Using the one concept approach – An interview with Melissa Yeager

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How many logos should you present to clients?

Back in 2013 Sean McCabe created a viral piece of content called ‘the one logo concept that sparked controversy, suggesting that professional designers should present only one logo, and if a designer cannot determine what the most effective solution is… they should not be taking on clients.

Despite this, many well established designers don’t agree, and still present options. However, after hearing of the approach Melissa Yeager took the advice on board, created her own version of the process, and now presents only the one logo to clients with great success. In this podcast we learn how she’s been able to do this, taking a deep dive into her process to discover how its worked for her.

Melissa is a brand strategist and holistic identity designer for creative small businesses, based in Pennsylvania.

 

The Logo Geek Podcast is Sponsored by Freshbooks

Resources Mentioned

 

 

 

Melissa Yeager Interview Transcription

 

Ian Paget: Can you briefly give us an overview of what the one logo concept is?

 

Melissa Yeager: Sure. So, the name is a little bit self explanatory. In the design industry it’s common practice for designers to present their clients with more than one option when they’re doing branding work. So usually it’s two to three, sometimes up to five depending on the experience level it can be several logo options that the client can then choose from moving forward throughout the branding process.

How the one concept or the one logo approach works is that instead of presenting multiple options for the client, you’re presenting one solution. So based on everything that you’ve learned about the client and all the strategy that you’ve done up front, you are presenting one single logo.

Now there are a lot of caveats to that statement since there’s a lot of strategy that goes in ahead of time. And when I say one logo, it may be one kind of logo concept that has a couple different orientations and secondary marks. So you hear one logo on it sounds very drastic and black and white. But there’s a lot of nuances that go into the approach and making it actually functionally work for clients.

 

Ian Paget: Sure. So can I just ask you from your perspective now that you’ve been using this one logo concept process, what’s the problem with presenting options?

 

Melissa Yeager: So I think that it’s totally dependent on your experience level working with clients, because I know that when I first graduated from design school and I was kind of getting my bearings in working in design with actual clients instead of these hypothetical projects, you kind of have to develop a certain level of your technical skills and your level of empathy to kind of actually figure out what the client is looking for and what’s appropriate for them. But once you’re at that level of experience where you have a good sense of getting clients what they want and you have the design experience to backup what intelligent design decisions are. The problem with options becomes that when you’re giving clients multiple logo options, it doesn’t exactly set you up as the design expert. And as we all know, it’s a heavy frustration for so many designers that the client is constantly undermining them.

They’re constantly making them feel like a design puppet. They’re always asking for endless revisions. And the designer ends up getting very frustrated because they don’t feel like they’re being treated as the expert and that the client doesn’t respect their process in their opinion. But when you’re presenting options, you’re kind of putting the client in that subjective role where all of a sudden we forgot about all of the project goals and the target audience and you’re saying to the client, hey, which do you like more A or B? So in that sense, as soon as the clients set up to choose they kick out of the objective perspective and into subjective where they’re thinking “hey, I really like the swash on that are better than I like the way that this is aligned with that”. So they get caught up in the nitty gritty of the details rather than the actual goals of the brand and everything that you’re setting out to do.

So, kicking them into subjective mode is one problem. And then the other problem is anytime you’re showing a client multiple logo options, especially when they’re out of context, so the client is just seeing the logo and not necessarily how it might be applied. When they’re looking at two different options that are both geared towards their brand, they start to pick out different elements that they like from both of them. And then just assume that you can combine those things into one master phenomenal monster logo. And that’s what ends up happening is that that’s how we get those like Hodgepodge Frankenstein solutions where the client’s like, “I don’t understand why you can’t just combine the things I like from a and B and make the ultimate logo”. But as all of us know, it doesn’t work that way. So the beauty of the one concept approach is you can keep the client in objective strategy focused mode and then also not end up with endless cycles of revisions, or a Frankenstein logo solution.

 

Ian Paget: Yeah, I think every graphic designer has probably been there and done that… had the project turned into a Frankenstein, like you said. So, this one logo concept sounds really good, but in the back of my mind I’ve always had some concerns and that’s the reason why I still present options. In that blog that you wrote, you did say that you were skeptical at first. So I’d love to know from you, what was your concerns for not taking this route because it really does sound like an absolute no-brainer to do, doesn’t it.

 

Melissa Yeager: Yeah. Well, the biggest thing honestly is that the design industry as a whole doesn’t work this way. So this kind of like the black sheep process, even though once you have tried it I can’t imagine working in another way. But initially there’s so much pushback from the design community because all of us imagine that clients would be outraged and what if they hate it? And what if they just outright refuse to work this way and they want to see options. And all of us imagine that these clients couldn’t possibly go along with having one concept presented to them. So, because the industry as a whole tends to work with options you have a lot of like imposter syndrome that revolves around, well now I’m going to do all this work on my end and narrow it down to this one solution, and then what if a client hates it or what if they feel like they’re not getting their money’s worth.

