Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Why a logo should cost more than $100.

You see it everywhere. Logos advertised for $99, designers promising unlimited concepts for under $200, and you’ve had some potential clients quickly disappear when you gave them (what you considered) a cheap quote.

After almost 20 years of working in the advertising and design industry on some of the world’s most recognized brands, it amazes me to see what I actually consider the HARDEST and most time consuming of creative projects cheapened in the eyes of the general public and made readily available by designers wearing blinders to what realistic and acceptable fees should be for this type of work.

Of course, I know I will get the usual comments of “what is acceptable is what people are willing to charge” but creating a logo for a new company, product or service should not come with a measly $100 price tag.

Here is my reasoning…

To design the correct look and feel of a company, you must first RESEARCH the company. Who are they catering to? What’s the target audience? What is the look they want to convey? Do they want 3 concepts or do they want 10? Is it a simple solution or will you have to go back to the drawing board 20 times? Studying and learning about your client’s business and their objectives takes time. I’m going to give this part of the project a very modest one day worth of work. One day to visit my client’s business, to research their competition’s websites, to examine their target audience, and to find examples of logos created for similar clients. If I am to charge an industry average of $50/hour, working one day from 9:00am – 5:00pm (with one hour for lunch), I am billing for 7 hours. This is a $350 fee.

Part 2 is the concept stage. I always give at least 3 concepts. Whether you use a marker or you go straight to the computer, it doesn’t really matter how you begin, you are looking at an empty page or screen. Can you simply splash it quickly and spew out creativity? Sometimes you can. If you are creating the logo for a dog walking service, you might start with a dog. But what happens when your client is a law firm or a company that manufactures sheet metal? The first rule of thumb is to avoid the first things that pop into your head.

Creating a great logo is like sipping cognac or smoking a fine cigar. You want to do it slowly. You must appreciate the craftsmanship and the process. I like to come up with something to start, and then I walk away. I do something else. I then come back later with fresh eyes and look at it again. Repeat this until you have something you believe the client will fall in love with that best represents their objective. Then do it two more times for the next concepts. All of this takes time.

Of course, I like to give myself about 2 weeks to go back and forth to the drawing board. But for arguments sake, let’s factor in one day per concept. One day to create and polish one design. So, 3 days in total. Once again, using the 7 hours at $50/hour, this stage would create a fee of $1,050.

Stage 3 is presentation. Are you sending your ideas as a PDF through email or are you meeting with the client? If you are meeting with the client, factor in some additional charges for travel time and presentation.

Stage 4. Everybody’s favourite. The revision stage. Very rarely will you nail something that the client quickly approves. I’ve had it happen several times over the years but typically, there are going to be revisions.

The client showed it to 8 friends and they all had opinions. The client’s spouse wants to see it in orange, then in yellow, then in blue. They love the icon but want you to play around with the font. They love the font but want you to tweak the icon. The logo is great but they wanted something more feminine. The logo is feminine but they were thinking something more cartoon-like. The list goes on.

Truthfully, most clients have no idea what they want and will beat even the greatest concept into the ground because they are indecisive. A decisive client is one that you should bend over backwards for and cater to their every whim because they are few and far between. They are the difference between loving what you do and wishing you could flee to cut the neighbour's grass for a living.

3 more days of revisions and back and forths (again, I’m being modest).

Add another $1,050 to the quote.

Taking all these factors into consideration, you have a quick estimation of what a logo design should cost from an intermediate designer for any small, start-up client.

The quote, taking all of my points into consideration is at $2,450.

This does not take into consideration all the other variables associated with logo design work. Will the logo be prominent on the side of a downtown skyscraper? Will the client want to buy the exclusive rights? Etc. etc. etc.

How you charge and what you charge is up to you. But by taking the time from concept to completion into consideration, the amount you paid for your education, computer and software, your phone conversations, travel, amount of revisions you will most likely encounter, be honest with yourself, how much is it worth?

