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How to Get a Logo Designed... (and what they cost)

By: Brian Lehmer at Lehmer and Associates

Submitted on Thu, Jan 21st, 2010 1:54 am

Logo Design: How Much Does it Cost? The only thing more expensive than good logo design, is bad logo design When you buy a logo you aren't paying someone for their time to do the work. A logo designer gets paid for their skill. Read on to find out how much you can expect to pay for your logo design. The pool of skilled logo designers is arranged like a pyramid. The best on top are few, and a vast legion of self-styled artists (who happen to have an educational version of Adobe® Illustrator) fill up the space at the bottom. Nothing Says Cheap Like a Cheap Logo Looking at the bottom of the price spectrum you will find logos priced from free to somewhere under a $100, but that isn't what they'll cost you. You see, you design a logo to help you make a profit. There isn't really any cheap tooling to help you profit in business. When put to the test, cheap tooling is a maintenance nightmare, and that holds true in logo design. The fact is, business owners usually spend a lot on equipment and advertising to make a profit. If the thought of spending more than $500 on a logo design makes you cringe you need to question how serious you are about your business. Be honest, $500 is cheap for marketing collateral. You know it, but maybe you aren't ready to admit it yet. Buy a logo for under $100 and you're positioning yourself to fail at the task of selling yourself to your target market. Expensive is starting a business without a plan to sell yourself - and often it all starts with a logo. Moving On Up in Logo Design: Establishing a Budget Those with skill are in demand and charge accordingly. There are also fewer of them. For a logo designer to mature to the point where they find themselves amongst the elite in their field is a rare feat. If you can afford $10K+ (and by + I mean +) you might be able to hire one. Too much? Just as rare as top logo designers are top budgets, perhaps more so. A few levels down in the logo designer pyramid we come to those who are developing their logo design skills on their way to becoming a great logo designer. These mid-pyramid logo designers will likely produce work that can be irritatingly edgy as often as surprisingly good. At this level you can expect to pay between $500 and $3,000 for a good logo design. Understandably, that's a large budgetary window. To narrow it down the question is: How much time do you have? The difference between the top and bottom in this price range is the time you'll likely spend interviewing prospective logo designers. You might interview between 2 and 5 logo designers at the high end of that budget range with great success. Conversely you might interview 15 or more logo designers before you find one at the low end of that price range. The Right Logo Designer for the Job Now that you have a budget, what should you look for in a logo designer? Maybe you're thinking to yourself that you can succeed with a bottom tier logo design service, after all you've seen "their" work, they used to live in New York City, and they own a Mac. What can go wrong? What Can Go Wrong in Logo Design The deeper you get into the annals of lower logodom the more pseudo credentials you'll hear -- many not unlike those I give in the introduction above. Who you choose to design your logo is, in the end, your prerogative. If you haven't taken the time to ask your logo designer for a list of credentials, then you'll have no one to blame but yourself for trying to appeal to the masses with a warm and inviting logo design harboring a death metal twist. Okay, so maybe you're taking comfort in the fact that you've actually got a logo design budget. Not so fast. The truth is that there are countless ways to send the wrong message with a logo design. Some far more subtle than others, but that $1,500 logo could be just as much potential trouble nonetheless. So how do you go about finding the right logo designer for the job? Interviewing Logo Designers -- The Key to Satisfaction Thankfully, the single most valuable tool at your disposal for finding that logo designer costs only as much as your time. Ah the simplicity of it! Despite how much of a hurry you are in to get up and running you need to be willing to do what it takes to have your logo design done right. Whatever your budget, whether $50 or $10,000 you must interview logo designers. If you're in business (or starting one), and searching for a logo under $100 you owe it to yourself to interview at least one or two professional logo designers who can actually charge for their work. You must understand that there is a difference between logo designers so called and logo designers. You will come to appreciate that difference if you take an interest and ask the right questions. The reason you interview logo designers has to do with finding a logo designer whose style suits your comfort zone and who demonstrates a capacity to communicate on your level. Regardless of price, finding a logo designer who meets those requirements will make your logo design project many times more satisfying than if you don't. The right logo designer for the job will create the right logo. One that appeals to the right people and that appeals to you. It will translate into motivational fodder for your business... and a better chance at turning your logo design project into a profitable investment. Five Key Questions to Ask Your Prospective Logo Designer  1. What do you feel qualifies you most as a logo designer? By asking this question you are hoping to hear an answer that draws something from their experience as a logo designer. Perhaps it is a logo design award, or a particular logo design accomplishment for a particular client, but in any event the best answer will tout their experience as a