 

Ian Paget: And now one of the things that I forgot to mention earlier is that a lot of the times when we do develop that kind of like experience level and we know we’re making smart design decisions, a lot of us have a favourite option when we are doing options where you’re like, this is the one… I know this works the best. I really hope they pick this one. But a lot of times because you have to round out your set of options, you have to create another one. So a lot of times we’ll present a lame duck option where then the client ends up picking or liking elements of that lame duck option where then you’re forced to either compromise on what you know to be the best solutions and the best approach for your client.

 

Melissa Yeager: Or they end up choosing this thing that is basically your nightmare when in reality it’s not the client’s fault for choosing it, it’s our fault for presenting it in the first place. So, and another thing with options, a lot of the time you’re forced to spread all of your good ideas out among those options, whereas in the one concept approach, you can, instead of spreading those ideas out across multiple logo options, you’re spreading those ideas out across the full brand identity. So you have some things working in the logo, you have some things working in secondary marks. Maybe there’s a design motif or custom pattern that pulls in other elements so the client can start to see how it goes beyond the logo and how you’re setting up a full identity system for them. That functionally works really well together.

And that focus on application is the most important part to like actually show the client this is how everything would work together, this is how it would achieve your goals, this is how it’s in line with the strategy, because them just seeing a logo floating on a white page doesn’t really tell them a lot. And even though I think a lot of designers have that brilliant foresight where we can picture all the amazing ways they can use our work. Clients can’t do that. So they’re looking at a logo on a blank page and saying, “okay, like it doesn’t feel like it’s got a lot going on. Like what did this designer really do?” Or they just can’t imagine that it could be letter pressed on business cards and made into this really amazing signage and whatnot.

 

Ian Paget: Earlier in the conversation you actually mentioned that there are some caveats to doing this process. So I do have other questions, but I think it’s worth asking if you can talk through the process of how you work and explain some of these caveats that you mentioned because I think that will probably answer a lot of my questions and a lot of questions that people do have in the back of their mind. So would it be okay to talk through your process using the, the one logo concept?

 

Melissa Yeager: Absolutely. With the one logo concept, one of the caveats and kind of key for me is that I’m not just designing a logo for the client, I’m designing a full brand identity. I call that my signature brand identity package and everyone calls it something a little bit different, but the essence of is in terms of final deliverables, the clients not only getting a logo, they’re getting primary and secondary logo, maybe some secondary marks. They’re getting a typography system that’s like set up in a, in a nice hierarchy that they know how to use going forward. They’re getting brand guidelines that show them how to use the logo and they’re getting from the very beginning, a brand strategy that establishes their goals for the brand and how it speaks to their target audience and whatnot.

So first of all for the one logo concept to actually work, it needs to be more than one logo. So it’s kind of misleading. The process for it to actually work needs to from the start have the proper expectations set up with your clients. So, my process I’ll run through now is what I tend to have listed out on my website in pretty great detail. And then as soon as a client submits an inquiry on my website where I asked them to give me some more information to get to know them, and whether or not we’ll be a good fit or not. Once a client would get to the point where we would choose to move forward, I would set up a call and again, talk them through this process in more detail.

Because again, one of the most important things for this approach working is having clear expectations that your client can’t be disappointed if they know what’s coming and if they know what final deliverables they’re going to get and if they know what to expect all along the way. So when you have those clear expectations set up, of course, if a client is expecting options and then you’re like “surprise, here’s one”, then they’ll be disappointed and then you’ll get backlash.

But if this is something that you set up from the beginning that this is how you work, this is what the client gets, this is what they can expect then that’s when the process tends to be successful. So from the beginning, once a client signs on and they paid the deposit and they sign the contract, then I have them fill out a comprehensive brand questionnaire that asks them all kinds of questions.

So it is not like your typical short questionnaire that says “what’s the name of Your Business?” And “what, what are your favourite colours?” So it’s not, it’s not eight questions. It’s eight pages of questions to start without the client filling it out and then could be upwards of 15 to 20 pages once they actually fill out the full questionnaire. So it goes very in depth and I think a lot of designers sometimes get nervous about scaring their clients away by asking too much of them. But this is a really involved process and you want to get to know your client and their business and their goals as well as possible because then you can do your job in the best way possible.

So they run through this brand questionnaire. I typically give them around a week to fill it out and then they send that back to me via my project management software and then I review it all in depth, take notes, write down questions. We set up a kickoff call where we talk through any questions to follow up and I ask follow up questions to clarify things. Then we would also go through the visual direction for the brand, the questionnaire itself. Also kind of lends itself to that where we ask what vibe they’re going for. We ask about their target audience, their future goals. We also ask about… I say we and I work for myself and by myself. So me and myself are asking the client all these questions. But I do ask do you have a Pinterest board or things that are inspiring to you.

And one of the important things in that arena is to ask the client what do you like about these things you’re showing me and why? And then you can start to draw parallels between the visual elements the clients are attracted to and then also pieces of their brand story and their target audience and their goals and see how those things start to align and might coincide with each other, so you can start to connect the dots. Another great thing for me is that I only take on clients who want to work with me specifically and like the kind of work I do. So then again, that’s another reason that the one concept approach is more successful because I know that the clients are looking for the type of work that I do and they’re not expecting me to reproduce what some other designer did.

