Today a Designer Interview With Melinda Livsey
As the founder and creative director of Marks & Maker, Melinda unites nine years of professional design experience with a penchant for thoughtful customer service.
Melinda’s experience with notable names like Oakley, Paramount Pictures and Loot Crate, coupled with her passion for creative thinkers and entrepreneurs, creates the perfect cocktail of impeccable workmanship, exceptional brands and happy clientele.
— The Logo Creative™ ✏ (@thelogocreative) December 13, 2017
The Logo Creative – Hi Melinda thanks for taking part in the designer interview its a pleasure to have you on board
Melinda Livsey – Thank you for including me in this, I am honored to be asked to be apart of the amazing lineup. I’m thrilled to be involved.
The Logo Creative – What was the turning point in your life when you decided to become a designer and how did you proceed?
Melinda Livsey – It was 2005 and I was in my second year of college, studying Illustration, when I took my first typography class. I had no idea at the time what graphic design was. It had never dawned on me that I could make a career out of something like that. The problem solving and strategy involved in design intrigued my analytical mind. And those beautiful letterforms! I was in love. That intro design class opened up my world to graphic design and I was hooked. After that class, I added Graphic Design as my emphasis and never looked back.
The Logo Creative – What does your day consist of?
Melinda Livsey – I start my day with a quick email check. I love keeping a clean inbox. If I can’t handle a message right then, I usually schedule the email to return to my inbox when I have more time by using Boomerang http://www.boomeranggmail.com
I live by my Google Calendar instead of a to-do list. Each task I need to do gets a spot in my calendar—even all those emails I scheduled with Boomerang. That way, I am able to be honest with myself on how many projects I can actually take on. Before using a calendar I was frazzled and thought I was so incredibly busy. Once I started scheduling each project and task, I have seen a major difference in my productivity.
I block between 3-4 hours for each major project I’m working on. When I had smaller jobs I used to switch projects every hour and it was a nightmare! My mind can’t handle all that task switching. Blocking off large amounts of time helps me really dive into a project.
Most of the time I spend working by myself at home. I find I work best with zero distractions and little to no sound. Coffee shops are the hardest place for me to work. There’s a local co-working space where I go when I need a little social interaction. When I’m there I get absolutely no work done, but hey, networking and socializing are important too!
Besides email, scheduling, calls with prospective clients, meeting with freelancers, and client work, I have started to spend more time working on my business. I try to connect and reach out to my network for coffee or lunch meetings. I also work on improving my portfolio presentation and social media posts. I have calls and meetings with my mentor, Chris Do, every few weeks. Most recently, I’ve been heading to LA to film for Chris’ YouTube show, The Process: Videos featuring Melinda Livsey
The Logo Creative – What was the first logo you ever designed?
Melinda Livsey – I remember first designing logos back in school. I loved using the shapes of letterforms, so I used a lowercase “a” and a period to make a man’s hair and eyes. It’s difficult to make out what it is and I can’t even remember what kind of company the brandmark was for.
The Logo Creative – What is your favourite Logo you have designed?
Melinda Livsey – It was difficult choice, but I went with this logo that I did for a jewellery designer. I had spent days sketching ideas and nothing was really clicking. Then, when I was on vacation, I started to see the logo form in my mind. I quickly ran and got a piece of paper and a pencil and drew it out. And that was it! My subconscious mind must have been working on the shapes and connections while I was relaxing on vacation. It almost felt like it was just “supposed to be.” Like the idea was already out there in space and my mind just had to discover it. I think the experience of how it came to me makes this logo my favourite.
The Logo Creative – What is your favourite Logo of all time?
Melinda Livsey – Paul Rand’s UPS logo from 1961 is by far my favourite. I started doing studies this past year on well-known logos to train my eye so that I would make better design decisions.
My mind was completely blown! I had never learned much about the Golden Ratio, but when I started doing the first study on the UPS logo, I realized that he had used perfect proportions! Even the placement of the ® was intentional. That first study (and the ones that proceeded after) completely changed the way I design logos. The logo not only is well done, but it forever impacted the way I see and the way I work.
I contacted Melinda to ask if she would write an article about the Golden Ratio as i knew she would be the right person to cover this topic and the article does not disapoint i think you will find it intresting. It also includes a free download of the golden ration you can use in your next logo design project.
The Logo Creative – Can you describe or give us an overview of your logo design process?
Melinda Livsey –
Questionnaire [The Curious Phase]
I begin each logo by digging deep into to the client’s business, their goal, their intended target market, their competition, etc, through a questionnaire. I usually have an idea of the business from the initial meetings and calls, but I like to also have them fill out a questionnaire so I can pickup on words and phrases they repeat. If something is repeated, that means I need to take that into consideration, as it must be important to them. Once they complete the questionnaire I read over it and make a ton of notes. I make note of questions I have and things I want to find out more about. I then have another meeting with the client to go over my questions. This meeting is so important as it helps get us both on the same page as well as help me learn everything I possibly can about their business.
Research [The Hunt]
I take all the information that I gathered in the questionnaire and the meetings and start my research process. I look at the competitors, learn more about their target audience, and start thinking off ways to communicate their intended message. I look at what their goals are, what their history is, and what differentiates them from others. Is there a special feature to their product? Do they have a unique story? A mission? This process includes a lot of time in the dictionary and thesaurus, note taking, and image research. In the research phase, I’m looking for ways to visually communicate the essence of the brand.
