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Outer Level Logo Design

Logo.pngI thoroughly enjoy logo design work, so when MakaluMedia clients talk about their experience in the logo design process I'm always interested. Just yesterday, Jon Trainer of Outer Level, posted a detailed article describing his experiences of collaborating on a logo design with me. Jon develops applications, including the game Bullfrog and the utility License Keeper for Mac OS as well as software development consulting.

I thought it would be interesting to quote some of Jon's post here and provide my own thoughts.

Keywords and Goals:

Thankfully, this is where Mike comes in. Something I didn’t think about prior to hiring Mike, but would recommend to anyone looking for a graphic designer, is that you look for someone who can “consult” with you on your image. Instead of just asking what I wanted my logo to look like, Mike sent a short list of questions to solidify his feel for my tastes, personality, and desired company image.

One thing I've found helpful is to describe goals you're shooting for when designing a logo. What kinds of feelings should it evoke in a viewer? Should it convey strength, warmth, honesty? While these might seem to be nebulous words, I think setting goals in words helps clients and myself get focus before the sketch process even begins.

Dead End Ideas:

A little over a week later, Mike sent me two full pages of pencil sketches incorporating my descriptors and his own feelings from the Outer Level name. outerlevel-sketch-01.jpgSome of his ideas reflected ones I have had in mind for years — probably the more obvious and common images that Outer Level brings to mind. These are precisely the ones I didn’t want. I was looking to avoid the common and the obvious. Also in the sketches were some ideas that immediately captured my imagination.

Lately I've found it good to go down the 'obvious' paths to prove that the idea either has some potential — or that it's a complete dead end.

Leaving 'dead end' ideas right in my sketches, while clearly explaining why they are dead ends to my clients helps cleanse the dead end idea out of the system, allowing me to try other areas of exploration and 'let go" of the dead end idea.

There is of course, a risk a client will like a dead end idea. However, because I always provide comprehensive explanations with my sketches, I've found clients trust my judgement when I call out a dead end.

Client Collaboration

There were many bits in these sketches that I really liked. So I sent back my comments along with my own sketches because I tend to think better in pictures than in words.


When Jon sent me his sketches I was very excited to see him getting into the process so deeply! I'm a proponent of visual thinking, so seeing my sketches encourage a client to sketch was wonderful to see.


To this point, the process had been quite fun, though challenging. I had no idea what was in store now that it was time for color. I envisioned blue, red, and even green as potential main colors and wasn’t surprised that I wasn’t alone in this train of thought.

Color is maybe the toughest part of the logo process in my opinion. Colors carry have emotional impact, which is why I like to leave color to the end of the process — this helps void choosing a logo based on the color rather than a great concept.

Unfortunately, once I saw these colors applied to the logo design they didn’t project the feel I was looking for. But, I really liked the warm red-orange sunrise-like background Mike had incorporated. So I searched out some photos of planets, nebulas, etc. and sent them to Mike as a sample of colors that appeared in space. Maybe, these would help change the feel of the logo.

As it turns out, these “space colors” lead us in the right direction.


It's rare to nail down final color selections on the first round because color is so complex. This is why it's so important to collaborate with clients. In this case, Jon sent some reference to give me an idea of his tastes, from which I was able to draw out some new options.

Logo.pngThe entire process really is a back and forth; client feedback and my expertise, combined to arrive at a final logomark that's attractive, practical and pleases both the client and designer.

What intrigues me is how fun this process can be, particularly for clients. All of the clients who have collaborated in their own logo process have commented on how much they enjoyed it. Knowing clients get a logo they love and a process that's fun makes for a very satisfying experience for everyone.

If you need of a logo and are intrigued by this design process, drop me a line.

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Reader Comments (4)

Hi Mike,Great article! Actually I�m in a process of designing a logo and having some difficulties, because the concept behind it seems rather complex to me: "urban planning". *Sigh!* :)Can you say what questions you generally ask your client, besides goals, emotional response, etc.?Again. Great article.

Best regards,B.
January 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBruno Monteiro
Bruno, the questions I normally ask are:

+ Describe the company name (how did you arrive at it?)+ Describe your firm's primary business+ Provide descriptive keywords you want the company to project to customers+ Provide company logos you admire+ List any colors you like/dislike

I try and keep the questions very general so clients are not too confined by them. This helps the answers become essay questions rather than yes/no answers (better for me).
January 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde
Hi MikeGreat stuff. Thanks again.Your design and sketchtoon postings always motivate me to do more creative work and make better use of my right brain.Thanks a lot.

Regards from Switzerland,Rolf
January 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRolf Gloor
Nice work! I have been out of touch with design. For some reason it seems harder and harder to switch back and forth between programmer and designer. Hopefully it is just because this last project has dragged on for so long that all the fun has been sucked out of programming so for the moment I am lacking inspiration.

Thanks to your post I now have an urgent feeling like I need to work on a logo or web site layout.
January 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCollin

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