The one-concept approach I used to give Millo a new logo

This past year I was lucky enough to be selected as the designer behind the new Millo logo. Preston reached out to a number of designers but ended up choosing me due to my quick response time and my stellar portfolio of hand lettered logo designs.

So when Preston found out that when it comes to branding projects I don’t offer multiple concepts or rounds of revisions, it raised a few eyebrows.

The one concept approach is a relatively new way of doing things that goes against the industry standard of offering the client options rather than providing a single solution.

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I’m going to walk you through how I used the one concept approach when working on the Millo logo in order to open your eyes to a new way of providing solutions to your clients.

I believe this new approach will not only make your life easier, but also help you a become a better designer in the process.

Why I don’t offer multiple concepts or revisions

Before we dive into the Millo example, let me explain my philosophy on providing just one concept.

When I first started in design, I always included revisions and multiple concepts into my workflow because that is what I was taught in design school. I didn’t think anything of it.

I was paid my hourly rate, but more often than not the clients were starting to become more and more demanding, wanting all the options under the sun.

My clients starting acting like self-proclaimed Art Directors that were making decisions off personal preference instead of putting themselves in the mindset in their customers. These jobs lead to frustration and being forced down a path that I knew wasn’t appropriate for my client.

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I think we can all relate to a job or two where we HAD to design something because that’s what the client wanted instead of giving them what they really needed.

It was then that I decided to only offer one solution instead of burdening the client with options. I would still do multiple concepts and revisions, but I would do them all internally without asking for the client’s feedback.

I would get all of the client’s goals upfront and collaborate on an art direction, but after that the client was taken out of the equation completely. This process may require more trust from your client but it ultimately makes the client’s life much easier.

Everyone has a different process and I’m not saying that my way is better, but what I can say for certain is that this approach has completely changed the way I design. I’m more accountable for my work, my projects are always on time and most importantly my clients always leave happy.

How I select the final concept

Now I know what you are thinking: “With all that pressure lying on my shoulders, how do I know which logo is ultimately the best fit for my client?”

Well, it takes a ton of research, experimentation and being able to take your own personal opinions out of the mix. At every step of the way you have to make sure your design decisions align with the client’s vision and demographic.

Here’s my one concept approach when designing the Millo logo that I think will really open your eyes and help explain my success.

Setting up a thought provoking questionnaire

Before you even start talking to a client you need to make sure they are in the right mindset for a new logo in the first place. Do they know their demographic, goals, and use cases for the logo? Can they easily communicate to you what they want and why?

It’s the client’s job to offer content, goals and all the info you need first so that you can create a solution based around their unique needs. You need to ask a ton of questions until you get all the answers to need to make well informed design decisions on their behalf.

This is why, before I give an estimate, I always require my client to fill out a logo design questionnaire. This form usually gives me enough information so I can decide whether or not me and this client would have a happy relationship working together.

If the client doesn’t want to fill out my form, that means they’re not ready to work with a professional designer. If they don’t have the answers to my questions then they aren’t taking their business very seriously and I politely decline their project.

questionaire

So when Preston filled out my form I knew he was not only passionate about the project but also knew what he wanted. Then, after a few rounds of follow up questions, I was ready to send over a quote.

 

Setting up expectations

One of the most important parts of the one concept approach is explaining it to your client. It’s important that they know exactly what they should expect when they are working you. This is why it’s so important to include not only your one concept process in your contracts, but also state that this project includes no revisions or multiple concepts.

Also include that, after this project is completed, it cannot be cancelled. This protects you just in case the client doesn’t like your design so that you still get paid for your time. This forces the client to make decisions early on the process so that way there are no sudden new creative directions sprouting up mid project.

No longer are the days where designers somehow need to be magical mind readers giving into clients every fleeting idea and whim.

The only time I have ever had client not agree with with my final logo was because they changed their mind from the original art direction or changed their goals. In this rare case, the client actually paid me again for an entirely new project and started the process over again, accepting fault because they weren’t more clear from the beginning.

Having an art direction meeting

Some people don’t believe in mood boards for the one concept approach, but I think it’s invaluable. People tend to think more visually, especially clients that don’t know a lot about design.

Luckily Preston is a designer himself so we were able to have a high fidelity conversation and get really detailed about different aspects of his wordmark and icon. I gathered type samples, colors schemes and other design resources to help build a picture of my art direction in his head.

mood board

I offered multiple ideas and took the opportunity to pick his brain on what types of styles he was attracted to and why. At the end of the day, it’s more important for his audience to like the logo, but I always like to create something that resonates with the client, too.

After the meeting I always like to send a recap email that describes everything the client said, what they liked and didn’t, along with a plan of action moving forward for them to approve. This step is important because it’s proof that the client knows what they are getting so they aren’t surprised by the end result.

Internalize the revision process

Now just because I don’t offer multiple concepts or revisions doesn’t mean that I just go with the first idea that pops into my mind. On the contrary, I usually come up with anywhere from 5 to 20 different concepts before I start to perfect the final concept.

