Today’s designer interview is with Christophe De Pelsemaker who is a logo and brand identity designer from Sint-Kwintens-Lennik, Belgium, CEDEPE is a one-man project for Christophe to showcase his work he has been creating since 2012. He also currently works as an inhouse designer for the Belgian watch brand Rodania.
— The Logo Creative™ ✏ (@thelogocreative) October 4, 2017
After studying graphic design at Sint-Lukas Brussels he started working for some graphic and marketing agencies. In the year of 2014, he chose to go in a different direction and set up CEDEPE. Ever since then, he has worked for several companies who were looking to launch and reinforce their brand.
With a focus on design, CEDEPE helps growing brands through strategic and visual communication.
He wants to create better brands that understand the needs of their customers. He believes that a brand should always add value to a bigger purpose. It is not about the product or service itself, but why the product exists.
Christophe also recently joined our editing team for a new section we have coming soon. The new section will be reviewing the best logo and branding books. We are super excited to have him onboard and we know he will bring allot to The Logo Creative community.
The Logo Creative – Hi Christophe it’s nice to have you take part in our designer interview series.
Christophe De Pelsemaker – I’d love to give an interview for your community. It’s a lovely idea what you’re doing and I believe I can definitely add some value with the things I do.
The Logo Creative – What was the turning point in your life when you decided to become a designer and how did you proceed?
There wasn’t really a specific moment when I decided to become a designer, but I can surely tell you where it all started. I was playing a football simulation game when I was 13 years old and there was the possibility to change the logo of your team. So, as I wanted to have my own logo for my team, I made something in Photoshop and from there on, I kept creating team badges for other people and started to do other things in Photoshop.
When I was 16 or 17, I was thinking of what to study next and there was nothing that I found interesting. At a certain point, I found out that you could study graphic design (can you imagine I didn’t even know this existed?). From that point, I was one hundred percent sure. I wanted to study graphic design.
The Logo Creative – What does your day consist of?
Christophe De Pelsemaker – At this moment, I have a client that is acting as a manufacturer and distributor of jewelry and timepieces. I’m working for them as an in-house designer, 3 days a week.
As for the other days, I’m working at home for other clients. I also have a personal project called Logo Books where I review the most popular to the rarest logo books. I mainly do this through YouTube and Instagram, so I am keeping myself busy with lots of filming and editing.
I’m thus getting my nose quite a lot in logo books, but from time to time I also pick up a book on brand strategy. I don’t have a fixed day structure though, but I feel that I should start working on that.
The Logo Creative – What was the first logo you ever designed?
Christophe De Pelsemaker – Surely it was something I made for that football game I was playing. I have no idea how it looked like though. In a more “professional” environment (being a school project), I made a logo for an imaginary restaurant that was focused on grains in their dishes. The name I came up with was ‘Grainergy’ and this was the result of the logo.
The Logo Creative – What is your favorite Logo you have designed?
Christophe De Pelsemaker – A logo I made some time ago. It was for an umbrella organization of psychiatric care centers in Brussels called: Epsylon. The symbol of the Epsylon logo is a dragonfly which symbolizes the change in the way people see themselves when rediscovering themselves. The colors are based on those of a dragonfly and were subtly applied in the further development of the corporate identity.
The strong message behind the logo empowers where Epsylon stands for, what it does and what it wants to achieve for their patients. The story and corporate identity merge perfectly with the values of Epsylon.
The Logo Creative – What is your favorite Logo of all time?
Christophe De Pelsemaker – I don’t have one favorite logo. I like a lot of logos, but some of the logos I enjoy are: Nike, CBS, PBS, Headforwards
The Logo Creative – Can you describe or give us an overview of your logo design process?
Christophe De Pelsemaker – I always start with an informational talk with my client. I want to know as much as possible from the company and its product. I look for information that enables me to relate it to certain feelings and emotions. Basically, I’m looking for the story behind the company or product. Secondly, I want to know what the company tries to achieve. I need to understand their goals, its mission, values and I need to know who they’re targeting.
