As a designer one is often called upon to redesign someone else’s work because the client doesn’t like what the original designer has done. A word of caution is in order before you assume the role of Design Hero, smugly agreeing with the client, shaking your head, rolling your eyes and saying you should have come to me in the first place. Analyze the original work and decide for yourself if you think it’s good, bad or somewhere in-between. Ask the client a lot of questions, like why they are not approaching the original designer to revise the work. They may not be confident the designer can fix the problem to their satisfaction, perhaps based on numerous previous revisions. But what sometimes is the case is that the client failed to adequately communicate the desired objective to the designer or may have had unrealistic expectations of what could be achieved. Did the client become too involved in the design process? Did they have a clear vision of what they wanted or did they have an “I’ll know it when I see it” attitude?
If, on the other hand, the client sounds reasonable and the original design is lacking, it’s probably safe to proceed. Ask the client what they liked and didn’t like about the original design, then start from scratch. Keep the client in the loop to be sure you are going in the right direction before your “big reveal.” What you don’t want to have happen is for YOU to be that poor schmuck on the other side of this story.
I was asked to redesign this marathon logo, pictured above left. I looked at numerous existing marathon and 5 and 10K logos to see what was out there, what I thought worked and what didn’t. My critique of what was wrong with this logo was that the design elements seemed a hodgepodge of pieces that didn’t work together, the design was too timid and the colors were too bland. Marathons are, after all, vibrant, kinetic events. Fortune favors the bold! I mean, who wants to be in the Timid Pastel Marathon? Plus, the amount of type, which was considerable, looked like it was added as an afterthought. The only design elements I was told I had to keep were the SKYBORNE font in blue and the M-shaped mountain motif, which is part of the SKYBORNE imagery. Having been told that this logo will be silkscreened large on tee shirts worn by the runners and event attendees I felt a bold and graphic design was most appropriate. With all that nasty business out of the way, on to the fun part.
I have included my thumbnail tissue sketches above to remind everyone that the computer is NOT a design tool. Thumbnail sketches are rough drawings, sometimes only comprehensible to you. These quick pen or pencil sketches allow a designer to try out several ideas and zero in on the most likely layouts before beginning a project. Creating thumbnail sketches is a crucial part of the brainstorming aspect of your design work. Don’t discount the value of this step in the design process. If you design on the computer you will only come up with ideas you can easily execute based on the constraints of the program.
I started with a circle design, similar to the original, but ended up with a square because the shape allowed for more interesting uses of the considerable amount of type. The runners are proceeding left to right, which is the natural direction we read and gives a greater sense of movement and the colors are a rich desert palette because the event is being held in the desert. Several semi-finals went to the client, shown below, and they chose the one shown at the top of this page, above right. Read my in-depth article: How To Design A Logo.
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