Phases of a Successful Branding Engagement
Step 1, The Interview & Questionnaire
Once a contract is signed, most clients want to get started immediately and deservedly so. Part of the engagement, for me, is to slow the process down and invoke a different path to thinking the project through more creatively and effectively. At the onset, most clients feel like they already have a vision all mapped out in their head and they just need an artist to create it for them. My job is to make you think about your vision in a different way. Think about your brand, your company’s promise, your mission, your competitors, how you will grow with this brand and much more.
This all takes place in the interview process. I start with a questionnaire. Really basic questions about colors, competitors, favorite brands outside of your own company and so on. The more the client invests into this process, the stronger the support and results for the project will be.
The result of this process is the creating the most important document of the project, a Goal And Strategy (GAS) document. This is where I will create an overall Goal for project as well as define the vision brand. It is clear, concise and to the point. At any point in the engagement, if we start to stray creatively, I will refer back to this Client-Approved document and keep moving forward.
Step 2, Discovery
The discovery exercise is where I dive in head first into your project. I will scour the internet, books, designs, designers, competitors, brands, companies, etc. looking for any type of influence, history or idea which will support your brand’s new definition. Through this process I will start to formulate ideas and thoughts based on the real information from my findings. Where a lawyer has libraries and past cases to prepare briefs and arguments from, a designer must exhaust every avenue of creative influence and historical reference in order to produce effective solutions which support the creative ideas. These discovery phases presents itself to the client in the form of a Mood Board, a visual representation of colors, images, ideas and influences which will be used as the base of your new identity. As with each phase, I ensure we are all on the same page and headed in the right direction. The project will not move forward without the client’s satisfaction and approval.
Step 3, Design
This is the fun aspect of the project. With the Goal defined and the Mood Board approved, I will begin to sketch loosely, form ideas and begin designs in a rough form. Once there are some solid concepts and/or directions, I will then work with the computer, where your initial designs will come to life. In the beginning rounds of design, I will work in black and white. Every great mark needs to do a one of two things, reproduce as one color and scale effectively from down to business card up to the side of a building.
There are typically three rounds of design included in a design engagement. Round 1 presents the initial design concepts in black and white and presents all the directions I have decided to go for your project. Round 2 presents the logo from your desired direction with any refinements or changes your have requested. Round 3 usually introduces typography and color. The logos presented in round 3 typically will be final marks which will now be your company’s new logo.
Step 4, Production
Now that you have a new logo, we need to learn how to apply that new art to your multiple marketing deliverables. Typically, clients need things like stationary, signage, websites, apparel/uniforms, etc. As a part of my packages, I tend to offer a basic stationary package (letterhead, envelope and business card) design with my branding engagements. Your new art has to be designed for all of these different mediums and verified it will reproduce effectively. There is also a very good chance that either the designer or the client may not always work together. As a part of my engagements, I produce a Usage Styleguide for the identity kids I produce. This is basically your brand bible. I previously created a brand checklist I use for my logo projects, but basically I will outline how to use the logo. When, where and how to use the mark, official colors and so on.
The Wrap Up
As much as I would love to think that client relationships last forever, the reality is that they don’t. But in the case that the client would like to take their work and work with another designer or just take the design work in house to their own marketing departments, it’s all very agreeable. Once the work is completed and the financial commitment is fulfilled, I will deliver all art files to the client. You own them at that point.
However, I do like to remain in contact with all of my clients because brands are living things. There is no such things as building a logo or brand and immediately you are going to have brand recognition in the real world. No, that’s not how it works. Building a brand takes work and consistency. Brands are bought, but built up over time. I like to work with my clients on implementing their brands because, if anything, once the logo and guidelines are created, I am so in lock step with the client and brand that I can be more effective in helping implement the brand effectively according the original Goal and Vision.
Branding certainly has many moving parts and can get very overwhelming very quickly. You can hire a designer to create you a logo, or you can hire a consultant who can help define your company’s vision, build and maintain a visual palette for it and implement effectively. These are all the things which build for a solid foundation a successful brand.