Ian Paget of Logo Geek joins me to talk about his logo design process, how to set yourself apart from other logo designers, how he presents his work, how to get less pushback from a client on your designs, books he recommends, the tools he uses and more. Plus, find out a hobby he used to have that might surprise you.
- Logo Geek podcast
- Logo Creed
- Smashing Logo Design
- Logo Modernism
- Robot Builders Bonanza
- David Brier
- Aaron Draplin
- Pentagram Marks
- Logo Design Love
- David Airey
- Logo Lounge
- Astute Graphics
- Logo Package Express
- The Logo Designers’ Box Set
Ian Paget is a graphic designer, specializing in logo and brand identity design. Ian also hosts a popular podcast, blog and community called Logo Geek, created to help designers master the art of logo design. He’s been featured in publications including AdWeek, Entrepreneur, Creative Bloq, Logo Lounge, Photoshop Creative and Net Magazine, and is a frequent jury member for design awards, including Logo Wave, Transform Awards, Best Brand Awards and Visual Identity Awards.
Colleen Gratzer: Welcome to the podcast, Ian! It’s so great to have you here.
Ian Paget: Yeah, you too. I know, we’ve spoken before on the Logo Geek podcast as well, but it’s really good to be able to chat on your show as well. So I’m looking forward to this.
Colleen: Yeah, we could talk for hours.
Ian: Yeah, we really can.
Colleen: So I thought we’d start out with some fun questions.
Colleen: And so the first one is, do you associate yourself with a particular color?
Ian: You know, I probably spent way too much time thinking about this. So that listeners are aware, Colleen did kind of give me a heads-up about what these questions would be. And, yes, it’s hard to kind of put yourself down as one.
But I’ve kind of got myself down to like a cyan.
Ian: Yeah, and I mean, it’s similar to like the the Logo Geek color.
Ian: Because I thought about at that point, I think i can be quite serious at times, which a blue can be, but then I can be a bit of a nerd and a bit weird at times as well. I think that cyan kind of summarizes that up nicely—that contrast between being serious and professional at times, but then it could also be a little bit of fun as well. So hopefully, hopefully, you agree with that.
Colleen: I think that’s an interesting perspective on that, yes.
So then my second question is, would you rather be three inches taller or three inches shorter?
Ian: Why would anyone want to be three inches shorter unless they were incredibly tall? I would have to say three inches taller.
Colleen: Okay, yeah, if I was three inches taller, I’d be like six feet tall.
You know, I noticed in the picture that you have on your site and that I’m going to use on the podcast episode page, you’ve got some really interesting books on your shelf. So which one would you say is the most helpful to a logo designer? And then which one do you think would surprise people that it’s on your shelf?
Ian: Okay, and this is a really hard question to answer because I’ve been collecting logo design books for some time now. So kind of pulling out just one…
Colleen: I know!
Ian: …was hard. And it’s tricky because some of them I haven’t read in a long time, so I can’t remember exactly what they were about.
But one that came to mind straight away was the book that Bill Gardner put together, Logo Creed, because there’s a lot of inspirational books out there. There’s hundreds of these catalogs of logos, but I find with those, they’re great in certain situations but I’ve always looked for books that have a lot more content in there so that you can understand the process and the thinking behind logos.
What Bill’s put together is a really fantastic book that runs through the entire process from start to finish, so there’s a whole section of all the areas that you need to research and understand. I mean, it’s not the the most high-end logo design book that’s out there, so it’s not focused on the best design work in the world. But it is focused on your your everyday practical logo design project that most in the audience will be working on. So yeah, Logo Creed by Bill Gardner I will need to put on there.
I don’t know if this is cheating, but there was a couple of others I thought worth mentioning. So there was another one that I was considering putting up for the same reason. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Smashing Magazine.
Ian: Yeah, I used to follow that blog for years. I don’t so much now, mainly because they focus a lot more on web design, unless I’m wrong. I haven’t checked it in a while.
Colleen: Yes, they do.
Ian: But they they released a book called Smashing Logo Design. Again, for the same reasons, they run through the process and stuff like that. I’ve actually seen that on eBay and Amazon for a couple of pounds now, because it’s not the most popular book, you know, so it’s a few years old. Yeah, I rarely hear that one mentioned, but that’s a very good book for process and and understanding how to construct a logo and creating a brief and all that sort of stuff.
Logo Modernism is an absolute must-have. If you want, just one inspiration book, Logo Modernism is amazing. It’s a very thick, very big book. It’s probably going to be the biggest book that you will ever buy.
