My name is Colin Finkle, and I am a professional logo designer. I have designed logos and brand identities for hundreds of organizations. I am a stickler for the process of logo design.
But I understand that it can be shocking to people that people like me can get paid thousands of dollars for such a simple symbol. Many entrepreneurs get sticker shock when they receive a quote to design a logo from a brand designer, branding agency, marketing firm, or ad agency.
Logos range from free to tens of thousands of dollars, and we have all read about logos that cost corporations and governments millions of dollars. This crazy range of prices can be hard to explain.
Why are logos so expensive? A logo design can be so expensive because the process of arriving at a top-quality logo takes time and talent, and a great logo can help a business succeed.
A professionally designed logo is the result of a process called a design funnel. Many ideas are poured into the top of the funnel to arrive at an excellent design in the end. So there is a lot more work that goes into a logo design than can be appreciated when looking at the result.
People who are at an elite level of logo design are also hard to come by, and they are always in demand. A top logo design has his or her pick of projects, and they charge accordingly.
Colin Finkle (BMB's Founder & Editor In Chief) has launched his own brand design agency: Nordeau
Visit nordeau.com if you need help with your logo, brand identity, or brand strategy.
How much money are we talking about here?
A logo design can range from $15 to $15,000. Quite a range!
Logos are not all expensive. An entrepreneur has the option to have a logo designed inexpensively. An inexpensive logo may be appropriate depending on the age and stage of the organization, as well as it’s access to capital.
There are options for free logos. Some of the do-it-yourself web and graphic design platforms have free logo generating software. There is the Wix Logo Maker, Squarespace Logo Maker, and the Canva Logo Maker.
There are options for inexpensive logos that are designed by a real person with some experience. These logos can range from $0 to $400. A logo design is offered by most print shops and web design firms as an add-on, and sometimes they will even throw it in for free on a large order. Entrepreneurs can also put in lowball bids into design contests like 99 Designs or hire an inexpensive freelancer on the other side of the world off of Fiverr. And, for the price of a lunch, case of beer, or wine bottle, you can always hire a friend or colleague who knows how to use Adobe Illustrator to put together a logo.
These free and cheap options may be just what the doctor ordered. It does not make sense to invest in a logo if you are unsure that your venture will become. A cheap logo is fine if you are just dipping your toe in the water or testing the investment market. Who knows!
What gives entrepreneurs sticker shock is the price of logo designs from professional brand designers and marketing agencies. These places can quote anywhere from $2500 and up to $15,000 for a branding package.
If you see a logo as a merely a cool shape and some text in a nice font, then paying thousands of dollars is pretty mind-blowing.
Famous Million Dollar Logos.
Logos for large corporations and governments can be $100,000 to $210,000,000!
What is even more mind-blowing is the budget of corporate logo designs. We have all read about logo design that can cost more than a million dollars.
Famously, Pepsico paid The Arnell Group $1,000,000 for their current logo, which was only slightly different than then their last logo.
And some companies paid even more than that; check out this article on Medium by Inkbot design with examples from $280,000 (City of Belfast, Ireland) to $210,000,000 (BP: British Petroleum)
Why do logo designs cost so much more for these large businesses?
These large agency projects are far broader in scope and much more complicated than merely designing a logo. Large rebrandings mean every piece of marketing the company uses needs to be redesigned.
An effort that large means the executives of the client companies demand that the agency be sure that the logo design is the best direction. This commitment to excellence means coming up and market testing hundreds of concept logos, and then the hard work starts! If an agency must have a team of thirty or so professionals working full time for a year, then a million dollars seems more reasonable.
What goes into a professional logo design?
It is hard to appreciate the time, resources, and expertise that go into a professionally designed logo.
What entitles brand design firms to charge so much for such a small and simple piece of design? It doesn’t seem like much goes into a logo design, so how could it be expensive?
On the surface, a great logo design seems so simple that it can’t take that much time to design.
