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I have a several years experience doing visual identity design. I primarily do them for companies from small startups to mid-size businesses.

I have been paid by a friend who used my services for their business. Now he wants a personal logo for his brand as an influencer/thought leader.

I found this to be abstract and challenging so I asked for a few keywords they'd use to describe himself which he provided. I was also given a Pinterest mood board which consisted of dark imagery. Primarily B&W photos of lions, lightbulbs and trees. The first round I got some feedback and I improved some of logos they seemed potentially interested in and provided 2-3 new ideas.

They followed up they "weren't feeling it" and it's not what they want. I'm a bit embarrassed I don't know where to go from here. I'm good at understanding a companies concept and brand direction and designing around that. Based on feedback (or one of my award winning designs - no feedback!) I can resolve a logo that compliments the brand's messaging.

I've done research on influencers logos as well as logos for some of the things he wants to be a thought leader in and I feel I'm not missing the mark by any sizable margin. I've provided different types of logos from logomark + type that felt a bit more corporate, to a graphic mark with type, a hand-drawn tree inspired logotype and even a heavy metal custom lettered logo since they identified with this "hard rock bad-ass persona" just to elicit a response.

I don't know how to extract their expectations at this stage. I will admit this is a side project (and priced as such!) and perhaps these could be improved (but that's the point of iterating in 3 rounds). Unfortunately I don't know where to go from here. I thought about creating a questionnaire he could fill out but I don't even know what to ask anymore. I thought about "check which of these logos closely resemble your vision" or something along those lines.

I could use some ideas you've used in the past to get more information from your clients, I'd really appreciate it.

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    Asking the client for logos that they like is not a bad option. Regardless of what you do, make sure to charge them for another round of ideas :) – Zach Saucier Aug 5 at 20:08
  • I'm afraid it's nearly impossible to detail how to explain to or extract information from a particular client without personal interaction with that client. You read as if you are aware of questions to ask and avenues to pursue.. so it all comes down to personalities, making this a really impossible and exceptionally subjective question. – Scott Aug 5 at 20:09
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    Possibly related: graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/116542/… – Scott Aug 5 at 20:19
  • I've asked the questions - the only other approach I can think of is to ask for logos they like. I hate that approach for a myriad of reasons but I don't know of another option. I'm not looking for solutions to this particular client per se, but tactics other designers use to extract a clients thoughts. I think I can tailor some solutions with the right feedback! Usually conversations / feedback does it for me. It's not this time which is why I go into detail. – user5854648 Aug 5 at 20:19
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    .. and that's why I think this is a "personalities" question and nearly impossible to answer without direct personal interaction with the client. Note I find "personality" logos to be the most difficult for all the reasons you are discovering. You need to be familiar enough with the client to see what "personality" it is they wish to convey.. even if it's not an accurate personality for them. – Scott Aug 5 at 20:25
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Works like a charm every single time: "Please provide.."

  • ..a few references of logos you like and why you like those
  • ..a few you don't like, and why you don't like those

This is likely the most relevant kind of 'briefing' you can get in many logo design 'situations'.

If this person is an influencer, you probably need to think big and make it a big tree, or a big lion, or a big lightbulb shaped lion-tree :)) Or maybe just make the typeface extra extra bold. They sometimes fall for that. Or look at other influencers and possibly discover they don't even need a logo, depending on their influence level.

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    "Or look at other influencers and possibly discover they don't even need a logo, depending on their influence level." My thoughts exactly as I was reading the question... The two that come up to me in design (Seth Godin, John Maeda) have no logo as far as I'm aware... – curious Aug 6 at 12:54
  • @curious I've found this to be true too! – user5854648 Aug 6 at 23:04
  • I think this is a solid answer and it aligns with my assumptions. I'm going to give the client this task along with a questionnaire and if they're willing to put that work in, I will opt to follow through the second half otherwise call it. – user5854648 Aug 6 at 23:08
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A couple of things stand out to me in this situation:

"I have been paid by a friend who used my services for their business..."

"...some of the things he wants to be a thought leader in..."

"I will admit this is a side project..."

It seems like the client is not really established yet. Have you discussed his target audience? Can you present logos to a focus group of some kind instead of the client?

If I understand correctly, the client already has another business and this is a side project for you. Is there a deadline? Does he need the logo at a set point in time? It seems to me like there may be a timing/motivation problem there.

Did he already pay you for the logo? If so, that's not necessarily a bad thing but can also decrease everyone's motivation to get things done.

I think the client might have insufficient incentives to wrap up the project at this time. If you've provided everything that was included in the contract, I would suggest you communicate that and move on to other projects.

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  • For sure it is a side project - but I take all side projects seriously. I've put in I'd say about 20 hours between research, ideation, sketching, creation and presentation at a very discounted rate. I collected half up front which I'm entitled to keep. The second half is upon the final round and delivery which obviously may not happen. I'm going to take the suggestions Lucian provided along with some research I've done and see if there's a path forward. The lack of a deadline I think is a big factor to not get it done, they're entitled to three rounds and we've done 2/3. – user5854648 Aug 6 at 23:11
  • At the end of 2 I was told they didn't like anything despite having said they liked some from the 1st that I expanded upon and provided some new options in 2. I gave more options than I usually do (7-8) because a personal logo like this is very broad and I wanted to see what things may have spoke to them and their vision for their personal brand. – user5854648 Aug 6 at 23:12

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