Also my clients tend to be creative entrepreneurs, so generally they have good taste, which is really helpful. But even then sometimes like clients can’t picture what we can picture and how things might coincide with each other. So you have to guide them through “maybe that’s not appropriate here”. And if a client is like “watercolour, I want a water colour logo”, you can explain to them why that’s a terrible idea. Because depending on the different contexts in which they’ll want to use their logo, you could have secondary watercolour elements, but a watercolour logo is not going to lend itself to being printed and all the different ways they might potentially need their logo printed effectively. So you can educate as you go.

 

Ian Paget: I think it’s really good that you said that because I like what you’re doing. You are asking all the questions about the business, but you’re also asking about personal preference, personal tastes and stuff like that. And I know, and you know this as well, a logo design – we’re not designing it for the client, we’re designing it for the target audience. But I do think it’s important to find out the clients expectations, and what they imagine and how they see things taking shape because at the end of the day they are the ones that are going to be using it and applying it. I like that you’re having those conversations with the client really early on to say “this isn’t going to work with what you’re doing” and you can explain why. So you can get those ideas out the way and focus on a better direction. You’re being really clear up front with communication and I think that’s fantastic. Now I’ll let you carry on.

 

Melissa Yeager: Yeah. And another thing too is to always look at the type of client you’re working with too. So I’m working with creative small businesses, so so much of the time my clients, there’s a certain amount of overlap between themselves and their brands. So a lot of times there stylistic preferences lend themselves to how the brand looks. So you have to feel your way around for just how much overlap there is between your client and their brand in terms of style. Because sometimes the client has a business that has nothing to do with their personal preferences and you have to guide them out of what they like and continually remind them that we’re not designing for you, we’re designing for your target audience and your goals. But sometimes the brand is… The client is the linchpin of the brand and their personal style dictates a lot of what happens in the brand. So you have to feel that out.

After they fill out the questionnaire, review it, we go through and get on the same page with everything I distill all of those crazy amount of pages down and the all the stylistic inspiration down into a two page brand strategy. So the first page is literally text consolidated, a brand strategy that talks about their creative considerations, target audience, future goals, their objectives, the kind of brand essence. And basically clients have all of these thoughts about their brand and about who they want to be and what their values are that they have trouble taking a step back and solidifying all of that into something that’s like actually digestible.

So it sounds silly that it’s one page because I know plenty of designers who do much more involved packets of brand strategy, but what I’ve found is that by distilling it all down into one page, it makes it so much more digestible for the client. And then they feel really seen and understood because they can for the first time take all of their scatterbrain thoughts that have developed over however many years of them owning their business and see it all in one place as a consolidated, simplified roadmap.

So the first page is all text and then the second page is essentially a mood board – it’s like a grid of images that would speak to a tone, colour palette, any illustration or lettering styles, any visual subject matter, colour palette and tone and those kinds of things. I think I’m repeating myself a little bit, but there’s a lot of overlap in terms of the images. I try to choose images that apply to as many as possible. So when you look at the brand board as a whole, you get an overall sense of the colour palette of the tone of the audience we’re talking to of the values.

So that mood board gives us a stylistic direction of where we’re heading, whereas the brand strategy gives us a content focus of where we’re heading. So there’s one round of refinement built into that part of the process. So the client looks through everything and I accompany the brand strategy with explanations of what everything is. The brand strategy page is pretty self explanatory, but I’ll talk them through why I chose the images I did for the stylistic inspiration page, and make sure that they know that this is where we’re heading colour palette wise, this is the audience we’re talking to, these were the values, this is the different stylistic we’re talking about potentially incorporating, or the types of typefaces. Maybe we’re going modern and fresh so we’re going san-serif, or maybe they’re looking for something that’s really unique and sophisticated and a little bit more feminine. So we’re going custom lettering that’s going to be in a script.

 

Ian Paget: Can I just quickly ask about that? I know at that point your presenting the mood board and the strategy. You mentioned that you do one change within that, so you present it and then you give the client the option to amend it if for whatever reason it’s not going in the right direction. What’s the reason why you only do one? Is there a reason for doing that?

 

Melissa Yeager: I’ve found that throughout the rest of the process, once we get into actual design… it’s important to note that we’re a good deal into the design, into the branding process now. And I haven’t touched design, the client has not seen any designs for me, so that’s really important. But I’ve found that one round of refinement is all that’s necessary in the brand strategy phase. Through the design parts of the phase I tend to include two, just so there is a little bit more collaboration, but because I’m essentially taking the client’s own words and just summarising everything and taking their stylistic inspiration and mixing it with some of my own work and my own inspiration that I’ve curated I find that one round of refinement tends to be enough for me. But if it is something where you’re trying it for the first time, you could always include two and then if you feel good about it, you could scale back to one.

 

Ian Paget: Yeah, sure. So if they did want more than one, would you just do that as some kind of additional cost to that project?