Ian: But in terms of like logo design inspiration books out there, that is by far the best, and it’s super cheap, it’s like 30 pounds, so like $30/$40. That’s a really good investment.
Then for branding as well, I’d have to throw in Zag by Marty Neumeier. Marty’s got a good collection of books that are really easy to read through. But what I like about that is that it gets you thinking about the branding aspect of logo design and run through all of that process that you lead up to to create a brand that disrupts the industry that that company is in and you build out from there.
So it just helps you to understand that a logo is one small piece of a brand, is one small piece of what the brand eventually comes, and that’s just a fantastic book for teaching.
Yea, and you wanted me to go into one that would surprise people?
Ian: This was hard to pick one out because most things are kind of business related. But then I saw it on the shelf and thought, “Oh, yeah, you probably would find that one interesting.” So I have a book called Robot Builders Bonanza.
Ian: Yeah. There was a point when I got really into electronics.
Ian: And I wanted to build a robot.
Colleen: Oh, wow.
Ian: So I bought this book and it teaches you how to use electronics to to build a robot. But, yeah, I got really into it one point and I actually wanted to build a whole light humanoid.
Ian: Android robot, which would have been fun, but I never did it in the end. I worked out how to do it.
Colleen: Well, you know, I just rearranged my office completely over the weekend and like Friday, and I have two floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in my office and I was looking at some of the books on there and I was like, “Wow, some of these I haven’t even looked at in like 25 years.”
Then I was looking at some others and I was like, “Oh, I want to read that one again or that one.”
There’re certain magazines and certain books I like refuse to get rid of, even though they’re dated. I don’t know. I like them.
Ian: Well, yeah, I’m the same. I have a few books that have sentimental value. And I know that I’ll probably never read them again.
Ian: But it’s just nice. I’ve always had this dream of having these one of these like floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that go all up like a staircase. So, yeah, I think the more books that you have, the more impressive it looks.
Ian: I mean, most of my books, I’ve read them, you know, there’s immense value to them. But I also like collecting them because it looks good.
Colleen: Right? I know. And I like the covers.
Ian: It’s fun. Yeah.
Colleen: All right. So let’s get into some logo design questions here from my audience.
Ian: Hmm, hmmm.
Colleen: You know, every logo design project is different. Some designers might go and check what a company name looks like in a few different fonts in their font program or in Illustrator. So do you have like a VIP list of fonts that you check for with every single project that are your go-tos?
Ian: I don’t, but I have seen a couple of people use that process where they kind of save a starting point document and they maybe have like 20 fonts already in there. They just change the name, but with things like Adobe Fonts—because she can open up and type in the name of the company and browse through and that way—I see that kind of like the equivalent.
I don’t have a go-to font or go-to collection just because usually with every project, there’s like some kind of aesthetic that I’m aiming to get across. I don’t think you can do that by just having like a go-to set of fonts. You want certain characteristics to come through and you also want that logo to be unique and identifiable.
So I always like to start each project almost with a blank slate. When I’m working through that project, there’s a certain overall aesthetic or something that I’m trying to communicate with that logo.
I find it easier just to basically start from scratch and browse the Adobe Fonts library to see what captures the overall look and feel. It doesn’t take long to go through that entire thing if you’re able to filter down those results by the type of font that you know that you’re looking for.
Colleen: And before you start on designing a logo and any new branding, what are some questions that you ask your clients?
Ian: I have questions broken down into three general categories. They are understanding the business, the competition and the target audience. By understanding those three areas, you can design a logo that obviously represents who that business is.
You want to make sure that you understand the competition, so that you can look at the landscape that that logo will be compared with, and you can make sure that you create a logo or brand identity that differentiates from the others. Also, you want to understand as much as you can about the target audience so that you can create a logo that attracts them.
As for specific questions, things like understanding the business… Obviously, you want to know the name of the company, which is fairly given. You want to understand what product or service they are offering.
I also like to understand where they see themselves in five years’ time and the reason why you want to do that is because you don’t want to design a logo that’s just for here and now, today.
Ian: You want to design something that’s going to work for that business from now into the future. So it’s worth understanding, especially for startup businesses, where they see themselves going in the future, so that you can design a logo that’s effective for them now and in a few years’ time.
It’s particularly important for companies, for example, here today. They might sell shoes, but actually, you might find out that they plan to increase the range of products that they offer, which would include everything. That example alone, there might be something different that you would do if it was just the one product versus if it was this whole collection of products.
But yeah, also understanding the competition. I think it’s worth understanding direct competition and—
Ian: … also indirect competition. Again, like I’ve already explained, the primary reason for that is so that you can look all of those brands, see what landscape, your logo will be compared with. You can make sure that you design something that is different from them but also share some overall characteristics to what’s there.
