In this session, we were joined by James Martin A.K.A Made by James and co-founder of successful creative agency Baby Giant Design Co. James has been a designer for 15 years and now specialises in brand and logo creation - or "logo badassery" as James calls it.
With a love for drawing inbuilt, James started out as a fine artist and also did a tattoo apprenticeship, but then ventured into the world of graphic design and never looked back.
Typically focused on keeping stuff clean and minimal, this session was no different. James helped us understand his process for creating a brand identity for ethically minded companies.
Ethical Brand Identity
A brand’s identity starts with the logo, but the identity can run seamlessly through many different things into the future. However your vision, your brand identity, is a set of visual assets that help you portray your vibe and define an ethical brand identity. For example, the materials you use for packaging - no plastic, bamboo cutlery, etc.
Ethical identities relate to planet saving and minimizing plastics. It’s not just about being ethical in nature, but beyond. For example, using plastic pens is actually about the industry and the brands that you work with, who are ethical in their decision-making, their ethos and their values. This industry isn't a trend but here to stay forever.
Reasons to Pick this Industry
It’s good to do our bit, as little as picking non-plastic toothbrushes. Try and be as good as you can be. Minimize the amount of plastics and be very conscious. This makes a huge impact on the planet and makes you feel good by doing your bit.
Define your Design Process
Put your full concentration on one idea. This will help you stay focused on the job at hand. It’ll also help your client be focused on what's going on. Submitting ten logos or five logos where they like little bits of every single one but are never able to marry that into one logo gets tricky. Start with a set of drawings and sketches and then get into it. Take it as far as you possibly can. That is a winning idea!
This process helps to focus you on what you need to do and how you need to do it. It also allows your client to focus on what you’re showing them. This speeds up the decision-making process and helps to find and create a smooth client relationship. Ultimately, it makes it more fun.
So when somebody comes to you with a problem, it's your job to find ‘a’ solution, not ‘many’ solutions. Human beings, in general, get a bit paralyzed when they have too many options to choose from. There's a certain beauty in showing them one piece rather than offering a platter. Tell a story and get good information around it that celebrates it. Offer your client a logo that not only looks cool but also has a hidden meaning.
Let your Style Pick your Industry
Your style can pick your industry. Let your style lend itself to it. For James, going from an artist to an illustrator, tattoo designer, graphic designer and finally a logo designer has all been a part of his journey. Throughout the process, drawing had always been a huge part of his life and he’s always had a massive emotional attachment to the work he has created. This had a drawn approach and also allowed his clients to feel that there was an emotional attachment in his work.
Remember, if you can create a logo for one industry, there's no reason why you can't do it for multiple industries. The only thing that changes is the approach. Sometimes, people feel too protective of the way they’re doing things and they get worried about stepping out of their comfort zones. However, comfort zones are dangerous. They make you restricted to one theme or style. Find your style, find your vibe, but don't stop yourself from exploring and working within different industries. This will help you think out of the box for multiple industries, not just one.
4 Ways Clients Find You
Clients generally find you in 4 ways... A fair bit through social media, i.e. Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Dribbble, Facebook and Twitter. People could potentially contact you through your own website as well. Apart from this, these bottom two are the ones that are probably the most effective converters, which is word of mouth and random coincidence. In the cases, you don't have to go through the pitching process because they know that the work you do is good. If you've done a good job for somebody and the process has been good, it's almost impossible to not get that client.
So whatever work you're putting out into the world, make sure it's as good as it possibly can be. It’s like free advertising. It will work wonders for you for the years to come. If you're someone that's got the skill set in your social group, you become the default.
People often ask James about how to get clients. Guess what? Most of the time your first client will be somebody, you know; a friend, family member, friend of a friend or family friend of a friend. Once you're fully committed to your craft and what you do, shout it from the rooftops. Tell everybody what you do and how you do it and ask them if you know anybody that needs your services.
Now, let’s dive into the process of designing.
Step 1 - Client Interaction
Every time you go for a meeting, ask for a brief and a mood board. This is because it involves the client in the process and it gets them ingrained in the process..
After you’ve got a brief and the mood board, always jump on a call with them. Let them talk to you about their brief/mood board and guide the conversation.
Meanwhile, make notes and pick up on anything else that they’re saying apart from the mood board and the brief. That's really the key to creating the design.
During that call, talk through the project and then make sure you talk to them about the process and how you work. This conversation should happen before the project starts.
It's really important to be professional and firm with these things because when you're constantly molding yourself into the client's world, you can trip up and make yourself quite unhappy.
Long-term, it should best fit you and your client. It's important for you to be in control of the process because that's how you can create the best work.
Step 2 - Define your Plan
Break down what you need to create and build for your client’s brand identity. Start with a logo and define your colors. Use patterns, as they are an instantly recognizable asset. Then come to packaging, website and animations.