 

Melissa Yeager: Yes, I know another thing designers run into all the time is that they get caught in these endless cycles of revisions, so being really clear about how many rounds of revisions or refinements you’re including in the process is really important. So I have a fixed price for the package and then that includes a certain round of refinements during each part of the process. And then if the client wants to go outside of that, they have to understand that it will delay the schedule accordingly and that there’s going to be extra cost associated with it. So I tend to handle that hourly, and just tell the client.

 

Ian Paget: I like what you said with that because it means that you are keeping full control of it. And I think anyone that’s listening to this that doesn’t already have that in there you have to do it otherwise you’re getting in a situation. I’ve been in that situation when I first started out where I thought, okay, I’m happy to do unlimited changes because I used to work for an agency where they had this problem and I thought I could solve that problem and I thought I could control it, but there are people out there that will literally just take the mic and just want change after change, after change, after change, so you have to have that in there.

And I like that you just have the one – you are literally saying no, you get one chance to change. And that should be enough like that you said because you should get that right from the outset based on all of the communication you had. And if it’s not quite right you can then have conversations and make it very specific based on that feedback. I really like that you’ve got that. You’ve got that level of control, which is really good.

 

Melissa Yeager: Definitely. And it all works together. Setting those clear expectations and having really specific guidelines for what’s included all lends itself to setting you up as the design expert who is in control. And a lot of times when you’re curating your client roster and only taking on clients that are respectful and looking for your type of work specifically, they are happy to hand over control and to be guided through this process because most of them have never been through a rebrand or a professional branding process before. And a lot of times clients that have been through it before have been through it with a designer who didn’t take as much control and then they just tell me how much they appreciate how organised the processes is, how they always know what they can expect and that we’re constantly meeting those expectations.

But because it doesn’t sound that complicated but I’m constantly in awe that businesses that I interface with every day at home and work in life, it’s really not that hard to just tell a client what to expect and then just deliver on it, but you’d be amazed what rave reviews you can achieve by just doing what you say you’re going to do.

And another thing is too, a lot of times I’ve noticed that the clients that want the endless revisions are also the clients that give you a lot of push back on your price initially. So that’s definitely a red flag to look out for if somebody doesn’t see the value in what you’re doing and isn’t willing to pay what you want to charge them for it, that is a major red flag going forward for the process because those clients that are really financially paranoid tend to be really paranoid throughout the process of getting their money’s worth. And then they tend to be the ones that always are scope creepers and want to get those extra rounds for free. So just be on the lookout for those.

 

Ian Paget: I’ll let you carry on with your process because I’ve interrupted slightly. So we got to the point where you created the strategy, you created that mood board, the clients agreed it. So what do do next?

 

Melissa Yeager: So the client approves it and then I use that as a jumping off point to dig into actually designing the brand. So this starts with me with an onslaught of blank art boards. And what I tend to do is pull in my visual mood board and then I start sampling colours from it. I start just playing around with the client’s brand name set in different type faces that feel like the right direction for where we’ve talked about going. And then I just experiment and iterate from there. So I’m constantly just copying things over and adjusting a little bit and then copying and adjusting and copying and adjusting. And then eventually, for me I don’t claim to ever be a fast designer and it’s part of my process to take a lot of time to do branding work because I believe that it’s a luxury experience. So clients are willing to invest the time in it.

And I think that designers who can work really fast and do things quickly, it’s amazing for them. But I am not one of those people. So, it typically takes me eight to 16 hours for a first round. And knowing that from years of experience is really nice because we all have that portion of, usually the first seven to 10 hours of a first round that I’m designing is… Everything I create is terrible. I hate this. I’m going to disappoint the client. They’re they’re never gonna like love this. And then eventually things start clicking and falling into place and working and then all of a sudden you have something you like, and then as you work on it from there, it just gets better and better, and it just gets to that point where I feel like I have, a lot of us do, we have a more intuitive process where I know it’s done when I get that feeling, when it’s like, “yes, this is the one”.

 

Ian Paget: Yeah. I like what you said then because I’ve experienced the same thing. Even though I’ve been a graphic designer now nearly 15 years, I still start on projects and I might have an entire day where I just think everything is awful. I hate this. I shouldn’t be doing this. I’m not a good designer. And then suddenly you get to that one idea that sparked from everything. You have to go through that whole process of coming up with ideas and creating different things and sketching different ideas. It can all be trash, but then you get that one ‘gold piece’ and you keep fine tuning it, polishing it, and it just becomes better and better. And that’s when you get an explosion of ideas and it all stems from there and it just keeps getting better like you said.

 

Melissa Yeager: Definitely. Yeah. And that’s so important to know too as you’re going through the process. It’s so helpful to me now to just be like, “all right, I’m in the messy middle and I’m not going to like anything I do for a bit until like until you do”. But I’ll iterate and go through and then once I get to the point where I start creating things that make sense together and they feel really in line with the brand strategy and what I’m looking to create for the client, then I will start to apply those elements where I tend to design in colour from, from the get go just because I feel like it gives me a better feel for the brand. Obviously you’re going to want the logo to work in black and white, like all of us know that, but the client doesn’t need to see that. The client is hiring you as the expert and you should like be doing that on the backend. Like knowing it works in black and white.

