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

Logo Design Not Cheap

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.


  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.  

How to Seriously Impress a Graphic Designer

Impress Graphic Designer

The turn-off

I tend to cringe when people ask me what I do. Why? Here is the typical script:

“So what do you do, Ashley?”

“I’m a graphic designer.”

“Oh! So you work on the computer and stuff, right?”

At this point, I could sit the person down and launch into what I actually do as a graphic designer.

Instead, I usually roll my eyes and mutter, “Umm… Yeah.” Then shut the conversation down in typical introversive fashion.

If you are one of the culprits — someone who has asked this question before — it’s okay! I wasn’t really sure what graphic design was until I started looking at colleges, trying to figure out what my major could be. In middle school and high school, I designed a lot of t-shirts (I’m sure I was referred to as “that quiet black girl that makes a lot a t-shirts”). But that was the extent of my design knowledge.

Think of a chef…

I love food and I’m currently working as a designer for a food company. So let’s use a food-related analogy, shall we?

I would compare the designer’s dilemma to asking an executive chef, “Hey, so you use a lot of knives, right?” 😒

Well, duh. Of course. Knives are tools. A chef uses many different tools: knives, spoons, spatulas, pans, bowls. Even pens and note pads.

Thanks to reality TV and cooking shows, we know that chefs have to develop menus, find sources for the ingredients, train their sous chefs, manage the kitchen, etc. It obviously is much more involved than just “playing with knives.” 🔪

Computers are tools

No, really. They are literally tools. Knives are tools for a chef. Computers and software are tools for a designer. Done and done.

What graphic design is

We actually encounter designed pieces in most aspects of our lives. Just go to the store, turn on the TV, or stand at the bus stop. See? Design there, there, and there.

In essence, graphic design is the intentional display of visual information for an audience. The AIGA — the professional association for graphic design — defines graphic design as follows:

“Graphic design, also known as communication design [or visual communication] is the art and practice of planning and projecting ideas and experiences with visual and textual content.”

In higher education, graphic design is often separated from other fine art fields because it primarily deals with conveying a specific message to an audience. Fine arts, like painting, tend to center around experimentation with materials, expression through the senses, and interpretation of visuals/sounds/experiences.

Design can do all these things, but the end result almost always has some explicit intention behind it: something the viewer/user/consumer is supposed to understand. It serves a specific purpose or function.

I would argue that fine art can be design and design can be fine art. Therefore the two areas don’t really need to be separated. But that’s for another blog post.

What graphic designers do

Process is a key word in how designers work. The development and implementation of designs involves processes and methods that help designers come up with the most effective strategies.

Each designer has their own processes and methods for coming up with ideas and producing their work. The most clear way I have found to define the  design process, in general, has been John Bower’s four phases of problem-solving:

  • LEARN : Gather as much information (research!) as possible about the problem and the topic, from a variety of sources.
  • IDENTIFY : Find the root problem and the people involved. Understand what needs to happen in order for the problem to be solved.
  • GENERATE : Make a bunch of drafts, sketches, models, or examples. Test those ideas to find the most effective/efficient/probable solution.
  • IMPLEMENT : Take one (or several) of those ideas and produce functional pieces that can put out into the world and used by the intended audience.
Design Process Stages
When designers develop work, they typically go through these four stages.

My process typically works in the sequential order above. However, these phases can take place in any order. Some phases may take longer or be more involved than others. It’s very unique to each designer and project.

The roles of designers

Depending on the position and the company, a graphic designer will have certain roles they are asked to play. In terms of finding a job, it is good for candidates to be able to preform many of these functions:

  • Problem-solving
  • Idea generation
  • Drafting/sketching
  • Researching
  • Writing
  • Project management
  • Layout design
  • Typography
  • Visual hierarchy
  • Color selection
  • Software (an overview of Adobe software coming soon!)
  • Coding (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, content management, etc.)
  • Print production
  • Copy editing
  • Assembly
  • Bookbinding

Notice that using software is only one component of a designer’s job functions! I will go into some of these roles in more detail in future blog posts.

Design specializations

Some individuals will take on multiple specializations, while others focus on one area. If you are considering graphic design as a career, these are some positions to look into.

Designers take on one or more specializations depending on their skills, talents, and the needs of their position.
  • ART DIRECTION : Overseeing design and creative projects.
  • BRAND + IDENTITY DESIGN : Creating logos and the defining features of brands.
  • EDITORIAL DESIGN : Layout design for publications.
  • TYPE DESIGN : Crafting typefaces and developing fonts.
  • PRODUCT DESIGN : Engineering the look and feel of consumer products.
  • PACKAGING DESIGN : Making vessels for consumer goods.
  • SURFACE DESIGN : Working with the surfaces of tactile items, such as fabric and paper.
  • PRINT DESIGN : Designing printed materials, from brochures to stationery.
  • WEB DESIGN : Layout and implementation of websites, blog themes, and the like.
  • USER INTERFACE (UI) DESIGN : Developing systems for people to interact with digital mediums.
  • APP DESIGN : Creating applications for the web and mobile devices.
  • MOTION GRAPHICS : Time-based designs for television, film, and more.
  • ILLUSTRATIONS : Images created to explain, elevate, or expand upon text.
  • ANIMATION : Image-based motion design or moving illustrations.
  • ADVERTISING : Promotions all of types for corporations, institutions, etc.

And these are just scratching the surface. As time goes on and technology advances, new careers will emerge. You might end up creating your own job title! Whoa!

So Now you know

There it is. Graphic designers do a lot more than just staring at computer screens. The next time you are introduced to a graphic designer, you can ask them about their specialty, rather than what software they use. 😉 Your new graphic design friend will be so delighted! via GIPHY