Colleen: Look like you should be in the industry but be different enough from your competitors.
Ian: Yeah, I always say with branding, you want to differentiate. So I think it was David Brier that said something like, “Branding is the art of differentiation.” I thought that’s a great way to put it, but you also want to be appropriate.
Ian: So I mean, for a lawyer, for example, you could quite easily differentiate from the market by using a bouncy, bold, chunky font, but actually that would make them look quite childish.
Ian: You know, in the case of a lawyer, there’s a certain look and feel that you would want to try and represent. Again, that’s why you need to really understand who the business is because they might actually have something about their business where they want to come across as quite fun and useful and energetic.
In that case, you do something very different to a lawyer that’s been around for 100 years, and they want to try and communicate that they are established and very authoritative. So you would do totally different things for those two different people, but you’d still want it to be relevant to a lawyer. You’d want it to feel trustworthy and appropriate.
This is why you know, going back to these fonts, this is why I wouldn’t just have a go-to set because a lawyer that has that real long-term heritage, they would probably want to use something like a serif-based typeface, something that looks like it’s been established for a long time.
Ian: And getting that exact look and feel across. It wouldn’t work if you just had like your 20 go-to fonts. I think it’s a mistake to do that. That’s the general gist of the type of things that I’m asking.
Colleen: And you know, what I like about the questions—because I ask similar questions too. What I like about these kinds of questions is that it puts the emphasis on objective information, like you said—about the business, about the audience, about their goals, and not like, “Hey, what’s your favorite color?”
You’re not asking the client some subjective questions like, “What’s your favorite color? What color would you like me to use?” You know, you’re not using the color that you like, just because you like it.
Ian: Yeah. Well, I do think that’s a good point because one of the one of the challenging things with logo design—graphic design in general—is that the client that you’re working with needs to prove what they’re doing. Sometimes it’s quite common for clients to have a perceived idea of the type of thing that they have in mind. That’s understandable.
I mean, you know, when you’ve been spending years building up a business, it’s easy to start to picture in your mind exactly the type of thing that you’re looking for.
So it’s good to understand what they want, but how you frame those questions is the is the most important thing.
Ian: You need to avoid, I guess, quite subjective questions like, “What do you like? What type of thing do you want?”
Ian: Instead, I prefer to ask, frame, the same kind of question. It gets the same answer but you’re framing it different.
So something like, “Are there any existing brands within your market or outside of your your market that captures a similar look and feel to what you’re looking for?”
Asking the question in that way, you understand what they like, but you haven’t directly asked them that way.
Ian: That just helps you to understand the look and feel that they’re aiming for, not just for the business, but for everything else as well. I’ve always found an interesting question because sometimes they pull out brands, and they’re like, “I really like the … .” There could be something about that particular brand that they’re doing with their identity, not necessarily their logo that they have a preference towards, and sometimes that expands your understanding of what they’re aiming to do.
I also like to ask, “Are there any expectations that you have from the project?,” which, again, is a similar question, but it just helps you to understand the type of thing that they’re hoping for, the type of thing that they’re expecting, but you’re not very framing the question around personal opinions.
I do you think you are quite likely to face the instance where someone comes to you and says, “I really want a logo like this because I like this.” But I think you need to, in those instances, where you ask those questions and they specified something and you feel it completely inappropriate for for the project, don’t just take the the idea and work on some logos and present if you feel it’s totally wrong.
Ian: You can have that conversation at the beginning where you can say, “Okay, so what we’re aiming to do with this project is represent your business in this way and compete with this audience, this group of companies and target this specific audience. Based on all that information, what you’ve recommended, I would advise to do something different because of x, y, and z.”
You can explain it confidently and if you’ve got the customer from the very beginning understanding that what you’re doing is creating a solution that’s a strategic tool that communicates your business in a certain way, they should have total buy-in, and they should trust you from the outset. So that just prevents your client from taking control basically.
Colleen: Yeah, and I always say to clients, “I’m not gonna tell you what you want to hear. I’m gonna tell you—”
Ian: Yeah, yeah.
Colleen: “I’m gonna tell you objective information. I’m gonna tell you the truth, based on my expertise.”
Ian: Well, yeah, I mean, it’s what they want at the end of the day.
Ian: I’ve always thought like graphic designers fall into two camps. You’re either an art worker and you’re creating exactly what the clients want. There’s clients out there that want that and there’s graphic designers out there that can offer these services.
I don’t see anything wrong with that. I just think you need to be clear from the outset what what camp you fall into. But I’ve always preferred to position myself as the expert and understand what they’re trying to do and diagnose the most appropriate solution for that.
