Business Logo Design: a Cost Breakdown

As a business owner, one of your top concerns for any business need is cost. Understanding the true cost for any expenses is critical to making informed decisions that provide long term value to your business. That couldn’t be more true than with logo design costs.

The cost of your logo should fit within your startup budget while still being a sound investment into the future of your business. That may sound like a complicated balancing act, but if you know what to ask for, and how to weight the long term costs of the logo design, the ultimate cost of a logo should be well within the small business budget.

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The Average Price of a Logo

As logo design is both a science and an art, logo design costs can vary based on the specific needs of the individual logo. In addition, design providers often have different pricing structures that affect the final invoice total.

To simplify the process for you, I’ve broken the industry into a few generalized groupings and assumed the creation of a “standard” logo. I’m defining “standard” as a logo that includes an icon and stylized type, along with all appropriate instances of standard treatment types (you can view all treatment types in a chart here).

For each generalized grouping, we’ll look at the average costs, deliverables, and time frame, along with pros vs. cons .

Student Graphic Designer

Average Logo Cost:
Anywhere from a 6-pack of beer up to $300.00

Timeframe:
1 day to 6 months

What they Deliver:
Students will often give you exactly what you request, so it is up to you to guide them on deliverables, concept, audience, and even timely delivery of the final art. If the student has a great teacher and a good work ethic, they will know to ask their teacher and supply you with a vector file of your logo for press, and a web ready file with a transparent background.

Pros vs Cons:
Students can be a great resource for businesses on a very tight budget, but this is the perfect example of “you get what you paid for”. Often times students do not yet understand the importance of vector art and image resolution, nor reproduction methods. This could result in your logo being too detailed to print on a business card, or impossible to put on store front signage. Students also may not have the tools necessary to ensure that your logo is free of copyright issues, or the mind set to deliver on time. Don’t get me wrong though, I used to teach and had some amazing students that were designing logos before they finished school. But, they were working with teachers in a class structured to teach the art of communicating with and managing clients, and creating usable designs.

Offshore Logo Designer

Average Logo Cost:
$50.00-150.00

Timeframe:
1 day – 1 week

What they Deliver:
Typically exactly what you asked for, regardless of if it’s what you needed, and often times with a typo.

Pros vs Cons:
The only issue I have with off shore design options is the lack of valid communication with you, the client. These designers are typically working to fulfill project quotas, not your goal. Think quantity vs. quality.And, the worst part is that the person you worked with if often not available for future work, making it very easy to end up with mix-matched designs on future marketing pieces, as well as limited options to recover files if you ever lose your copy. Offshore is only a valid option if you know exactly what you need, have a clear concept, and are only looking for someone who can expertly navigate the design software. Do not expect unique and creative logo’s from this group.

Freelance Designer

Average Logo Cost:
$500.00-2,000.00

Timeframe:
2-3 weeks or more

What they Deliver:
A press ready logo file, sometimes in multiple color formats, and with web friendly art ready for your use.

Pros vs Cons:
This can range widely, based on the knowledge level of the freelancer. Some freelancers are really illustrators that also happen to do logo’s on occasion. Others may be professionals with a day job at an agency, and create logo’s to supplement their income.

When working with a freelancer, remember that they often have other commitments, and your project may not be their top priority. Being on your toes and reaching out to them once a week to check on progress will need to be on your must-do list. However, larger agencies often utilize freelancers that specialize in logo work to handle their overflow, and it is possible to find a quality freelancer. Some are even more along the lines of a one man agency and provide quality work on a regular basis.

Small Design Firm

Average Logo Cost:
$800.00 – 5,000.00

Timeframe:
2 – 6 weeks, depending on the full project scope

What they Deliver:
When working with a small design firm, your logo project can have one of two flavors: a basic logo design vs. a full branding project that includes a logo. Either way, you will be provided with all of the appropriate files to reproduce your logo effectively in all instances that were specified in the contract. For a full branding project, you will also be provided with a brand standards guide, potentially a brand implementation plan, and a full stationery set (sometimes with printing included).

Pros vs Cons:
Small firms often provide a better customer service experience than students, freelancers, or larger corporate agencies. Typically, your project will be one of a select few that the designer is working on, and they will be dedicating their energy to your brand. You will benefit from more than one set of eye’s on your project, and a more structured approach to helping you develop a full brand vs. just a logo. The structure of many small firms also allows them to be flexible towards your specific needs and budget, vs. forcing your project into a specific package or protocol.

