The One Concept Approach in Logo Design

February 16, 2019

My recent blog post on logo presentation generated a lot of interest and discussion and one of my readers asked me if I present multiple times for multiple logo concepts.

Well, I don’t because I present only a single logo concept and I have been doing so for about a year. 

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What is the One Concept Approach?

In this approach, a designer presents you with a single logo concept. 

The typical standard is to present at least 3 different logo concepts which means a client has a chance to choose from 3 different design directions. 
Before I embraced the one concept approach early last year, I used to typically present 2-3 concepts.


I don’t particularly recall where I came across this idea of presenting a single logo concept but when I did it instantly clicked.
It still took a lot of revamping of processes, learning and understanding the implementation of approach before I could confidently use this approach.
But once I did embrace the one concept approach,  it has become one of the key parts of my design process.

In fact, my most successful design projects were born out of this approach. 

Why Presenting Multiple Concepts was not Ideal?

In theory having options seems like a good idea.
But in my experience, choices only serve to heighten the problem.
Especially when you don’t know what you should be looking for.

Weak Ideas

Typically this is how it would go. 

I would create hundreds of sketches exploring multiple different concepts.
  This was followed by rounds of refinement improving on the most promising ideas and eliminating the concepts that didn’t work until I was left with the top 3 ideas. 

Top 3, so two of them are not equally as good as the first one but I have to work with them anyway because the client is expecting 3 different concepts. 

My time, attention and energy would get divided into fixing the two not so good ideas when it was better utilised taking that one strong concept and really going all in on it. 

The result was one concept which had the potential to be strong and other concepts which were weak, safe or boring even.

The result of a Choice

So a client hires a designer to create a solution for them. 
When they hire someone they are trusting their expertise to deliver on the project.

You don’t want someone to work on their job half way through and then leave the rest upto you.
 
But choosing the best design from multiple concepts is like you paying me to do my work for me. 

Although I would love it if the client picks up the strong solution but what if they pick the other one?
Its like leaving the fate of the brand identity and the future of their business to chance.

Choice based on Preference

It would often be the case that a client would make a decision based on their personal preference rather than based on whats best for their brand.

They felt drawn towards whatever colors or typefaces that they liked.
Because the decisions were driven purely based off of like and dislike they would always find themselves in conflict. 
Its the natural fear of missing out.


Imaging giving feedback on 3 or more different designs when giving feedback on one design alone is an uncomfortable experience!  
You hire someone to make your job easier and not to make it more difficult and stressful than what it already is.

“ How would the color scheme of one concept and the design of the other would look like?“, 
“ What if we combined the ideas of the two concepts ? Would that look unique?“

You see how you now end up doing the designers job? 
If you’ve hired a good designer they should have already explored all these directions thoroughly or at least given it a good thought and the fact that these were not presented to you that means they were just not the right fit.

How the approach works?

Communication

I inform my clients right on the initial discovery call that I only present a single concept. 
They can choose to work with me if they are comfortable with receiving only one design solution. 
If they don’t like the idea ( although none of my clients have ever raised an objection to the approach  ), but hypothetically if it were to happen then I would put a pause on the conversation and let them go instead of putting the two of us through an unpleasant experience for the duration of the call.
 
If a client expects multiple concepts then they are not the right fit for me. 


Later,  I reiterate the one concept approach in the contract and the welcome packet so when the moment of presenting the logo comes up, they are well aware that they will be seeing a single concept in action.

It is not enough to say it once in the discovery call and expect someone to remember.
My client projects typically start after 3-4 weeks after they pay the invoice and sign the contract which means it will be week 5 or 6 when I present the logo.
After so many weeks it’s natural to forget what was discussed on a 30-45 min call.
Which is why providing thorough documentation of the process to the clients really helps.

Establishing Clear roles within the project

Establishing clear roles right at the beginning helps set boundaries and sets the tone for the entire designer-client relationship.

Client

The client is responsible for completing their hw questionnaire and providing any further information if requested on time before the project is due to start.
They are also responsible for providing timely feedback on the mood board and creative direction and the final logo. 

Designer

The designer is responsible for communicating the process clearly. 
They are responsible for the design and all the design decisions.
  They are also responsible for educating and guiding the clients throughout the process to help them stay objective with the design and not let personal preferences creep in. 

