BUSINESS BEFORE BRANDING. ALWAYS.
"I need a logo."
I love hearing those words. And I often love the process, too. Clients are excited, I'm excited, and the creative energy is typically on level 10. But here's the deal. Logos aren't brands, brands aren't logos, and we all think about them way too much.
I'll come out and say that logo design is fun. It's not only a fun process, but from a designer's standpoint, analyzing logos is a great exercise in self-evaluation, a good way to broaden your knowledge of design techniques, and offers an excuse to just look at some bad-A design work.
However, when a client wants to spend an inordinate amount of time in the logo design process, I've often found it's not because they're obsessed with their brand—it's because they don't know what to do next. Colors matter. Fonts matter. Textures matter. It's all important. But none of these things are more important than the business idea itself.
If a client can't clearly define their business during the logo process, it's not time for a design session, it's time for a business meeting. Design at its core is a product and therefore, to be good design, it must meet a need for the client. If the client's needs aren't readily established, then any design thereafter is the byproduct of conjecture.
Business must come before branding.
How do we know this is true? Because big brands rebrand. Their marketing may change and their logo may change, but Coca-Cola still sells soda. If you're selling a product that meets a need, connects with your audience, and has good profit margins, you're establishing a brand. If you're selling a nebulous idea centered around a cool design, you're building a trend. Both can be profitable. Only one is lasting.