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Learning: 8 Months in Darkness

Learning: 8 Months in Darkness

Brent Wood
March 14, 2018
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This logo design represents nearly 600 hours of work. In July of 2017, I was commissioned by my good friend to design a logo for his new brewery and the project came to completion in March of 2018. I had only been working as a full time graphic designer for one month and, despite my nearly 10 years of design experience, was relatively confident in accepting the project. The objective was to design a modern, clean, mature logo mark with a complimentary typeface.

My client/friend did not have any preference in color, so I chose to start with the basic black, white, and red to start the ball rolling. I received a mood board and was able to draw a lot of inspiration from the images he provided me with. The mood board was heavily influenced by the works of Saul Bass and the styles from the Bauhaus period. My client also had very specific preferences on what he did NOT want included in the design due to the name of the brand and his concern with how people might interpret the imagery pair with the name.

Once I had a page of concepts sketched out, I took those concepts into Adobe Illustrator where I refined them. That is usually how it works, but from time to time, I will skip the sketching step and work directly in illustrator from inspiration. In this case, my designs did not meet the expectations of my client either way. It was very difficult after a period of time to understand where I was going wrong with the concept work.

Ultimately, the final logo was developed from very basic shapes - A circle and a square. It took much effort and determination to reach the expectations of my client and I spent many nights sifting through the darkness trying to find a reason to keep working on the project.

I used Adobe illustrator and Adobe photoshop to help me achieve my design goals. I always start from a pencil sketch on paper. Based on the research and initial guidance from the client, I am able to render sketches that help me see the many solutions to the design problem. If I feel I have a strong concept, I will create multiple versions based off of that concept and take the best ones into adobe illustrator to develop them further. Once I am designing in illustrator, I can take anywhere from 2-4 hours to develop a good concept.

I developed over 20 concepts before the client chose one to develop further. 20 concepts is an insane amount, by the way. Once I had the concept for the mark, it only took a couple of days to get it to where it is now. My client offered his advice (which is not a good thing for a client to do) and we were able to agree on the final logo mark. The final step was to pair the mark with a complimentary typeface.

I tried every typeface I could find, I drew letters by hand, I used software to design a typeface that I thought would work, and none of the options presented to my client were satisfactory. Eventually, I was able to get my client to do some soul searching because we were spinning our wheels trying to find a typeface, and the logo came to be what it is today.

My friend was very happy in the end. The response was positive, so I take it as a positive experience even though there were many negative thoughts along the way that tried to creep in and sabotage the project. I have had a very positive response as I have shared the logo work with other friends and potential clients.

This entire project was a learning experience since I was a new business owner myself. I learned more about myself and my ability to handle stress that possibly ever before, because I was completely self sustained during my commitment to this project.

I learned that knowing how to design is not enough when you are designing for a business. You need to know business in order to be considerate of all of your clients needs. Clients don't need good looking logos as much as they need a logo that is functional in their market and communicates only what needs to be communicated. I thought I had enough experience, and that we were good enough friends, that there wouldn't be any problems getting the project done and done quickly. I was so wrong. I really didn't know as much as I thought I did and as I was 6 months into the project, I was desperate, agitated, frustrated, and wanted to give up and say, screw this!

I am glad I stayed calm, ate ramen instead of pizza, and continued with determination to learn more and improve as a designer. It took 7 months longer than I thought it would, I went into debt for the project, and I suffered many sleepless nights agonizing over why I wasn't able to "JUST DO IT". I look back and think of all of the things I learned and know that without a reason to learn, I may never have done it. I might still be trying to lean on my artistic ability to get me by. I know now that there is a long road of learning ahead of me and the best time to start is now.

I want all of the designers who are reading this to know that we are part of something bigger that ourselves. If you don't value your work, no one else will. It is so important to have a creative process that you can use to break down each stage of the design process. This will help you manage your time better and will allow you to be able to justify the price you put on the invoice to your client. My advice is to get a business coach or get an internship somewhere that you can develop an understanding of the vocabulary used in the industry and how to interact properly with your clients, no matter their budget. Your confidence will rise and so will your success.

Brent Wood

Graphic designer and illustrator available for commissions. Contact me with any questions about my services.

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