The Best Logo Designs are Not Cheap (and here’s why)

I get asked about logo designs all the time, both at my full-time job and on a freelance basis. Last year, I wrote thoughtful, beautifully-designed proposals for three different branding projects. In all three cases, the potential clients flaked out after seeing the numbers. SO. FRUSTRATING.

Now, I will admit that I raised my rates last year. But that was after I realized that I had been charging way too little for logo and identity designs. A tough lesson, but live and learn, right?1

Whether you are a designer or a potential client, understanding the value in graphic design will take you very far. Designers: you will get paid what your designs are worth. Clients: you will receive an identity that is completely tailored to your business model, industry, and goals. It’s a win-win, people (I hate that phrase, but it’s actually appropriate here).

So gather ‘round, y’all. Let us count down the top 5 reasons why logo designs should NOT be cheap.

5 : A designer’s gotta eat.

Design supplies
Photo by Jo Szczepanska (Unsplash.com).

I hear it so often: “I wish I were creative like you. I can barely draw a stick figure!” First off, everyone is creative in their own way (i.e. you don’t have to be “artistic” to be creative).2 Secondly, as much as designers like making stuff, most of us aren’t making logos because it’s our life’s passion. We’re smart. We’re talented. We know what what the f*** we’re talking about. Most importantly, we are doing a job. Rent, car payments, student loans, FOOD. The cost of daily living adds up fast. Yes, designers are fortunate in that we get to use our talents as part of our occupation. But graphic design is just that: an occupation. #FreelanceIsntFree, y’all.

4 : You get what you pay for.

Get the best you can afford.
Photo by Alejandroes Camilla (Unsplash.com).

There are several articles already on the interwebs that explain why Fiverr and other design bidding sites are the devil (I suggest reading this article by the AIGA and this one from The Logo Factory.) Therefore, I won’t go into too much detail about those sites and the type of “business” they perform. Instead, I will offer an analogy:

  • You go to a low-price shoe store that always has a sale and buy a pair of shoes. The shoes look nice, but they don’t hold up very well; they begin to fall apart after a couple of months. Plus, since they were on sale, you see TONS of other people wearing the exact same shoes.
  • Next, you go to a department store and decide to spend a bit more on some shoes. You like the style—they are more unique than your previous kicks. Still, they are super-trendy and you see a lot of people with shoes that aren’t exactly like yours, but close. Nonetheless, the shoes are comfortable and fairly well-made, so they fit the bill for a year or so.
  • Finally, you say, “Enough of this mess! I need some REAL shoes!” You decide to splurge on some custom shoes. The shoe maker carefully measures your feet and gauges the type of look you are going for. You explain to them that you love walking, so you need something comfortable and sturdy. Material and color are also considered. It takes several months, but the shoe maker presents to you a wonderfully-crafted pair of shoes. These shoes define your look, and also fit your lifestyle. Best of all, NO ONE ELSE HAS SHOES LIKE THESE. YAS!3

Logo designs—and most aspects of commercial graphic design—work very much like this analogy. You can pay a little to get something that falls apart quickly and isn’t really authentic (perhaps even a knock-off). You can pay a bit more to be on trend, but the item still looks like other stuff already out there. You can pay a premium and get a product that is strong, attractive, and unique—completely tailored to you. Which would you rather have?

3 : The logo is yours… FOREVER.

It’s yours FOREVER!
Photo by Florian Klauer (Unsplash.com).

When you pay for a design, you are not buying a physical product. Rather, you are purchasing a license to use the design for specific purposes and for a specific length of time. The designer retains the rights to the actual artwork and, at the very least, maintains the right to use the work for self-promotion (More about licensing at a later time).

HOWEVER, typically a client is given exclusive rights to their finished logo design, meaning no one else can use it and the designer cannot resell it or license it to other companies. There is usually no time limit on how long the logo design can be used. It is meant to be yours to use for the identity and promotion of your business.

So think about it. You get to use this logo for as long as you own your business. You will [hopefully] make thousands of dollars off of your brand. The amazing designer who came up with your logo does not get royalties (a percentage of sales/profits) each time you ring the cash register. Instead, the designer can (and should) charge an amount upfront that is based on several things:

  • The amount of time, work, and resources required
  • The type of company you run
  • How much you are projected to make
  • How widely the design will be used

That is why small, local businesses can get great logos and identities for a couple thousand dollars (less R&D, less potential revenue, smaller audience), while multi-million-dollar corporations will pay tens of thousands for their branding (lots of R&D, great potential revenue, very large audience).

Really, it’s about paying what the logo is worth. Carolyn Davidson, the designer of the Nike “swoosh,” only got paid $35 when she created it in the 1970s. Today, Nike still uses that mark and is worth several BILLION dollars. Now, does that seem fair? By the way, Nike eventually compensated Davidson with shares in Nike stock.4 👏🏾

2 : Work together. Stick together.

Let’s be friends!
Photo by Krista Mangulsone (Unsplash.com).

You’ve found a designer who “gets you.” She understands the nature of your business and your target audience. The logo and branding she created are spot on. You feel a special connection—this was meant to be!

