Pulling back the curtain:

A backstage look at logo design.
5 min read
Pulling Back the Curtain on Logo Design

With most great productions, we’re probably so spellbound by the sparkle and excitement of the show that we forget about all the work going on behind the scenes. Well the same thing can happen with logo design. Though the process includes several stages of research, strategy, and creativity before you even have a sketch for a logo, most of us will only ever see the finished product.

Don’t get me wrong, that finished product can, and should be, an exciting “name in lights” moment. But behind all the razzle dazzle, there’s a hardworking crew backstage bringing that magic to life. So let’s take a peek behind the curtain of logo design and see some of the strategy behind the show.

Behind all the razzle dazzle, there’s a hardworking crew backstage bringing that magic to life.

Choosing the right script.

You know you have a story to tell, but how do you want to tell it? As a graphic designer, my first step is to do my homework. The discovery phase is all about familiarizing myself with the brand. What’s the brand’s category and who are their competitors? I want to know what’s happening in this category, and whether we want to take part in – or strategically depart from – what’s trending.

It’s about asking myself what’s happening in the market and identifying what’s relevant. Why is hipster trending? Does it matter? It’s also really important to think about the brand’s audience, which should be key to informing the way you tell your story.

It’s about asking myself what’s happening in the market and identifying what’s relevant. Why is hipster trending? Does it matter?


The next step is getting into character. What’s the personality of your brand? Do you want to be seen as reliable, or edgy? Entertaining, or educational? What’s the tone of the brand? Is our story a drama, comedy, or a musical?

This is where I start brainstorming about the look and feel of the logo, and think about which font families and colour choices make sense. Based on what I learn during the discovery phase through competitive analysis, I’ll work on balancing what’s appropriate for the category with how I can help show the brand’s personality and make the logo stand out.

Blocking and staging.

Now that we know the personality of the brand, it can be tempting to jump straight into polished design concepts – but put down that glittery top hat, it’s not time for wardrobe just yet! While some designers will go straight to the screen for initial designs, I find it really helpful to begin with some initial sketches since it allows me to jump around to several different ideas without making anything too final. Sometimes thinking out loud with pencil in hand means that I can capture ideas as they hit me, and keeps me from filtering too much. This stage isn’t about polish, but about trying a variety of options to suss out what feels like a strong representation of the brand.

Before you can do a full dress rehearsal, you have to stage the scene by figuring out your timing and blocking. Maybe you even allow for a little improv to see what works. Maybe you want to try it with an accent! Most importantly, you want to keep asking yourself whether these options feel authentic to the brand.

Logo Sketches

Tech rehearsal.

Once I see a clear direction that seems to work among the sketches, I’ll start building them digitally. This is the stage when experience really comes into play. It’s one thing to capture the right feeling of a brand, but nailing down the color, typography, style, imagery and texture involves making some very strategic choices. Years of reading and learning from other designers are integral to making the right choices here. Even when you’re trying something new, you have to know the rules in order to break them.

Logo Vectors


Now that we’ve run through lighting and sound, we can invite the investors and test things out in front of an initial audience. While you can expect that some adjustments will be made at this stage, you should feel confident enough with what you’ve produced to show it to the key people involved for feedback.

It’s time to ask if the brand is understandable, relevant and compelling, and to foresee any potential complications that may arise. Is there a potential wardrobe malfunction that needs to be addressed? Stage hazards? Do people like the ending? Are there any legal or copyright issues?

Opening night.

Whether you survived previews with minimal adjustments or had to fully rewrite the ending, you should be ready to show a final product on opening night. Once the logo is approved, it’s a good idea to build guidelines to help communicate your brand across all channels. These “brand books” usually focus on logo, color, type and technical specs, and offer instructions on how to adapt your logo and branding for various mediums.

The posters and playbills have been printed, but later on you may need to create other pieces that haven’t yet been designed. You may need to build slightly different logo versions for social media, web, signage, and merchandise, for example. If you want to learn a little more about this concept of “Liquid Layout,” you can check out my previous banter.

It’s a great feeling when you get to opening night, so you should enjoy stepping proudly out on stage to make your debut. You may not get a standing ovation every night, and there may even be a negative review now and then, but if you stayed true to your brand throughout the process you should feel confident in what you’ve created.

Logos In Situ

Curtain falls.

A final thought before you leave the theatre and head off for a nightcap. Don’t let your logo be a diva. It may be the face on all the posters and serve to give people a sense of what’s in store, but you need to hear the songs and see the arc of the storyline to truly appreciate the whole production. A logo is a key element of your brand, but it doesn’t tell your whole story on its own.

A strong logo should be an initial touchpoint for audiences and show who you are as a brand, which is why it needs to be designed strategically and re-evaluated at every stage of the process. As with any star, however, it needs a stellar cast and crew behind it. Your logo helps give your brand a face, but it doesn’t do all of your marketing for you. But, if you give your star a great director, inspired set design, and memorable lines – or in the case of your logo, a strong branding, web, and content strategy – you might just have a timeless classic on your hands.

Break a leg!