Sometimes it’s easy. Other times, not so much.

Every logo design project begins with the same premise: a client needs a memorable mark that represents their brand. I start by generating a few different concepts. Then that progresses to trying variations, refining, and finalizing. Within this structure, there’s a ton of variation.

Sometimes this process is easy, and sometimes it’s hard. What gives? Why do so many ideas flow quickly from one brief and then drag like tar from another?

I trace every project arc back to the initial communication. It’s not enough for clients to simply know what they want. They have to articulate their vision. I don’t expect people to know design terminology or to come to me with hyper-specific suggestions about which fonts they want to use. In fact, if someone is too specific, it can be constrictive. But it’s extremely helpful when people have identified visual territories that they can describe or show me.

Do they want something modern and geometric? Or something more hand-drawn or organic? Do they want something simple and bold, or something with more detail? These are all important distinctions to make before I start brainstorming.

Sometimes I come away from briefings and think that I’m clear, but I later realize I’m not. This usually portends longer, more difficult projects. Maybe I didn’t ask the right questions. Or people weren’t sure about which areas to focus on, so I agreed to try a lot of different styles. This approach occasionally works—just try a bunch of things that I like and then see what sticks—but mostly it doesn’t.

I’m learning that I need to define at least a few parameters with clients to do my best work. “Make something cool” or “Just work your magic” may be liberating to some people, but it’s not to me. When there are too many possibilities, it’s hard to focus and get started. Also, what’s cool to me might not be cool to the client.

Briefs that are too open, direction that is too vague, communication that is too loosey-goosey: these are the prime culprits. They make my job harder. Of course, I accept that some projects are just going to be hard; sometimes the “why” is hard to pinpoint. Maybe the timing is a little off, and my headspace capacity doesn’t line up well with the deadline. Or maybe there’s personality friction with the client, and it takes more effort to work through this. Or maybe the client wants to explore a style or an idea that I don’t resonate with. The possibilities go on and on.

I generally try to get to the bottom of why some projects go smoothly and others stutter. The idea is to learn from past mistakes and have each new project go a little better. But with so many variables at play, I don’t think I’ll ever reach a point where every project is easy. Sometimes, projects are just plain hard. And that’s ok. The creative process and the dance of communication will always be a little unpredictable. Easy or hard, I still love what I do.