Design Strategy [The Plan]
I put together a design strategy based off of the research. The whole process is a partnership with my client, so frequent check-ins to see if we are on the page are a must. Otherwise, I could go really far down one path and not land anywhere near where the client wanted. The design strategy includes an overview of their goals, target, and mission, and 1-2 concepts with supporting imagery (moodboards) to get the ideas across. No design work has been done just yet. This phase is just to visually describe the directions I will be taking and to make sure they line up with my client’s goals.
Sketching [The Actualization]
Once the client is good with the strategy, I get to work on sketching out the designs based on the approved directions. Having a direction or two already nailed down has done wonders for my design process. I used to not include a design strategy step and found it to be so hard to come up with ideas. Now, I have a few directions to take the design, and so my designs are focused. I will normally fill up a handful of pages in my sketchbook of ideas. Many times, I will get a vision of what the logo should be in my mind and I just sketch it out and work on refining it. That’s what’s so beautiful about this process; ideas end up coming to me because my mind has been piecing together things like a puzzle throughout each phase.
Design/Presentation [The Execution]
After I have a few design sketches that I feel good about, I move onto vectorising them and placing them into a presentation. I then meet with my client or send them a PDF presentation of the logos. We discuss the designs to make sure that they lined up with the strategy and they pick one to move forward with. Because we’ve been working together on each step of the process, there are usually very little changes that need to be made. The client has been involved through it all and it’s my job to constantly make sure we’re aiming at the same target.
Most clients opt for a full brand identity package so once the logo is chosen we will move onto the supporting brand elements; colour palette, typography, patterns, alternate logos, and suggested photography.
Revisions [The Refinement]
We go through a couple rounds of revisions to make sure everything is perfect.
Final Delivery [The End!]
Once approved, the logos are saved in various formats and delivered to the client. If the logo was apart of a brand identity package, I will include all those files as well as a video walkthrough of what’s all included. Some of my clients don’t have experience with design files so I try to make it as easy as possible for them to use.
I’m constantly refining my process as I learn new things. I’ve been using this process this past year and have noticed that my clients feel much more involved in the partnership. You can’t beat happy clientele!
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?
Melinda Livsey – I have a range that I prefer working at which increases over time as the value I provide increases. This ensures that I can cover the cost of doing business as well as get paid what the work is worth. I do take the client’s budget into consideration, but if they are way below my price range then I have to refer them to someone else.
The Logo Creative – How long does it take to complete the average logo design project from start to finish?
Melinda Livsey – Depending on the complexity of the project (whether or not the client wants a brand identity system) the entire process could take as little as 12 hours and as much as 40 hours.
The Logo Creative – Are you a MAC or PC User and is there a reason for your choice?
Melinda Livsey – True story, I once turned down a job offer from the CIA after I heard they only used PC’s.
MAC is much more intuitive. Well designed. Beautiful.
The Logo Creative – Which software do you use frequently?
Melinda Livsey – Illustrator, then InDesign, and last, Photoshop. I also use Lightroom here and there when doing photography work.
The Logo Creative – What is your favourite style of logo design? And why?
Melinda Livsey – Minimal, clever logos win my heart. A minimal logo that is able to convey a strong concept or message is the most difficult to design yet the most rewarding.
The Logo Creative – What is your daily inspiration when you design?
Melinda Livsey – I get inspiration from Behance as well as a few select design studios I follow.
I also checkout sites like:
The Logo Creative – In your opinion what’s the best and worst part of your job been as a designer?
Melinda Livsey – Best – being paid to come up with ideas and solve problems. Worst – the fear that accompanies creativity.
The Logo Creative – Who is the most inspiring person to you and why?
Melinda Livsey – There are so many inspiring people, I can’t narrow it down. Can I pass on this one?
The Logo Creative – Who is your favourite Graphic Designer and why?
Melinda Livsey – My favourite Graphic Designer is Michael Bierut. He’s just so clever! Beautiful work with purpose. And he was mentored my Massimo Vignelli, another one of my favourites.
The Logo Creative – What’s your favourite design quote?
Melinda Livsey – “Certainty is a closing of the mind. To create something new you must have doubt.” – Milton Glaser
The Logo Creative – In less than 10 words what is graphic design?
Melinda Livsey – Communicating and problem solving through visual means.
The Logo Creative – What steps did you take to start your graphic design business? Did you have to make any sacrifices on your journey?
Melinda Livsey – I have been freelancing on the side ever since I graduated from college. So when I got laid off from my full time in-house design position a few years back it just felt natural for me to start my graphic design business. I first began taking any project that came my way. After about six months I decided to launch my new site and brand and focus my attention on getting more brand identity clients.
I’ve had to live without the benefits a full-time job offers but I consider being self employed a greater benefit. In the beginning, I went through a few lean months and experienced the feast or famine cycle. However, I’ve also seen growth and learn more each day on how to run a business. It’s a challenging, yet rewarding endeavour.
The Logo Creative – Do you have any regrets? Is there anything you would have changed early on in your career?
Melinda Livsey – I wish I had studio experience. I’ve only worked in-house and for myself. Working at a smaller design studio would have taught me things that could have helped me as I started my own business.
The Logo Creative – If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?
Melinda Livsey – Pursue progress over perfection.
The Logo Creative – What’s the most important piece of advice you have received as a designer that’s helped you?
Melinda Livsey – “Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.” – C.S. Lewis
The Logo Creative – What would be your advice for new Logo and Graphic Designers?
Melinda Livsey – Study the Golden Ratio and how to use a grid in your work.
Also published on Medium.