I think everything throughout your process, if you communicate that in the right way, you know, from those initial conversations through to the way that you present. You can make sure that you do come across as the expert, and your client should hopefully trust your judgment on everything.
Colleen: So when you’re presenting logo designs, how many do you normally start with when you show a client for the first round?
Ian: I’ve got so many mixed opinions on this. I think it’s worth explaining what I do and why other people might do different things.
I currently present three options. I’ve debated this so many times whether this is the right way to do it, but I’ve stuck with that approach at the moment.
With logo designers, lots of different ways of doing this… I know graphic designers that present hundreds of options. You know, Aaron Draplin, everyone’s favorite graphic designer, he will actually present sometimes hundreds of different options.
Ian: My concern with that is that when you’re presenting lots of different options, you are basically encouraging the client to art direct the project.
Colleen: Oh, I agree.
Ian: Yeah. So I think with this type of thing, if you want to create something that the client is going to like, and it be to their personal preferences and their personal tastes, showing lots of different options works for that. But I feel like it’s a recipe for disaster—
Ian: … to do that. So I prefer to narrow the options down. Your job as a designer is to understand what the overall problem is that you’re trying to solve and then provide the solution. When I say “provide the solution,” there are some people out there—there’s a lot of graphic designers out there—that will present just the one option.
There’s different approaches and to work with this in this way. So if you are going to present one, and I actually really like that approach, but there’s reasons why I don’t do that.
If you’re going to present just the one option, first of all, on your website and during your sales process, you need to make that very clear that you present one option. I also think in terms of the approach that you take—that step-by-step part of your process—is not just the case of client comes along and gives you a name, you ask a few questions and out pops the logo.
When designers are working on the one option, they typically use things like mood boards or style scapes. They’ve become quite popular now. They use methods to understand what basically understand more about the brief, communicate that in a visual way through something like a mood board or a style scape, get buy-in from the client that’s the right direction that they want to take. Then that creates a lot of clarity right away.
Then you present that final option based on the goals of the project, based on what you’ve agreed and spoken about. Then you present that one option, and you don’t just present the one logo on a piece of paper.
What you want is to show that in use. You can use these mockups. There’s loads of free mock ups out there. Take some of those mockups, show how that logo works on something large like a billboard or a storefront, show how that’s very versatile, use it in smaller instances and, basically, really sell the logo, that what you put together is the most effective solution.
I like to present different options.
Colleen: I do too.
Ian: Yeah, I prefer it, and I like the idea that when you work with someone that’s creating something bespoke for you, I don’t believe that there is just one solution.
Ian: I feel like you can get the right aesthetic, and I feel like there is one single aesthetic that you should get across. But I think there’s a lot of room for maneuver on exactly what that one solution is.
Colleen: I agree.
Ian: With something like logo design, if you had a logo done by 100 different graphic designers, every single one of them will be completely different. For the best people, there should be like shared characteristics. But there won’t just be one solution.
So I like to present different options, but I do tend to recommend the one I feel is most appropriate to them. So I think three is a nice number.
Colleen: When you do that… Sorry. When you go and tell them, “This is the one I recommend,” is that the one that they usually end up going with? Because a lot of times when I speak my mind about that, that’s the one they don’t end up going with.
Ian: Sometimes, not always.
Colleen: If I keep my mouth shut, it usually works out in my favor.
Ian: Quite frequently it does. But, yeah, not always. No.
I think the most important thing to say is when you do present options, don’t put a dud one in there. All three options should be really viable directions.
Ian: If they were to say yes to any one of those, you should be happy that that’s the direction that they chose. I think if there’s any duds in there, I think it’s better not to share it.
Colleen: I agree.
Ian: Better to show two really good ones rather than three bad options. There’s been times when I’ve worked on projects where I’ve had four or five that I thought have all been really good. But I haven’t been quite certain as to which one would be the most appropriate for what they’re doing.
Then it opens up as a conversation point to show those different directions. But yeah, I don’t think there’s any single way of doing it but whatever you do, unless you want the client to art direct the project, I would show just a handful or one logo.
Colleen: Yeah, because the worst is when they start cherry picking: “I like this from this one and then I like this from that one,” and then “Can you make a new one that’s like that?”
Ian: Yeah, yeah. I’ve had that. I’ve had that a few times even when you show three, that is one of the problems with it. I think if you have the conversation with your client, for example, that you would advise for a logo to be strong that there should be one single idea. So you would advise against doing that, but what you can do…
I mean, what normally I find, if it’s something as basic as a font, normally I’m happy just to tweak that. But a lot of the time tweaking the font I need to tweak the icon slightly, so it pairs better. But I think if you ever do get that client that really does want to create a Frankenstein don’t blame your client if the end thing looks awful. The fault in that case is yours for not providing that advice and steering them in the right direction.