Truth be told, graphic designers only a few hours spent on the final logo design. But it took a lot of background research and hundreds of ideas and dozens of alternate logo designs to arrive confidently at that final design.
While the final result is quick and straightforward, the process to arrive at a properly designed logo takes time.
This process is called a design funnel. The more ideas you put into the top, the better chance you have at a good result.
For example, when I lead a team of two other graphic designers to rebrand Matrix Marketing, we had:
- 49 logo ideas
- 15 logo concepts
- 6 developed concept logos
- 1 final logo
A professional logo designer invests time to understand the founder’s vision, taste, and what attributes the logo should have to add to the success of the business. The designer researches other pieces of design that are analogous to that vision, and shares that with the entrepreneur to make sure they are on the same page.
Blind, a brand strategy and design consultancy in Santa Monica, California, spend the majority of the design hours invested in a logo project to create style scapes. These are boards with no original design, just a curation of other designs with the images, textures, colors, and typography they are thinking of using. The style scapes helps them get on the same page with their clients.
You can see Blind’s styles cape process in action in this video:
A professional logo project can have hundreds to over a thousand logo concepts sketched out. Typically, they choose ten to twenty to develop fully in Adobe Illustrators. All of these preliminary logos get the same time and attention as the final logo because the final logo is in there… somewhere.
A professional brand designer will take time testing the new logo design on an organization’s business cards, signage, vehicles, clothing, etc. to make sure it is going to work everywhere.
For example, on the Matrix Marketing rebranding project that I referenced earlier, my team and I presented six brand boards to our company executives and shareholders. These boards included a mockup of the website, both sides of the business cards, the letterhead, a pen, a coffee cup, and even a USB key. All of this work done was to be sure the logo worked in context.
Sometimes the logo design process includes market testing. Secret groups of people in the target market of the brand in question are asked their opinion on the logo concepts. Testing takes logos out of arguments over taste, and into the real world and how the real people of the market would react to the logo. The requirement of market testing is typical when rebranding large corporate; large organizations need to do everything they can avoid launching a new brand identity and people hating it, as happened to Tropicana. Read about Tropicana’s disastrous rebrand in our rebranding article here on BMB.
The market testing process is expensive. It takes the time and care professionals to run the process in an unbiased fashion. Participants also want to be rewarded with gifts or cash incentives.
The process of designing a logo is long, complicated, and meandering. But if you work the process, then the result is simple, elegant, and works for the business: a great logo.
Is a logo that expensive ever worth it?
A professionally designed logo can lead to more business, is legally protectable, and is responsive.
A professionally designed logo can contribute to the growth of a brand.
Your organization only has one chance at making a first impression. The aesthetics of a brand has effects how likely a potential customer or user is to engage.
You know this too be true. Have you turned away from a business, app, or charity because it looked shabby and untrustworthy?
Well designed logos increase sales and signups. Professionally designed logos inspire confidence in the business. A well-designed logo is a signal the customer looks for in choosing businesses to associate with, especially when their money, health, or well-being is on the line.
A professionally designed logo can attract a higher-paying clientele.
Wealthier patrons are more sensitive to the difference between an amateur logo and a professional logo. As a result, they frequent businesses that have simple, elegant logos. A business’ logo is not the only thing that attracts or repels high-end clients, but it contributes.
For example, a salon with a high-end logo will attract wealthier patrons than one with a kitschy or cliche logo. People who need their hair done for fancy galas and weddings don’t want to take a chance on a hairdresser when the sign on their salon features a blue on white illustration of a woman with a haircut popular in the 80s.
A professional design logo can be the basis for a brand.
Investing in a logo is also an investment in your business’ brand. A company with a professional logo has the potential to become a valuable brand. A simple and memorable logo can help a business grow a reputation because it is simple, unique, and, thus, easily memorable.
A poorly design logo can fail to build a reputation. At worst, a cheap logo can be a boat anchor an otherwise good business is dragging along.
A professionally designed logo can be legally protected.
