Logo Design & Branding
The relatively recent influx of cheap logo design companies like Fiver has unfortunately resulted in clients who expect to pay almost nothing for a logo. To the new and uninitiated client, the remarkable gap between a $5 logo design and a $1000 logo design may be confusing, and many clients respond to the confusion with questions like, “Why should I pay so much for a professional designer to create my logo when so many other options are available for less?”
There is, unfortunately, a massive disconnect between what designers know and what the rest of the world thinks they know about the stark realities of logo design and brand development, and why it’s not cheap … or at least why it shouldn’t be.
Why Do Logos Cost So Much?
Firstly, if you want surgery performed, do you want a cheap surgeon or a great surgeon? Well, great surgeons cost a great deal of money because you are paying for their many years of professional experience. If you want your expensive vehicle fixed, do you take it to just any mechanic or do you rely on knowing that they are professional and have the education and experience to implement the correct strategies and solutions to properly fix your vehicle?
It’s no different for your web developer or graphic designer.
Most great designers go school, some of us for several years, to learn design principles and the vast array of software and applicable techniques used in design, and there are hundreds of both. Now, that is not to say that there aren’t any self-taught designers, but that is most certainly the exception, not the rule. Most designers worth their salt have also spent hundreds or thousands of hours at the task of learning, applying, and re-learning as the march of technology surged forward and the software and techniques changed with every moment. All time and effort aside though, earning an education also costs a lot of money. We can also be as passionate as we want about our work, and enjoy it just the same, but at the end of the day, it’s still work.
It’s Not Just Work. It’s A Process.
Here’s a few things to consider regarding the process of a professional designer or branding company:
- Design Scope; Sometimes just a brief questionnaire or interview with a client but, either way you slice it some modicum of initial information to get the ball rolling is necessary. As a note for clients, the more information, the better. Your ideas of colour, details or image garnered at scope-time can save countless revisions. A designer can’t create a brand that accurately represents you or your company without gathering some initial intel.
- Market & Competitor Research; A great deal of research and data analysis goes into any great logo design or branding project. We study your industry, your competition and the history of your market to determine what works and what hasn’t. If we don’t complete this step, we could end up creating a logo similar to a competitor, or end up creating a logo with inaccurate elements thus misrepresenting your business or services.
- Deep Contemplation; We don’t just eat dreams and s**t great design, it requires a significant amount of thought and jumping through mental hoops of fire. We combine mounds of experience, creativity, effective research, a plethora of notes plus the original client design scope to begin drafting design concepts.
- Conceptual Art; Where all the fine detailed art evolves from. Any professional designer will create and analyse anywhere from a few to dozens of different roughed-out ideas and logo representations before settling on one or more to be fleshed out and refined to a final image.
- Client Presentation; With a couple (or more) fleshed-out designs in hand, the designer then presents his or her work to the client. After waiting in anticipation for a review and notes from the client, or preferably after a thorough personal review with the client. A final version is selected from the options and moves on to a finished layout.
- Revision Edits & Presentation of Final Layout; after the final review and note-taking with the client, the design is refined to a final, crisp vector version, saved to other appropriate formats and delivered ready to use.
Every single one of these steps requires hours of time. Do you honestly believe doing all of that work would cost 5 or 10-dollars?Here’s another item of note to consider: The software and tools required to complete these design tasks is often ridiculously expensive. Everything from the pencils and art pens used to sketch conceptual art to the $1200 design software package, to the hundreds or thousands of dollars spent on the computer necessary to run said design software costs money. Just like a handyman or mechanic has to spend thousands of dollars on the tools for their craft, so do designers.Furthermore, the development of a brand or logo often requires several designers, even a dozen or more in some cases, to create dozens of logos for a particular client to choose. This is why many corporate ventures can spend tens of thousands of dollars on brand development. For some excellent examples of this, check out this list on StockLogos.com: https://stocklogos.com/topic/famous-logo-designs-and-how-much-did-they-cost. It needn’t be stated that these are some pricey and fairly uncommon examples, but you can well imagine the volume of personnel and work involved in those endeavors.Seems pretty silly now when you think of people asking for spec work on a logo design or website development project, right?
Spec Work & Logo Design Contests. Why Not?
Spec work looks like this:
“You design something for me and I’ll pay you if I like it.”
In order to understand why this is a ridiculous concept, and why it certainly doesn’t work as a business model, let’s look at a scenario in a different industry where spec work does NOT exist:
“I spoke with a contractor today and after inspecting my home he suggested some extensive renovation work to correct some significant issues. I requested he proceed with the work, and if I was satisfied with the result, I would be more than happy to pay for it. He quickly responded that he couldn’t do that because a service is normally provided when a fee has been agreed upon before beginning work. I told him that I would let him know after I checked with other local contractors.”
Pretty dumb, right? Unfortunately, this happens in the graphic design business every single day. It’s highly unethical and extremely damaging to the entire industry.
The same can be said for companies that post logo design contests. It’s the industry-abusive practice of certain businesses to host a design contest to determine their final brand. It sounds wonderful and harmless, beneficial even; hold a contest, get a ton of variations of a logo designed for free, and only pay for the one you like. Heck, it even gets some amateur designer a chance to get some valuable experience. Win/Win, right?
