Musings: Your logo in an investment

The subject of a logo price comes up a lot, with some charging $50 and some thousands. How can something so important have such a large price range?  Most of the time it’s due to factors such as the designers experience, how many people (teams) are behind the creation, the portfolio of clients the designer has worked with, the overheads of a designer, and it just being that pricing as a designer is not an easy task!

As a freelancer, having a pricing strategy is one of the most difficult but important factors of your business.  You don’t live on a set salary – your income is unpredictable. While every designer has an hourly rate, a logo is rarely charged per hour.  You decide on a set fee with some rules, and if the rules are broken, you start with the hourly fee.  I get asked if I can reduce my price for a logo regularly and I hate doing it because this is my business, my income, my livelihood.  If reducing a logo price by 10-20% makes it better for you, are you also happy to have the work provided to you reduced by 10-20%?  Because essentially, as you’ll read, the work involved in creating a logo is complex.

So what’s in a logo?

1. Experience.

The designers experience and portfolio will be the best indication of how much they’re going to charge, and for good reason.  A large portfolio with high profile clients, and a team of over 10 – you’re going to pay a lot, but you’re also going to get quality.  A freelancer who has a mid-sized portfolio with a good range of well-designed work – you’re going to pay the mid-range.  A designer with no or little portfolio, selling themselves cheap – well, you might get a good logo, but that’s the risk you take.   An professional designer has spent years perfecting their skills, and doesn’t stop.  They are constantly learning new techniques, trends, and software.  Their experience ensures that you are being delivered with a well thought out and professional logo that takes all factors of your business into consideration.

2. The Process.

The process for each logo follows a similar path – you start with a client brief, then you research, research, research.  You look into the current business, the target market, the competitors, appropriate colours, graphics, trends.  This can take hours, but is crucial.  Then you start sketching. You look for appropriate fonts.  You might start digitalising (every designer has their own method).  You tweak the designs, try a few colours, switch them around.  You might come up with one good design, and decide to go back to the drawing board.  The thing is, this process can take hours.  Possibly over 20.  If we’re looking at an hourly rate at $150 (not even close to a professional designers fee), that’s $3000 already.

The final top picks (maybe 3-4) are presented professionally with a write up for each design, is sent to the client for review.  They get two or three rounds of changes.  This can be as little as changing colours, or they can ask to for a full adjustment.  The revision component can take another 2-10 hours (or more if the client changes their mind).

Once a logo in finally chosen, the designer saves the logo in different file formats – .eps, .png, .jpg, .pdf etc.  There might be two or three variations of the logo, so it might be 12 logos need to be formatted.  Add in another 1-2 hours.  Then the designer creates a basic style guide, which includes the detailed elements of the logo, such as the font and colours.  Add another hour.

So you’ve got roughly 30 hours spent on one logo (lets estimate $4500).  And the designer might charge $700-1000.   Now think about the $50 logo.  What do you think you’re getting?

3. The Brand.

A single logo isn’t your brand.  Your branding includes colours, graphics, words and messages.  An experienced designer will take this into account when designing a logo.  They will think about how it is presented in print and digital, what associated graphics and colours will work best to communicate your business, and what will stand the test of time.  This why it’s always important to not just hire a designer to create you a logo, but hire one who will take care of your brand.  You don’t want to be rebranding 12 months after you decided on your logo.  Look for a designer who you’ll be able to create a long term working relationship with, and they will take care of you!

4. Investment.

Having a successful brand is an investment.  You want the initial cost of the logo to generate you income.  Simple as that.  You might not think that your logo is going to make you money, but it will.  When people see your brand they instantly make a decision about your business.  They subconsciously decide whether or not your business aligns with their lifestyle, wants or needs.  A target consumer might see straight past your brand and business because it doesn’t catch their attention –  a well designed logo will so the opposite of this.  So think about how important a successful logo is to your business.  You don’t need to spend thousands on a logo if it’s not within your means right now, but it is about what you hope to achieve for your business.

5. Originality.

It’s hard to avoid designs looking similar to others as we move towards minimal design becoming the norm.  How many times can the letter “M” be turned into a graphic?  How many different ways are there to illustrate leaves?  Well, there’s custom designing based on a client’s business, market and values, and then there’s reusing the same design again and again.  I’ll touch base on this below in the “cheap logo” topic as it’s more of a problem there.  But originality doesn’t necessarily need to mean “has-never-been-seen-before-in-the-history-of-man-kind” cos that’s just impossible.  But it does mean custom.  And that’s important.

6. The Cheap Logo.

What’s wrong with cheap logos?

This question is totally subjective.  I can tell you why I think a cheap logo is bad, but in the end it’s the consumer’s decision.

For me, a successful and ORIGINAL logo (take note of original) takes time.  And time is money, whether you run your own business or are employed.  A very cheap logo is usually taken from a stock of templates.  The name is updated, maybe colour changed, but the style and graphic has been used before.  It’s not original.  You might walk away going “I love it!”, and hey it looks great, but how many other businesses have a logo with a circle, name up top, tagline underneath, cross in the centre?  Probably many.  Cheap logos won’t look at your market and competitors, they’ll just make something pretty.  Again, that’s fine if that’s what you want.  But trust me it won’t be original.

They might not have even supplied you with a vector file (I know this, as I’ve had to recreate a few logos for clients who originally had used said cheap designers).  For those who are unsure of what a vector logo is, well it’s standard practice.  A logo is created in an illustration program that allows you edit it without losing any quality.  It can be scaled to the size of a billboard and will still look amazing. If you are ever supplied with just a .jpg, be worried.  It’s not good enough.

Plus there’s the case of a cheap logo usually looks cheap.  There, I said it.  It usually has an 80’s vibe to it, is a bit rough, might not have been finished off to perfection.  It is most likely you will need more than a logo as your business expands.  Is the designer of your logo local to you, or overseas?  A lot of cheap logos are created by overseas companies.  How easy is it for you to contact them should you need a change or more work done? And are they flexible.

At the end of the day, you get what you pay for, but it’s good to understand why there is such a price difference for a simple (but complex) item such as a logo.  You need to do what feels right for you.  I’m always going to be an advocate for hiring a professional designer as I know the work that goes into a good logo and brand, and I respect my fellow designers.  Plus, it’s what I do!  Good branding is so important – it’s what sets you apart from your competitors!

I hope this provides just a bit of insight into the graphic design industry, and be no means take it as an insult if you go for the cheaper option – hell, we’ve all done a bit of DIY to save money when we’d love to have hired a professional!

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