Corporate Agency

Average Logo Cost:
$2,000.00 – $20,000.00 +

Timeframe:
1-3 months.

What they Deliver:
The larger corporate agency will provide you with everything you could imagine and more, which may leave your head swimming if you are a small business. They will not be working on “logo only” projects, they will be working on full brand development,  marketing plans, mass media, and public relations to release the brand once developed.

Pros vs Cons:
The biggest benefit is having everything under one roof, which means one invoice. You will have access to multiple designers with widely varying skill sets, but you do run the risk of feeling like a small fish in a larger pond. Larger agencies also have a tendency to have a high turnover rate, which means the designer you really liked might not be there for your next project. The good new is that they will have designed within a documented creative brief, allowing the new designer to pick up where the old one left off. Corporate agencies also often enlist freelancers for specific projects, and have more connections with radio, television, and other media channels for public relation services.

What about Crowdsourcing and Contests?

One additional avenue that I didn’t include in the industry groupings is crowdsourcing, which includes design contests, and is also called “spec work”. The basic idea is to send out one request, and expect hundreds of designers to take a stab at making something that might work for you. The one that you like best, get’s paid a small sum (or a credit line), and you end up with art that you may or may not be able to use. In the end there are 99+ designers who didn’t get paid for their work, and one new logo that’s nothing more than slightly altered clip art.

With crowdsourcing the logo ends up doing more harm than good to the overall brand:

  1. there is no way for the designer to ask questions about your business, resulting in a logo with little to no connection to the brand
  2. submissions are often plagiarized (or just new colors applied to the last logo they designed and didn’t win with)
  3. company owners often need the logo recreated in new formats for each medium, size, and printing process.

Why You Might End Up Paying More for Your Logo Design

While the above generalizations do help put the skill level and potential deliverables into perspective, there are multiple items that can affect the overall cost of a logo.

A complex logo may be necessary to help you stand out in the industry. Complex can mean custom illustration, or detailed specifications that require unique instances for different applications, etc.

You also might be paying for more than you need. If you are a small business, you do not need full branding with a 50 page brand standards and application guide that the Coca Cola corporation uses. If you do need a brand standards guide, realize that it takes time to create one, and expect to pay for that time and development.

Changing the scope of the project can also have a huge impact on the final vs. estimated logo pricing. This typically happens when the client is not able to communicate effectively with the designer (or vice versa), or the needs of the project change after the bid is approved. While this can happen with smaller firms and corporate agencies (things can always change mid project), it’s most typically seen with freelancers and students where communication methods and lack of experience tend to muddle up the process.

Revisions also play a huge roll in the cost of a logo project. Typically, bids will be based on a set amount of estimated hours to complete your project. The designer or firm will then either bill hourly or on a flat project rate, based on those estimated hours. If the estimated bid includes 2 rounds of revisions, any additional revisions will cost more (more time invested = more money spent).

As with revisions, the number of concepts that you will be presented with will affect the overall cost of the logo project. Typically, 2-3 concepts are presented to the client, and then revisions are applied to one selected concept for finalization. Requesting additional concepts will require additional time (and thus expense), so be sure you and the designer have discussed concepts prior to beginning any design.

In order to control costs, be sure that both you and the designer are clear on what the full scope of the project is, how many revisions and concepts are included (and a definition on what a revision is), and that you both openly communicate during the process.

What should you get for your money?

The easiest way to answer this is to break down the process of designing a logo. This will let us see what the designer should be doing, and what you will be responsible for along the way.

Remember, this is a generalization. The exact process and costs for your logo may vary based on the designer and your specific needs.

The estimate:

You will need to supply the designer with a basic background on your business and brand objectives. Who you are, what you hope to achieve, and how you will use the logo.

The designer should then supply you with a bid outlining exactly what services they will perform along with all associated costs. Here are some sample average costs for a logo design project with a small firm:

  • Low cost projects ($500-800): You know exactly what you need, and really just need someone to create the art digitally. The art is simple, and minimal creative concept work is necessary on the designers part. You’ll probably only see one concept, and one round of revisions.
  • Mid level projects ($1,000 – $3,000): You know you need a logo, but you’re not sure about the concept, or even what colors to use. The designer may help you pinpoint your brand positioning, and provide multiple logo concepts.
  • High end projects (Over $3,000): Regardless of what you think you know, you want the designer to help you confirm your brand positioning (aka research), present multiple concepts, and deliver a formal brand standards guide. For smaller businesses, the brand standards guide does not need to be 50+pages. A few pages outlining how the logo should and should not be used, along with brand color and typographic specifications is very suitable. The project may also include a brand development plan that will guide you in implementing your new logo, and initiate some marketing efforts.