Not really. Great logo design and brand development doesn’t work that way.
9-times out of ten you’ll end up with a generic, clip-art looking logo. That might be fine if you’re a not-for-profit organization or on such an extremely tight budget that $250 minimum is out of reach, but for a business seeking to gain market share, more clients and customers, or trying to sell a product, the decision to not properly budget for- and produce an effective logo design can be tantamount to suicide.
Not only is a business often resting their professional identity in the hands of amateurs, the returned designs can often be plagiarised (seriously, it’s a commonly-occurring problem) which can lead to expensive legal damage-control long after a business owner has ceased communications with that $5 logo designer. This brings up another excellent point:
The Importance of a Good Client-Designer Relationship
You’ll read about the importance of this everywhere, and it’s true. The Relationship of Client and Designer is an often overlooked or easily dismissed component that can easily make or break the final brand. Now this is now to say that you can’t just purchase a logo design package, send the designer a quick email with a few notes on design preferences and move on to a final logo without ever having met, but the stronger the lines of communication and understanding are between the two parties, the stronger, more meaningful and more marketable the end result will almost always be. This is especially true in corporate scenarios where teams of people are often involved with the conceptualization, production and brand maintenance. The interconnectivity and communication of the individuals involved have to be in in sync or expensive revisions occur more often, and clients can often be presented with results that are sub-par or far from target.
A thorough understanding of the client and business needs, as well as a complete requirements list, is vital. Some clients don’t want minimalistic or simple, some clients want very simple and flat, or complex and intricate, some like shades of black and others want pink or fuchsia, some like skulls and jagged metal, some like flowery and delicate imagery. Without the initial questions and a bit of research, a designer has nothing but their imagination and a trillion ideas, but with consistent and relevant communication between client and designer we are better able to filter out the static of infinite possibility into the digital works of consumer-attractive and marketable art commonly referred to as a logo.
A Logo Isn’t Just A Logo, It’s A Brand Identity System
Remember, it’s not just your logo design that makes a brand valuable. A logo certainly doesn’t accumulate brand recognition and life eternal right out of the gate. It’s years of providing quality products and services to your customers using that image and the thousands or millions of dollars spent in gaining that trust and loyalty that ultimately determine the value of a logo or a brand. Your logo becomes valuable when there is a demonstrated willingness by consumers to purchase and re-purchase a product or service with your specific logo on it, because it has your logo on it, and because of what that brand represents to them.
If Not $5, What’s Reasonable?
First, let’s look at flat-rate or package pricing. Most graphic design or visual marketing companies have these and are almost always cheaper than requesting work piece-by-piece, or getting hit with an hourly rate. Most graphic design packages save the client money by discounting potential overages that can occur in the design process, for example if a logo design package is $400 and the general hourly design rate for the same company is $80/hr, but even a decent basic logo takes an average of 10 hours total to produce, then the savings is passed on to the client while the designer is guaranteed that their time will be paid for, and if the designer can produce highly professional results efficiently, then the profit improves towards a full hourly rate without incurring additional costs for the client. I can tell you that while this all seems pretty good it usually ends up the worse end for the designer, since most projects take a healthy amount of time, usually reducing the hourly income from said project.
Flat-rate or package logo design pricing also makes things a bit easier to understand; You pay a specified amount for your logo and designer gives you a final product. Done deal. Here’s a short list of average logo design package prices in North America.
Average Logo Design Rates (USD)
- Professional Design Agency: $1000 – $5000
- Independent Marketing Firm: $500 – $3000
- Freelance Graphic Designer: $250 – $2500
- Offshore Graphic Designer: $100 – $250
We’re not even going to get into what world-famous designers charge, but unless you have 6-figures plus to spend on a major brand development campaign, it’s generally out of reach for most businesses.
Now perhaps you feel your project warrants a much smaller amount of time and so you would like to negotiate on the brand development based on an hourly rate. This is in fact how most design businesses work. Again, not to say that we won’t produce a package price for you, but that price is simply a reflection of our determination of hours required through the interview process. This is usually a savings for clients in the end since many of us round down our price a bit to settle on an even number that covers hours and saves a bit of money for the client.
Average Hourly Graphic Design Rates (USD)
- Student & Offshore Designer:$10-$20/hour
- Freelance Designer:$20-$100/hour
- Expert Design Consultant: $50-$200/hour
- Design Company: $70-$250/hour
While these figures are a generalization, they do represent the average mean wage for designers in those classes of expertise and experience. You get what you pay for, is a good general rule but certainly doesn’t apply to every case. There are some significantly talented designers out there who charge far less than they’re worth, and I certainly wish you the best of luck in locating them and securing some of their time, but those designers a relatively rare.
A great logo designer or design firm will have the knowledge and experience to make many aspects of development more efficient resulting in a far better product for the price. If you’re just looking to have a quick and cheap logo design created, there are literally tens of thousands of designers out there that can help you, but when you’re ready to get serious about creating a marketable brand to build your business with, you’ll want someone more experienced.