The Lack of Context in Design Communities

This is a big mistake, and the reason for this blog post.
If others understand the problem, they can tell you if the design is the best solution or not. They can also separate personal preference and instead focus on providing valuable constructive feedback that will help you to find the best possible solution for your client.
Despite this… even now… the occasional post is deleted due to no context being provided. If I have time I’ll chat with the individual so they’re aware, but in some cases it’s been so much of an overwhelming request that they’ve simply not bothered reposting.
Design without understanding the problem is art. It won’t help the business. Creating a logo based only on personal cosmetic choices is sadly likely to damage the company that it’s being designed for.
The most common poor quality post is from people that just drop links in hope to get Behance, Dribbble or Instagram followers. Why people think that will work I will never understand… but sadly it’s very common.
Context explains the problem you’re trying to solve, and how you have solved it.
But… when you’re designing a solution to a specific problem it’s the worst question you can ever ask. If you’re a designer, remove it from your vocabulary. Don’t ask it when asking for feedback from other designers… and certainly don’t ever ask a client when you’re presenting logo design.
At that time I’d only just started to join design communities. I used Facebook mostly as a way to keep up with friends and family. But fast-forward a year, and now I tend to spend most of my digital life in Facebook groups as they are incredible places to meet other likeminded designers from around the globe.
It’s likely this is because they were only posting for an ego boost, but I genuinely worry that this is because the logo has been designed based only on the company name, and that the designer had treated the logo as a cosmetic item.

Why asking ‘What do you think?” is a bad question for graphic designers

When you know this information, you can make informed decisions when designing your logo, and you can explain those decisions when you present the design to other designers for feedback (and when you eventually present it to the client too). It makes you look more professional as a designer, and shows that you have the clients best interest at heart.
The logo includes a B monogram which intended to look represent sea life by showing both a shell and wave within one symbol.
Surprisingly, since starting the group it’s been much much harder than expected to get members to provide any form of context when asking for feedback. I think it had become the norm online, so requesting it has been a culture shock.
You will notice a few things here:
But the worst thing… and something that really concerns me… is the sheer volume of people who simply post a design along with “what do you think”? without any context.
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What is context and why does it matter?

Hi everyone! I’ve been working on a new logo and would like your feedback.
Blue Inspiration Logo Design by Ian Paget
Being honest… running and moderating a group has been a lot harder than I expected…
Asking what others think will get you a whole load of feedback, but it will be very subjective and unhelpful.
Thankfully early members accepted the rules, and began to understand the value of providing and asking for context. With time it has become part of the culture of the group. If it’s not me asking for more context, it’s someone else. The members are simply awesome!
In June 2017 I made the decision to start a Logo Design Facebook group called the Logo Geek Community.
I understand why people ask what others think about their design work. It’s the go-to question, and it’s hard to avoid.
Blue Inspiration is a marine science consultation and publication with emphasis on marine science interpretation for the general public.
You can gather this information by using a questionnaire, by having a conversation (on phone or in person), or by facilitating a strategy workshop. If you do plan to perform some kind of strategy workshop make sure to charge for it (the Core framework from The Futur is a valuable tool in this scenario).
If you want genuine helpful feedback that will help to improve your design you need to provide context. Context really matters.

Designing a logo to present with context

As described above, to get good feedback from anyone you need to preset your work with context. You need to be able to back up your decisions, and you need to be asking the right questions too.
All this feedback is subjective. It’s not helpful to you, and it’s completely irrelevant.

  • About the business. Who they are. What they do etc.
  • Who are the competition.
  • Who are the target audience.
  • If a redesign – the reason for the change.

A logo should never be decoration – it’s a business tool. Before you can make a single design decision you will need to understand the following:
If you have any questions or want to discuss this topic further, ping me a tweet or join the Facebook community. Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

An example post to get the best feedback

In some cases I feel the lack of context comes from not having a clearly defined problem from day one. It’s important you understand details of the business before you ever start working on the logo.
I’m firm on this because without context nobody can understand the problem. If they don’t understand the problem they can’t help you, unless they ask lots of questions.
Even harder is trying to keep the community high quality… All you need is a couple of poor quality posts in the feed, and people will stop posting and interacting.
I’ve seen fights… I’ve seen bullying… I’ve had to deal with it, and I’ve needed to ban people. It’s crazy to think that grown adults will fall out over who knows more about design, and they always want me to get involved too… “No thanks”.
I thought it would be a great way for designers who listen to the podcast (which was released at about the same time) to discuss the show, to chat logo design and to get feedback on their work. I had no idea that in less than a year it would grow to a community of over 4000 logo designers from around the world…
You’ll get people that ‘don’t like it’ just because it’s red – their least favourite colour. Some may complain it’s far too simple because they prefer detailed design… and some may dislike the font because it’s ‘boring and uninspiring’.
Do you feel this solution works well? Is there anything that could be improved? I hope this post has been helpful. I apologise that it may seem like a rant (which it is) but I have written it to hopefully help people get and give better feedback.

  • I’ve been direct that I am looking for feedback.
  • I’ve given an brief overview of the business, the service they offer, and their target audience.
  • I’ve briefly explained the reasoning behind my design decisions.
  • I’ve intentionally kept it brief. I have much more information, but I respect peoples time – I feel this is sufficient information to get the feedback I need, and keeping it short and direct makes it more likely that it will happen. If anyone did have any further questions they can also ask.
  • I’ve included a version of the logo on a white background. This allows anyone who wishes to give feedback to properly see the logo. You may also want to share images of the logo in use too on branding mockups, but for the purpose of this blog post I’ve just shown the one image.

Here’s an example of what I would post if looking for feedback. Since context is essential for good feedback, in the Logo Geek Community, to control the quality of the group all posts are manually checked and approved. The designs posted without any form of context get deleted, before being ever seen by members.
Taking this approach will ensure you get excellent constructive feedback that will help you to improve your logo design work, and it will be appreciated by your peers too. I understand that a newbie to logo design may see it as a fun visual exercise, however, a logo is a business tool that should perform – it should identify the business and attract a specific audience. The sooner a designer understands this, the better their work will become, and the higher prices they will be able to command too as they are solving real problems.

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