Method

Below I have out­lined my process for design­ing iden­ti­ties for Month­ly Brand’s clients. It should be not­ed that this an abridged and altered method of com­plet­ing brand­ing projects as these are just fic­tion­al clients, and this is just a blog. I have worked with many real clients before, and although there is some­thing to be said about being a pro­fes­sion­al graph­ic design­er and the rela­tion­ships one main­tains with their clients, that is not the focus of this exer­cise. This method will be a guide­line for com­plet­ing mean­ing­ful and stim­u­lat­ing iden­ti­ties that is out­lined in the Mis­sion of Month­ly Brand.

Client Intro­duc­tion
1–3 Days

• Choose the Client: a prod­uct, ser­vice, place, busi­ness, large, small, unbe­liev­able or excru­ci­at­ing­ly real—anything that excites me. The goal is to choose some­thing I have nev­er done, or some­thing that I have already done, but would like to do bet­ter. I am open to the pos­si­bil­i­ty of re-envi­sion­ing brand­ing that is already estab­lished, but rebrand­ing is cer­tain­ly advanced graph­ic design.

• Invent a Name or Title for the Client: because this exer­cise is whol­ly invent­ed, there is noth­ing wrong with con­sid­er­ing the name because of a unique design idea before com­mit­ting to the name, how­ev­er, this could breed prob­lems in the process down the line if the design idea does not pro­duce the effect envi­sioned. The goal is to estab­lish a name ear­ly on that is unique and inter­est­ing, but should not slow down the process of the real meat and pota­toes of the project: the design­ing. I am open to chang­ing the client name in the mid­dle of the process if the designs take me down a path that is more excit­ing than the orig­i­nal idea. I believe this hap­pens in the indus­try, albeit rarely.

• Give it a Lit­tle Char­ac­ter: 5 words to describe the com­pa­ny or client should be enough to run with a begin­ning design. If a client can com­pose the ambi­tions and pres­ence of their busi­ness, this will be the germ from which an iden­ti­ty grows. The goal is to choose con­cise, hon­est, and hope­ful­ly pithy words that cap­ture the client.

• Deter­mine the Tar­get: it is the crux of any busi­ness to under­stand their tar­get and so it should not be any dif­fer­ent in a sim­u­la­tion. Tar­gets can some­times ruin good look­ing design for me, but it is the way of the world. It’s a good thing this is a fic­ti­tious exer­cise and I can choose the tar­get. The goal is to aim for unique clien­tele or stretch my com­fort zone of intend­ed view­ers. I real­ize that I am a tar­get for many busi­ness­es in the world, so using that as a basis is good, but in the spir­it of becom­ing a more sharp design­er, aim­ing for high­er class, more expen­sive, and more unique tar­gets will like­ly be the case.

Research
3–5 Days


• Learn a Quick Digest of the Mar­ket:
research­ing brands that are in com­pe­ti­tion can often take weeks to pro­duce a more fine­ly tar­get­ed iden­ti­ty. In the case of Month­ly Brand, we have 1 month to com­plete a full iden­ti­ty, so the research must be quick. The goal is to see some­thing that is relat­ed to the client’s com­pe­ti­tion or the past meth­ods of brand­ing in the indus­try that can help make design deci­sions to either dis­tin­guish the client, or even per­haps be inspired by a non­pareil design found in the field. I am open to, and will most like­ly great­ly enjoy, con­tin­u­ing digest­ing the mar­ket through­out the month as time per­mits.

• Build Inspi­ra­tion Palettes:
though this may often be sim­ply the col­lect­ed posts of imagery and thoughts dur­ing the peri­od of research, it is also help­ful to have visu­als and stim­u­lat­ing mate­ri­als to pro­vide the foun­da­tion for where to begin sketch­ing. The goal is to gath­er these visu­als to cull ideas about the prop­er­ties of how they inter­act and what they con­jure to me as a view­er and artist. It is worth not­ing that a sin­gle col­lec­tion of visu­als is also nice to have as a record after the com­ple­tion of a project.