With that information, I create a story or I use the existing story from the brand. I feel that the logo of a brand is of secondary importance and can be compared with an empty bag. Only when this bag is filled with a story, the logo gets a meaning.
When all those things are clear to me, I start to visualize the story. I start sketching and I’m working towards a logo that communicates the story I previously defined. When I’m happy with some of my sketches, I create them in Illustrator and fine-tune them further until it’s perfect. I also start looking for the perfect font or I customize an existing font.
When the design is finished, I start using colour. I won’t use any colour in the design process until now because a logo in black and white shows it in its purest way. No distraction of feelings and emotions. Only the neat, powerful shapes of the logo.
Once the right colours are found, the logo is ready to be applied on different media to make it come alive.
I’ve written an article on how I designed the logo from Epsylon for the people who would be interested. I explain my design process and thanks to the pictures I added in the article you can really see the logo come alive. You can find the article here: A Strong Logo Starts With a Strong Story
The Logo Creative – In your opinion regarding Logo Design pricing do you prefer working on a fixed rate or customer budget and can you explain why?
Christophe De Pelsemaker – Customer budget. Always customer budget. There are a couple of reasons why you should use this type of pricing, but I like to explain it with a simple example. Imagine yourself that Coca-Cola wants you to create a logo for a new product that they will launch. If you use an hourly rate, you could say that you’ll work 80 hours on the logo for a price of € 50/hour. This means you will charge € 4000 for the logo (80 hours x € 50/hour).
Now imagine that your local butcher, who’s only clients are local people, needs a new logo. You will work 80 hours on it as well at the same rate. So, you propose him to do it for € 4000.
Think about how much € 4000 is for Coca-Cola and how much profit they will make with their new product for which you created the logo. They will probably generate a profit that is 10 times as much as what you charged for the logo within a week! For them, € 4000 is almost free. For your local butcher, € 4000 means at least 2 months of very hard work. The balance between those two wouldn’t be correct if you’d charge by the hour. You need to look at the kind of company you’re working for. How big is their profit and potential profit from the job you’re going to do for them? Looking at it in this way makes it 100% logical to charge on a project basis.
The Logo Creative – How long does it take to complete the average logo design project from start to finish?
Christophe De Pelsemaker – This really depends from project to project. Sometimes I immediately have an idea of which I know it’s the right one. This doesn’t happen a lot because everything that goes before actually designing the logo needs time as well. Defining a story helps to make the design process easier. If you are looking for a precise timestamp, I’d say that I need 2 weeks to finish a logo, starting with the documentation and ending with the final result.
The Logo Creative – Are you a MAC or PC User and is there a reason for your choice?
PC. No doubt about that. For some reason, there is a certain aura around Apple products (it’s called branding). I, unfortunately, had too many negative experiences with Apple products and although some people claim that their products are more logical, to me it’s not. I’m used to PC, I like it. It’s more value for your money and it gets the exact same job done.
The Logo Creative – Which software do you use frequently?
I use the standard software. I have Adobe CC and use Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Audition and After Effects most of the times.
The Logo Creative – What is your favourite style of logo design? And why?
The most important thing is that the logo fits its purpose, so the style could be anything.
When looking solely at the shapes of a logo, I mostly enjoy powerful, robust and “in your face” logos. Pure shapes and enough white space to let the design breath is what I can enjoy endlessly. This type of logo is timeless. They were modern when they were created and now, 50 years later or more, they still are. It’s beauty in its purest form.
People like to go watch art in museums. Well, when you take a logo out of its context and only focus on the shapes, you see art as well.
The Logo Creative – What is your daily inspiration when you design?