Millo Process- Thumbnails-white

When designing a logo you need to be open to exploring various options and discovering new ways of making that work mark unique. Don’t leave any idea unexplored and take the opportunity to quickly try them out, even if it’s just a small thumbnail.

I already had a direction in mind when I got started, but I really needed to put pencil to paper before I could know for sure that it would work according to all my client’s goals.

Create a presentation to back up your design decisions

At every step in my process I always take the time to write down what I did that day and why. This helps me stay in check so I am always referring back to my client needs at every checkpoint. I do this to insure that I don’t let my own personal preference in the way of creating my clients ideal solution for their brand.

case study

By the end of the project I gather all my notes and create an in depth case study that includes tons of photos of my process along with content that describes why I went certain directions and how those decision serves my client best.

Then as a cool added feature, I also included this nifty time lapse of my process for Preston so he could see for himself the amount of time that went into this design.

This case study serves as the final presentation of the project that I showcase to the client, that way they know exactly how I arrived at the final result. I don’t just email the client with an attached .jpg and ask “What you think?” I provide a detailed view of their number one solution and explain how it was created to best align with their goals.

Presentation turned case study

As a bonus this client presentation easily gets turned into a detailed case study in my portfolio that attracts clients. The perfect explanation of how I work and why it’s effective. The perfect client magnet.

portfolio

So not only am I better serving my current client but I’m also giving future clients all the information they need to hire me for the future. What better way of attracting clients than proving to them that you really know your stuff by being able to explain your process.

The Final Result

When I completed the final presentation Preston was absolutely floored! He even immediately starting ordering a number of products to put his beautiful new logo on. It was a logo he was proud to be a part of and it showed through his enthusiasm via email.

email approved

With over 62 comments in my last article describing my process creating the logo there was an overwhelming number of you that absolutely loved the design with just a few negative critiques thrown in for flavor.

Just remember that no matter what you do, not everyone is going to like your work. That’s just the reality of of the industry. But what’s most important is that your main demographic resonates with the design and the client feels proud to present it.

I hope that my one concept approach has opened your eyes to a new way of doing things. Feel free to take or use any of these steps to improve your own work and get more clients in the process.

Do you agree with the one-concept approach?

Now, I fully expect a ton of you to not agree with this process, and that’s fine. But my goal with this article was to expand your mind so you can better your workflow and your portfolio.

As we all know, design is an evolutionary process that is constantly changing, improving and evolving. So tell me what things on my process you liked, hated and admired. I can take it.

What other new ways are you upping your production game? What can I learn from you to improve my own process and the process of others? Please let me know in the comments.

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About Dina Rodriguez

Dina Rodriguez is a full-time hand-lettering artist in Portland, OR. She blogs on topics of creativity, freelance, and hand lettering on her blog and live streams her process on Twitch three days a week. Dina also designed the all-new Millo logo (read about the full design process here).

Comments

  1. Carolina Escobar says:

    This sounds very interesting. I would love to know how you explain this one-concept approach on your proposals.

    Have your clients ever asked to see your sketches with other concepts? Do you share them with your clients?

    • Hey Carolina,
      I talk about a lot of the same things I do in this article. I explain my process and how I only make design decisions based around their goals.

      I make myself super clear that I will only provide one concept and that I will only start the design process once they have approved an art direction.

      I tend to over communicate in the beginning with very lengthy emails to make sure me and the client are always on the same page.

      I don’t share any sketches while I’m in production (unless I live stream my process on Twitch), but the client sees all my sketches when I send their presentation. That way they can see for themselves how I arrived at the final solution.

      – Thanks

  2. Wow, you are changing the game for the better!

    I’ve always wondered about doing this, but never understood the best way of approaching this. Thank you so much for sharing and I look forward to exercising this approach with my next client.

    • Steve,
      I’m so glad that you are wanting to try out the one concept approach for yourself!

      Just remember the key tactics:

      1. Have a in depth questionaire.
      2. Ask even more questions.
      3. Over-communicate your process.
      4. Have the right terms in your contract.
      5. Spend a week coming up with different art directions to present using a Mood Board.
      6. Have a approved art direction in writing.
      7. Make sure to write down all your design decisions along the way during production to make sure you stay on task.
      8. Create a final presentation that explains how you got to the end result.

      Good luck my friend 🙂

      • Dina, I’m curious. How many mood boards do you typically need to create? Do you find that the mood board needs to be changed a few times? Certainly something I want to try out.

        When visiting Moving Brands last year they actually do a video version using ‘found’ material. Music, footage, voice etc which is never publicly seen. I thought it was an interesting concept, and is very engaging/exciting too.

  3. I love this. Outside of the one-step approach, you offer some very great tips on how to present your work to clients that I think anyone could take away.

    Do you often still make revisions after the presentation of your final idea or is it “take it or leave it”? Do you ever have a client completely reject your idea? Would you just start over and do the same process?

    • one-concept* approach

    • Hey Naomi,
      Thanks for your kind words. To answer you questions would depend on the kind of revisions the client needed.

      If the client needed something small like a color change or a slight adjustment to the piece then I would charge an additional $100/hr for any revisions. I would only give these revisions if I thought they would benefit the client.