What’s gonna really make the difference in sell the client on your design is seeing it in application. So I tend to lay out for my client the brand hierarchy of what they’re looking at. So we may have a primary logo that’s more of a horizontal orientation and then a secondary logo that’s maybe a circle or it’s a little bit more square oriented. And then there were secondary marks that maybe there’s a monogram or an icon that has the feeling of the whole brand. There’s all of these different elements and you lay out for the client in terms of hierarchy, this is where everything falls.

And then the remainder of the client proof. So this is like a separate file. I have my play file or my working files where it’s just an explosion of ideas on art. And then I start to solidify from there and start to apply things. So everything in the client proof is really organised. And what I tend to do is to remind the client of what we’re doing together and where we came from. I include elements from the brand strategy to start off the client proof, so I’ll include the brand objective, all include how the brand that they’re about to see is going to speak to the target audience and achieve the style and goals that they’re going for. And then I’ll present brand, showing it to them in context with, maybe it’s the primary logo, but it has one of the secondary marks included with it and they work really well together.

And then I’m showing it not just on white but showing it on various background colours, showing it on a photograph and then using mock ups to your advantage. Mock ups can be super powerful. Clients love seeing their logo as signage. They love seeing their logo on business cards, on note cards, on things like that. And on a Mug. So there’s a lot of ways you can take the work that you’ve done and the logo and brand elements that you’ve created and mock them up or show them in application on pages to give the client an idea of like where they might use these things. I’ve done seamless patterns for brands, then I’ll do a mockup of those on custom tissue paper in a bag and it blows the client’s mind.

And meanwhile you’re like, of course they could use it on custom tissue paper or an envelope liner or like wallpaper on a wall. But you know, you have all these things in your mind, but you have to communicate that visually to the client because they can’t necessarily picture that. So I feel like the client proof that I’m sharing is a third strategy reminder. A third, here are your brand elements and then a third application. So all of those work together to not only present what you’ve created, but also show the client, this is how everything starts to work together.

So again, it’s not just one logo that they’re like “surprise, here it is on white on one page”. It’s showing the client how that logo works with their colour Palette, how it works with their typography system, how it might work if they wanted to have an announcement where they have a primary heading and a secondary heading and some body copy with the logo or one of the marks included on it. What if they want to share like an inspirational quote on social media and they want to include some element of their branding with that. So all of that tends to be really helpful.

And then I also tend to include three pieces of collateral in my branding package. So if the client chooses to do a set of icons, I tend to design those with the brand identity itself. And then the rest of the collateral I tend to design once the brand is approved. So heading back to client proof, what I do is, once that is in a really good place and I’m ready to deliver it on the day that I’ve told the client I’m going to deliver it, I have a call set up with the client where I’m going to present the brand to them.

So not only am I having multiple pages within the proof that dial back to the strategy and rationale and, speak to why I’m designing the things I’m designing and why they’re appropriate for the client. But I’m also scheduling a call where I’m going to walk them through this proof as they see it for the first time.

I tend to not send the proof to the client until around 15 minutes before our call. So literally as they open it up, they’re seeing it for the first time with me walking them through it just so they don’t have the extra time to show it to their husband or their niece who’s a design student or some random colleague who maybe doesn’t have their audience and their strategy and their goals in mind. So it’s really helpful for me to, first of all, I just really like seeing the client’s reaction when they see all of this for the first time because it’s a logical jump for me to go from the brand strategy to the brand designs.

But the client is always like an awe of how you kind of created something from nothing. So that part’s really fun. But it’s also really important to colour their impressions of the brand from the very beginning and be able to walk them through step by step so that they know why you did the things you did and how it’s in line with everything you’ve talked about up until this point. So you’re not just arbitrarily choosing the colour green. You chose this specific green because of these reasons.

So then I’ll present that to the client. They have a couple of days to let everything marinate and to sit with the designs and then they offer me feedback. Then there’s two rounds of refinement built into the brand identity phase. So they would give me feedback if I feel like I need to hop on a call and talk through anything with them I will, otherwise I’ll refine anything that needs to be adjusted.

And then share the second proof. Again that will take a couple days, let all of that marinade and then offer me feedback and then I’ll make any final adjustments when I send them the final proof, and then they’re responsible to approve it. But if there’s any other things that they feel like we just need to work a little bit more on something they can go outside the scope and we can work hourly to make those final adjustments if necessary. But I find that because the brand is so comprehensive and because they’re seeing how everything’s working together, I find that I hardly ever have anyone go outside of the two rounds of refinement.

 

Ian Paget: I really like the changes that you made to the process that Sean Wes presented when he did the options because he literally does everything and then gives it to them and the client cannot interact or give any feedback or anything. It’s just that’s it. Done. Go away. Pretty much that’s, that’s what his process is. But I like that you’ve made it more real because it was one of the things I didn’t particularly like about his process that he’s literally coming up with a solution and not letting the client have any say. I like that you are including those changes. You are giving the opportunity to make tweaks if needed. It’s a much more realistic solution to what he did.