Ian: And if they are adamant about having that Frankenstein, provide two options. Show them the Frankenstein one and then show them what you would actually advise to do to take the best of that. Communicate that. If you’ve done everything right all through the process and and they trust you, they should go with the one that you’ve advised. It doesn’t always happen.
Colleen: No, it doesn’t.
Ian: There’s the odd project where it can go wrong, but do the best you can to try and steer them in the right direction.
Colleen: You’re early in my career… I’m reliving a nightmare job in my head over here. Early in my career, I did this logo design job. I thought the options that I presented were actually really, really strong, and the client at first loved them. Then I don’t know exactly what happened. It was such a long time ago.
I don’t remember all the details, but it ended up going from that to all these tweaks that they asked to make, then it was like, “Well, now, the CEO just wants it to look like this.”
I mean, it went the worst that it could go. I was literally like, Okay, I’m done. I had done I think 20 iterations at some point, or whatever. It was way too many. I said, “Here is half of your money back. Find somebody else to finish this. I’m not dealing with it.” It was absolutely ridiculous.
Ian: Yeah, I’ve had one project like that in the last two years. I ended up needing to just that let the client go, because it was really hard because I presented a solution I thought really worked. Then the client was like, “We I really love that one. Can you try and do make it a bit more like this?” And then every iteration they just hated it. It was so hard and—
Colleen: Right. Every time they art direct, they end up not liking it. So it’s like, then shut up and let me do my job, right?
Ian: Yeah. So in that case, I think I presented a sheet with lots of different versions of this. It was just horrendous working with them. It was unpleasant. It was becoming very rude, even though I was following exactly what they wanted, and I felt what was right.
In those situations, when they come back and go, “Well, what would you advise?” I would advise what I originally presented.
Ian: It’s so frustrating when you’re stuck in that right position. But yeah, there’s certainly people out there like that. If you ever do get in that situation, make sure that you have a contract so that you can step away from those projects. I’ve known people to just give the money back and walk away from it.
Ian: It’s not worth it. But, yeah. It’s funny in that case, I see what they actually have now and it is nothing like what they were wanting. It ended up being fun, too detailed and far too obvious, and it didn’t fit anything like what they spoke about in the initial brief. I don’t know how they got to what they got, whether they did it themselves or use Fiverr or something, but it looked bad.
Colleen: But that’s kind of like the best revenge.
Ian: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
Colleen: So when you present your designs, are you presenting them in just black only first?
Ian: You know, I run these group calls. I actually asked that question to the group. Because I’ve read a lot of books that when you first present a logo, you should present it in black and white.
Colleen: That’s what I do.
Ian: Yeah, I was debating with the group whether that’s the best way to do it because I think when you design a logo, you should make sure that it works in single color. But the problem is when you present these options, the overall identity from black and white to color can look so drastically different.
Ian: Is it the right way to do it? The reason why I brought this up with the group is because one of the people was having a problem that they were facing, where they presented these different options. They did it all in black and white, and their client was saying something along the lines of, “None of it has that ‘wow’ factor.”
I was thinking, I wonder if you presented that in color, if it would add that extra—
Ian: If that would make them agree. So personally, what I do, I present in the color I would put it in. I represent what I would deem as kind of finished logos. They’re probably at like 95% finished.
I put together a document where, on the first page, I have the logo on its own in the middle. On the bottom lefthand side, I put together a few bullet pointed notes as to the reasons why I’ve put the logo together I have done. Then on the righthand side, I put a single-color version of that at a smaller size.
The main reason for doing that is so that you can show that the logo that you created is very versatile and it works at smaller sizes. But it also works in those instances where, for whatever reason, the color doesn’t work for them. I mean, sometimes it can be personal reasons, but sometimes… Yeah, I mean, most of the time, it’s for personal reasons.
But they can see the single-color version in the bottom righthand corner. In those instances like that, I’ve had clients saying, “I don’t like the color version. I really like that single-color version. Can I see it in a few other colors?”
But yeah, in terms of that presentation, I like to mock up that logo on images, like I mentioned earlier in the conversation. Like I said, you’d have that first page to show the logo on its own and then I do lots of different images, say maybe three or four pages of images, I use software called Live Surface. That’s an extension for Adobe Illustrator, so that you can pick out the image and then just mock it up in Illustrator, export it out and test to make sure that logo works like that really quickly.
