I work with several great designers to provide branding for clients. (Read my How to Hire a Graphic Designer post.) I’ve had a LOT of conversations with prospective clients about what goes into creating a logo and how there’s actually quite a bit of “homework” that has to happen before I can turn to one of those great designers to develop a logo. A great logo and visual brand are an intrinsic part of a business’ visual identity and recognition. But creating a great logo, one that is attractive, memorable, and visually relevant to the company’s main reason for being isn’t necessarily easy! And core messaging plays a crucial role in informing what that logo and visual identity should actually look like. I spoke with Molly Fabiano, brand designer with MavroCreative — a frequent collaborative partner of mine — so I could share the inside scoop on what goes into creating a great logo and brand design (including a well-branded website) for a business.

Meet Molly Fabiano, Brand & Graphic Designer

Molly Fabiano, Creative Director with MavroCreative talks about logo and brand design with Deb Goeschel of Message Artist

Molly has been honing her graphic and web design skills for almost 15 years, focusing the last 6 years on brand design. In her career, she’s designed for non-profits, for-profits, and for fun. She believes design should be effective first and beautiful second, but that the best designs are both.

She does feel strongly that the best designed projects come out of having a good relationship with the client with a whole lot of conversation. “To be a good brand designer, you must get to know the client — and their business — really well,” she states. This must be partly why I love Molly’s work; it’s based on my same premise of diving deep and getting to know all the why’s behind a client’s business in order to create effective brand messaging.

The conversation Molly and I had covered not only the basics of brand design, but also why she loves it. And I’m sharing this with you because it can help inform your choice when it comes to hiring a brand designer for your own business. Understanding the perspective of the designer, what informs them, and how they approach a branding project are important to know so you can be sure it aligns with your goals and vision.

Q. What do you love about brand design?

For me, it’s “playing.” I’m a creative so I love the fact that my job allows me to meet and work with so many different clients. It’s NEVER the same old thing! We get to know our branding clients really well because we have to. In order to truly address the client’s needs and create and develop a visual identity that is both beautiful and effective, we need to spend time understanding the client and the business.

I tend to be meticulous designer. When I design and then present brand concepts to the client, it’s never “willy nilly” and just because it looks pretty. I strive to backup my design choices with thoughtful reasoning. I let the client know why I did this or chose that, why this color palette versus another, why that font and not the other. The narrative behind the design choices is important.

Q. What are the top questions brand-seeking clients have for you?

I think it’s probably about the process. We’ve [MavroCreative] gotten quite transparent about our process and it’s helped immensely. We make sure our established process and procedures are immediately visible to the client, so they know what to expect. Almost every client wants to know ‘how long is it going to take?’ … and many times, clients are surprised at what it does take. Many initially have unrealistic expectations and it’s our job to help them understand the process and what goes into creating a logo and visual brand the right way.

Basically, the logo design process has four key steps or phases:

1) In-depth Intake Questionnaire

The client takes some time and answers all the questions, sends it back, and then we have a follow up meeting to further clarify goals and the client’s vision for their brand.

(Note from Deb: This is similar to the brand messaging intake that Message Artist does … there’s a lot of overlap! I love working with designers on branding because between the two, we cover all the bases for the client and can create a great logo/visual brand and messaging and content that resonates with their customers.)

2) Initial Logo Concepts

I then will create three initial concepts to present so that the client has some choices. It’s our policy to present these choices because it helps the client react and formulate opinions. They might like a piece of a logo, but not the entire thing. Or the colors of one concept, but not the design. But providing something the client can react to is key.

3) Client Feedback

The client then provides the needed feedback on those initial design concepts, letting us know what they love, hate, etc. With that info, I can go back and incorporate the feedback and hopefully provide a finished logo. Sometimes it requires a little additional tweaking, but most of the time, we can nail it after we get the feedback.

4) Final Logo & Delivery

Once the design is approved, we then make sure to deliver not only the logo in multiple formats — because the logo must be usable in multiple ways, both print and digital — we also provide what’s called a brand board that identifies the fonts and colors to be used wherever the brand is represented. (Example below.)

Branding Board example from MavroCreative.

Q. What are the top pitfalls or problems you encounter with new branding clients?

It’s absolutely not seeing the value and importance of having good brand development. A lot of people assume they don’t need to go through the whole process — they think a Facebook presence is enough, or they try to do it themselves, or they have a brand but it’s evolving and they’re not consistent with their imagery and messaging across all platforms and spaces.

For example, we had a real estate agency come to us that didn’t have an established brand. They lost a million dollar account because the prospective client couldn’t find a consistent brand or online presence. It made the prospect frustrated and mistrustful of the real estate agent, so they went to someone else.

People have to understand … even if the brand doesn’t feel like your personality, it’s important to remember that it doesn’t need to. The brand is for other people — it’s for the target customers. The brand represents the business, not the owner of the business. The brand must resonate with clients and customers first. Of course, the owner has to love the brand, but it really is more about the customer. For example, the owner may hate the color blue, but if my research discovers that blue is the best color to appeal to the brand’s customers, it makes sense to use the color blue.

Q. How does branding effect website design?

It effects everything! My favorite websites to work on are those in which we get to work on their branding first. Because we put a lot of time in getting to know the client, what they want to achieve, and what the business objectives are, we have all the “nitty gritty” details we need going into the web project. It all flows from the brand process right into the site creation and development … and the results are usually far above what the client even expected they could be.

Q. What are the top pitfalls or problems you encounter with your website project clients?

Hands down, the hardest part is getting the content nailed down. Many, many people assume we can dive into design, set up the site, and create a home page before we have content and the answer to that assumption is NO.

It’s impossible to design or build first if you want messaging done correctly. So much has to happen before we can design and build a site. I think people push against that idea because it IS the hardest part for them. It’s their homework! Clients must do the work — or hire out — because it is the first step in the process. We know it can be overwhelming, which is why we love working with Message Artist! It’s so much better when we can deliver a resource to an overwhelmed client and say, “Don’t stress. Talk to Deb; she’ll help you.”

Q. What do you have to say about using the super cheap online or DIY solutions when it comes to branding?

As a brand designer, I have to answer with, ‘HA! Is there ever a time it’s ok?!’ But seriously, if it is, the next question is always, ‘when do you say fix it?’

Of course, the reality is, many people launch a business and just need to get out the door, so I do think doing something is better than doing nothing. You take the first step and get your business going. This approach means that you do what you can, learn, and when you are ready, you’ll have better knowledge about your business for when it’s time. Let’s face it, how many businesses shift and change focus between years 1, 3, and 5?! It might make sense to wait a few years before spending the money on a big branding project. You learn a LOT about your messaging, your customers, and your processes in those first few years.

The other option is to seek “in the middle” type solutions. For example, MavroCreative has an option for clients that lands between DIY and us designing the website. We offer two courses called BYOD (Be Your Own Web/Graphic Designer) and Donna walks the course client through the website creation steps and I walk them through logo and graphic design steps. It answers a big need for those who can’t afford to hire out yet, but they need help — it’s that middle ground solution.

Thank You, Molly!

I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation and hope the readers of this blog walk away with a better understanding of what goes into creating a great logo and visual brand.

If you’ve got branding questions, reach out and let’s chat.