Run, don’t walk from cheap logo design.
I got a phone call not so long ago from a prospective client asking about having a logo designed. Great, I thought, that’s what I do! Unfortunately they found out that I was way outside of their budget. Now, I get it…even the starting price of what I charge for logos isn’t exactly cheap, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a professionally designed logo for much less than that.
The same is true for all design, but right now I’m focusing on logos because there seems to be a rather recent influx of cheap logo design out there, plus clients who expect to pay next to nothing for their logo. Like, less than $200.
So why aren’t logos $30? Or even $200? What’s so bad about that?
There seems to be a disconnect between what designers know and what everyone else thinksthey know when it comes to the reality of logo design, and why it’s not cheap. The reasons are many, but let me just start out by saying us designers aren’t trying to take you for all you’re worth; rather, we know what goes into creating a logo that will last a lifetime. Here’s 10 of those secrets:
1. Believe it or not, designing a logo actually takes work
Professional designers aren’t just “playing around” on their computers all day. Any design we do requires work, and we take our profession very seriously.
We went to school to learn the principles of good design; we need the necessary skills to properly use design programs like Adobe Illustrator; we devote our days to self-marketing, research, meeting with clients, going over briefs, and giving presentations. As passionate as we are about our work, at the end of the day, it’s still work.
2. We went to school to learn how to do this
Granted, some designers are self-taught, but that’s the exception not the rule. Most of us understood the value in higher education, so we committed four+ years of our lives to learning our trade. Time and effort aside, earning a degree also costs an arm and a leg.
As much as I would love to do my work for dirt cheap or even for free, the fact remains that when I’m done with school I’ll have a bill in the neighborhood of $40,000. I’ll have to pay that back somehow.
In today’s society there is no way around it; in order to have a good job, more or less you’ll need a good education (read: college). It’s well understood in most professions that earning a degree entitles you to higher earnings: your newfound knowledge and skills as a college grad adds value and worth to your work. Graphic designers are no different.
3. The equipment and software we use costs (lots of) money
In the design industry, us designers have to stay atop current technology and software.
And, unfortunately, those things aren’t exactly in the bargain bin. I’d hate to say we pass the expense on to you, but that’s every business. If we charge you less than what it takes for us to stay afloat financially, we’d sink and go out of business.
Rolled into all those expenses are also the very programs we use to create those beautiful designs. Just to give you a head’s up, our design software is usually around $2,000, and upgrades are about $400. So one of the reasons why a logo ain’t cheap is because the software to make them ain’t cheap.
4. Designing a logo isn’t simple
Much goes into the design process itself.
Part of the reason so much time goes into logo design is because we have to do things like meet with the client, create a design brief, create a proposal, research your company, research your competition, research your audience, brainstorm, generate ideas, seek inspiration, sketch, do roughs, create the actual logo ideas, refine them, show them to you, get feedback, go back and do revisions, finalize the logo design, choose a suitable typeface and color palette…I could go on, but by now you can see that the process of a logo design is quite extensive.
Now before you say, “Well, why don’t you just cut out a couple of steps so you only take 5 hours,”let me tell you that you really can’t. At least you can’t and still get a good logo.
Those cheap “designers” you see on Craigslist or 99designs? They probably just design something off the top of their head without knowing anything about your business, your audience, or your competition.
So it might be a cute design but it won’t have any staying power, and it won’t strengthen your brand. Or they might steal a logo that’s already out there, and you’ll be liable for copyright infringement. Or they could just use some cheap clip art, which looks horrible and is a teeny bit illegal. Fun stuff like that that I’m sure you don’t want any part of.
You know that saying, “you get what you pay for?” Zero difference when it comes to logo design.
5. It takes more than just a couple of hours to design a good logo
I typically spend anywhere from 10-30 hours on every single logo design that I do for a client. See the steps I outlined in step 4 to get a better idea of where that time goes. Now ask yourself how you’d feel if someone offered you $30 for 15 hours of hard work. With all of your experience and skills. And your college degree. And all that expensive software you had to buy. Exactly. I’d be offended too!
This should also go to show why a good logo cannot possibly cost less than $200 dollars: do the math. If someone is selling you a logo for $30, how much time do you think they spent on it?
Certainly no more than a couple of hours. If they spent the time going through the whole process, they would end up making less than $2.00/hour. That’s not even minimum wage. So I can pretty much guarantee, if you’re getting a logo that’s much less than $200, your designer is probably skimping on the process of creating that logo.
6. I didn’t start designing yesterday
Most reasonable people would agree, that the longer you do something—the more of an expert you are—the more value the services you provide have.
For some reason a majority of people view professional designers in a different light. Now I may be a little biased, but that doesn’t seem very fair, does it?
Although it’s a given that I haven’t been in the game nearly as long as some of my fellow designers have—and we’re talking 10, 20, 30+ years—I think the fact that I’ve been doing this for 7 years says something, right? It’s not like I started designing yesterday. Seven years isn’t as much as 20, but it’s experience and I think anyone with several years under their belt deserves some compensation for it.
7. Everything else builds on your logo
Do you have a business card? A company website? Colors? Well, you really can’t have any of these things without first having a logo. The logo is the foundation of everything else your company does visually. It is the cornerstone of your branding and identity. So, obviously, it’s important. You really can’t do anything without a defined logo in place first. That’d be like going through a maze blindfolded. You need to have that cohesive branding ready before you start your venture, not after the fact.
Every single successful business out there uses effective branding to their advantage. Think Apple. Think McDonald’s. Think Target. Their logos, their colors, are everywhere. In fact, it’s statistically proven that the more a company invests into their marketing, the greater their ROI will be.
Like I’ve said before, having a great logo or great design won’t magically make your business any better, but it will make it look better in the eyes of your audience. And that’s what we’re
talking about, perceived value. Of course, you have to have the goods and service to back it up.
But when the best thing that can happen with a good logo is your business taking off, and the worst thing that can happen with a bad logo is your business sinking, is there really any question in your mind about what needs to be done?
8. Your logo is the first thing people see
You want to make a good first impression, don’t you? Wrong! You want to make a great first impression! So why risk having someone take one look at your logo, the very face of your company, and cringe?
And there are some cringe-worthy logos out there! Don’t let your business be one of them. I firmly believe that if you take pride in your business, that if you believe in your cause, and are willing to make that initial investment, I can almost guarantee your business will be a success. I say almost, because it’s still possible to have an amazing logo and a horrible product or service that nobody wants. But that’s not you. Right?
9. Your logo will last you many years to come
OK, don’t tell me you want a cheap logo now, because you plan on buying a better logo a few years down the line, when your business is successful.
That’s not a good idea, because what you’re trying to build as a new business is your brand. If you go and change your logo every few years, then you completely defeat the purpose of having a brand.
Everything that people began to associate with your business, via your logo, will disappear and you’ll essentially be starting over from scratch. Besides, what if your crummy cheap logo prevents your company from even taking off in the first place? What then?
Rebranding is very risky, and must be done carefully. Sometimes it works, sometimes it fails miserably (remember how Gap tried to change their logo? Bad, bad move!). Your best bet is to just do it right the first time. In the end you’ll save not only time, money, and stress, but also retain the favor of your audience.
10. We never “just design a logo”—we build relationships
In order to properly design a good logo, as a designer I need to get in your head. I need to know everything there is to know about your business and your audience—your hopes and fears, your dreams for the company, where you see yourself in 5 years, etc.
I need to know you and your company on a personable level. That takes commitment, time, energy, and effort. So you can see, at least for me, it’s not just a logo design. It’s not just a commodity. It’s an ongoing relationship.