The creative brief:

A creative brief will outline exactly what the designer will do from a creative perspective. Sometimes the brief will reveal that more work than was planned needs to be completed, so some designers will ask for a brief prior to presenting an estimate. The brief can be completed by the client, or by the designer, but both parties should be involved in the process so that there is a mutual understanding. A creative brief for a logo would include:

  • Basic information about the company the logo is for
  • Basic information about the audience
  • Desired colors and typography for the brand (sometimes with rationalization based on color psychology)
  • Examples of other logos that express a similar brand voice, or other guidance for the designer
  • An outline of the concept that the designer should follow, along with inspiration for the concept.

A creative brief may sound scary, but it can be as simple as an email, or something closer to a multi-page discovery document that we prepare for our clients. The goal is to have something in writing and that allows each party to confirm that they are on the same page.

The initial designs and revisions:

Once everyone is on the same page regarding concept and background, the designer will then prepare the approved number of concepts. These are presented to the client, feedback is discussed, and revisions are made. The important part here for the client is to be sure to be honest about what you like and don’t like. Don’t worry about “hurting the artist’s feelings”—be clear about what is working and what is not working. And, be open to listening to the designer's justifications for their selections in icons, colors, type, and overall graphic styling. Very often, they are looking at the logo from your audience’s point of view, which could greatly vary from your perspective.

Approval and final deliverables:

Once you have approved the final art, the designer’s job is far from done! The logo needs to be prepared in a few different formats (listed below), and the brand standards guide needs to be generated along with any other deliverables (such as stationery and business cards) that were agreed upon.

Typical final deliverables for a standard logo include:

  • Logo in vector format (resolution independent, and fully scalable to any size) and raster format (typically web quality) in the following instances:
    1. full logo mark (icon with type)
    2. icon only
    3. truncated / text only
  • CMYK, Pantone, and one color versions of all supplied logo instances
  • Adobe swatch exchange files for the brand colors (typically created for the designer’s use, and not always distributed directly to the client)
  • Brand standards document outlining appropriate use for various scenarios, brand colors, and typographic examples

What’s not included:

The font used in the logo is not a standard deliverable. However, you can ask the designer for a link to the font vendor where you can purchase a license to use the font, and download the digital font files.

Rights to the rejected concepts are typically retained by the designer. They can be used in other projects, as concept examples for other clients, or in any other way the designer chooses. Additionally, the designer typically retains rights to use your logo in their portfolio.

You have your logo – now what?

With your logo design complete, and the final files safely archived on your computer (and on an offsite backup location!) you’re all set, right?

If the business objectives and brand goals were addressed during the concept and design process, yes you are! You have a logo that will empower your brand, and will only need to be changed if your business objectives drastically change by expanding into a new service area, targeting a new audience, or if a merge happens!

So, how much does a logo cost?

As I’ve outlined, the cost of a logo can be affected by the experience level of the designer, the type of logo you are looking for, and the final deliverables.

While the best solution for your business will be based on your brand goals and business needs, expect to pay more than $200 for a logo that will empower your business and be the emblem of your brand, and know that as a small business you do not need to go through a $10,000 enterprise level logo and branding process.

The Cost of a Logo Gone Wrong.

Before we wrap up, let’s take a moment to understand what a logo can do for your business and the overall brand. Here’s the quick run-down of the potential benefits a logo can provide:

  • increased sales, revenues, and profits
  • build trust and consumer confidence
  • portray your brand’s benefits
  • become a connection between the business and the audience.

In my article on obtaining good logo design, I expand on each of the above points, and discuss potential harm that a poor logo design can do to your brand. A cheap logo will ultimately do more harm than good, and the wrong logo can (and will):

  • lower perceived quality of the brand, products, and services
  • cause brand confusion
  • limit company growth
  • lead to costly re-branding in the future

Just keep in mind that a logo created with only the final invoice total as the goal, will harm your brand, and ultimately your pocket book. Business owners should consider the upfront logo cost as an investment and not an expense.

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