logo designer. If the answer cites educational merit then you must be concerned with logo design inexperience, but it should be taken in context, and may not rule them out. It may be acceptable for example, if their answer tells of an honor or recognition they received for logo design work done during their education. It would be unacceptable if they reference their degree or mere course of instruction. The worst answer you can receive will be totally unrelated to logo design. It might go something like this: "I have Adobe® CS4, I use a Mac, and I've done all the album art for my friend's band." 2. May I see a portfolio of your best logo design work? Even if you have already seen examples of a logo designers work, you want to be sure they are comfortable showing that work to you in more depth. Quality is more important than quantity, but an experienced logo designer should be able to show you several examples. For at least one project, ask to see all of the logo design variations that were shown to a client along with pieces that show a progressive workflow. You'll want to look for a process of design and refinement that is professional and also full of communication about the logo design for the client. Expect to see several one color or black logos. Color is considered secondary in professional logo design. Amongst professional logo designers, abundant use of color and visual features such as drop shadows and gradients without provision for a one color version are generally considered poor logo design practice. Not that such features are all bad in every logo. Store shelf brands usually make use of both bold color and the illusion of depth. Corporate logos tend to require one color variations as well as a version in full livery. 3. How much do you charge for creating "Logo Usage and Guidelines" documentation? The best answer is either a price or "It's included" as a part of the logo design work. This kind of documentation contains instructions about how your logo may be used. It will discuss everything from clearspace requirements to colors. Usually it will also include a list of do's and do not's that will help keep people who implement you logo from undermining your brand through improper use. If a logo designer fails to understand what you mean by this, elaborate. If they then give you a price or call it by another name, ask to see an example of a set of guidelines that they have done for another client. Even if a set of logo guidelines in not important to you, this question serves as a simple test of professionalism on the part of the logo designer. It will also show the logo designer that you are serious about the best use of your logo as a brand identity, even if you decide to opt out. 4. Can you show me how you have handled typography or lettering in your past logo designs? Perhaps the best way to ask this question is to point out a logo design from their portfolio and ask them if they can show or explain the process they used to create the lettering in that logo. Typography is one of the most challenging aspects of logo design. The best logo designers can design a typeface from scratch that looks unique without looking unusual. Many times a good logo designer will be able to modify or customize an existing font typeface to make it appear unique without looking unnatural. They are critical of kerning or letter spacing, and they probably take a great deal of of pride in that aspect of their work. Occasionally a logo designer may use a plain faced or subdued font typeface in its unaltered form. When this is done, it is usually in supporting or descriptive wording that goes with the logo design without necessarily being considered a crucial part of it. If they are unable to explain how they created the lettering in a logo it should be noted with caution. Use of an unmodified font typeface in an area of central focus (particularly in logos that use fancy serifs or flowing lines) is a telltale sign of unskilled logo design work. 5. Can you tell me what standards or code of ethics you adhere to? In logo design, as in many design professions, designers often follow a set of generally accepted professional standards of conduct. Ask you logo designer about any such standards or code of ethics that they adhere to. In many cases you will find that their view of acceptable fees and payment installments, in addition to their obligations to deliver completed work are defined in such standards. Expect to pay about 50% upfront. You should never be asked to pay 100% upfront -- The rare exception occurring in logo design work for less than about $200. The Last Word on Logo Design You should expect to receive the logo in its final form after you have submitted your final payment installment. Depending upon your needs, you can expect to receive original artwork in 2 or 3 vector formats such as AI, PDF, EPS, DWG, DXF. Raster formats are often available in high resolution formats such as the high quality TIF or the lossy JPG. If you have specific uses you may be able to request that your logo designer provide a logo file in a format that meets your specs. Finally, explain that you are new to logo design, and that you are interviewing designers. In light of that, your logo designer should be willing to explain the entire process to you in some detail. Continue Reading
Contributed By:
Brian Lehmer
Lehmer and Associates

Brian Lehmer is a founding member of the award winning Lehmer & Associates LLC where he currently serves as an illustrator, brand consultant, and project manager.

Prior to this Brian Lehmer served as a creative director and analyst on numerous projects while employed in California.

Brian now works remotely from his home in the scenic Ozarks of southern Missouri. He credits much of his continuing success to the help and support of his wife Olga and their three children.

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