideas. Their opinions can often point you in new, exciting directions.
How does your approach to designing a logo or visual style change based on the industry?
I’ve worked within a pretty wide spectrum of industries. From healthcare to sports, soft drinks to motor oil. The beauty is that the process never changes.
What does change is the research and reference portion. After a while you get the gist of what you’re guidelines are. The research generates your ideas, then you can build a framework for the space you’re working in.
Healthcare? The brand has to be reputable and approachable, so it might be cleaner; the font will be very straightforward, nothing too crazy. Healthcare brands will usually play it on the safe side.
But something like entertainment? That’s going to be intense, in your face. When I worked at WWE, we referenced a lot of heavy metal logos. Nothing like adding a little Manowar now and then. Rock on.
So how do you know when a logo is complete?
Honestly, when you design something, it’s never finished. It could go on forever.
It helps when everyone likes the design and agrees that it solves the problem. There has to be a consensus before everyone says it’s done.
Some designers take it a step further and do polls on websites. They’ll upload them to apps like Iconosnap, or reddit, where other designers can rate them. Like I said, you can always keep going, keep tweaking.
But the main point is to get feedback and embrace criticism. It makes everything that much stronger.
Work it. Rework it. And if you have enough time, rework it, again.