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This is mainly referring to branding / logo design. I typically offer (at least) 3 different ideas so that my clients have more of a choice of what they prefer. I will then revise their favourite until they're happy with it.

Each idea will be based on some kind of 'focal' keyword which will often be the main idea behind the concept... with other keywords to support it (which can determine, say, the colour palette or choice of typefaces).

But recently I've wondered if it would make more sense to just stick to one main keyword / idea... and base all 3 logo concepts on that. So for example, all 3 ideas may be based on the idea of 'connections'... but carried out different ways.

Rather than say:

Logo 1 repreresents this... whereas Logo 2 represents this other thing... and finally Logo 3 represents this other idea altogether

So it might make more sense to involve clients more in the design process, so that everyone can agree on what kind of 'idea' should be behind the logo before even any sketches have been drawn. I imagine this could be done purely through research, client meetings, mind-mapping etc (maybe some sketches if necessary)

I'm just thinking that will make everything go a lot smoother. Because sometimes I feel like I'm forcing myself to come up with different ideas when really I should just be focusing on the one.

How does everyone else go about it?

Edit:

Here is an example of a previous branding job I worked on a while back to help illustrate my question...

The main idea behind the (chosen) logo was 'unexpected'. There were several supporting keywords such as 'elegant' and 'majestic'... these helped determine the look & feel of the logo. Whereas 'Unexpected' was the focal keyword that the logo was aiming to portray.

But the other logo ideas I worked on originally, used the same supporting keywords (elegant / majestic) but had different ideas behind them, e.g. one was influenced by the client's own work. Another was based around 'imagination'.

After I completed the job I realised the ideas based around 'imagination' and the one influenced by the client's own work really werent working as well as the concept based based around 'unexpected'... so I now think I would have been better off coming up with three different concepts all based around 'unexpected', but seeing what different ways I could visually communicate it

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    Sorry, I think this question is too opinion based for GD – Zach Saucier Aug 31 '15 at 19:50
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    It's kind of up to you, your contract, and what your client wants. – Scott Aug 31 '15 at 20:45
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    @ZachSaucier I don't think it's opinion based as there are tangible benefits, situations and reasons to do one way or the other. The question could be similar to "should I use InDesign or Illustrator to do a catalog layout?" – go-junta Aug 31 '15 at 22:06
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    @ZachSaucier are there rules against opinion-based threads on here? If so that seems unnecessarily strict... a lot of designers could benefit from reading posts like this – pealo86 Sep 1 '15 at 10:44
  • @pealo86 There are many reasons for not allowing them. If you have a specific question, feel free to post on meta – Zach Saucier Sep 1 '15 at 12:49
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I think it's better to show 3 different concepts but that also depend on your contract and how much time you want to spend on this. With design, I like to say "everything is possible it's just more expensive." So it depends on the budget of the logo, how fast you create and in how much time it needs to be done.

If you work as an in-house designer for a company then you can take 6-12 months building the brand and showing it drop by drop as your second suggestion. And enjoy the hours of listening to everyone's input in the meetings. You will go through this anyway, no matter how genius your logo design will be.

But if you have a contract and flat price for a logo then you will definitely save time and energy by already targeting which way to go first and offering more options. You have no choice to be efficient on how you use your time; the more time you'll spend, the less your final hourly rate will be. A lot of time if the client asks for a first set of drafts, he/she might come back with ideas you could have simply shown them in the first set of proofs. That means you wasted your time working on a first set of drafts showing one idea in different colors/position, and maybe little will be recycled from this.

You're saving time and efforts when you can limit the number of proofs and revisions, and the big benefit is also that you limit the options if your 3 drafts are smart ones. And at least you'll get constructive feedback that will also give you better clues than "I don't like it, can you do something else." That's like starting from scratch every time. If you offer different concept, you can at least get feedback such as "I'm leaning towards this one for XYZ reasons but I like ABC from that one." That gives you something to build the next proofs on.

With one concept only, if they really don't like it, they'll even have hard time telling you the colors are right, even if they like them because it will be hard for them to visualize them in a different context. So having more than one concept helps for this as well.

There's one thing I've also learn with some clients; there's people who need to be charmed a little bit (at least) the first time and you need to get them excited about their logos/layouts or they will be more and more critical of your work on the next proofs as if they need to teach you what to do! There's some business psychology you need to apply when you do design; when you show 3 nice concepts even though there is 1-2 you like a bit less, you will still force the client to give feedback and to make a choice, or at least to lower down the options. Your client will feel like there is actually a choice given and that it's not about what you want but what he/she wants, that you've put efforts into the project. All designers have their favorite concepts but we don't always have the final word on this no matter how right we think we are; of course the process is very different if you're selling logos that are worth a few thousands for a huge corporation. But you know, logos need to have their "sidekicks" logos too in a way...!

The goal when creating logos is to decrease gradually the number of possible options and go by elimination, until the final draft is fully approved. It's faster to get there with many concepts rather than one.

Personally I always spend more time on the first drafts than the revisions and the process is very smooth, and quick; usually I spend 1/2 to 2/3 of my time on the first drafts and concepts, then the rest on revisions and finals.


Edit:

for example, a recent logo design I worked on was based around the keyword of 'unexpected', so the problem was to portray this visually... but the other logo ideas I sent over were based on different keywords. But after I'd completed the project, I realised the keyword 'unexpected' made far more sense to work to than the others, and so it probably would have been better to base every logo idea on this same keyword, but carried out in different ways / styles

Keywords or concepts are very similar. But the concept can use many keywords, with more emphasis on some of them. It's easy to say the "I should have..."; how can you be certain your certitude doesn't come from the work you did and the feedback your got around your 3 keywords?