Remember when you were young, and you practiced your signature over and over and over again until you hit that eureka moment and finally came up with something that defined you? Was it easy? It wasn’t. This is what you are doing for your client.

And it’s worth a hell of a lot more than $100.

Until next time, keep dreaming.


bem69 said...

Hi! Just read your article, is it ok if I paste this article on my blog crediting you?

Just let me know, thanks!

LEBOW said...

Of course. The idea is to educate.

bem69 said...

Thanks, I read the article and its a well-written explanation of the logo price issue. That's why I thought I'd like to share this in my blog.

Duncan said...

Excellent article. If you pay $99 for a logo, you're going to get a logo that looks like it cost $99!

Anonymous said...

Problem is, the average moron can't tell the difference between a $99 logo and a $6000 logo. Therein lies the problem - talk to a photographer how he feels about stock. Same BS. The whole thing makes me sick.

~ heidi

Anonymous said...

Most clients don't care or want to know why they should invest more money on their logo or brand image, yet they want the world for little money. Unfortunately this trend has caught up to even larger organizations. They have figured out how to get more for little money. More of crap that is.


Unknown said...

Absolutely. I just did a post yesterday on the birth of a logo and the steps you take are similar to mine. It doesn't matter how a designer does it, as long as he does it well and takes into consideration everything you've just described. One of the comments on my post actually mentioned they paid $40 for their logo, but they simply see it as their budget level and not that she got swindled for $40. As designers we have to educate as well as design, because if we don't we are cheapening what we do along with the crowdsourcing a-holes of this world.

Kiren said...

You better make sure you know your own skill level before you charge the client an arm and a leg. Then again, some clients think that your crappiest work is great, so I guess it really depends. It's really up to the client in the end to make the right decision on a designer...

KepowOb said...

We had someone come to my school that worked at a "logo factory". He was very proud, and bragged that his company would produce a logo every half hour.

His work was weak at best, and extremely generic, as one would expect. It was all a little pathetic really.

Bambi said...

Another way to look at it - rather than the amount of time that each step takes, time that should be 'billed', is to ask: What is the Value of my skill, knowledge & experience, to this client? It may be that a logo concept hits you 10 minutes into research - that it is obviously perfectly formed in every way, the client likes you charge for 10 minutes of your hourly rate?
When it comes to any pricing ask yourself: What is the value for the recipient.

LEBOW said...

I agree. However, if you come up with the logo in 10 minutes, you still shouldn't show it to the client until the agreed upon presentation deadline. Let them believe you worked 300 hours on it. I never charge by the hour. I charge by the project for this very reason and only charge hourly for later changes.

I tell a great (and similar) story about Picasso creating a sketch in 5 minutes and charging huge money for it in this post...

5 Dollar Graphics said...

Please do not forget those creative designers who live where $5/day is a good salary.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post! Love how you list out how much time each step takes so even the "thriftiest" of clients can appreciate time spent.

carlessi said...


loved your comment and would have loved a twitter button! (or a facebook one for that matter) i think it's important to spread this kind of thinking.


Ronnie LEBOW said...

@Carlessi. Good idea. Done.

Judy B. Margolis said...

I'm a writer and find your time/fee estimate breakdown right on the money. Thanks for a terrific post!

Stephen Tiano said...

Thanks for standing up!

Every so often the aggravation of all the spec "offers," the contests, and attempts at crowdsourcing design work gets to be a little much for me. Usually this time of year, when things are slow and I'm trying to squeeze another project in (if I can find it).

I'm a freelance book designer--interiors mostly, but occasionally covers. I typically look in all sorts of places, including the "meat-rack" jobs boards (where freelancers leapfrog backwards over each other to see who can offer to do work for the tiniest of prices).

I've never actually bid on any of those boards, as the prices are generally below minimum wage for a serious, professional effort. That and the free work many people seek, calling them "auditions," makes me about howl at the moon.

