Using the One-Concept Approach for Branding
Something that’s common in any industry, are industry standards. We believe that many industry norms can be broken to improve your business, if it makes
In the design world, the standard for logo and brand design is to present 3 logo options to a client and let them choose their favourite. Within the first 6 months of running Salt Design Co. we decided to screw that. Instead, we switched to what’s known as the ‘one concept approach’ for all of our brand design projects.
What is the one concept approach and why do we use it?
Well, in a nutshell, the one concept approach is basically just a fancy way of saying we only present our clients with one full brand and logo concept. We switched to this approach back in 2017, and so far it has been nothing but amazing. It cuts down on refinement time, makes it easier for our clients, and allows us to do a deep dive into the style a brand needs, fleshing out one idea as much as possible and make sure it’s strong and as close to perfect as it can be when a client sees it.
By no means is this the end of the process - for all projects we have another 1-3 rounds of design to ensure that our brand concept is perfect. We like to think of it as the marriage between the client as the expert of their business, with us as design experts. We don’t know a client’s business as well as they do, so we do need (and welcome) their thoughts. Is this design too feminine, is too childlike, is… anything that’s not quite perfect for their brand ethos and target market.
We ask questions that push our clients to think beyond the visuals, and consider how the brand design supports their brand messaging and how it will attract their ideal customers. What’s working towards those goals, what’s not?
From there we can start to evaluate what can be tweaked and improved until we hit upon the final result. And in the 2+ years we’ve been following this process we’ve never needed to go beyond the 3 rounds of refinement – in fact many projects only require 1 round of refinements, and some don’t need any!
What’s included in a brand presentation?
Below is an example of what’s included in an ‘Initial Brand Concept"; the first concept we send to a client, showing them the logo design, font system, colour palette, and any other brand details in use. This concept is referred to as the initial presentation because we will then take this concept through 1-3 rounds of refinement to ensure that we get it just right, but this is the very first.
As a side note, we find that labelling it as a concept makes it clear that we are presenting it as an idea for the brand, not the final never again changing design. It’s open to refinements and this is the starting point for that.
You’ll see in this slide that we also include the original mood board created so that a client can see where we started and what we’ve been using to guide us and inspire us. Throughout the design process we use both he mood board as a style direction and the Brand Strategy as a reference, pulling in keywords and adjectives we need to fulfill with the visuals.
One surprisingly fun thing with this method is that it makes our process so much smoother, but we’re also being a little rebellious. While many more designers are starting to use the one concept approach its not industry norm just yet, and it’s certainly not what we were taught in design school. But being inquisitive, finding what worked best for us and our clients, we were able to research other options and find a process that helped us to excel at our job. Nowadays if we ever skip parts of our process it throws everything off and we just don’t produce the same level of work.
I highly recommend taking a look at what you’re doing in your business (whether you’re a designer or not) and considering if there are any things you do just because they’re the norm, and whether they really have to be done that way. What might actually work better for you? For your clients? For the growth of your business? Can you find anyone else in your industry who has experienced similar things and see what they have changed for the better? Trust us, if you think something isn’t working great, someone else will agree with you!