How to avoid generic designs

While it cannot be helped sometimes to use a house silhouette diagram when designing for a real estate company logo, there are ways to render a truly original design. Here’s how.

1. Read the brief

This is a no-brainer, but ensure that you read what the client wants, and what they want to avoid in their logo design.
List important points such as: what the business does, their audience, the style and feel they’re after, things to avoid. See below for example.
Company name: Playlab
Main points
  • Creative but corporate
  • Abstract mark or wordmark
  • The lab element means web analytics, not an actual lab
Things to avoid
  • Lab elements: beakers and other lab equipments
  • Play button
  • Video cameras & reels

2. Get to know your client

The next crucial step in a design project is creating the time for you to connect with your client. Ask them as many questions as you can about their business. 
Some common questions are what the business is providing, what its goals and visions are, who are its target audience, who are its competitors and how long it’s been around.
You should really focus on trying to tell your client’s story. 
In the example above, C1k highlighted these points in her design by making a civet in the style of a Balinese mask:
  • Kopi Luwak is made with part-digested coffee cherries eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet
  • It's Indonesian

3. Do your research

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with your client’s business, do your research into your client’s industry. Don’t be afraid to Google search to identify the common logo concepts in the industry, and figure out what to avoid to make sure your logo stands out from the rest and that it isn't too similar to an existing design.
ludibes stays away from the typical 'mindful' (head, yoga, lotus) and 'mountain' designs by creating a subtle hint of mountains and a big sun in his simple and modern design.

4. Start with sketches

Sometimes being original isn’t necessarily in the idea, but in the way you execute it. Think of it as a different take on what the business is about. How can you make that V-man unique when you’re designing for a customer service company?
shaka88 shows us another alternative to the V-man design that also means connectivity and people.
Sketching out your ideas and working with your hand is arguably the best way to generate fresh, new ideas. Nothing beats going back to basics and letting your imagination run wild. 
Even if you don’t produce anything worth developing later on, sketching can otherwise help with unblocking your creativity. So grab that sketchbook and pencil, head outside and draw to your heart’s content!
In the example below, GOOSEBUMPS shows alternative sketches of his design.

5. Push yourself

Set yourself a challenge: come up with at least 10 different ideas for the logo design, and refine the ones you’re attached to. To achieve this, you need to have the brainstorming brain - let’s talk about these in more detail.

Brainstorming techniques

These are creative techniques to help find the solutions to a specific problem (in this case, designing the logo for your client’s business) by gathering a list of ideas. There are a few brainstorming techniques utilised by designers today:
  • Mind mapping is a hierarchical diagram to visually organize information that shows relationships among pieces of the whole. It is often created around a single concept, drawn as an image in the center of a blank page, to which associated representations of ideas such as images, words and parts of words are added.
  • Thumbnail sketches are quick, abbreviated drawings to get ideas out quickly.
  • Layout creation is the arrangement of visual elements on a page
  • Doodling / free writing is the simple act of writing or drawing whatever comes to mind to help free the creative block. Even if none of the ideas are usable, the process usually helps you get on your way to actually creating something worth presenting to the client.

6. Pick your top ideas

Oftentimes, you will be tempted to develop all of the great ideas you have. Here’s the hard fact: not all of them will work. So you need to be highly critical with yourself and pick your top ideas only before you develop them. 
If that’s hard for you, think of it this way: you want to make it easier for your client. And bombarding them with all your concepts will guarantee to make them overwhelmed.
So take a step back and pick critically which ones to develop into the final logo design.
In the gif above, lemoor shows how he develops the design he's picked into a final one.

7. Finalize

Now that you have picked the top idea, go forth and finalise the design! Touch up on your sketches before digitizing and refining them.
You think your work is done once you’ve saved that design? Sometimes testing it out is crucial. Have yourself or your friends compare it with the standard logo for your client’s industry, and see how your design measures up. Does it get lost in the other designs or does it actually stand out? 
You should also run your final design through google images search to make sure the form isn't too similar to an existing design.

Your original-design checklist

To recap, here’s what you need to remember:

  • Read the brief
  • Get to know your client
  • Research
  • Start sketching
  • Brainstorm using one (or all!) of mind mapping, thumbnail sketches, layout creation and doodling
  • Pick your best ideas
  • Finalize!
Hot Tip: What's important is, try to improve and have fun!
Follow other top designers and learn from their processes and techniques.

Want to learn more? Visit our Resources: Avoiding generic design →