What sets me off most recently was the offer of $300 for a 350-page or so book layout. DIdn't even use the phrase "book design" in the posting. SOmetimes I give my speech about how self-publishing a book is tantamount to going into business, establishing a publishing company. And I'll explain that, in America, when we want to establish a successful business, we usually go into the effort with capitalization enough to pay for the raw materials and service we need to build that success.

I think I've reached my quota for the year. And, truth is, I'm not always sure people are listening. I've had some really great clients, including self-publishing authors, this year. But I realize that the people who will give me an open-minded listen already get it and don't need the lecture.

So I may be taking a break from the attempts at educating. Or not. But either way, I'm glad there's one more out here, attempting to talk sense to people who think they can get design work--of any kind--for pennies on the dollar.

LEBOW said...

@Stephen, because of everything you are mentioning, please read my article/blog entry "We have become cheap whores" (and the aftermath posts). It was the most popular piece I have ever written. I guarantee you will relate.

Arron Lock said...

Great article. I certainly agree that the perceived value of our industry has suffered because of cheap work. I love the "Creating a great logo is like sipping cognac or smoking a fine cigar. You want to do it slowly." part.

However, I find that this may not be realistic in some markets - especially for freelancers without years of experience. I bill on average $300 for a logo which is even high by my market's standards. If I were to take a proposal for $2k to any of the small businesses around here they would politely show me the door.

I think that when a designer is writing a proposal they need to take into consideration the job itself, the client and the competition prices in the area they are in. Am I wrong?

Tony said...

Very nice article!
Im glad someone else out there takes pride in the amount of work that it 'SHOULD' take into identity creation. The type of work and effort for projects are all the same, even if the scale of the project varies

Unknown said...

Now I knew that why shouldn't a logo cost more then $100. Thanks for letting us know.
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Jeff said...

I'm reminded of the huge GAP logo fiasco that happened a few months ago. I bet they got a good deal on the "revamped" crappy logo and so they went with it. The out-roar against the new logo I believe was payback enough though.

Megan said...

I think this is a great, well-written article. I think there are definitely some exceptions to be considered and that pricing needs to be considered on a project/client basis. For example, I charged $125 for a logo, not a lot of money. I went through the process you delineated and took a lot of time to do it. But it was worth it b/c it helps me build my portfolio, and the company was a couple of young guys who aren't doing well in this economy and are trying to branch out on their own. They don't have a lot of money, but in the long run, they will tell others about me and hopefully generate more business for me. It's similar to what @Arron Lock was saying. There are a lot of factors other than just the process, that need to be considered, IMHO.

Ronnie LEBOW said...

Megan. Thank you.
But...Your logic is completely flawed. You have to understand that charging $125 for a logo is NEVER worth it. The guys aren't doing well in this economy? Well, now you can join their club because you aren't either. They will tell others about you? Yes. They will tell others about how CHEAP you are. How are you ever going to charge more when people come to you already believing you charge $125 for a logo? What you want is your clients telling others that you are "expensive but worth it".
Find one client that understands the value of spending $1000 and get rid of the 10 others that want you for $100. Let the $1000 client spread the word about you. That's how you build a SUCCESSFUL business.

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Anonymous said...

"If I am to charge an industry average of $50/hour, working one day from 9:00am – 5:00pm (with one hour for lunch), I am billing for 7 hours. This is a $350 fee."

Why are we paying for your lunch? Legally you are only entitled to a 30 minute lunch, and that is paid by your company, not by the end user.

Ronnie LEBOW said...

In Ontario, I have NEVER worked in an agency or company where we haven't been granted at least one full hour for lunch. 9-5 is 8 hours. Take off an hour (of non-billable time) and you have 7.

7 x $50 = $350

Anonymous said...

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Unknown said...

LEBOW, you're making me fall in love with marketing and advertising all over again! Your article nails it; those who don't understand how absolutely critical a logo is to a brand, and a product, and ultimately to an entire organization should not be in a position to procure one. Well said, LEBOW, well said!