In an ideal world, a CEO well versed in the organization’s operations from top to bottom has the skills and know-how to produce a logo and brand that perfectly represent the business, reflect ideals and attract the best customers. Until this becomes a reality, we, the designers, need to do our best to learn everything we can to get to know that business before we get to the drawing board. Using research and analysis is vital to successful design. Do your homework when approaching a graphic design: establish an understanding of your client, your target, your competition, and the market to both ground and elevate the work you do on a brand.

An brand within an industry

At the outset of a design job, do your research so that you can know your client. Use that knowledge as a launching point for the work that comes after. What business or organization are you designing for? What kind of product or service do they provide? Seek to understand the message your client is seeking to convey and how they understand their brand identity as a foundation. Use materials and information produced by the organization, but remember that it’s also important to ground your design with your own research. Find newspapers, industry publications, market reports, blogs, forums, and comment sections that flesh out your understanding. What kind of company are they? What have they done that has or has not worked in the past? Establishing this context will sharpen your design work and help you to identify pitfalls that have stymied designers past.

Don’t forget the end consumer

Once you understand your client, identify your target. Who is the product or service for? Look first to the client’s current customer base. Then, establish the lanes along which they’d like to expand that base. Who are these people? It’s important not to limit your research to demographics like age, gender, or income. You’ll also want to develop a psycho-graphic profile of your target while tweaking a brand strategy. What do they desire? What do they fear? How have they reacted to design in the past? This information might come from the client – either via research they’ve done in-house or through outside contractors. Still, you’ll want to build on what the client provides through your own reading.

Every project is a learning experience

Good design doesn’t happen in a vacuum. If you want to lend a strategic edge to a brand through logo design, you’ll need to develop a set of heuristics to do competitive analysis. You’ll have a much better chance of designing successfully if you understand your competition. Identify direct and indirect competitors and scrutinize their use of design to get a lay of the land. What works and what doesn’t? What are the major trends along which the competition is clustered, and who cuts against the grain? If you understand your competition, you can refine the visual identity of your brand – by incorporation best practices, avoiding shallow imitation and making educated guesses about which design strategies might serve to distinguish you from the pack.

Don’t limit your scope

Lastly, you can design more effectively if you know your market. The first part of this understanding is synthesis: bring together the information you’ve gathered about your client, your target, and your competition into a holistic understanding. Once you are holding these three factors in relationship to one another, determine the macroeconomic situation that understanding fits into. In a bear market, for example, how does the downturn position your understanding of your client, your target, and your competition? The strategy you employ in a design job should not just be informed by prior research but also be responsive to those conditions.