Logo Month

At the beginning of this year, many clients wanted to refresh their branding, so I accidentally booked a full month of back-to-back logo projects. I’m wrapping up most of those projects now, and I’m happy to be coming up for air.

Logo design is the most rigorous work I do, not because of the time or skill that’s required, but because the task is both lofty and highly subjective. The goal is to distill an abstract brand vision into a simple, clever and singular mark. Sometimes I meet this challenge in the first round, and everyone is happy. But more often than not, it takes multiple tries, and much time sustained in the middle place: that uncomfortable space between initial excitement and early execution, first presentation and disappointment, reassurance and further iteration, push and pull, and then at last, the final version. 

I try to prepare clients for this tension. I always position the first round of logo concepts as an exploratory phase where I try a range of ideas to see which styles and visual approaches resonate most. It’s a jumping off point rather than a conclusion. Don’t worry if we don’t get it right in the first round I say. The point is to gain clarity on which areas to focus on for the second round. But regardless of these disclaimers, clients always hope for a home run. And even though I’ve had years of experience and countless triumphs over this process, it’s hard to receive lackluster feedback with anything other than stinging self doubt. I could have tried harder I tell myself. Surely a better designer would have come up with something smarter. 

This is where the rigor comes in. I have to push through the doubt and be strong. Forget about people pleasing and focus on reflection.

Is my interpretation of a key word in the brief different than the client’s? Subjectivity muddles any design project, but because logos rely on so few elements, trial and error is almost always required to hone in on the exact right expression of “elegant,” “playful” or “bold.” 

Did the client realize they want something different than what they asked for? A first round is not wasted if it clarifies what someone doesn’t want. As long as clients are willing to interrogate what doesn’t work and offer a little guidance on what they might be looking for instead, there is a way forward. 

Maybe there is a glimmer of something interesting in one concept but it needs more work. Or a different direction sparks an entirely new idea that evolves into the chosen one. This assessing, dissecting and revising is the process working. It’s not easy to sift through this mess, but for those who trust, there is a good logo on the other side. We are doing it right even if it takes two months instead of two weeks. 

The truth is, some logos are much easier to design than others. The logo for the bookstore Blue Door Books? Well, it’s a book with a doorknob on it. The logo for a corporate sustainability consulting collective? Harder. Some projects go smoothly and others snag on factors that are beyond my control. 

Whatever the brief, I’m up for the challenge. However, I’ve learned that booking multiple logo projects in one month is a bad idea. My fortitude for navigating uncertainty with clients has its limits. Next year, I will build in more time for easy wins between each emotionally taxing branding project. I am a pro, not a masochist.