An old friend of mine called me a few months ago and asked me to give him an estimated cost to design a logo for his companies new business. We worked together in the past and I've always liked helping him out but it was time that we moved beyond our old ways of doing business (like paying for my services in beer) so we formalized our business arrangement. Now when it came to working together he'd treat me like a hired consultant and I'd treat him like any of my other clients. When it came time for him to review my estimate he felt it was too expensive and included a few things that his business really didn't need. Needless to say he decided to take a less expensive route.
Fast forward to a few days ago when the same friend called me for some help. He was less than trilled with the logo work he was getting and didn't know how to move ahead. He was asking me for advice on design ideas, tag lines, colors, typefaces and everything else in regards to launching this new image for his business. I was more than happy to review the work and give him some feedback to help him out.
My point to all of this is that many business owners (or those managing the identity work) typically don't know what to ask themselves before they enter this (corporate identity) design process. There is usually no design or communication strategy because many business owners just think they need a logo and everything will fall into place. But once they get into the process it reveals a host of other issues and opportunities that they need to plan for to stay on strategy, to save time and money over the long run.
So this entry is a (short and incomplete) list of some very basic questions someone should consider before they hire someone for a logo or identity assignment.
1) What are the communication and design objectives?
As good starting point is to simply document the objectives on paper so the designer has something concrete to respond to. This should help open a dialouge and set some basic expectations around the assignment. This can be an informal document but some of the language and ideas may find their way into a formal RFP or other agreement.
2) Do I need to hire a pair of hands to execute an idea or do I need a creative partner to help guide my business (or brand) into new territory?
Sometimes an identity project is more of a philosophical and exploratory process than just a graphic exercise. Sometimes it's as simple as just cleaning up or streamlining an existing logo. In either case a change is happening because there's a philosophical shift within the company. It's important to hire someone who has a proven process that can accommodate this transition for your business.
3) What other problems (and opportunities) will a new identity create?
Depending where you are at in your business a new identity should mean more than just "swapping out" the old with the new. Think beyond the logo itself and begin to map out how your business will transition to the new identity. Your designer can help in this process with a design audit and a communications strategy recommendation.
4) How does designer A work versus designer B?
A designers portfolio doesn't tell you everything you need to know about how they work. Ask designers about their approach and process when it comes to identity work. Try to get an understanding of how they really work, how they problem solve and if that is a good fit for what you are trying to accomplish.
5) What types of asset will be provided to me?
This is more of a technical point but in your agreement make sure that you spell out exactly what your designer will be suppling you with at completion of this project. You'll probably need at least one 4 color process vector file for print materials and one screen resolution file for digital communications.