 

Melissa Yeager: And you and I were kind of alluding to this in our conversation, but I think because Sean does so much lettering work and has an established style that he’s known for, I feel like that would work for him. That people would want the Shawn Wes style and he would do that for them. And then there’s no reason to include rounds of refinement or a revision. But for something like branding where every client is different and there’s so many nuances and there’s a colour palette and there’s topography and there’s secondary elements and there’s different ways that even with a 15 page brand questionnaire, there might be contexts where the client is going to use this logo that I haven’t thought of and they didn’t think to tell me until they saw page eight of the proof or something like that. So I find that the branding process, as a brand designer you have to be a little bit of a chameleon where you’re able to put on the style and the needs of your clients and create for those specifically.

But even with as much preparation as you can do in the very beginning of the process, things inevitably tend to come up throughout the actual strategy and branding, brand design parts of the process where a client just all of a sudden thinks to tell you something that they didn’t think to tell you before. So I find that the process, it’s really important to me too. I prefer to work more collaboratively and I view the branding process is more of an evolution that… Of course I would create nice looking things if I just did it myself without including rounds of refinement, but it wouldn’t be exactly the right solution and fine tuned in the way they need it unless I offered them the wiggle room and the space to work together to make exactly what they need.

 

Ian Paget: Yeah. I think that’s really good because I’ve had instances where I’ve worked with clients, I presented something that I felt was really strong but because you’re working on strategy and you can actually have conversations about that strategy, they know their business way more than you do. They know their audience, they know more about their businesses than you could ever know even if you spent a month researching it. It’s useful having their feedback. And in most most cases personally, I don’t know if you have this, tend to come up with a better solution anyway with the combined feedback. So I do think it’s really important to include the client in that and give that opportunity for these changes. That cleared out one of the concerns I had.

Now that we’ve gone through that whole process one, one thing that I wanted to ask you… So at the moment I present options. I am really keen on doing the one logo concept, but like you said, It needs to run through your entire process from the content on your website through to your process and everything else. So for me, I have to make a lot of changes to apply that. So that’s one of the reasons why I haven’t changed it, but one of the main concerns I have is I worry that I would get lazy. Because I am currently presenting options, what I typically do is I present between three and five that I feel work well based on the brief. I create a strategy as well. So I’m working towards goals. I create a tick list of goals, but it’s basically a strategy.

Because I’m presenting options sometimes I sit down, I could work on it for a few hours and then I come to the best idea that I’ve ever had for this identity. And I’m like “that is the logo, they have to pick that one. That’s what they’re going to go for”. And that’s when I get these moments where I wish I’m doing the one concept approach and I wish I could just present that. And then I’m forced to create more options. And I know you said that sometimes you create this rubbish logo just to include options, but sometimes I will start exploring options outside of the box. I really start pushing the boundaries of what’s in there and I actually come up with a solution. It’s so much better, that works better in application when I test it. It’s just a much better solution.

If I was to present one solution, I wouldn’t have done that. So, do you have anything in your process to avoid being lazy like that?

 

Melissa Yeager: Definitely. So I think it’s definitely a part of all of us that you have to create those ugly things up front to get it out of the way and just get something down. But I think that a lot of the time I’ll know that I want there to be different elements that I want to include in a brand, that I like want it to be modern and fresh and sophisticated. So there’s different ways that I can do that while balancing the logo elements and the typefaces I’m using and the colour palette. So maybe the colour palette’s really sophisticated, but the logos look a little bit more fun.

So I think that the way that I make sure I’m not being lazy is that I will give myself… I don’t put any pressure on myself to decide on a logo really quickly. I know that I want to experiment for at least five to eight hours to just create an iterate until I have something I feel really good about. And then doing that application is really where I double check and make sure that I’m not being lazy, in that the logo will actually work, and generally it’s an intuitive process for me. So I, I feel like I just know when I hit the right design that’s going to work and I just get this magical feeling from it that gives you the chills that you’re like, okay, yeah, this works really well. I love how these typefaces work along with the logo. I love how this colour palettes working. And, like I was saying earlier, instead of spreading those ideas that I would use potentially in different logo options, I spread those out to different elements of the brand.

So maybe the logo is a little bit more conservative, but there’s a really fun pattern for the brand. And just having all of those elements that you’re creating and seeing how they work and play together, you get a sense of like, is this the right balance for the client? Does everything feel appropriate when it’s all put together or does it feel like a little bit off? Does the logo feel too conservative and stuffy compared to the rest of the brand? Or, does this typeface from the logo just not feel right or does it feel like I’m trying too hard? There’s like a bunch of ligatures in here and it’s just like a little too much going on with everything else that we’re working with. So I think that the application is the key for me where I test to make sure that everything feels appropriate together. And it’s like a system of checks and balances where you can tell when you put everything together as opposed to just see looking at the logo on the page by itself. You can see that once we’re trying it on a business card or we’re trying to apply it with an inspirational quote or some body copy, you can see whether it’s actually working in context or not.