Design
1 Week

• Draw: noth­ing beats it when churn­ing out ideas onto paper. Though this is num­ber 7 of this method, it invari­ably hap­pens all through­out. But it should remain as a pri­or­i­ty at the begin­ning of design because it is essen­tial to elim­i­nat­ing ideas that are con­jured but not envi­sioned. When they are made visu­al, the more crit­i­cal side of one’s brain can deter­mine if they are wor­thy of explor­ing. Fur­ther, ideas spring from visu­als that one cre­ates, and so a max­i­mum amount of draw­ing should be the goal. “Draw, Anto­nio; draw, Anto­nio; draw and don’t waste time”

• Com­pile and Com­pose: when the draw­ings lend to paths of the most inter­est­ing con­cepts, it is time to gath­er what is need­ed to make the sketch­es into visu­als. Scan­ning, shop­ping, scour­ing of type sam­ples, search­ing for imagery, and then putting them togeth­er using dig­i­tal or ana­logue tools or process­es. This is the ulti­mate prac­tice of both skill and intu­ition that defines a design­er. The goal is to be as cre­ative and thought­ful as pos­si­ble about com­bin­ing, sub­tract­ing, and arrang­ing of imagery, type and col­or. I could write books about the process of com­pil­ing and com­pos­ing, but it’s more fun to just do it and let the waves wash over you.

Review
1 Week

• Cre­ate Comps and Crit: as first drafts of graph­ic con­cepts, you have to draw the dead­line some­where and present them unclut­tered and as hemmed as pos­si­ble for a crit­i­cal review. Though I am the only one on the project, the client, the design­er, the tar­get and the ulti­mate user, review might seem hard. I can be a nasty crit­ic though, so if I am the only one who shows up I think I’ll be okay. As men­tioned in the intro, there are no real clients here, so com­pli­ca­tions that can and cer­tain­ly do often crop up when cre­at­ed con­cepts first meet the eyes of a client won’t be present. The goal here is not to learn how to bet­ter inter­act or com­pro­mise with busi­ness rep­re­sen­ta­tives (though that is a wor­thy notion for anoth­er blog), it is to bet­ter refine my cre­ative acu­ity through hon­est crit­i­cism. I am, of course, open to any cri­tique as this is an open site but I mod­est­ly ask for com­ments that you believe are help­ful in the pro­duc­tion of the con­cepts.

• Choose a Route and Refine: after I’ve sat with the designs for a bit, it’s time to just go with one. Again, this process can some­times be the longest in a real sce­nario with a real client, but the focus for Month­ly Brand is mak­ing inter­est­ing and mean­ing­ful visu­als, not per­fect­ly recre­at­ing the rela­tion­ship and review process between design­er and client. The goal here is to choose a con­cept that I believe to be the strongest and then to pol­ish it up for pre­sen­ta­tion.

Brand­ing
1 Week (or What­ev­er is Left)

• Choose Col­lat­er­al, Pack­ag­ing, or Periph­er­al Mate­ri­als: ideas for apply­ing the iden­ti­ty will most­ly like­ly be con­jured along the way, but choos­ing a uti­liza­tion of the brand mark should be made in order to see the client as more than just a logo. The goal here is to expand on the iden­ti­ty of the refined visu­al that best rep­re­sents them. The sub goal is to engage in projects in which I have lit­tle expe­ri­ence in order to bol­ster my skills and my port­fo­lio. The chal­lenge will be com­plet­ing some­thing mean­ing­ful and attrac­tive in very lit­tle time, tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion the begin­ning of a new month.

• Craft and Record Final Prod­ucts:
often I can see col­lat­er­al projects being con­sid­ered in the design process already, but if not, this is the time for com­pos­ing let­ter­heads, cre­at­ing pack­ag­ing, print­ing menus, or even mock­ing out­door sig­nage with Pho­to­shop. Research­ing for process­es here could be a chal­lenge; as is often the case, and will be more­so in Month­ly Brand as the projects will often include process­es I have not done or am novice at, I fore­see there being a fast learn­ing curve for pro­duc­tion. The goal here is to extend the brand and pro­vide a sug­ges­tion how the brand mark may man­i­fest in the mate­ri­als them­selves or those that the client would use for pro­mo­tion­al pur­pos­es.

Of course what’s left is to record the whole of what’s been cre­at­ed and call it com­plete. That is some­times the most dif­fi­cult part of the process, but it must be done, as there is anoth­er month­ly brand com­ing right up.