Pretend your designer is a chef
So you’ve hired a designer to create a new logo for your business or non-profit. Great! If they’re a professional, they will at some point be asking for your feedback on their logo concepts. But what is a “logo concept” and how exactly do you evaluate them? In my experience as a designer, this step trips up a lot of clients, because there’s a lot of room for miscommunication—especially when it comes to something as personal and important as a logo.
What is a logo concept?
I like to think of logo concepts as the ancestors of a final logo. In other words, a finished logo is likely the grandchild or great grandchild of one or more of the original logo concepts.
That’s important to keep in mind when evaluating. Concept designs aren't potential logos that you tweak a little and then throw some color on. They're ideas with many iterations ahead of them. I tell my clients that it’s their job to pick the logo concept that they think has the best chance of eventually producing the right logo for their business by the end of the process.
You may think it’s easy to judge a logo, especially in this age of social media reveals, when every major company’s redesigned logo gets scrutinized (and often panned) by thousands as soon as it’s publicly released. But snap judgements are not particularly helpful to designers, especially at the conceptual stage of design. Nor are they useful for actually evaluating a design’s strengths and weaknesses.
So how do you communicate your thoughts and feelings about your logo designer’s work in a productive way? How do you answer the question that’s at the heart of logo design: does this effectively represent me and my brand?
My suggestion is to pretend your designer is a chef. Everyone eats, and everyone has preferences about their food, so critiquing a meal is a pretty universal feeling. If you give feedback to your designer about their logo concepts in the same way you would give feedback to the cook, you might just become their new favorite client.
Here are three key things to do:
1. Say something more constructive than “I don’t like it.”
A family member has invited you over for dinner, saying that they want to try out a new recipe. They ask for your honest feedback so they can make it better next time. You try it, and it’s just not your style, but all you say is “I don’t like it.” Will that help them make it better next time?
Probably not. They don’t know a single thing about what you didn’t like. Was it the texture? Did it need more salt? Was it too spicy? Did the side dish not complement the main course? Maybe the meal was actually fine but you just didn’t like the atmosphere! Any number of factors could be at play.
When giving feedback to your designer, think about the specifics of what you like and dislike, and share it all! There’s not a designer out there who would prefer less feedback rather than more. Give your designer something more to go on than “I don’t like it.”
2. Avoid subjective words.
You’re hanging out with a friend and you ask them if they have any snacks. They offer you a bag of chips, but it’s really not what you’re in the mood for, so you ask for something “tastier.” Will that help them select something you’re more in the mood for?
Again, probably not—tastiness is incredibly subjective. Did you want something sweeter? Or something that isn’t so dry? Were you hoping for some fresh fruit? Maybe chips were actually very close to what you wanted, but you just happen to prefer pretzels! Unless your friend already knows your tastes really well, asking for something “tasty” might not get you any closer to munching on the perfect snack.
In the world of logos, designers can’t do much if you tell them to “make it more dynamic,” “make it more modern,” or “make it pop.” These phrases and other subjective terms can have completely different meanings to different people. Think about it—what does it really mean for something to look “modern”? Make sure you choose your words carefully, and use specific language that can’t be interpreted in lots of different ways. Tell your designer what positive or negative feeling each logo concept is giving you, and try to get specific about what’s making you feel that way and how they might improve the design in the next round.
3. Don’t sweat the details (yet).
You’re at a restaurant and you order a steak for dinner. But the waiter delivers a chicken breast, and what’s more, the broccoli on the side looks completely overcooked. What’s the first thing you say to the server: “the broccoli is overcooked,” or “I ordered a steak”?
Hopefully you tell them that they got the order wrong. If you send back the dish to get fresh broccoli, and then tell the server that you actually ordered a steak, you’ll be eating a lot later than if you had ignored the inedible broccoli and prioritized the larger issue.
At the conceptual stage of logo design, your designer does not care if you think the letters are too tightly spaced or the icon is too thick. As a perfectionist myself, I understand how hard it can be to ignore things like that, but tiny visual tweaks are the last step in logo design. Focus instead on the basic idea of each logo concept. Consider their overall composition, and look at their structure, balance, contrast, and depth. Tell your designer about any issues in these areas, because they need to be addressed before anything else.
Logos can be tricky business, but judging them doesn’t have to be. No matter what you have to say about your designer’s work, if you follow these three rules, you can be sure that the next iteration they create will be a big improvement.
Good luck with your logo!