Alright. Slow down there, cowboy. My point here is that once you’ve found a great designer, it’s typically a good idea to stick with that designer. In essence, this is a relationship. If you like the work your designer has done and you feel comfortable working with her, it only makes sense to continue working with that designer. Who will know the visual aspects of your brand better than the person who created them?

Plus, if you pay a random designer on Fiverr $5 for a logo, do you really think they give a sh** about “building a relationship” with you? Hell no! They’re out looking for the next chump who’ll buy one of their lousy designs (IMO).

1 : It’s an investment!

Consider it an investment.
Photo by Dietmar Becker (Unsplash.com).

There’s a reason why it is called an “identity system.” Your logo and visual brand are the identity of your business. You already have a personal identity that has developed over time. It defines who you are, what you care about, and how you view the world. Likewise, the identity of your business should not be taken lightly. A well-designed logo and brand will:

  • Support your mission and business model
  • Attract and retain your target demographic
  • Adapt to changes and trends over time
  • Flex to be used on various materials, media, and products

How much is your personal identity worth to you? A few hundred? Several thousand? My bet is that you see your identity as priceless (or at least worth that million-dollar guarantee from LifeLock). With that in mind, how much are you willing to put into your company’s identity—which in a way, is likely an extension of yourself?

You want to represent yourself and your business in the best light. Invest in a great identity by hiring a designer who not only fits your budget, but also wants what is best for you. It is an investment that could spark a return much greater than what you initially spend on the design.


Notes:

  1. If you are a designer and want more insight into pricing your projects, I highly recommend NuSchool’s pricing calculator and Pricing class. The calculator is free; the class is pricey, but soooo worth it if you can swing it!
  2. “A lot of people do things they don’t like, but they do them because they think it’s the only way that they can make a living. What I really hope is that people take away the enthusiasm and the love that I have for making things, and will not interpret it as, ‘Oh this is just something he can do.’ No. It’s something that each individual has within them. The creativity is within you, and it’s one of your responsibilities to allow that creativity to blossom.”Amos Kennedy
  3. If you really do want nice some custom shoes, I have a friend that makes some gorgeous ones!
  4. Designers, unless you are contracted to work for a specific entity and therefore do not have a choice (i.e. you are an in-house designer), NEVER EVER HAND OVER ALL RIGHTS TO YOUR WORK. When you are doing “work for hire,” you revoke all rights to the designs you create; the company you work for owns the designs (although, you should hold onto those sketches and keep copies of the work for your personal portfolio, if possible). For more about this, Jessica Hische has a great article about pricing and licensing.  

8 comments

  1. Jennifer says:

    One of my best friends is a graphic designer and she very kindly helped me design the logo for my website. It was the first time I’d seen what was involved in the process and I was blown away by the amount of time and effort that goes into creating something as ‘simple’ as a logo! The experience taught me that good design definitely deserves fair compensation!! (And PS: I love the shoe analogy!)

    • Ashley D.
      Ashley D. says:

      That’s great to hear! I’m glad your friend was able to show you the design process AND provide a great logo design. And I’m glad you liked the shoe analogy! Thanks for reading! 😀

  2. So for those that are on a budget where do you go? I guess the stock answer is find a good logo designer but for those not in the industry this is sort of like finding a good doctor or dentist. You know they are out there but for most it s hard to tell the good from the bad.

    • Ashley D.
      Ashley D. says:

      Hi Jarrett. That is an excellent question. It can be difficult to find a good designer when you don’t already know any designers. Honestly, a lot of people try to find college students to do design work for them, of which I’m not really a fan. Those people typically just give the students a number and the students are so eager that they devalue their work. If you do decide to hire a student, contact a faculty member first: they will have an idea of who will be best suited for the job and they can guide the student to make sure he gets compensated fairly. Otherwise, I would suggest looking at some portfolio sites:

      • AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts): This is the professional organization for graphic design. On this page, you can browse the portfolios of members.
      • Behance + Dribble: These sites allow designers to post their portfolios and current projects.
      • Instagram + Tumblr: Designers may not always post finished work on these outlets, but you can really gauge a designer’s style from the images they post. You’ll see some of their work in progress and what inspires them.

        All that being said, just because someone has their work on one of these sites doesn’t mean they will be the best designer for you. It is up to you (at least initially) to take a good look at the designer’s work and resume. I hope that helps! Thanks again for the question!

  3. Daisy says:

    Great post, Ashley! I used to be a freelance designer almost ten years ago so I definitely relate to where you’re coming from. People have no idea what it entails sometimes, so they think it should cost way less than it should. Thanks for sharing!

    • Ashley D.
      Ashley D. says:

      Thanks, Daisy! I follow Freelancers Union and it is amazing how undervalued creative jobs are. I just read an article stating that over 14 million people are employed in creative positions in the United States. Perhaps better compensation will follow… We’ll see!

    • Ashley D.
      Ashley D. says:

      So, you come to my post about paying designers fair prices for logo designs and branding… To promote your cheap logo design company? Real classy. $34.99 for 3 concepts in one week with endless revisions? Seriously?

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