What questions do you ask a client before designing their logo? (preferred colour, font, references, etc) And how do you do it exactly? Do you use a template PDF questionnaire/Word doc/Google doc which you send to them? If you work for an agency, how would your agency handle this?
Obviously you need to know about their company, history, mission, clients, etc and see any previous marketing material they might have produced in the past.
Logo design is very subjective and a client will always be tempted to associate your proposals to other logos they know they have seen before. There's hardly anything left to invent in terms of logo design that others have not invented before, so the possibility is always there for a logo to look like another logo, even without intention.
To avoid this its always good to ask for a few references, like a few logos they like and a few they don't like, with short comments. Also good to be aware of their direct competition so you can avoid getting too close to competitors in their area. This way your research will narrow down and you'll be less likely to discuss alternative proposals.
Their name and tagline or any other text to be used in the logo should be known beforehand, as this may pose a problem in some cases where they need a longer text to be included.
If re-branding from an older logo, you need to understand if there's anything they would like to keep from their previous logo.
Number of proposals is good to discuss upfront. I have sold logos done as a single proposal, but other clients want to see 2-3 options they can choose from. This also depends on your usual routine, but obviously more initial options take more effort. Discuss the number of revisions you are including after the initial presentation, so you don't get trapped in endless variations some clients could expect.
Color is also an important factor to avoid the i dont like the blue situation, its always best they give you an upfront idea of the colors they are looking for. The same goes for fonts, if they have any preference which you could consider working with.
Some designers will have a minimum price for a logo design, so another thing to consider asking is their budget and whether they need any other items along with the logo (eg. business cards, and if so, for how many people), etc.
This client input can reduce your actual effort and is helpful if you need to negociate the cost, as clients will sometimes expect logo design to be a quick service (which in some cases is), so their budget could be under your expectations.
I somewhat think this question is a bit too broad. Every client and project is different. I've been in the business for a while and have never really seen any questionnaire or "design brief" which really covers everything. Ultimately this leads to more problems than benefits. Because you force the client to narrow creative expectations before you've ever drawn a single line, and remember clients are not designers.
I don't have anything predefined or prepared specifically when discussing projects with clients. There are some very basic questions which I seem to always ask though....
Are there any existing materials you wish to incorporate or "match" to some degree with this new design?
Do you have an online presence I can look at?
For unfamiliar clients : Can you tell me about your company? It's history, it's goals, it's mission, your clients/customers?
From these three basic questions and the conversations which surround them I can usually garner all I need. Most of the useful information I get is in that last question. It explains their overall attitude and target audience.
I specifically never ask any client about font preferences, color preferences, etc. It's my job to solve their design problem. The more I ask what they prefer the more I allow them to influence the solution I come up with, which may or may not be helpful (most often it isn't but exceptions exist).
For example... If I were to ask about font preference -- and the client emphatically states they hate serif fonts. If their mission is one of caring, providing assistance, or otherwise helping individuals.... a serif typeface is friendlier in many instances and ruling serifs out from the start can greatly detract from any possible design solution. I can get a general impression of any underlying preference by looking at their existing marketing materials. However, I don't want to set up the client to expect a sans serif font.... that sort of thing. Same reason i don't ask about colors or anything specific.
So, in general.. I merely have a conversation to get to know the company and not what someone, who is not a designer, thinks they need or want.
Beyond this... if there are any further questions I have, they would be production-oriented... size desired, color breakout (CMYK / RGB / Greyscale / 1 Color), bindery issues, bleeds, mail issues, etc. However, these really never apply to logotypes.
This is an interesting question - I do not have a design background, but as a successful sales person and sales trainer, here are some tips/thoughts:
Customers develop trust when they realize that you are interested in and understand their business well. This also means to understand who their clients are, how/where they position themselves in the market and what clientele they want to attract.
Customers must see that you understand the big picture, e.g ask questions about what they value when they shop, what value proposition they offer their customers, how they see their business develop/grow over the next 5 years
When customers need a new logo (or one in the first place), they certainly have thoughts about size, color, etc, however technicalities such as fonts, images etc that is your job as a designer! When I buy a car, nobody asks me if I want the high density fuel hose, or when I say I want a car for off-roading, they don't ask me what the centrifugal forces are going down a steep mountain - I expect THEM to tell me that.
Finally, don't forget: customers don't buy a logo from you. They buy an image, a reputation and a brand for their customers. Nobody spends money because he/she loves logos so much - they buy a logo because their customers expect it and because they want to create a certain look and feel about themselves. This is where you position your questions - make them dream about how their perfect business image looks like. The logo is just a tool to get to something bigger...
Hope this triggers some thinking... Stephan