Research in any area of design is essential, none more so than logo design. Research enables you to fully understand the problem at hand, which in turn lets you design a solution that can be presented with confidence, armed with the knowledge you need to back up your decisions.
A well-researched project is one that's very likely to be agreed by the client quickly (if not first time) and one that's likely to succeed in the real world. In comparison, a poorly researched project is likely to be rejected because the designer has failed to understand the problems faced.
You can't just guess the logo that a client requires. Research is your opportunity to discover what you need to design, why you need to design it, and how it will be used. It also makes it easier to discover a solution, as the knowledge learned should inevitably steer the direction of the design.
There's no such thing as having too much information, especially if you're designing a logo for a product or service you're not familiar with. You need to ask questions, but don't simply rely on what the client tells you – be prepared to dig deeper, reading industry blogs and information to gain a true understanding of the product and service.
But what topics should you research? Here are five key questions and areas to focus preliminary research on before designing a logo.
01. Why does the company need a new logo?
Before designing the logo it's essential you understand the real reason you're designing the logo. If it's a new company the answer to this question is self-evident. But if the logo is a redesign, this is a whole different story.
If the company is young it may have designed the logo in-house or had it designed on the cheap and now it simply needs a refresh. A more established business will, however, redesign its identity to signify change.
Change can come in many forms: new ownership, new management, new product or service, or a new ethos. Be it a merger, a change to the way things are done, or a new brand statement, ensure you understand all you can about the current situation and the goals of the business moving forward. This will decide if you need to simply evolve the current design, or take it in a whole different direction altogether.
02. What does the company do?
It's might sound obvious, but you need to know what the company does and why. Find out the history of the company, the products or services it offers, and the problem(s) it solves.
Look to understand the company's values. What message is the client trying to communicate with its target audience, and how does it want customers to feel when they engage with the brand? This will often heavily influence the attitude of the design.
03. Who is the target audience?
You must know the audience the business will be targeting so that you can design a logo that will attract them.
Some companies will be able to describe their exact audience, while some smaller companies will not be sure, or may ask to target everyone. In these cases, ask the client to describe its ideal customer.
Understand the demographics of the audience: their age, gender, location, income level, lifestyle and behaviour. Understand their needs and the problems they are experiencing to require the products or services of the company you're designing for.
04. What are the company's long-term goals?
A logo should stand the test of time, so expect the logo you're designing to still be in use in five to 10 years' time. For that reason you must understand not only where the company is today, but what its long-term goals and ambitions are.
For example, if a company currently offers only one service, but plans to extend its offering at a later date, it's essential you are aware of this so that you can factor this into your design.
A valuable exercise is to ask the client to describe where it sees itself in five years' time. This will allow you to get a realistic picture of it foreseeable plans and long-term ambitions.
05. Who is the competition?
Knowing about the competition is valuable, as you can learn what identities the audience will already be familiar with in the sector. This information will also ensure you avoid unintentionally mimicking an already known brand.
Pinpointing competitors isn't always an easy task. Sometimes the client will tell you who it believes it's in competition with, but its own assessment may be way off. Combine the information it provides with your own research. Look at the identities of direct competitors (those that offer the same product or service to the same audience) as well as indirect (those that offer a similar product or service).
Your goal is to design a logo that separates the company from its competition rather than to replicate an existing design. It's a valuable exercise to keep a visual record of both the competitor's logos and identities to reference your designs against at a later date.
Research is a powerful tool, which will make you a better designer and a more knowledgeable person.