Friday, June 5, 2009

Three Ways To Get A Custom Logo—And Which Is Best

Below is the second article Nikki has written for Women Wise Marketing Blog. Enjoy and don't forget to check out the Women Wise Marketing site!
(Photos borrowed from Women Wise Marketing)


This post is part two in a series by Womenwise Marketing contributor Nikki Matarasso, graphic designer and maketing coordinator for Blue Crane Design. Read part one, The Five Elements of Really Good Logos. Photo collage courtesy of captcreate.

So you’ve decided you need a custom business logo to catch attention and get customers in the door. Now what? Where do you get one? How much should you pay for one? You don’t have a giant budget, but can you really get a quality logo for free?

Well, you’ve got a couple of options. Each has pros, cons, and associated costs.

1. Do It Yourself

On first glace, making the logo yourself might seem like the cheapest option. But there are quite a few hidden costs associated with creating a custom logo.

Frustrated WomanLet’s assume you have a computer. You’re going to need software. If you want to put your business logo into multiple formats and create an image which can be used at any size (called a vector) you’re going to need something more than Microsoft Paint.

The cheapest version of Photoshop Elements is AU$165. It has limited functionality but is fine for beginners.

Now before you start designing your business logo, you need to learn how to use Photoshop. To get a basic understanding you’ll probably need at least two days. If you’re going to research what makes a logo effective, add another day for that. Then there’s the time it takes you to design your custom logo. (Let’s say another two days).

Do you want to go with a word mark? A symbol? Perhaps a monogram? Which ever it is you want it to have a high mnemonic value, right? These are all things you need to think about.

Your time is worth money. After all, you’re spending time you could be looking for new clients or working on current ones doing this. For these purposes we’ll assume you’re earning an average wage of $100 a day.

If you want any stock photos or images you’ll have to pay for those too. We’ll estimate $20 minimum.

So far, this has cost you around $685 for a custom logo that most likely won’t be as effective as one created by a professional with years of experience. It’s kind of like going to a doctor verses looking your symptoms up on the internet.

2. Hire a Professional

I’m going to base these calculations off the prices my graphic design company currently charges: AU$325 including gst for a logo with five revisions. Very importantly, I have a contract which protects both the graphic designer and the client.

Graphic DesignerWhen you hire a graphic designer, you’re not just paying for a custom business logo. You’re paying for the experience, training, software, hardware, knowledge and research that goes behind the logo.

When a client comes to me I organise a meeting where we talk over coffee about their business, their ideas and what they want to get out of the logo. Then I research their competition and the industry itself.

Finally, I create three drafts of custom logos which the client can choose between or take elements from for the final version. I keep the client informed at every step of the way of what’s going on and the information or techniques being used in the process. We tweak the final logo until it’s perfect and then hand over to the client in as many file formats as they require. All this for $325.

3. Use a Design Contest for Spec Work

Some websites let you create a competition that essentially says, “I have a gardening business and I’ll pay $25 for a custom logo.” Graphic designers submit their work in hopes that you’ll pick them as the winner. Most of these competition websites charge a flat rate or take a cut of the designer’s fee.


One problem with this system is that you have no idea who is on the other side of the computer screen. The designer could be a 14-year-old with little knowledge and too much spare time rather or a graphic designer who has studied for four years to get the job.

These contests also lead people to pick designs that are the most visually appealing, rather than designs which are commercially viable.

They are also generally a bad way to do business. Imagine if you owned a retail store and I came in to buy an item. I tell you that I want this set of towels but I’m going to get a bunch of towels from other stores too, try them all out, and if I like your towel best I’ll think about paying you about 100th of the price.

I think you would kick me out of your store!

Possibly the most dangerous part of these competitions can be found in the fine print. You have no control over the use of the work created.

Most people don’t read the terms and conditions of these websites, but doing so is really important. I’ve heard story after story of people going through a contest, picking a winner and then several years down the line having the creator of the logo sue them for rights and earnings.

Some designers enter very similar designs in many competitions. Even after you’ve chosen one, they retain all rights to the other designs so they can submit them to other businesses or retain them for personal use. You have pretty much no recourse and no way of knowing how many other businesses have a very similar design.

For these reasons, I can’t stress enough the importance of having a contract that both designer and client understand.

The Final Word On Choosing A Logo

Unfortunately that old saying “You get what you pay for” applies to logo design. There are some business expenses that you can skimp on, but a custom business logo isn’t one of them.

By doing it yourself or hiring a spec work artist, you may be saving money in theory. But when it comes back to bite your sales figures, you may wish you had reconsidered!

Nikki MatarassoI hope that this article has given you all some insight on the true costs of logo design. Next month I’ll be covering advertising: what should you look for, how often you should be doing it and where you’ll get the best results. Until then, check out my own blog at Blue Crane Design.

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