 

Ian Paget: Yeah, I totally agree with that because personally a lot of my projects, because Logo Geek has been a side venture I’ve only worked on logos for quite a long time, but one thing I’m trying to do now is work on more brand identities. So not just working on that logo, and I’ve literally had a project this past week where I started doing that testing where were playing the logo on the business card on the signage. It’s for a property company, so it’s on To Let signs, lots of different things. And we found the logo was working really well on the To Let sign.

But when I started putting it on the business card, the subheading was just… you couldn’t really see it and it need it to be bigger. Because I’m actually using it, I was able just to tweak that, and make the update across the board. So I do think testing and applying that logo to different things and, and testing the extremities of how it’s going to be used, in small size, and large sizes you can, you can basically really fine tune that mark, and you never do that working on the the logo in isolation. So personally, I don’t really want to just work logo anymore. I’d like to work on more. But obviously I need to change the way that I present my business and the content. Pretty much in the way that you’ve done cause you do really nicely – you know looking through your website what you’re going to get, what the process looks like, and I think that’s needed and I think what you’re doing is fantastic. So thank you for sharing your process.

I noticed that you include prices on your website and I know that’s generally not recommended to to do. I’ve spoken with lots of different graphic designers about this and people are always telling me when you are presenting prices, you’re leaving money on the table. And then I’ve also had counter-arguments from clients that they don’t know how much I charge and they think I’m too expensive so they don’t even get in touch. They can actually afford me in most cases. I’d really love to know your thoughts on this because you are presenting prices and I’d love to know why?

 

Melissa Yeager: Sure. So, I think within the design industry it’s a dark taboo topic pricing. And for some reason designers don’t like, like you have to be friends with another designer for them to tell you how much they charge. And it’s like unnecessarily sketchy the whole pricing within the design industry, when it really makes sense because so many designers complain that clients don’t value their work and don’t know how much design costs, when how can we expect them to know how much design costs when no one posts their pricing.

So for me, there’s a few different reasons why I chose to share my pricing. Honestly from when I started my business, I’ve started my business in January of 2016 and when I first started I didn’t have any pricing on my website and I found that I got a lot of like bloggers who wanted a $200 logo and just were on the way, way, way low end.

And at a point you just get sick of fielding those ill informed inquiries, which to no fault of their own because how would they know? Looking at my website that only has a portfolio, how will they know how much design with me is going to charge or it’s going to cost? So from there I levelled up and was like, okay, I’m going to put budget ranges on my contact form and have it start at a certain point. So that was the mid range level where, maybe for me I had it starting at $2,000 at that point or $4,000, whatever it was. But I would still get a couple people that didn’t get the hint that this is the starting range and that if you couldn’t afford the starting range, then you couldn’t afford to work with me.

But from there, as I launched, looked at launching my new website, which I launched this past June, I realised that I have built my brand and one of my philosophies is that I like being very open and transparent and I like sharing my journey and how I do things in service of others so that you can learn from, or so others can learn from the mistakes I’ve made and from the things that I’ve done. It’s taken me a while to get here and I’ve made mistakes along the way, but now I’ve found this way to work that seems to really work for me and hopefully save some people some time and headache and tears along the way if I can. So, I realised with my new website that I was sick of fielding inquiries from people that potentially couldn’t afford me.

I wanted to help clients better know what quality design costs and I wanted to give other designers a confidence boost for raising their own prices. Cause I found that most designers, since we don’t talk about how much we charge, most designers don’t charge enough. So it was this three pronged benefit where everyone wins. Where if I have my pricing on my website, then it weeds out clients that can’t afford it because they see how much it costs and they shouldn’t contact me. And it says on my contact page, make sure you view my services page first because it has details on price and scope right there for you. So it weeds out those clients that don’t value or can’t afford the my work. And, it also teaches clients what to expect from a quality designer, in terms of one reference point for price.

And then it also encourages other designers to raise their pricing and gives them a point of reference for what someone with potentially my experience level might charge for their design work.

Also very importantly, I’m a solopreneur still. I run my business by myself. It’s just me and I don’t have time to field a bunch of inquiries from ill-fitting clients. So having as much information and education on my website as possible helps me to save time and handle everything more efficiently where I don’t have to worry about talking to clients through every single part and philosophy of how and why I work the way I do because it’s already on my website. So that education is really important. But saying that over and over personally to each new client inquiry is just a waste of time because some will really resonate and want to work together, and some won’t and that’s fine and they’re not the clients for me.

But I find that it saves me a ton of time just having the pricing on my website. Now, some people would say that by putting my pricing on my website, I’m potentially taking… It could be a downside in one way that they don’t talk to me first and really connect with my personality and then see the worth of my price later when I propose it to them. After talking to me, they might be more able to invest or be more on board with investing a higher amount of money. But at the same time, again, I’m one person. I only have so much time and I find that I put so much of myself into my website and into my blog posts and how I write, and the content I share and trying to educate and share value as much as possible that I think you can get a lot of that from just following me or subscribing to my newsletter, reading my blog posts.

