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Like many of our readers, we end up doing quite a bit of work for smaller businesses. Personally, I love working with small businesses: you usually have one solid contact, you can relate to one another, and you can usually skip the bureaucracy and red tape that sometimes comes with working for larger companies. However, the common downside is that small businesses might not have the budget to pay for a full identity overhaul – logo, business cards, print material etc. The result is that the designer may only work on a logo, or may work on the identity system in pieces. This is fine, but one trick we’ve learned that I’d like to share is something we call “designing past the logo”.
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What this means, in a nutshell, is to not get hung up on just the logo design. Design from the start with the whole identity system in mind, even if it may never come down the pipe. It’s easy to focus on the logo and solely the logo, but if the designer lets that happen, he/she may be making their potential future work a little more difficult by designing themselves into a corner, or having a combination of design pieces that lack the cohesiveness that a solid identity system should have. By the way, if we’re talking about cohesiveness and forward-thinking design work, jump over to Pentagram’s blog and see any of their latest work.
Looking past the logo (the common starting point for identity work for businesses) and even going so far as mocking up a website homepage, a business card or more can help show the client how their logo may be used in the future. This will make it easier for you to “sell” your logo concept. As well, it can help you pinpoint any flaws in the logo that need to be fixed prior to release. I mentioned a while ago how some clients perceive value in a design; if you are hired solely to design a logo, not an identity system, it might be in your best interests to go that extra length and mock up the items I mentioned above. Why? Well, the client will feel as they’ve gotten more value for their money, and you may avoid the over-designing requests that come from some clients. After all, showing the client how their logo may be used will help some grasp the distinction between a logo, an identity system, a brand or a campaign. Remember, the logo is just part of the business; it doesn’t have to “do it all”.
Plus, there is the off chance that the client will wish to purchase your mockups because you knocked ’em out of the ballpark. It can lead to easy extra work – just be sure to charge what your work is worth.
We know why we should design past the logo, but how do we do that? The simple answer is to always keep the end goal in mind – that is, a cohesive, aesthetic & effective collection of business materials. Assume that, at some point, your client is going to come back to you for a letterhead; a business card; a website. Always design with that in mind. If it’s piecemeal work – as in, logo, invoice, wait two months, design a business card & invoice, wait two months, etc – try to design each piece to be part of an all-encompassing system. Don’t design the business card as a separate, unique piece from the envelope, and the envelope as a separate, unique piece from the letterhead, etc. Try and define the goals & elements of the identity system from the start, and use those when taking on any design task related to the same client. If the rest of the identity work never comes down the pipe, oh well. At least you were prepared, right? Besides, the large majority of the time the remaining work will come down the pipe (so long as you did great work and treated the client well).
Hopefully I’m making sense. I know how easy it is to fall into the trap of designing solely for the piece you’re working on, like a logo; it’s one of the downsides of being really focused on your work. However, if you can always keep the big picture in mind, the work you do for your client will be more cohesive, flexible, and overall just plain better.
Do you have any related tricks that you use to ensure your work for your clients is cohesive?