A properly designed logo is truly custom. A professional brand designer will start each logo from cratched, designed specifically for the unique qualities of the organization. A pro logo is like a custom-tailored suit.
Unique logos are protected by copyright. If you want to go further, then you can apply for a trademark. Both legal protections require that the logo is novel and unique.
Cheap graphic designer or online logo generating software will reuse designs between clients.
If a business cheaps out on a logo, then they might find another company doing business with a very similar logo. There is no legal recourse to have them stop doing business with that logo.
A copyright or a trademark is not legally enforceable if the logo is derivative of another logo. In other words, if a logo is a copy of another logo or another design, then it is not able to be protected.
A professionally designed logo is actually multiple logos.
A logo design pro will offer his or her final design in a variety of formats for different situations.
I offer my clients a horizontal logo, a vertical logo, a square format logo, an icon, and a wordmark. Then I create a version for a light background, a version for a dark, and one-color options all of those formats. All of these add up to fifteen unique versions of the logo.
In today’s marketing environment, a brand needs a logo that works on a small scale (i.e., a Twitter icon) and a large scale (like signage on a building.)
Professional logo designers are designing a responsive set of logos. There are logo designs meant to be legible and recognizable a variety of scales.
A set of responsive logos requires a lot of thought and time to make sure that the brand is still recognizably consistent at every scale.
Why not just cheap out? What could go wrong?
When a company doesn’t take the time and effort to nail their logo, they risk being perceived as a joke and require an expensive rebrand in the future.
Businesses with crummy logos fight an uphill battle. They have trouble attracting clients, sales, donations, investment, talent, etc.
A poorly designed logo signals to external people that a business is not to be taken seriously. It could be a scam.
The leaders clearly do not take their business seriously. They are not even willing to invest in their own business, so why would an external person do business with them?
A poorly designed logo may cause the company to need to go through a very costly rebranding process.
Having a professionally designed logo may cost a few thousand dollars on the front end, but having to replace poorly designed logo years into the business’ live will cost tens of thousands to millions of dollars. It is expensive to replace signs, reprint marketing materials, replace uniforms, etc.
Who do these logo designers think they are?!?!
Selection pressures mean that the logo designers are masters of their craft in demand, and cheap logo designers are a dime a dozen.
Amateur graphic designers are a dime a dozen. You probably have at least three people in your immediate network who know how to use Adobe Illustrator.
But a person is not a professional logo designer just because they know the software. As we have discussed, an amateur designer can do damage to your credibility and reputation.
Professional logo designers are in demand. There are well-funded or large corporations who are looking for only the work of the best designers. Ad agencies and marketing firms suck these talented people up quickly because they appreciate how much their work can sell for.
Designers who are particularly skilled at logo design and who take pride in the craft are hard to find. They have years of experience and know both the business side of brands and the artistry of visual design. A person that can consistently design high quality, genuinely unique logos is among the top ten percent of graphic designers.
They can take their pick of jobs because they are a limited breed that is in high demand. They chose jobs that are either high impact or high paying, but usually both.
Top brand designers are just like a top athlete. The best sports players make a ton of money because they are game-winners. You hire them because they should win games for your team, rather than your opponent’s team. They are proven difference-makers.
Conclusion. Take logo design seriously, whether you have tons of money for a logo or no money.
The logo of your organization has the potential to make or break your business. You need to take the process seriously, even if you cannot afford to work with the best designers.
Nothing is keeping an amateur from making a great logo design. A novice can hit on a good design once and awhile, where a pro hits it out of the park every time. If you are working with an amateur designer, then it is on you to make sure you give them a clear direction and do all of the background work and then pay them enough to propose multiple designs.
But if you have the money to work with a pro, you should probably do that. It will just reduce the risk that you will have to rebrand in the future… and that could be quite costly. Investing in a great logo design is like moving into a large office. Maybe you only have enough money to lease a small office, but you may find your organization outgrows it quickly and you are forced into an expensive move. But if you rent a more substantial office than you need, than you can grow and grow and grow.