Is your list of clichés so overwhelmingly clichéd that the general public will see and recognize those clichés?
Yes, in all probability the general public will draw the same lines as you are. None of the proposed imagery is so "new" or "original" as to create roadblocks in understanding. In fact, I'd wager it's possible to find all of those images, in icon ...
I think you can approach this in both ways, however, I would use a high-res, flattened out (✝) PSD and/or TIFF format, because:
it will cover both print and web usage
it will be less prone to error vs. an AI file with linked or embedded artwork. In my experience AI files are more sensitive to variations in app versions (CC vs CS6 and so on) or in platform (...
Make a closed path which has a few, say 3 or 4 nodes. Make a copy and edit its handles with the direct selection tool, beware moving the nodes!
Make a few step blend between these 2 versions, expand and ungroup the blend to get free objects. Move the objects so that the nodes fit.
Color with a gradient. Draw and insert the black dots if they really are ...
There are many other 3-striped logos out there — I don't see an immediate connection between your logo and the other one. Also quite far from Adidas and Tesla aswell.
Now, if they are prepared to take legal action, our opinions here are more or less pointless, and you will ultimately need legal advice.
Honestly you may consider changing your logo under the ...
Just some thoughts:
I think this for me is because with a logo design I am starting from scratch, a blank canvas
That is the main problem. So, solve it.
I. Prepare a good interview with the client. Some possible questions in random order:
What colors identify your brand?
An animal can identify a characteristic of your brand, speed, force, etc. Would ...