In the design world, this question gets asked a lot. There are a lot of opinions out there on what things should cost. Fiverr.com created a platform where people can buy a logo for $5. These designers usually also offer an upgrade at $30 or $60. There are others that start at $100 or more. In the real world, you also see a lot of variance. There are some designers who will make one for free, and there are others who have charged tens of thousands of dollars. I saw this question about the elusive pricing of logo design again today, and I want to give my perspective on it.
I started out in business, and I had a fairly low opinion of graphic design for many years. I didn’t understand it either. How could some people charge thousands for something that looks so simple? After learning a lot more about design and gaining experience, I saw that there were some very good reasons for the differences in the work. I will present two approaches to logo design. They aren’t the only two approaches; one is what I see happen at Fiverr and the other is my personal process.
The first thing I notice when I look at these sites is that most of the people selling logos for $5-$60 live in a foreign country. There are obviously economic differences between nations, and logos aren’t the only thing that gets outsourced. There are a lot of logos on there that really aren’t that great, and there are some that look pretty good. However, the ones that look pretty good are typically created from some sort of template. They may change the colors, fonts, or words, but it’s pretty much exactly the same as a large number of other logos. It might look good, but it isn’t really original. The other thing that can happen is that it could be a fresh design created rapidly simply shooting from the hip and counting on the talent alone. They may get lucky and it might be great, but most of the time it probably won’t be “right”. If this guy was an artist, it is akin to doing a speed sketch. They’re pretty good, but it isn’t professional level work. Those are some of the reasons why they don’t mind charging $5. It didn’t cost them any time.
Think about it. If they lived here in Washington where minimum wage is $11, an entry level worker would only have 30 minutes to complete the job. That’s not a lot of time to make something amazing. Would you trust using that for your business? Maybe. If you had a very small business, you might not care. However, any business of a substantial size depends on their logo and visual identity as the face of their brand, and they need it to help them position their brand in the marketplace. It gets printed on a million things and represents who they are. They sell merchandise with the logo on it to adoring fans. To them, the risk of having a poorly designed logo would never work. They wouldn’t trust an entry-level worker with making that in less than 30 minutes. It wouldn’t happen.
Is it any better at $100? Not really. That just means the minimum wage guy has about 10 hours to do it.
So, why can you buy a CD for $10 and not a logo? Well, we all realize that the artist might sell millions of copies of it at $10 each. A proper logo is only made once, and the designer usually signs the rights of it over to the business who commissioned it. They can only sell it once. You can buy a Gordon Ramsay steak for $100. But what do you think he would charge if it was the only steak he could ever sell you and it had to be perfect?
The other thing is that not all logos are equal. It’s easy for us to understand the difference between a Ford Focus and a Ferrari, but logos may not seem that different from each other when we first think about them. Yet if I was to ask you if you ever saw an ugly logo, you would probably say yes. You may even have an example in your mind right now. Does that help the business look like a place you would want to shop, or does it make you question whether or not you can trust it?
So, the point here is only you can decide what you value, but that there is a real tangible reason why good logos cost more than $5 or even $100.
Step 1: Understanding the Business’s Needs
To me, a logo is only a piece of a visual identity system. When I’m only hired to design the logo itself, I still need to understand a lot about the business. It starts with a deep dive consultation between myself and the key stakeholders of the organization. I have a long list of questions I ask them about different aspects of their brand until I feel like I really understand what they are trying to accomplish. This helps me to create a Design Brief.
Step 2: Market Research
The next step is learning a lot more about their company from external resources as well as extensive research about their competitors. This helps me understand how to position their client in the market so that when their target customer sees their logo it sends the right message. This research process can take 1-2 weeks on average for me.
Step 3: Visual Research
Once I have a good understanding of the key brand attributes of the business, I will begin hunting for images that inspire me as well as design styles that I feel would best achieve my desired outcome. I look in magazines, books, in the public, or online until I find what feels right. I also try to figure out what “hasn’t” been done so as not to copy someone else’s idea. This helps inspire my next steps.
Step 4: Sketching Out My Ideas
I will begin translating these brand attributes into workable solutions by making a lot of quick thumbnail sketches. It takes some experimentation and problem solving. I make several iterations of an idea before moving to another idea. I will typically make over 100 thumbnail sketches, and then I will figure out what I like the most. I’ll round up the finalists and begin building them in Illustrator to see what works.
Step 5: Reflection
I’ll take a break here and there and let days go by. I’ll post the work or look at it on my phone every once in awhile. As I go throughout my day, I’ll be scanning the environment to see if there is any other inspiration out there that is better than what I’m doing. This time to mentally rest and let things come in is very important, because you might not have the right idea instantly. Sometimes ideas come to you out of nowhere, and if you rush it you never experience this.
Step 6: Mockups
I’ll start choosing my best few ideas and making some potential logo signatures. I do them in black and white first to make sure they look good as a solid color, and then I apply some color treatments. These logos will look pretty good, but they are still rough drafts at some level. However, it is a good time to show them to the client to get feedback.
Step 7: Presentation
This check-in is extremely important to have in order to help solidify a direction. In a perfect world, the client will pick one they love and allow you to work on it a bit more. There are also times where they may not like any of them and need more time or will need to see something else. Either way, you get the feedback you need to get to the next step.
Step 8: Revisions
You’ll take the feedback, experiment by pushing the favorite concept further, change the typeface, play with the colors, etc. You’ll be making a lot of little corrections until things are finely tuned. Then you will have another presentation.
Step 9: Finishing the Logo
I usually allow 3 rounds of revisions with the final round being the final one. The first two give me the feedback I need to get it done. Once the client is happy with the finished product, I will begin creating all the different file types they need for all of their various applications. I will also include a style and usage guide so that their brand is protected when different people need to use the logo.
Timeframe: 1 month – 1 year
The reality is that logo design takes awhile if you do it right. It can take at least a month of effort to arrive at the destination. There are times it can take a year. It all depends on getting to the “right” solution, and when the right design is found it is worth a lot to the client. Think about the simplicity of the Nike or Apple logo, and then think about how much value this adds to their product. They’ve made fortunes off of these logos because of what they represent.
As you can see, there is a vast difference in the process of creating a $5 logo and a $5000 logo, but there is also a vast difference in what it is worth to the business it represents.
You see, at the end of the day it isn’t about the “art” as much as it is about the quality of the “idea”. I’ve spent 30 years on my art, 20 years in progressive business roles, I have a Bachelor’s degree from a great Art School, I’m almost done with my MBA, and I’m continually developing my skills. The difference in ideas that I would generate today compared to what I could have done 20 years ago is drastically different. I wouldn’t have been able to make a logo that could represent a multi-million dollar business adequately. Today I can.
I hope this helps answer the question.