The best solution

Because I don’t have to split my time and attention into coming up with multiple ideas, I can take the strongest idea and give all of my time into refining it until its perfect.

Once I think I have nailed a concept, I now have enough time in my process to wait for at least a day before coming back to it with fresh set of eyes.
To see if I still feel like this is going to be the concept I am going to present.
 
I have enough time to look at the concept in the day light, at night, on paper in print to make sure that it will really work.
So when I am presenting the concept to the client I am completely confident that I have done my best work.

Average, weak, boring concepts have no room here.

A Well documented process

As I begin working my way through various concepts and ideas I thoroughly document why I picked a certain concept over the other? 
Why a certain concept doesn’t align with the business goals?
Why the choice of a particular typeface?

Its not something like an elaborate document, sometimes little notes next to the sketches are sufficient.

I include this same information in the final client presentation before I reveal the logo. 
So there is no room for doubt or the clients don’t feel like they might be missing out on something else because they are only seeing one design.

Strong focus on the business goals

Because I know I am going to be presenting a single concept I have to make sure that I can explain the rationale behind every design decision and how it helps the business goals.
 
This keeps me focused on the end business goals right from the stage I begin sketching ideas.

This also avoids letting my own personal preference guide my decisions. ( Because if I had it my way, I would gold foil everything )

Strong Presentation

This is where the documentation really brings it all together. 
Because I have already done majority of the work before hand, I just need to put it together in a neat little presentation and explain the same steps to the client about how I arrived to the final design. 

Including sketches or even time lapse videos of the process also really helps drive home the point. 

You need confidence when you are presenting a single concept and you will have confidence when you are sure you have taken all the little details into account.
You need to be sure you’ve made objective decisions for the clients business and this is the work that you are truly proud of and you can stand behind.

Limited Revisions

How do revisions work in this approach?

 The typical one concept approach does not invite any client input once the design is presented. 

I like to open a conversation after I have presented the design so the client can comfortably speak their mind once they have understood the rationale and now have a better, in-depth understanding of the design.
For this reason, I offer 2 revisions so we have a chance to discuss if there is any room for improvement.

Because so much of the work is already done upfront, there are only a few minor changes ( If any ) that come up for revisions.
There have also been situations where I have had zero revisions requested! 


This approach has eliminated a ton of stress involved in the standard approach of offering multiple concepts.
Whereas typically there was a lot of back and forth involved after the logos were presented the one concept approach has eliminated majority of the back and forth because lot of the leg work is done upfront by establishing a strong strategy and design direction.

This approach in fact forces me to be present and alert through out the design process.
It makes me question all my design decisions now more than ever before.


As for the clients?
It is a treat to watch them light up as the presentation progresses, as they see all their initial hard work of deep diving into their business come to life into a distinct and a beautiful brand identity!

What questions do you have about the One Concept approach?
Let me know! 

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Outstanding post but I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this topic? I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit more. Appreciate it!

Thanks for your advice. I find kind of scary the idea of presenting just one logo concept because sometimes, even after receiving a very good brief questionnaire from the client i discover that the graphic style they were imagining was different from what they had explained it before. On the other hand i think sometimes a logo could work well using choosing one style or another and letting the client choose what they like the most makes a great mix between what works better for the target and what they feel comfortable with. I dont think im ready to go for the one logo concept but i loved the idea of the Prezi presentation and i think i will reduce the number of logos i show to my client, i believe less is more… and of course it will give me more time to improve the few logos im presenting.

I loved this post! I’ve been embracing this approach since I have started my business (probably because of my agency background) and I also can say honestly that it’s smoother and better for the client. I totally agree with you on the fact that if they pay me to create a solution I shouldn’t only create half solutions and ask them to do the rest by choosing a concept.

Awesome post, thank you!

I just read through so many of your blog posts one after the other because they are SO HELPFUL! Thank you!! I mostly design wedding invitations but I do logos occasionally, and I am thinking of how I can apply the one concept approach and your client presentation strategies to all the work I create. Definitely leaving inspired and ready to be more intentional about my process!

Yessss!! Go for it Julia!
And let me know how it goes! 🙂

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