Ian: But it’s useful for presenting as well.
So usually in those images, if there’s different configurations of that logo that I would do, I generally show how versatile it is, so that they can picture how that logo will look in real life use, because something important that you need to understand is that in real life, no one ever really looks at a logo on a white piece of paper.
In fact, most normal people, I’m not saying that designers aren’t normal.
Colleen: I don’t know that we are.
Ian: Most non-designers don’t look at logos. They are just there. They’re just in the corner of their eye. They never studied them. So it’s important to understand that so when you’re presenting.
Don’t just present it on a white piece of paper. That is not how anyone would ever see it. Share it on a business card, share it on a van, if needed, share on some signage share on a shop front. If it’s the type of thing where they have bags, share it on bags Try to mock it up in situations where it would actually be used.
I wouldn’t do that just for your client, but do it for yourself as well. Because there’s been instances where I’ve thought a logo’s been really good. I’ve mocked it up and thought, “Actually, this isn’t that versatile. It’s not really working.”
But then I’ve had times when I thought… You know how I show different options? There was one of them one time that I thought was quite weak. I’m not sure if I wanted to show it, mocked it up, started playing with it. It turned out to be my favorite one, because I started to see how it could be used in different applications.
So yeah, definitely present your logo in situ because I think that will help you to sell it, and I think it also makes the work that you’re doing a lot more expensive too.
Colleen: Yeah, it definitely enhances the perceived value of it.
Ian: Yeah, yeah.
Colleen: The other reason that I was presenting in black first is because not only to make sure that it works in one color, but also because I would find that… I’ve been doing black only for, I don’t know, probably 15 years at this point. But I remember prior to that, if I showed different color versions of different designs, let’s say the first design, is purple and green, and maybe the second one is purple and orange or something.
If I had two or three color schemes, and I was showing one logo in this color scheme, a second logo in another color scheme and a third logo in a similar or one of the other two color schemes, I would find that the client would often pick a logo based on the colors that they liked.
Ian: Yeah, I understand.
Ian: Yeah, I can see how it would go in that direction, but it’s just personally I prefer to show how I would envision it looking when it’s finished.
Ian: But I know there’re pros and cons to both options. I know a lot of designers do recommend to present initially in black and white. I just prefer to show in color personally.
Colleen: Yeah, like you said, there’re reasons to do either one of those methods.
Ian: Yeah, but the main thing is what you work on or what you create, you want it to be as versatile as possible.
Ian: If it works in single color, then it will be versatile. I think that’s the most important thing is that you do factor that in when you’re working on those logos to make sure that it does work in single color. I think it’s worth stressing because I do hear people say, “Oh, it works in grayscale.”
It’s like, no, it has to work in black and white because you can’t do transparencies and stuff with something like vinyl. You can’t have a single piece of vinyl that has gray tones and stuff like that.
Ian: So whatever you create, it needs to work in black and white, even if that means you’re creating a separate variant of what you put together so that it does work in that instance.
Colleen: Now, we already kind of touched on this, but is there anything else you want to talk about when it comes to how you handle pushback on a design?
Ian: Yeah, I would say the main thing is that you need to understand as much as you can about the project.
What I do at the beginning of my process… We’ve spoken already about this, but I think I can expand on it. Beginning of the project, you want to ask questions about the business, the competition and the audience, and you want to understand as much as you can. But a key thing I do is I don’t just ask these questions. I take all the responses that I pulled together, and I put together a list of bullet points based on that. Then I get that approved and signed off by the customer.
The reason why I’m doing that is so that, if at any point, two weeks down the line or three, however, long you spend on a project, there is a high risk that someone else might suddenly want to get in.
Colleen: Oh, yeah. Ugh.
Ian: Yeah, or you could be working with… If it’s a larger company, the whole project could get passed onto someone else. The worst thing that could happen is you get briefed, you come round to presenting, and then the whole brief is changed and they want something totally different.
Ian: But the importance with pulling together some kind of brief and summarizing all of that information, firstly, it gives the client an opportunity to add anything that they might not have thought of. It also ensures that the client signed off, so if anyone else did come in, you have the right at the point of presentation to say that’s actually quite a different brief to what we discussed. So what we need to do is go back to the beginning, re-evaluate the brief and look at the design process, and because of that there is an increased amount of time working on a project that I hadn’t factored in. So there’s an extra cost involved in that because of that situation.
You have the grounds to say that in those instances. But I think also it makes it quite clear from the beginning that you’re not designing something that’s just a piece of art. You are creating a logo that’s trying to fulfill certain goals. So when it comes round to presenting, I always go back to those goals. It’s always about when we last spoke, we put together these goals and what we’re trying to do is communicate this, and I’ve achieved this by doing this.
