The decision to rebrand a company doesn’t come lightly. It requires a mountain of effort, from the early brainstorms to the final touches, to ensure everything is aligned with the new look.

Companies choose to rebrand for many reasons. As a designer, it’s your job to sleuth out the important variables before you begin. Here, we’ve pulled together five important questions to ask your client before putting pen to paper. These questions will save both of you time and ease the rebranding process dramatically.

1. What is it about the old logo that isn’t working?

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This is a terrific opener to ask a potential client. It’s a non-intimidating question that opens the door to understanding between the designer and client.

It’s a balanced question that is partially answered by the client and in part deduced by the designer. Reasons a logo might not be working could include illegibility, inaccurate visceral feelings, it’s not dynamic enough, a company name change or – most commonly – a dated look. Do your best to squeeze this information out of the client, as they may have trouble articulating it.

What do you think wasn’t working with the old Morton Salt logos? If Morton was your client, how might you have prompted this client to talk about what wasn’t working. Perhaps you could ask, “Do you think the original logo looks dated?”, “Do you feel like your brand image is missing an identifiable color way?” or “Is the little girl cute or a little scary?”

It wouldn’t be surprising if these are questions that came up during the rebrand, seeing as the new designs added a color scheme, modernized the illustration and “aged” the little girl in a way that makes her more innocent and cute.

2. What needs to stay?

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Despite your sudden inspiration and vision for a greater logo, the client might have some cold hard rules about what needs to stay. If you don’t ask, you could end up wasting your time on a design that doesn’t work for the clients’ unique needs. At the very least, you should ask what needs to stay. It could be specific colors or color schemes, a type style (serif or sans-serif) or a speicfic capitalization of their company name.

In this proposed NASA rebrand, it’s possible that some of these questions were overlooked. NASA turned down the proposed design, which largely abandoned the existing typography and color scheme.

3. How far can the rebrand stray from the original?

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This question is more of a “feel” question, and may take some conversation to figure out. Essentially, you’re trying to figure out if the client needs a “touch-up” or a full-on “makeover”. You could show the client some examples of yours or other designers work that are on a spectrum of aesthetic distance from the client’s current logo. This allows the client to point out how far they are willing to stray.

Riding the tail-end of a 3D logo trend that surfaced in the early 2000s, Chevron decided to update in 2008. For them, the answer to this question was “not far.” The new logo simply takes the edge off of what was starting to be a dated look. It’s also clear that the designer had a solid conversation about this with the client. The visual distance is very close to the original in an intentional way.

4. Does the existing logo have a strong visual and social association with the client?

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One of the most common challenges with rebranding is that the existing customers of a client may already have a visual connection between the old logo and the client. It’s important to discuss how strong this connection and what the level of consequence would be with a bold rebrand (vs a slight one). Will a strong rebrand confuse existing customers? Or is it okay to start from scratch and develop a new customer base?

A great example of a company with rock-solid visual association is Apple. The Apple logo is undeniably a shape that designers should not mess with. Those that worked on these rebrands clearly knew that. The icon’s branding is far too strong and any modification to this shape would likely seriously compromise at least the short term success of the business.

This shape has resonated strongly with Apple for decades. No one likes to destroy and redefine these strong visual associations. It’s confusing in what is already a confusing world.

5. Where is the new logo going to appear?

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This question applies to all logo design, but is especially important to ask when heading into a rebrand because it’s a point of transition for your client. They might be trying new things with their business that you need to know about, so you can create a logo that accommodates these new explorations.

Take for example Marmal (featured above). Their new branding demands something dynamic and adaptable, something that can work on packaging, cups and ephemera. Designer Monika Kusheva knew this and designed something geometric – a design style that lends itself to adaptability. If the extent of real world application was not discussed, a less adaptable design may have been created, and would have ultimately not help up to real world demands.

Conclusion

Ask these questions! They will save you a lot of time and energy. And don’t stop here. Conversation goes a long way in design. It’s a lot easier to ask questions that to take shots in the dark.

Want some rebranding inspiration? Check out the big rebranding trends from 2013, 2014 and 2015!