Questions to ask a client before designing their logo

There’s always a process I go through when designing a logo, however, there are often variations depending on the project, but one thing that remains consistent is the need to ask the client questions at the start of, or even before agreeing to, the project.

Below is a list of these questions along with why I consider them important. And following on from this list, will be a few questions best not to ask, as they can lead to problems.

I’ve tried to keep this list as concise as possible, leaving out questions that I don’t feel necessarily need to be included as standard. However, it’s important to bear in mind that every project is different, so although it’s useful to have a standard list, it’s also worth tailoring that list, if need be, to ensure you get all the answers you might require.

Questions to ask

Business Related

01. How would you describe your business and what it does?

This avoids any confusion about what the business actually does and allows you to hear how they describe their business, as opposed to what you might already know, what is on their website, or what their customers say about them.

02. Who is the target audience or intended market?

It’s important to know who the logo should be geared towards, such as their gender, age, income, occupation etc., as this can greatly effect design decisions.

03. Who are your main competitors?

With this information you can analyse these businesses and their logos, seeing the direction they went and why they may have gone that route. Also, you want to know what the competitors logos look like so you don’t arrive at a similar design, which besides being embarrassing, could lead to legal issues.

04. What makes you different from your competitors?

Anything that makes your client stand out from their rivals should at least be considered as a potential asset and so a possible direction to take the design in.

05. How long have you been in business?

The number of years a business has been running, not only reflects success, but also customer loyalty and reputation, which shouldn’t be underestimated and needs to be further explored.

06. How many employees do you have?

This is to give you an idea of the size of the business, and how they may want to be perceived, ie. a business with thousands of employees wanting to come across as the large institution they are, or a small family run business wanting to come across as friendly and approachable. This may not always be the case though, businesses often want to project a different image to how they actually are size wise, but that can be discussed with the client.

07. Where is your business primarily run from?

Again, knowing if they are home, office or shop based will also give you an idea of their size, and to give you a better insight into their business and how it’s run.

08. How would you sum up your business in 6 words or less?

This is a great question to cut out any waffle and get the client to focus on the main premise of the business.

09. What keywords best reflect your business?

Again, this will force the client to focus on key elements of the business.

Logo Related

10. Do you currently have a logo, if so, how long have you had it?

It’s important to know if you are designing the logo fresh or replacing a current one which will influence the route you take. The length of time they have had an existing logo will give you an idea of the recognition that logo may have built up, which will impact how your new logo is received.

11. If you do have an existing logo, why are you changing it now?

What you want to find out here is their motivation for the change and whether they have realistic expectations as to what a new logo can achieve. This can lead to further questions as to how else they intend to rebrand the business.

12. What type of logo do you require?

Here you want to know if it’s the main business logo, personal brand logo, website logo, application/software logo, etc., as each one will need to be treated differently.

13. What is the exact wording for your logo?

This stops any confusion or mistakes later on. Also, it’s not always clear how the client wants the name shown ie. ‘My Business’, ‘mybusiness’, My-Business’, ‘MY-business’ - so it’s worth checking first.

14. Is there a tagline to accompany the logo?

Having to include a tagline can govern the decisions made with the design so it’s important to know at the start of the project, rather than having to force it into a design at a later date. And again, make sure the client writes the exact wording down.

15. Do you have existing brand colours?

The client may have colours they already have in use throughout the business and does not want the expense of changing everything, in which case it’s good to know from the outset. They may be open to the idea of changing these colours, or even keen to, so it’s a good idea to discuss this with them first. This also gives them an opportunity to discuss colours they feel may or may not work, without you needing to ask them specifically.

16. Where do you intend to use the logo?

Knowing whether the logo needs to go on stationery, corporate literature, websites, signage, vehicle livery or clothing, will help you understand how complicated the design can be and any restrictions you may have with colours. Discussions can then be had on things such as the most appropriate number of colours to use, or whether there will be a single colour version for certain applications and full colour for others.

17. Is there a primary use for the logo?

Although logos can be used in various applications, some designs are more suited to certain ones, so it’s best to know where the main use of the logo will be. A logo that’s main use is on a website, would most likely be designed differently to one that is mainly embroidered onto clothing.

18. What logos do you find appealing and why?

This gives you an insight into the taste of the person who will need to approve your design and what typefaces, colours, styles they like. It’s worth finding out if they are the only person deciding on the design or if it’s by committee, that way you know if it’s just that person’s taste you have to take into account or others too.

19. What logos do you find unappealing and why?

Again, this allows you to understand more about your clients taste. It’s important to know what they dislike about the logos they mention as not to jump to any false conclusions ie. all four logos they hate are primarily green, so they probably hate green logos, when in fact it’s the typefaces used on each that they dislike.

20. What does the logo need to say about your business?

This gets them to think about what the most important aspects of their business they want to get across, ie. fun, trustworthy, traditional, quirky etc.

21. What images/icons/symbols do you think best represents your business?

The client can often list things that can, at the least, be a good starting point for ideas. And while thinking of these, they often list things that they really wouldn’t want to see used. If they do, make sure to ask why, so you understand their thoughts.

Project Related

22. What timeframe will you require the logo within?

It’s best to list timeframes here, such as one month, two months etc, as many clients will just say as soon as possible, which doesn’t really help. Try to find out if there is an exact date they need it ready for, as there is no point in rushing to get it done when it wasn’t actually needed for another couple of months.

23. What is your budget for this project?

You need to help clients here by giving clear price bands, so they can select one, ie. £300-£500, £500-£700 etc. However, you should explain how the price they choose will determine the process and time you can give to each stage, and the effect that will have on the final design.

24. Would you like further design services, incorporating your new logo?

Here you can mention business stationery or any other relevant services you offer. This will get them thinking about what items they will need featuring the new logo and gives you the opportunity to quote on them.

25. Any additional comments?

Make sure you give them a chance to discuss any further aspects of the project they feel are necessary.

Questions NOT to ask

26. What typefaces / colours do you like?

I think it’s our job as designers to choose the right typefaces and colours based on the experience we have. I’ve found in the past that clients can often pick typefaces or colours that they ‘like’ or even think would work well in the design, but these are usually not the best options. Although it can sometimes be useful to know what their preferences are, I prefer not to ask directly as they can then have an expectation that those choices will be used. I prefer to gain an overall impression, such as when I ask what logos they like (and dislike).

27. How many initial concepts would you like?

This can put unnecessary pressure on you to come up with a set number of concepts you feel would really work for the client. It’s unlikely to have several ideas that are all equally strong, so why risk showing a client something you don’t feel is the best choice. Chances are if you had two great concepts and one you thought was average, the client would probably choose the average one. In my opinion it’s better to let the client know how YOU work, if like me you prefer to develop one idea to show initially then that’s fine, just make sure the client knows this before agreeing to the project.

28. How many rounds of revisions would you like?

This seems crazy to me, how does the client know before they have even seen anything! I can understand the problems that could arise from continual revisions and maybe asking the client beforehand can make them aware of what they can do before incurring extra charges. However, if a client has paid for three revisions and they like the first design, there could be an urge on their part to make changes just to get their money’s worth. By all means let them know there is a maximum number of revisions they can make before they are charged extra, I just don’t see the point in asking them how many.

And Finally

As designers we need to understand clients, including their motivations, expectations and requirements. Knowing the right questions to ask, to give us the answers that will help steer the project in the right direction is crucial. We shouldn’t hold back in asking as many questions are we feel necessary to ensure the best outcome for the client and ourselves.

About the author

Paul Galbraith is a logo and brand identity designer, working with startups, small businesses and entrepreneurs in the UK, USA and beyond.