You can keep going back to those goals. I think that encourages the client to avoid being subjective.
Ian: And it keeps them objective. It’s hard to avoid. I tried to come up with different processes to avoid it completely. You need to avoid subjective feedback completely, but I think this gives you the best foundation to do it in that way.
Like I said, when it comes round to presenting, if you refer back to the goals and what you’re trying to achieve, then your client’s headspace is in “Okay, we’re trying to do this.”
At the end of the presentation, once you’ve presented it, you have to avoid the question, What do you think?
Ian: Remove that question. Do not ask that. You want to present based on the goals and ask something along the lines of, “Do you feel I have effectively met these goals based on what I put together?”
So you’re steering it back to the goals. If, for whatever reason, they dislike what you’ve done or they don’t feel it’s quite working, it steers it back to the goals as well because they can say, “I don’t feel this color is quite appropriate for this” because it’s not subjective.
Rather than going, “I don’t like green. Can you make it blue?”, it will be more focused on the goals. You can come up with an alternative solution or in a having conversation with the client, you can come up with something that’s more appropriate.
I personally tend to find when I work in this way, if I do get feedback from the client, they actually make it better because it’s all focused on fulfilling certain criteria.
I think that’s the most important thing with graphic design in general is you need to make it very clear that what you’re creating is fulfilling certain criteria and you’re aiming to find a solution for that. Then that means that you’re presenting solutions rather than a pretty picture and that’s when it becomes subjective, and that’s when you get stuck in this endless cycle of change changes—
Ian: … and stuff like that.
Colleen: And then you’re perceived as the order taker instead of the expert. Because they’re just controlling everything.
Ian: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, yeah. I think that one of the major things why you don’t ask “what do you think” is… I always like to use this example of a stapler. If I was to hold the stapler down in front of you and ask you, “What do you think?”, what you’re going to do is tell the person what they think.
You’re going to pick up and say, “I don’t like the chunky plastic. I’d rather it be blue because blue is my favorite color. It’s quite mechanical. It’s quite clunky. I don’t really like the look of it, but it’s a stapler.”
So I’ve given you a list of things, and it’s got nothing to do with the project. It’s just my personal opinion and and that’s irrelevant. But if I was to present that in a different way to you, rather than going, “What do you think of this stapler?”, if I was to say, “I’ve designed this stapler for you to fit together multiple pieces of paper with staples. You can load them in. You can show them the mechanism, how it clips together. It’s designed to be manufactured on a high volume. It can be mass produced, and you can open up, close up the staples in, and it costs about two pound per unit. That’s what we were aiming to achieve. So would you be happy to agree this stapler based on that criteria?”
It steers the conversation in a different way. It’s not about what it looks like or what they think.
Ian: You came with them to a problem and you found a solution for it. Yeah, that’s how you need to look at anything to do with graphic design.
Colleen: Yeah, I totally agree. And that’s a great example. That’s also an easy one to remember too.
Ian: Yeah, yeah. I’ve worked with account managers over the years and you get account managers come in, and they are the ones that are presenting your work to clients. It’s so frustrating when I’ve had these situations where they’ve emailed over the work that I’ve done to the client, they get on the phone and they go, “I just emailed this over to you. What do you think?”
I said, “Nooooo.”
Obviously, the client comes back to you with a list of changes and whose fault was that? It was the account manager’s for asking stupid questions. So I put in place training the account managers, so anytime we had a new starter, I used the stapler because it’s what I had at my desk, on my desk, and I presented to them in two ways, and they got it straight away.
Colleen: Oh, good.
Ian: With that business, we went from having websites, where you’d get like 10 versions of it to all account managers getting everything signed the first time.
Colleen: Wow, an increase in profitability!
Ian: So makes a big difference. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So the company would have made a lot more money and they would come across as as the authority as well. Yeah, it makes a massive difference. How you present is as crucial, if not more, important than the actual work that you put together.
Colleen: I agree. Yeah, for sure.
What resources or websites do you use to get inspiration for your logo designs?
Ian: Okay, so I don’t use specific websites. I guess I can break this down into two questions. So there’s work that I like to have as benchmark work, the type of work is of a quality that I would like to aim towards. I’ve got one book called Pentagram Marks, and it’s a collection of all of the logos that Pentagram have created. You can flick through that book and it’s got I think 100 different marks in there. But you can look at them and every single logo. There’s something about it, where it’s been. They’ve kind of communicated the maximum messages in the minimum they possibly can, and just the way it’s been executed and put together.
