Should Designers Offer Multiple Logo Options to Clients?

Infinite logo design options

Every designer has their own processes for how they work and how they interact with clients. In many cases these processes have been built over years of client interaction. Something I see on a regular basis is graphic/logo designers presenting their clients with an absurd amount of options for their logo design. This post explores my personal opinion that designers who do this are selling their clients short.

Here’s the situation. You’ve had a lightning bolt idea for a website. You’re finally going to do it. You’ve scoped out the business plan, you know exactly how you want the website to look and you’ve found a guy who’s been known to do a bit of graphic design. So you think “Perfect, he can do my logo”. You email him, hash out some quote figures and give him the go ahead to begin work on your logo.

Time passes and you begin to get excited. You’re expecting to receive an email with some artistically directed images presenting your new logo in a variety of environments. On letter-headed paper, on business cards, as a printed sign etc. But what you actually receive is a PDF with 40 variations of slightly differing logos – different colour combinations, different fonts, different placements of each element. You like all of them. So how on earth do you pick the right one for your business?

Well, frankly, you shouldn’t have to.

In my opinion, you don’t (or shouldn’t) be paying a designer to simply create unlimited design options. For me, this defeats the object of hiring a specialist in the field of graphic design and branding. You pay a designer to present you with the single best option in their professional opinion. You don’t pay a mechanic to offer you the widest possible range of car tyres for the winter. You want the tyres that will do the best job.

Of course, anything design related suffers from subjectivity. It’s never black and white and much of it hinges on personal preference. And I understand why designers do it. I spent the longest part of my early career doing exactly this. But after repeating the process multiple times, I eventually noticed a couple of trends that changed the way I worked permanently. All of the clients I presented work to reacted in one of two ways. They either:

  1. Asked which one I preferred.
  2. Asked their friends/colleagues/partners which they preferred.

“So what?”, you’re thinking. “They want someone else’s opinion, what’s the problem with that?”.

The problem is that when a client asks for others’ opinions they’re indicating that the designer hasn’t provided a complete solution. Presenting clients with multiple options this way doesn’t offer answers to the key questions the client is actually asking when they commission a new logo design. They’re not asking if you can design a fancy graphic that they couldn’t do themselves. They’re asking:

  1. What combination of typefaces, styles, colours and graphical marks best depicts my business?
  2. What combination will be most translatable from screen to print?
  3. What combination will be most scaleable from huge banners to tiny phone screens?
  4. What combination will cause the fewest issues when designing my website and other marketing collateral around it?
  5. What combination will be modern, without being trendy, and stand the test of time?
  6. What combination will be least reliant on specific colours and function equally well when printed in black and white?

“The greatest value good designers can offer their clients is foresight.”

For me, answering these questions is as much a part of the designer’s job as creating the actual graphics and should take up just as much time, if not more.

The greatest value good designers can offer their clients is foresight. The ability to predict potential issues with certain design concepts that the client may not be expecting or aware of. Simply creating endless variations of a logo in the hope the client will be drawn to one in particular is, in my opinion, a little lazy. It’s likely the client has hired the designer because they feel they lack the expertise or experience to create a logo that avoids the most common pitfalls. By offering multiple options, many of which will be inherently inferior to others in the very same document, the designer deflects the questions and places the onus on the client to answer.

That’s not what you’re paying them for.

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