Get Off the Logo Revision Merry-Go-Round

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To many designers, “revisions” can be a dirty word.

I think the reason for this is the fact that these three little syllables can have so many radically different meanings from project to project. It’s unpredictable. Revisions are normal, even expected in virtually every project. The trick is to be smart and proactive from the very beginning of each project in order to streamline and get the most out of the revision process. Because if you don’t properly plan, you can end up on a never-ending logo revision merry-go-round. I don’t know about you, but I just don’t have the stomach for that.

While it is rare to nail what the client is going for in round one, it’s gratifying to be able to get it right by round two or three. There are several things you can do to stack those odds in your favor from the very beginning.

Question Everything

The more relevant information you can start with, the closer you will get to hitting the mark.

Your first job is to get as close as possible to what your client is looking for in round one. The only way to do this is by asking the right questions to begin with.

Whenever I take on a new logo client, I have about 20 questions that I go through with them, each one designed to give me a clearer picture of what they will not only like stylistically, but what will actually work for their business.

I ask about their core demographic, colors they like, font styles they like, whether or not they want something purely typographic or if they would like to see some sort of mark. I also ask them to provide me with at least five existing logos that they really like. The more relevant information you can start with, the closer you will get to hitting the mark.

Put it in Writing

The second thing you can do to help keep revision rounds to a minimum is to specify how many rounds you include in your contract. I recommend keeping this number relatively low. I have experimented with this over the years, and I have arrived at three revision cycles as my “magic number.” If this sounds like a harsh rule to impose upon your clients, consider the following two scenarios:

  • Scenario 1 – No Limits: Playing fast and loose your contract places no limits on revisions cycles. In fact, you advertise “unlimited revisions!” You deliver your first round to your client. They aren’t thrilled, and you ask them what they don’t like specifically. There is no sense of urgency, so they respond with the dreaded “We’ll know it when we see it.” So you start from scratch, deliver round two, three, four, and on and on.

    If there is no motivation for your client to give you constructive feedback, they generally won’t give it. Not because they are evil, but because they are busy with other things. And they know you will keep spinning your wheels until you finally come up with something they like. The sad fact is that, without proper feedback, you may never get there.

  • Scenario 2 – Three Revisions Limit: Keeping it tight you deliver the same first round to your client, and they are similarly dissatisfied. But since you have specified three included revision cycles, in their mind the meter is running. Now there is built-in motivation for them to think about what it is they aren’t happy with and communicate that to you.

    Their thoughtful feedback will get you closer and closer to the end result, hopefully before they have exhausted all of the included cycles. It’s fairly straightforward: your client will burn extra calories collaborating with you if he is afraid that he might have to pay extra otherwise.

Goals For Each Cycle

Initial Concepts

For my first round of logo designs, I like to deliver around three unique concepts in black and white. I choose not to introduce color yet, because I don’t want my client responding to the color, but rather to the form itself.

My goal for the first round is for my client to respond well to one of the concepts. They may not be 100% happy with it, but to have one agreed upon rough concept is an excellent place to be when going into revisions. If this is the case, you will want to ask some probing questions to figure out specifically what they do and don’t like about the design, and use that information to move on to your first revision cycle.

If your client is not happy with any of the concepts, that’s okay too. I find that even when a client says they don’t like any of the choices, if you take each concept one by one, and ask specific questions about what they do and don’t like about them, one of the concepts might be somewhat salvageable. You will also get some valuable insights into how to tweak them, and work the design more to your client’s taste.

It always helps to go into the next round building upon what you have already done, rather than to start over from scratch.

Revision Cycles 1-2

Whether you are fine tuning a single concept, or going back to the drawing board to some extent, you should be using your client’s feedback to close in on the final logo. I still like to work in black and white at this point, because until the form is perfect and signed off on, introducing color is somewhat premature. You may go through several cycles of refining, followed by delivery and feedback. Don’t let your client skip giving you feedback, as it’s essential to the process.

Revision Cycle 3

Ideally, I like to go into it the third revision cycle with one agreed upon black and white logo design. Now all that is left is to design a color palette to go with it. I don’t go into this blindly, as I have already asked my client what colors they like and don’t like.

I also factor in their demographics in order to come up with a color scheme that is not only visually appealing, but appropriate to their audience as well. At this stage, I like to show three to five unique color schemes. Hopefully one of them is a winner, but you may have to whip up another batch, depending on your client’s feedback.

Don’t be scared of revisions. Don’t take them personally, as they are a normal step in the logo design process. The trick is to get to the perfect end product as efficiently as possible.

With good communication and agreed upon guidelines, you can minimize the number of revisions, and consequently the time spent on zeroing in on the design that both you and your client are happy with.

Do you have any tips for how you handle logo revisions? Be sure to leave them in the comment section below.

Photo credit: Some rights reserved by sirylok.

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