Pentagram uses a lot of grid-based systems to put the work together. But, yeah, I look through that book, and I see that as kind of benchmark work, as the type of work that I would like to eventually do.
Then there’s obviously websites where I go for general inspiration and keep updated, like Logo Design Love.
I like what David Airey always puts together. He shares some great stuff on there. It’s not just about what a logo looks like. He does go into other areas of it as well. So that’s good for education.
But, yeah, I guess if I’m looking for reference… For example, I mentioned earlier on that with logo design, you can have endless ideas, but overall, you want to get the right aesthetic. There’s a look and feel that you’re aiming for. Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what that is. You can do a Google search. That helps because you can search for specific keywords.
There’s websites like Logo Lounge that has a fantastic database that allows you to search for specific keywords. Sites like Behance, and Dribbble, they’re all great, but I don’t ever really use a set one.
If I was just to use one, it would probably just be Google, to be honest, because you can just write down specific keywords and find exactly what you want. Those things are normally on other sites.
But, yeah, the reason why I’m ever looking for any inspiration is to try and pinpoint down the aesthetic rather than to get ideas, if that makes sense.
Colleen: Yeah. So are there any tools that you cannot live without?
Ian: So the obvious one is the Adobe suite. I’m always using Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, the usual ones like I’m sure most designers use.
But then there’s a couple of extensions I use all the time for Adobe Illustrator. One is Astute Graphics. I recently just updated to their annual subscription, which I was slightly reluctant to upgrade. But actually there’s one tool that I use on every project. The Pixel Remove brush or the Smart Remove brush, I think it’s called. I use it on every single project because I don’t know if you’ve ever outlined fonts.
Sometimes fonts have way too many points. I know there’s tools in Illustrator. So you can do it manually or there’s things that can simplify it down, but it’s just so much effort to do it manually. I used to do it manually, and you’d end up spending like an hour just cleaning up the artwork. But with the Smart Remove brush, you just brush over the points in your artwork that you don’t need.
That is the main reason why I’m spending, I think, it’s like $120 a year for that whole suite of products that Astute have released, just for that one tool because I use it on absolutely every single project just to make sure the artwork I put together is super clean.
Also Logo Package Express. I know you know Michael as well. Michael’s put together an absolutely fantastic product that will package up logo files in a few minutes. So I used to do all of this manually, and it would take two or three hours depending on how complicated the kit of files would be. But—
Colleen: Yeah. I know, right? And heaven forbid, you have to go back and adjust something and redo all of them.
Ian: Yeah, yeah. Michael has put together a product so that you basically select your logo, you press the button, it creates all the different versions, like the inverted versions and Pantone versions, single-color versions, black versions, all that sort of stuff. It does it, like you just press one button, it creates all the artboards and then it exports them out and puts them all in folders in like two minutes. So that’s an absolute must for anyone doing logo design.
Colleen: Yeah, it’s great!
Ian: I also use Trello quite frequently. With Trello, what you can do is you can basically create a number of columns. With logo design projects, that’s how I manage my projects personally. What I’ve done is I’ve got about six columns, I think, and they range from “I need to create the goals for the project” and then “I need to work on the ideas” phase.
Then once I’ve done that, I’ll drag it over to the next column, where it would be to present the logos to the client. The next one might be “amendments to make,” next one is “files to prepare,” and the last one, once that’s all ready, is “files prepared/awaiting final payment.”
It’s really simple, but it’s just a few simple columns. What I can do is create projects and then drag them across the columns just to keep track of where they are.
Yeah, there’s obviously basic things like pens and paper. I have loads of sketchbooks. I like those sketchbooks with the little dots in. I used to prefer to have just a clean blank pieces of paper. All my older sketchbooks used to just be plain notebooks, but now I prefer to have the pages with the dots in there, so that it gives me the freedom like a blank piece of paper, but in any instance where I want more uniformity, I want to work with some kind of grid, it’s got that mixture of the two, so that you can you got the the ultimate freedom. Then you can also say use that grid-type structure, which is fantastic for logo design.
So I would say that’s probably the most common tools I use. I obviously use a few more but that gives you an idea of the type of things I’m using.
Colleen: Okay, great. Well, I like to now mention your helpful resources for logo designers, The Logo Designers’ Box Set, which includes six guides that are chock full of insightful information relating to the logo design process, including presenting the designs, and getting clients for logo design. You can pick them up at boxset.logogeek.uk.
Well, thanks so much for being on the podcast. It’s really been fun. It’s always fun talking to you, and I really appreciate you coming on. Thank you.
Ian: Thanks, Colleen. It’s been really great to chat.