It's not a bad idea to use a few keywords to add more meaning to logos and avoid the "but we're not just X, we're also Y."

Even if you say you work with one keyword, you're probably still working with many in reality and you use them through the style. It's good to identify a few keywords that work well together and balance each others. Then you play around with them by alternating their importance. You're still using your "main" keyword, but in different measure; this way you also avoid doing a "one track mind" kind of concept and the client has more options.

(Random keywords example)

Logo concept with keywords

In any case, the best is to try and see what works best for you! After a while you'll notice a pattern and you'll base your decision on that.

The pattern I've personally noticed after many years in graphic design is: I prepare 3 different styles (e.g. classic, clean, organic, etc.), and then I use at least 3 main concepts based around a few keywords. Then I eliminate and adjust according to feedback. That system works for me, I usually get my logos approved within 2 to 5 proofs, rarely more. My clients appreciate the choice and I have a reputation of reading their mind. So either I'm really extraordinary or simply using a very efficient formula; I really think the formula is everything because I hate doing logos in fact!

  • thanks for your input... I think I may have not explained my question very well however. What I meant was, I would still send over a selection of logo ideas so that we could go through a process of elimination with the client, however instead of each idea being based on a different keyword, I'm now thinking they might be best being based on the same keyword – pealo86 Sep 1 '15 at 10:50
  • ...for example, a recent logo design I worked on was based around the keyword of 'unexpected', so the problem was to portray this visually... but the other logo ideas I sent over were based on different keywords. But after I'd completed the project, I realised the keyword 'unexpected' made far more sense to work to than the others, and so it probably would have been better to base every logo idea on this same keyword, but carried out in different ways / styles – pealo86 Sep 1 '15 at 10:52
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    @pealo86 You seem to be doing things right! Still not bad to show the client his own idea, this way he can get over it and let you do the design ;) – go-junta Sep 1 '15 at 17:06
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    thanks! ah what I meant was—with regards to the idea that was based on the client's own work—that it used visual references to the work that she'd done in her career (she was working in another creative industry) – pealo86 Sep 1 '15 at 18:31
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    Nice answer. It might be worth noting not to present too many ideas also. If a client is not happy with presented ideas for whatever reason, the reassurance of unseen work or ideas may be helpful. – johnp Oct 29 '15 at 19:34
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+100

If you listen to the godfather of corporate logo design, Paul Rand (and really, you should) you show one idea:

The arguments for this approach is that the client has hired you based on your existing work. As such, they want your skill set and experience and they should trust your skill set and experience.

You, as a trusted, experienced designer should also be able to digest the project needs and desires and come up with the appropriate solution.

Granted, we don't all have the cache that Paul Rand built up over his career and because the industry has created the defacto "standard" of 2-3 ideas must be presented, that's perfectly normal as well.

In either case, the key to success is that you know how to sell your solution to the client. That's often at least half the battle.

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    Downvoter? Care to help? – DA01 Sep 1 '15 at 16:06
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    I don't think the Paul Rand who sell logos at $100,000 to the Steve Jobs with a 100 pages PhD explanation hang around here & have insecurity about selling their logos; that's a totally different market & comparing yourself to this is a bit disconnected from reality. The irony is also with the link you recommend: the guy REsells "recycled logos" at an average price of $150-350 each (low budget) which implies he did a few concepts that were refused. The "standard" became 2-3 drafts because that's what clients want now & design has evolved since the 80s imjustcreative.com/logos-for-sale – go-junta Oct 29 '15 at 21:18
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    @go-meek that is an inadvertently ironic link, I admit...though isn't really germane to the point Paul Rand makes. You are also correct that we're not all Paul Rand. Doesn't mean we shouldn't learn from him. – DA01 Oct 30 '15 at 3:47
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    Also, don't confuse 'standard' with 'habit'. I readily admit the 'habit' has been to show multiple concepts. But that usually isn't done to improve the quality of the product. It's usually simply a sales tactic. Sometimes it's a good thing. Often it's not. And it's hardly a standard. I've made many clients happy with one presented solution. I've also made 8 at times. It all depends. But the point is that one shouldn't make multiple comps simply for the sake of making multiple comps. – DA01 Nov 2 '15 at 16:35
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If I tell you my experience client is like a customer who wants to see each and every thing you have but its not possible for a shopkeeper to open-up all the thing he has, same principle applied to are industry

First ask the client what he actually wants (you can also ask him for some google references as well so you have the idea where to go).Analyse Him, show him some google references this will give you a hint of colors combination he may like

Then based on his requirement you can create 2-3 different version of same logo but stick to the concept and 85% of time client tell you to make little bit of adjustment in the logos and then finalize it but rest 15% of the clients are

  1. NOT happy with the design and wants some more revisions.

  2. Wants to change the whole Concept as he has found something new on web and wants you to do like that.

  3. The worst, Not clear what they actually wants out of logos.

  4. Sometimes End-up with nothing.

There are every kind of people in the world so you just cant make any strategy but based on you analysis you can show him something new creative in your personal style

I have 4+years experience and it worked out for me most of the times

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Don’t put visual solutions before the concept

In my experience, if you build up the brand correctly, you won't have to churn through so many variations.

  1. Define the story of the brand.
  2. Define how the customer experiences the brand.
  3. Build a visual identity that tells the story through the experience.

You can be inspired by a single word, but it can't encapsulate the entire brand. Brands and people aren't that simple. Telling a story through a visual system is a complicated affair. That's why so many designers present multiple options: They want the client to help them decide. It's to be expected, but it's a cop out.

If you invest the time to define the concept in detail up front, the design will come naturally.

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