The process of developing a corporate identity

1. Analyze client needs

First, we determine what you are trying to accomplish. Who are your customers? What type of look and feel are you after? Is it soft and fuzzy, or is it high-tech and fast-paced? Do you have any sort of special needs or requirements?

Are there colors or icons that can or cannot be used? What is your competition doing? What sort of designs should be excluded because they are already in the marketplace? How big is your company? How many customers do you serve? We find out not only what you need, but also what your industry dictates. Once we’ve gathered all of the information, we move into concepting.

2. Concept logo designs

Back at our office, the Kinesis team meets as a group to brainstorm concepts. We investigate, test, and edit ideas to determine whether they have real merit and are worth pursuing. Sometimes team members sketch ideas, while other ideas exist simply as words or sentences.

For example, we recently developed a logo for the Adept Crane Company. Some of the ideas we threw out on the table were obvious like “crane,” “boom,” and “beams” while other ideas were more abstract like “atlas” or “strong-man” (ultimately the design went down the less-obvious path, and the client was ecstatic with the result).

3. Rough sketches

Our designers begin to work out their ideas on paper. One designer might work on a conservative mark, while another may develop a design that is more high-tech or whimsical. Because we are a creative firm (rather than a single freelance designer) our staff is able to tackle branding projects from a variety of perspectives and viewpoints.

This phase is an opportunity for us to see how our brainstorming session translates to paper form. We generally drop over half of the ideas developed in Phase Two! Some ideas initially seem great but don’t translate into graphic form. Other concepts don’t work with the client’s overall message and/or target audience. We want to ensure we provide each client with our TOP ideas and designs.

4. Refinement

Working with the best choices from step three, we take our sketches into the computer and begin refining them using a variety of software illustration tools. This gives us the opportunity to see how the designs translate into a one-color realm.

Since a logo must work in a wide variety of applications, we manipulate the design in the computer to ensure the mark is recognizable in something as small as the side of a pen or a business card, and as large as the size of bus or a billboard. We also make sure the design will work in hard-to-reproduce environments like shirt embroidery, faxes, or newspaper classifieds.

5. Typography

Kinesis spends considerable time investigating the typography (font) that accompanies the logo. We research a variety of fonts and combine them with logo. Many are eliminated. Sometimes the fonts are hand-lettered; other times, they are a hybrid of custom hand-lettering and pre-existing fonts. A good example of this is the logo we developed for “Gutter Love It!” The typography forms the shape of a gutter, and is almost completely hand-lettered. The client wanted a mark that reflected their product (a system that prevents clogged gutters) while retaining a retro, “I Love Lucy” era feel.

6. Color

Once we’ve developed 2-3 design ideas in black and white, we begin to apply color. We consider important factors such as competitor colors, how the client wants their brand to look and feel (for example, primary colors tend to connote fast and urgent, while subdued colors tend to connote sophistication and softness), where the brand will be used (ex: a Real Estate company needs colors that stand out on a street sign), and so on. This phase alone can take hours of time and assessment, as color is one of the most powerful, motivating, and emotive design elements.

7. Review

We involve clients at varying points of this process; usually showing printed comprehensives either before or after step six. For some clients, we present the black and white logo choices first, while other clients are presented with color options. For clients accustomed to the design process, we typically present in color.

For clients new to the process, we often start in black and white to display the design/typography without the color as a distraction. Once a logo is finalized, we will add color options. The review process involves the client and our design team assessing the design choices (usually 3) and deciding on a final mark.

8. Modifications

Following the first client meeting, there are typically between 2 and 3 rounds of design revisions. We tweak a little here, nudge a little there, until the mark, typography, and colors arrive at a point that everyone loves. Obviously, with larger companies this is a more difficult task since there are generally multiple decision makers involved in the process.

9. Graphic standards manual/guidelines

Finally, we develop a usage manual and style guide. This can vary in its complexity, but the main goal is to ensure that there is a consistent and persistent application of the logo, typography, and corporate colors, as well as any secondary colors and corporate fonts.

Style guides ensure that fonts are used in a consistent manner, that corporate colors are established and maintained, and that vendors, designers, and in-house staff all understand the proper use of the logo. Style guides become more important as an organization increases in size and works with both in-house staff, outside vendors, and multiple design resources.

10. Next steps

From here, the Kinesis team designs letterhead, envelopes, business cards, Web site, and other marketing collateral.

Final thoughts

As you can see, the identity process takes time, thoughtful consideration, and the talents of skilled individuals. It is probably the single most important design decision your company can undertake, as it forms the foundation of all of your other marketing materials. A bad logo creates confusion, customer uncertainty, and costly ancillary issues. In contrast, a well planned and properly executed identity will ensure that your customers remember, trust, and rely on your goods or services.

We’d love to talk with you about designing your identity. Call us at 503-922-2289 or e-mail us.