Christophe De Pelsemaker – Inspiration can come from everywhere. A lot of designers tell this, but it’s not always easy to understand why they say that. When I was a student and somebody told this to me, I was like: “Oh, so you just see something and suddenly everything comes into places?” Although you can have the feeling that this is the actual way it works, the truth is that it isn’t correct. The reason why an idea like this pops up in your mind is that you are processing the entire project. You started at some point with certain information. You are processing it and you are building new connections between certain elements. Building these connections can be boosted by anything and when that happens, you get that one spark of a great idea. So, you could say you got inspired by watching at your dog. But in fact, you were processing the project in your mind way before. Seeing your dog was just a small puzzle of the entire process.
The Logo Creative – In your opinion what’s the best and worst part of your job being a designer?
Christophe De Pelsemaker – I work as an independent designer so I need to do certain paperwork as well. I do this for 4 years now and I can say that it’s just not fun.
The best part for me is the process. I enjoy the thinking part the most. The rush I get when all pieces come together and the story fits with the design is very satisfying.
The Logo Creative – Who is the most inspiring person to you and why?
Christophe De Pelsemaker – I get inspired by a lot of people. Related to design, I find the big names like Josef Müller-Brockmann, Paul Rand, Ivan Chermayeff,… very inspiring.
There is one person who’s work and dedication to logo design I really admire though. His name is Paul Ibou. He is a Belgian designer who has done a lot in the world of logo design. I would call him the Paul Rand of Belgium. He met all the big guys like Paul Rand, Müller-Brockmann, Andy Warhol etc… He held logo exhibitions and even organised logo festivals where the top designers were awarded for their work. Paul Ibou got some awards as well, but when you take a look at what he did and still does in his life (he’s 78 now), it blows your mind. He started when he was 18 and is still doing his thing today. I’m also looking forward to his designer interview The Logo Creative has lined up.
The Logo Creative – Who is your favorite Graphic Designer and why?
Christophe De Pelsemaker – Again, no real big favorite. I like Brockmann, Rand, Chermayeff, Vignelli,… a lot. Paul Ibou has something special and it’s a bit personal since I met him not long ago and still meet him sometimes.
I like Michael Bierut as well. I like his personality, his charisma. The way he talks about what he does. I love his work for MIT as well.
The Logo Creative – What’s your favorite design quote?
Christophe De Pelsemaker – “If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.” – Ralf Speth
The Logo Creative – In less than 10 words what is graphic design?
Christophe De Pelsemaker – Simplifying communication.
The Logo Creative – What steps did you take to start your graphic design business? Did you have to make any sacrifices on your journey?
Christophe De Pelsemaker – In Belgium, there is a great system which makes it possible to start as a creative without any costs. The only thing I needed was a computer and software. I had no extra professional costs whatsoever if I wasn’t making money.
Although I would have preferred to get a mentor or a job in an agency, I started my own business. I have a very good idea of what I want and what I want to learn. Because I didn’t manage to realize it at that time, I decided to find my own clients and projects which will hopefully lead me to what I really want.
The Logo Creative – Do you have any regrets? Is there anything you would have changed early on in your career?
Christophe De Pelsemaker – It’s not a real regret since the internet is full of information, but if I knew as a student what I know now, I would definitely have followed a marketing and branding education as well.
The Logo Creative – If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?
Christophe De Pelsemaker – The design is secondary. Learn how business works.
The Logo Creative – What’s the most important piece of advice you have received as a designer that’s helped you?
Christophe De Pelsemaker – Don’t design for yourself or the company, design for the consumer.
The Logo Creative – What would be your advice for new Logo and Graphic Designers?
Christophe De Pelsemaker – Forget design, for now, learn the business side of it. Learn how a company can benefit from it. In reality, nobody cares about how pretty something looks. Companies only think about what’s in for them. How much will they profit from it?
Go find a mentor and/or aim for a seat in the top agencies. This is only achieved by a very small group of people, so don’t feel bad if you can’t manage to get one of these. In the meantime, read as much as possible. Read stuff from the top designers and businessmen. While acquiring knowledge and experience, keep reaching out towards people and the top agencies.
Network, reach out to people that are interesting to you. When you do that, interesting things will come back to you as well.
Also published on Medium.