      But if the client just plain hated the design then we could start the process over again with their new goals or they can pay their final invoice and try again with a new designer.

      No matter the outcome I am always paid for the amount of time I’ve spent on a piece.

      – Thanks

  4. One of the reasons I stopped doing freelance design work is because all my clients were playing art director. Seeing this approach in detail makes me think I might just want to get back into the design game again 🙂 Thanks, Dina, you really did an awesome job explaining this!

  5. This is a great article! Thank you for sharing it. These concepts can be used in so many business models for freelancers from writers to designers. It’s important to be open to what a client needs but also knowing when it’s simply too much.

  6. Kim Solberg says:

    WOW this article was one of the best I’ve read. Maybe because this is exactly how I do my identities! This is truly the professional way to do it with a 1 concept approach. The majority of my clients are very happy because I have done the upfront work of asking many questions, the research of their competitors, and the hard work of thinking very hard through the whole design process. It doesn’t come easy sometimes but I don’t quit until it is the RIGHT solution for the client!

  7. I LOVE this approach! The one complaint we have as designers is that clients just DON’T GET IT! What a great way to solve that problem whilst also offering so many USPs for your own product & service. I’ll be shamelessly following suit – thank you!

  8. Not every logo project is a hand lettering project and there can be more than one solution for a logo. I believe clients know their business and audience better than a designer who isn’t part of their organization ever can.

    This isn’t to say that they have a refined aesthetic, or that they are qualified to be an art director, but they do know their audience. I prefer to function in a world of 3-5 options with no revisions. Unless the client wants to pay an hourly fee for said revisions. This takes the burden of micro managed changes off of the designer but allows the client to have creative input. The best way to make someone feel ownership for something is to have them be involved in the process of creating it.

  9. I provide 2 concepts. If the client wants more, then I charge additional for each concept. I also provide revisions, based on an hourly base.

  10. Great article Dina.

    I have real mixed feelings about the ‘one logo process’ and I have still yet to apply and try it for myself. I know Sean McCabe made some strong arguments for it on his podcast, which is what I’m sure influenced your approach.

    I have a few concerns/thoughts for not yet trying it:
    – I don’t believe there is only 1 solution for a logo. Every designer will create something different.
    – I like to involve the client in the decision process. I think they can add value as they know their audience, business and market better than I ever could (providing they are on the same wavelength).
    – I’m worried that if the design is not ‘liked’ by the client things could get messy.
    – 1 option sounds less (so has a lesser perceived value), but in reality it’s more work.

    I start my own process with goals, and I encourage the client to work towards these. Although I present 3-5 options I do often recommend the one which I feel is most suitable and why, which often has influence. I find it useful to have a discussion, and the client almost always has good input.

    I think if I was to offer the ‘one logo process’ I’d need to triple my price/time. The reason is because I would need to be 100% certain (1000% certain) that what I was designing was the ultimate solution – I’d want to back up my design decisions with solid facts, research, real world testing etc. This approach is definitely only for professionals/elite designers who can present well… presentation would be key.

    I think I need to give it a go myself to really know for sure.

  11. Great article! Thanks for sharing your process. I think this approach only adds value to our profession. I have tried this approach only once, and I must say, it was the only time that the client responded with…”We love it, it is exactly what we wanted…even better!” No revisions or client playing art director!

  12. One concept approach works for me , It is like 3 years since I realized and after so many experiences I had that presenting more than 1 design option to your client who is Jon Snow of the field ( knows nothing ) , is a waste of time and effort . I spend a lot of time in research and most importantly getting all the right answers from the client about his design choice .
    This approach proved to be a winner for me.

  13. This is definitely an interesting approach Dina. I have also heard about this approach from Seanwes, which is awesome, because it forces you to come with the best solution possibly with all the information you gathered from the client.

    And also it removes the paradox of choice/continuous revision over a concept. After all, the client is hiring a designer, so they should like the designer do the work I feel. Like coming with the best fitting solution, then directing every little process the designer does.

    Thanks for sharing your insights, and really look forward to see more of your case studies.

  14. Wow, really excellent read! As someone who is still new to design and freelancing, this is an eye-opener into making one’s own rules.

    Thanks a bunch! 🙂

  15. Simon Charwey says:

    Great insights!

    Dina, I believe the one-concept approach does not mean the designer will just take an “egocentric stance” and jump on any idea that pops up on h/his mind (like a ding kind of notification), without the necessary initial mindset to do a thoroughly research, exploring more options internally—amidst incorporating all the useful case study and mood board suggestions you’ve elaborated on—before eventually arriving at an identity that is relevant to the industry in question, and likely to be irresistible to the client in question.

    The key thing here, as rightly noted by Roger Alexander and Pam Tremble respectively (in Millo Mastermind conversation) is that,

    1. “They will pick the worst one. Don’t bring ones you think are bad.”

    2. “NEVER show a client a design concept you don’t want them to choose. If you don’t love it and don’t want it to be in your portfolio, don’t show it to the client.”

    That simple!

  16. I totally agree. Paul Rand did it. Why shouldn’t we?

  17. Great Article!!! I learned a lot Dina … Thank you!

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