I have all the essentials, their vision statement, their mission statement, core values, target market, values... on and on. I am just having the hardest time trying to come up with graphical elements and designs based on their information. I think Im confused because they are.

They have a logo already, but no 'brand'. Im trying to help create one for them. What steps will help me extract ideas, designs, graphical elements (textures, images, effects, etc) based on the information I have?

More importantly, how can I transform their 'voice' into graphical elements?

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    Please do not use uppercase in a title. Jan 16, 2012 at 12:58
  • Uh, why not? What's wrong with it? Jan 16, 2012 at 13:24
  • You see a field called "Title" and you think title case is inappropriate?
    – o_O
    Aug 29, 2012 at 21:20

2 Answers 2


Welcome to GD.SE, and thank you for a great question. It's one that challenges designers often enough that I'm guessing there will be plenty of answers.

Based on what you say, I think the key is, "I'm confused because they are." The way to reduce any confusion, in design or anywhere else, is to pick ONE item out of the morass and start with that. It almost doesn't matter what you start with, because at this stage you need to reduce the noise level as a first step toward breaking the impasse.

Let's take the mission statement. It's probably much too wordy and a bit vague, but somewhere in there is a sentence or a phrase or a key word that you can relate to something in the real world -- an object, a piece of equipment, a type of person. It has to be something concrete. Your brief is probably 90% abstract and philosophical, but only philosophers buy philosophy, and even they respond better to a bust of Socrates than a vague abstraction.

Make a sketch or a quick mock-up of how that might look, then test it against the other parts of the brief. Does it clash with anything important? Can you think off-hand of three or four different ways to use it in layouts, ads, copy? Does it look too much like the competition? If the answers are "No," "Yes" and "No" respectively, expand your mockup into a mood board. If not, repeat the exercise. If the phrase you picked is a dead end, pull something else from the brief and try again. Keep at this until you have three possibilities that you can see have some "legs" -- simple enough and flexible enough to riff on, strong enough to be easily recognizable.

You want to end up with at least two, preferably three mood boards that you can go over with the client. Out of that meeting you will accomplish at least two things: a) you'll get a direction to start in for design development or you'll find out where not to go -- either way you'll find out where the ballpark is and whether you landed in it, and b) you'll have greatly clarified the client's thinking for them, which will make them happy and easier to work with going forward.

If the whole brief is just too self-contradictory or vaporous or incomprehensible to get any kind of corner on, you might have to highlight all the bits you don't understand, go back to the client and get them clarified. You'll be helping them as much as yourself. They need to be clear about what they're doing, otherwise you and they will spend weeks going in ever-decreasing circles. A key question that often helps in this situation is: "What makes you different?" Push for an answer that isn't something any of their competitors could say. That differentiator is one of the most important keys to effective branding.

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    MOOD BOARDS!!! Yes, genius. I've done these before but so long ago. This is exactly what I need. I need to distance myself from the company itself, and create relationships between their chosen dialog that they use to represent their company. And I need to create these relationships by connecting a word to another visual...one i dont create. This is sure to get the creative juices flowing. Nov 23, 2011 at 0:00
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    Adobe just came out with Collage, which lets you assemble a mood board on the fly on a tablet while you're right there with the client. It's in the Android Market now, and will be coming for iOS soon according to what we heard at MAX. Nov 23, 2011 at 2:43

There is no right approach to this, obviously, but one thing you can try to get some visual ground work going is to look at every possible visual element and compare to the information you have.

For example:

  • Color - what color palette could reflect my client's vision, mission, core values?
  • Typography - if my client were a font, what would they look like, would they be hand written elegance or machine like typewriter monospace?
  • Shapes - is there some metaphor in my client's statement that could be communicated by the choice of shapes; does the logo have something to it that could be hinted to by other visual elements -- is it curvy, stark, soft, edgy, organic, synthetic, fresh or traditional...?
  • Icons ...
  • Materials (paper, plastic, metal) ...
  • Products - can your client's products serve as an inspiration?
  • History - is there something unique to your client's history that you could leverage?

When you assemble those and try to work something out, you will get a feeling for what fits and what does not. Personally, I can only encourage also doing the "wrong" thing, i.e. figuring out different options to the above points which you realize are definitely not your client. That can help mold an understanding of what it is that you are looking for. Eventually, something will hit a spark and give you a clear idea of what you want to communicate and how to bring it across visually.

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