Re-designing a logo when the client knows what they want yet have budget restrictions

The Problem: Baby Acapulco’s needs and have needed a logo since their inception in 1981. They have had the concept and “mascot” of the Pink Baby Elephant for years. This however is not a logo, something that can be applied across their whole brand, Menus, signage, website, Email Blasts, Tee-Shirts and other merchandise. A good logo should generate profit, that is why us designers ask a fair price for a “new logo”, for the client will eventually make that money back and more as the years go on.

Let’s take a look at some of their old logos shall we?

I like to pose the question to any client about their logo does it break my rule of “If you had to get your logo stitched on a baseball hat could it be done?”. I use this rule because eventually your logo will have to be produced on shirts, pint glasses and sometimes even baseball hats. The current logo would be a production nightmare and will never turn a profit as sellable merchandise.

Too often the client wants to tell a story in their logo and more often does a inexperienced designer want to impress the client by over-doing it.

The above is NOT a logo, it is a cartoon caption or illustration.  The story they have been trying to tell since 1981 is along the lines of being a “mini Mexico”, hence the name “Baby Acapulco’s”. Why a pink elephant? It goes with the old saying that “you see pink elephants when you drink too much”.

This poses a few problems for a designer trying to re-do their “look” or “brand”, for the main reason this mascot has been in the public eye and amongst the customers since 1981. It is not an option to “lose the elephant”. It is NOT an option to “stylize” the elephant in just any color you want.  There have been a few logos between this one and the one I have designed that attempt to bring the look “up to date”.  In their attempts at this it was obvious to me they didn’t get why the elephant was a baby or why it was pink.  I won’t post those logos out of respect for the designers that attempted to fix this problem.

Another challenge for the designer is of course to simplify the current logo, and a good designer knows using anymore than 3 colors in a logo is just a bad idea and steps into “illustration” area. You can get away with 4 colors if you keep one of the colors in the same family (i.e. dark blue with baby blue, or a tint of the blue).

Now to further tie my hands as a designer,  we know one of these 4 colors if going to have to be pink. We also know I am going to have to outline the re-drawn elephant in a dark color that is NOT black but is a color that compliments pink. Some choices would be dark blue, dark purple, dark maroon, brown.

Setting these rules early on really saves you wasting time as a designer and wasting the client’s money on “the creative process”.

Which brings me to my first attempt below. Meant to match the color scheme I had previously established in their Happy Hour Menu

As you can see here, the first thing you  have to do when limiting colors is silhouette the palm tree to a dark color. Then use that dark color to outline the pink elephant.  Upon the client’s request they wanted to “lose the idea of the elephant drinking a margarita”. Which was fine by me, margarita’s are just more color and would complicate “simplifying” the logo further.  Also the first thing I think to do is “something fun with the type to impress the client immediately”. This of course it not necessary with most logos, but they are used to seeing fun things. I use a pretty standard typography effect that any historian or fan of typography has seen in some form, but its a pretty safe bet as a design tool.

I also show how the logo works when simplified to black and white, a must have for any good logo. The 3rd is the one to be used when we need to spell out the entire name and when the designs of posters might need a horizontal logo instead of a circular one, and is to be used in their on going Arboretumville Concert Series.  Designers warn against having too many logos, but this falls under the category of the same logo, same brand with variant shapes.

The client’s only corrections came back as:

“Add – “Est. 1981” somewhere near the bottom by the “Austin, Texas”

Change – The elephant ears, primarily the tip of them. He thinks they are a little too pointy, makes them look a little like bat ears. He likes the rest of the elephant; the position, the sunglasses, the trunk, etc.

Change – Color tones for the colored logo. The palm tree and shadow of the block letters all look black on our page and printer. If we could see some different color options with this logo. The Baby A’s letters a different color, the palm tree a different color, and a different pink tone on the elephant. I like the pink on the elephant now, Jerry wants to explore another pink. We all like the Austin Texas clear like it is. The green/turquoise circle is almost there. I really like the color of the green/turquoise circle. I think if we primarily change the colors of the letters and palm tree, the entire logo will look closer to what we want.

We like the black and white one. I REALLY like the horizontal one, so does Jerry.”

I then presented the ones below. I knew right away a different pink would not work, it breaks the rules I have already established. So, at this point in the design process, I like to do exactly what they ask, then a few other options that work, even one with colors that might be more loud and not work anticipating they might want to see that. So, just show it and why it doesn’t work  (logo #5). #2, 3 & 4 are the ones I lean towards, but hope they like #2 the most.

Sure enough, #2 was their favorite. With the following comments “So we were wondering what #2 would look like, if you made the palm tree, the same color as the lettering? Would like to see what that does. Also, Jerry was wondering if u could outline the yellow circle with the same lettering and palm tree color, just to tie in the whole logo and also see what that looks like…”

I know just by reading this, it doesn’t work as well. But here is what it looks like with those suggestions. I leave the untouched one in the presentation to further show them it is much better as is:

So that’s my process for a job like this. Hope this was a helpful blog post.

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5 Responses to “Re-designing a logo when the client knows what they want yet have budget restrictions”

  1. honorary texan Says:

    having worked with designers for way too long, i can easily appreciate your reasoning and thought process… i really like the last mark on the post, HOWEVER – you knew that was coming! 🙂 – my one concern is that it has lost it’s original “Mexican-feel”… which sadly enough i admit, i got instantly from their original crazy mark. i know, i know – not very helpful and typical douchey account chick… but i just felt the need to throw it out there. it now feels hip and updated but it’s lost that Mexican-cantina-feel. 😦 and i’ll go ahead and shut up now…

    • ginoverna Says:

      I see your point there on the “Mexican feel”. This is a casualty of only wanting to spend so many dollars and so many design hours on it. I do plan on making the support materials more Mexican in feel, like the menu and posters. In my defense the “taking out of the margarita” certainly takes a lot of Mexican away. But this was their direction. There is a lot of gentrification and slick restaurants with slick branding popping up in this town. They can’t be a slick new restaurant, no one living here would buy into it. So it is kind of a happy medium quick fix on their budget.

      Great feedback though, I appreciate it.

  2. HelenK Says:

    Great post. Very informative and logical process, while leaving the client feel like they have good input but pointing them in the right direction all the time.

  3. Whitney Gardner (@HeyWhitney) Says:

    “There’s a time for daring and there’s a time for caution, and a wise man understands which is called for.” You made a playful readable logo out of crazy illustration, no easy task. I’m sure the client was pleased. I would be.

  4. shawn dubin Says:

    very informative in terms of process. smart move, popping the one you were leaning toward in the center top row of the multiple offerings. love the way you distilled the flavor of the original into a more sophisticated, simplified design that translates well for a variety of uses. get them selling some t-shirts, pronto.

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