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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
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.