So, for me it’s worth it to just have that price right there on the website and to get that sticker shock out of the way. And, one of my recent clients actually shared with me too. She’s like, because it can be a very vulnerable approach because all of a sudden there’s a severe drop in inquiries because everybody knows how much you cost. So they don’t have to contact you to find out. So there’s all these people that are potentially considering hiring you but you just don’t know about them. So it’s like this kind of like the bulk of the people, bulk of the iceberg is below the surface kind of thing.

But hearing from my recent client, “it was so nice having your price on your website and just being able to, like I found myself just going back to your website over and over again cause you clearly knew what you were doing and I didn’t have to have that awkward conversation with you where you dropped the price on me and then you were waiting for me to get back to you”. But at the same time I felt pressure and she said she really appreciated not having to have that awkward exchange where she had to tip toe around my pricing and that all of it was just there. So that was really helpful to hear. And granted like this will not be the approach for every designer and every client will not be like raring to just drop thousands of dollars on the logo. But I find that it’s an efficient way to weed out clients that don’t see the value and to also kind of help everybody else in the design industry industry realise that they could potentially be charging more and just like kind of give them confidence to do that.

 

Ian Paget: Yeah. What I would add to that is – you are sharing prices, which obviously is slightly controversial, but the caveat with you is that you are clearly presenting exactly how your process works… The reason why you’re doing everything. Your website is a really fantastic resource for learning more and understanding more, so you don’t actually need to have a conversation with you.

Another question I do have for you around this is when you do have an inquiry, what percentage of them actually go ahead?

 

Melissa Yeager: Very high. Yeah, probably 90%. But at the same time, my branding processes so much more involved that, and my process takes around three months, so I’ve moved to only taking on one branding client at a time and it’s hard to speak to this right now since I’m getting ready to have our first child and go out on maternity leave. So I’m scaling back how much design work I’m taking on. But typically the percentage is very high , and the really cool thing too that I’ve noticed is when I do schedule that initial introduction call to talk my client, or my potential client through my process, I talk them through everything and even more detailed than it is on my website and then finish with like, what questions can I answer? Is there anything you’d like to hear it more about? Not everyone since like the new website has been like, no, I like, I understand everything. I’m on board and it’s pretty much been no questions, which is amazing.

 

Ian Paget: Yeah, that’s exactly what I was expecting.

We’ve nearly done an hour. We’re nearly at the end of our time. So I’m going to ask you one last question. If you could travel back in time and offer your younger self just one piece of advice, what would the advice be?

 

Melissa Yeager: I think that it would be to just trust that every part of my life and design journey is important, even if it feels terrible at the time. So every experience that I’m going through I’ve been through is important to making me the designer and person that I am today.

So for example, I worked at a couple studios that maybe didn’t have the best practices and best management processes and weren’t quite so empowering to people. So I never planned on starting my own business. I looked at other people doing it that maybe weren’t doing the best job. And is that like, well, if they could do it, I can definitely do it. And in those instances where I was arguably a pretty unhappy at the time, I realised that I was learning a lot of what not to do. So, I would go back and tell myself that even if you’re arguably unhappy right now, you’re learning things that will serve you later. So even the things that you learn what not to do can help guide you towards the path of like where you’re supposed to be and what you’re going to do really well down the line. So I think it’s just trusting the journey and that even the not so fun parts can lead you to some really amazing things.

 

Ian Paget: That’s really good advice for yourself. I know that other people will relate with that. I did, I related with that story, so I hope other people will.

Well Melissa it’s been really great chatting with you. Thank you so much for going through everything. What I would do is, because I know that you got courses and you have a blog and there’s lots of stuff that you’re doing, I want people to go and check that out. So what I would do is I will put links to everything in the show notes, but if you do want to talk about that, I’m happy to add that in. But otherwise, thank you so much for your time. It’s been a real pleasure to chat with you and I really appreciate you diving into this topic. It’s been really fascinating.

 

Melissa Yeager: Sure. Thank you so much for having me. And Yeah, you can find everything pretty much on my website, which is melissayeager.com and then a you can tell from talking to me. It’s very important to me how I work just as much as who I work with and what I’m actually designing. So I, I find that balance between work and life and establishing yourself as an export so you can be more in your power when you’re designing has been really important for me. And so, making a design career more sustainable and more enjoyable for yourself. So the things that I release and the way I work and the products and classes I put out into the world are all geared towards that. Like helping people design more efficiently, helping them become the expert that they know that they are, but they just haven’t shown the world yet. So yeah, that and you can find all that on my website.

 

Ian Paget: Yeah, it’s really good. I’ve really enjoyed your blogs. Like I said, I hadn’t actually heard of you until someone raised that blog and I do think your content is fantastic, so I hope people will go and check that out.

Melissa, thank you so much for coming on. It’s been really great chatting with you.

 

Melissa Yeager: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me.

 

Thank you to the sponsor, FreshBooks

 

I’m incredibly thankful to FreshBooks for sponsoring season 4 of the Logo Geek Podcast! FreshBooks is an online accounting tool that makes it really easy to create and send invoices, track time and manage your money. You can try it out for yourself with a free 30 day trial.

Using the one concept approach - An interview with Melissa Yeager

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