My Complete Client Brand Design Process (Step by Step)
BY BIG CAT CREATIVE
As you probably already know, I’m a Brand and Web designer. What you probably don’t know is that I’m an organisation geek and I love having processes put in place.
When you’re running a business, putting processes in place is essential. Especially a design business, where you’re always juggling at least a few jobs at once.
I believe in having processes for everything, but today I’m sharing with you my brand design process, step by step. This will be helpful to you if you’re working on client work, or even if you’re DIYing your own brand. These steps will take you all the way from brain to brand!
Side note: I use Asana to keep track of all my projects, and all steps indicated are listed in Asana as tasks. If there’s a strict time frame, I will assign my clients to specific tasks and set a due date. This really helps get the project moving. Asana is an awesome, free project management tool.
So here it is...
My complete CLIENT brand design process step by step:
1 | TARGET AUDIENCE QUESTIONNAIRE
Firstly, we need to figure out the target audience. Defining the target audience is so important because we need to design strategically to attract them. I collect all of this information via a questionnaire form I have set up for clients.
I ask my clients to envision a single ideal person, rather than a group of people, and answer the questions talking specifically about this imaginary person. This is often easier than thinking of a whole audience.
I ask questions like:
- Envision your ideal customer. What is their age and gender?
- What industry do they work in?
- What is their marital status?
- What are their hobbies and interests?
I ask a variety of questions like this to gauge who exactly they’re trying to target. Often, before filling out this questionnaire, the client has only a general idea of who they want to target. So by giving them this questionnaire, it’s not only clear to me who we’re targeting, but it clarifies it for them too.
If you’re designing a brand for yourself, make sure you take these steps to define your ideal audience. It’s easy to skip over this step when you’re branding yourself, but it will make the rest of the process much easier.
2 | DESIGN QUESTIONNAIRE
Once the client has worked through the target audience questionnaire, I give them another questionnaire centered around the actual design. What they’re envisioning, what they’re attracted to, what they want from their new brand.
This is such a helpful questionnaire, it makes sure you’re set up to create something that you know they’re going to like. I refer back to this constantly while i'm designing their brand.
I ask questions like:
- About your company:
- Business mission/goal/purpose?
- What emotions do you want your brand to exude?
- What colors are you drawn to, or not drawn to?
- Do you have a preference on typography?
As well as collecting design and business information here, I collect links to different brands that they love, competitors in their industry, brands that they dislike or anything else they want to show me.
If you’re creating your own brand, It’s important to ask yourself similar questions and compile some examples of what you like and dislike to refer back to throughout the process.
Once they have submitted this questionnaire, I read through it thoroughly and conduct some research. What are their competitors doing? What are the specific things they like? Dislike? What is their business mission and how are we going to show it?
I work through the questions and make sure I understand all of the answers. If I’m not clear on anything, I will contact the client and get them to explain further.
The more information = the easier the branding process.
I add all of the questionnaire answers into the specific task in Asana, so I can easily refer back to it often without having to look through my emails.
3 | PINTEREST BOARD AND MOOD BOARD
Before the questionnaires are filled out, I ask my clients to start a Pinterest inspiration board (this is optional, but everyone so far has been on board). Then in the questionnaires, there’s a section to add the URL to the Pinterest board so I can view it.
The Pinterest board is to get an even better idea of what the client is attracted to. I encourage them to Pin anything and everything they like, and then I will comb through it and take what I think will work and will align well with their brand.
From there, I create a mood board for their brand. A mood board is an arrangement of images, materials, colors and pieces of text that will project a particular style or concept. In this case, it will be based on the questionnaires, the Pinterest board and all of the creative research, and should be on the right track for the overall feel of the brand.
Starting by getting the mood of the brand right is a vital first step to a successful branding.
This is a crucial step that you don’t want to miss. Creating a mood board is like a safety net.
By now, you know where the style of the brand is heading, but you need to confirm that with the client before you jump straight into creating a logo. Chances are there will be a few things they want to tweak. Tweaking a few things on a mood board takes minutes, which is a lot less time than you would spend completely redoing the brand design if you’d missed the mood board step and gone down the wrong track.
If you’re creating the brand for yourself, definitely don’t miss this step either. You can constantly refer back to your mood board when you’re creating collateral for you brand and it makes the rest of the process a breeze.
I send this off to the client, and there may be a couple of revisions. Once the client has approved, I tick the task off in Asana and move on to the next step.
Related > How to Create Mood Boards in Illustrator
4 | COLOR PALETTE
While I’m creating the mood board, I’m also subtly crafting the color palette. I send color palette ideas (up to 3) to the client to choose from, based on the mood board. These rarely need to be revised as they are closely based on the mood board, which has already been refined and approved.