Step 3 - Word Mapping
Word mapping is a super quick way of coming up with ideas but it’s different for everybody. You can spend an hour on it if you want, popping down ideas. You can see in the image below that we have our brand example, “Plastic Freedom”, with words that have been picked out of the brief. Always start at the top left with the company name and come up with a few keywords such as community, save the planet, the owner, oceans, plastic change, freedom, education, organic planet, ethical, etc. These words would help you get thinking about what you’re going to be doing as an idea. It is much better to be able to see it down on paper than have it in your head. Hence, word mapping is essential.
Step 4 - Rapid Prototyping
After word mapping, start associating ideas and things with words by doodling them. Think about how you can get this information into your logo. In our example of Plastic Freedom, start by stacking a playful, wobbly freehand element which talks about the ethical side of it. Stacking the E-As making it slightly interesting, but still legible. With the O and the M, the M almost acts as a book and the O behind is like a person reading a book, being educated. Sometimes the beauty of a cool logo design is that every time you look at it, you see something different. So, this stage has no rules. Just doodle.
Step - 5 Define your Idea
Start executing your ideas as well as you possibly can. Play with logos (making sure the gaps are good), and then sketch them on paper so you can spend less time on the computer.
Step - 6 Create a Mockup of your Design
Open Illustrator and mock-up your design. The importance of showing your design work is unbelievably important. There's no point in just showing your client a sketch or a white logo mock-up because that then allows your client to use their imagination a bit too much. Show your design on multiple things assets such as signages, cards etc. This allows your client to absorb everything you’re giving them. Always go the extra mile.
Reference it to mock-ups and create patterns because you want to show them the possibilities of moving forward, not just with business cards but also with mock-ups. For example, for a brewery do cans, bottles, kegs, etc; for a coffee shop or a cafe do coffee bags, cafe side, etc. This gives your client no reason to doubt what you’ve done for them. If you don't tend to do that and you just show them an idea on a sketch, your concepts may not shine through. You’re there to sell your ideas to your clients and the only way that you can physically do that is by showing it working in the real world. 90% of the time your work's going to be a winner with this strategy.
Tell a Story
After the mood board and the brief, the client already has a relationship with the work because it's all based on their words. It shows you've listened and makes it more personal. They can relate to it and you can get them to be on that journey with you. Hence, the importance of telling a story with your process is important, because it makes it more personal for a client to decline. It's an important thing to be passionate about. You may hear a lot of people say that you shouldn't have too much of an emotional attachment to the work you create, but thinking creatively is one of your superpowers.
Choose the Right Color Palette
With the Plastic Freedom, there was the thought of the sea. So, a beautiful minty and dark gray combo was chosen for it. When you go back to mapping and the sketch, you automatically relate to the sea, hence these colors. Also, when it comes to green, it represents ethics and environment. People react to color in different ways, so color shouldn't just be a random choice, it should always represent something.
Patterns are pretty and it’s always a good idea to give a massive scope for your clients. For example, when it comes to packaging, you want the consumers to spot the pattern without seeing the logo, color or other features, and know straight away that it's from Plastic Freedom. That’s the power of building brand assets such as patterns for clients. You automatically stand out as a brand.
Work in Action
As you see with time, all the assets come together to create a beautifully welcoming, fun and energetic brand. Don't go too preachy. Try to go with patterns that are light-hearted, jovial, cool, geometric shapes with little jellyfish and mountains that make you smile. Make sure the patterns are relevant. For example, if it was just a geometric shape without any of the nautical or sea-based creatures in it, it wouldn't work. It may have looked nice, but what would it mean and what would be going on? Think like with your color palette; patterns should be meaningful and have relevance to the brand.
For Plastic Freedom, all icons were handmade in a clever way. What this means is that nobody else is going to ever have these icons unless they steal them.Whenever you’re going to create some more in the future, it is going to be very easy to come up with more icons, because you’ve already got your theme set.
In this example, Plastic Freedom, the logo animation represents a celebration of the sea. It’s fun, bouncy, vibrant, and makes you smile. It adds another layer to the story. It gets the visual representation and visual field of the brand.
After following the steps above, you will begin to see how the colors, patterns, and logo are just seamless. Continue that storytelling element. It's that extra detail that they've decided to put in, rather than just putting a box and a logo on it. There's this extra layer with packaging that makes you fall in love with the brand.
So the process dictates that client interaction is key. Get on that call with them, get them to put a brief and a mood board together. Be super transparent. Tell them about how you work and how the process is going go work, along with the terms and conditions. Sell your vision. Be industry specific, tell a story along the way, and make sure it's amazing!
That’s it! That’s the charm of ethically creating a brand identity.