5 | LOGO CONCEPTS
Now I start creating concepts for the logo. I always begin on paper, sketching out my ideas and getting creative. I then take ideas from my sketch book and create presentable logos in Adobe Illustrator. I will provide my client with at least 3 unique designs to choose from. Most often I will do 3 main concepts and 2 extra minor variations of each concept, so 9 all together.
From here we will go through a few rounds of revisions. I ask the client to be really specific in their response.
I ask them questions like:
- What logo stands out to you the most?
- What specifically do you like about that logo?
- What specifically do you not like about the logo?
- What elements of other logos do you like and dislike?
Asking questions like these prompts the client to get specific and provide really useful feedback.
If the client is taking a long time to provide feedback, I create a task in Asana assigned to them with a due date to revise the most recent logos.
If you're creating the brand for yourself, this step can be tricky because giving feedback for your own brand is hard. I suggest sending your logos out to friends and family and ask them the questions like I would ask my client. Make sure you send them to people you know will give you honest feedback!
I usually do around 3 rounds of revisions to get the logo perfect for the client. Once the logo is perfect and the client is happy, I tick this off in Asana, and move on to creating all of the final elements for the brand.
6 | BRANDING STYLE BOARD + BRAND COLLATERAL
Now it all starts to come together. Because we did so much pre-work, creative research and really built the brand foundations from the ground up, this last design step (which seems like a big one) actually is probably the quickest.
If we keep referring back to the mood board, color palette and questionnaires, this step is easy and I often get very few revisions.
- Alternative Logos/Submarks
- Logos in a variety of color combinations
- Custom Brand Textures and Patterns
- Font Combinations
- Any extra brand collateral that the client asked for
I put this all together and present it to my client on one of my signature Branding Style Boards, and as always, revise until perfect!
The aim with the Branding Style Board is to encompass all of the design features into one document. So, if in the future your client needs to hire a different designer or company, the new designer should be able to view the Branding Style Board and know exactly what to do to keep the designs on brand and cohesive.
It’s a foolproof way of making sure your clients design is always perfect, especially if you aren’t around to help them.
If you’re designing your own brand, I strongly suggest creating a style board. This is the backbone of your brand design. You can always refer back to this to keep any of your collateral on brand - which is really important!
This is the last step of the design where it all comes together as a complete brand, so at this point, your client should be over the moon and extremely excited to use their new designs.
7 | TRANSFER FINAL FILES
Phew! We’re all done with the brand design. Now the last final hurdle is collecting all of the files to send to your client.
I create a Dropbox folder, and organise all of the files into that folder.
- All working files in .Ai format (usually just one large file with all documents)
- All logo variations in High Res Transparent .PNGs
- All logo variations in .EPS
- All files intended for print in .PDF
- Textures and Patterns in .JPG (also in the main working file as .AI)
- Branding Style Board in .JPG (also in the main working file as. AI)
- Moodboard in .JPG
Make sure you use different sub folders to keep it organised for the client.
I use Dropbox Plus to transfer the files, because it allows you to transfer unlimited amount of files to any email address. I share the main folder with the client's email address, from there, I edit the sharing settings so that the client is now the owner, and I can remove myself from the folder at any time.
I encourage the client to keep the files in Dropbox and to also save them to their computer or an external hard drive, so they have a back up.
I also let the client know that I won’t hold onto their files forever, so they need to take full responsibility for keeping them safe.
My aim is to give them everything they need so they don’t need to come back to me and ask for more files. Also so that in the future if they needed someone to design something for them, they could send them the working files without a problem.
8 | TESTIMONIAL
At this stage (when the client is still really excited) I ask for a testimonial, and referrals where possible. Don’t wait too long to ask, or you probably won’t get a reply (without nagging!). It’s not that the client is not wanting to do one, but you can imagine it isn’t their first priority, so ask them while it’s still fresh in their mind.
Currently I ask for testimonials via email, but I’m planning to set up a questionnaire that is a more in-depth look into their project. This way I’ll get a really detailed testimonial, and also hopefully some constructive feedback to implement. I think sometimes clients also just don’t know what to write or how to start a testimonial, so having prompted sections to write in would be helpful to them.
I plan to set this up soon and will write an in-depth Blog post on it. Watch this space!
My process has been refined and tweaked over time to be the best it can be, and to serve my clients in the best way possible. I hope you can take this process and use it for yourself, or for your clients, and that it works as well for you as it does for me.
Please let me know in the comments if you found this useful, and if you’re going to onboard this method. I’d love to hear how it works for you, or if you have any suggestions to make it even better - I’m all ears!
Thanks for reading!