Business Logo Design 101
February 11, 2012 2:51 PM   Subscribe

What's the cheapest way to design a logo for a website/blog/small business?

I can edit photos pretty well with Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro, but I have no idea where to start in terms of designing a logo from scratch. My budget is small, my vision is a little unclear... where do I start? What are the advantages of going through a logo design service (recommendations welcome) vs. doing it yourself?
posted by sunnychef88 to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
The cheapest way is to do it yourself, especially if you already own the software. If you have Photoshop, you can follow tutorials. Here's one that gives you an idea of the process you'd use to make a logo.

The advantage of using a logo design service is that they will do a better job faster than you can do a better job. Or they might just be really fast or really good.
posted by michaelh at 2:56 PM on February 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't do your logo in Photoshop, do it in Illustrater or the free Inkscape or something else that creates vector graphics.

You know how photos can can blurry or fuzzy if they're blown up to large? You don't want that to happen to your logo. Vector graphics can be scaled to any, with no loss of sharpness or resolution. You can make jpegs or tiffs from a vector graphic, so no worries there, but you always, always, always want to have the original logo in a vector format.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:17 PM on February 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you decide to have a logo service do the design, give Fiverr a look first. A friend of mine had his food truck logo designed by someone on Fiverr and it turned out great. Failing that, I would suggest speaking to the graphic design department at a local college. There's a lot of students who would be willing to design a logo for a few bucks.
posted by oxfordcomma at 3:18 PM on February 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Some Mefites hate it but there are sites such as 99 designs where you post a project spec and have freelancers compete against each other. Previously.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:25 PM on February 11, 2012

I have had good luck with You get quotes, pick the designer whose work you like and THEN give the project a go. It's less gladiatorial :)
posted by Yavsy at 3:54 PM on February 11, 2012

College graphic design students?
posted by ibakecake at 4:52 PM on February 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

+1 for elance or even (used to be rentacoder), especially because these are legal agreements that guarantee that you actually OWN the final product. Would suck to roll it out and then get trolled with a lawsuit because you didn't actually own the IP.
posted by TomMelee at 4:55 PM on February 11, 2012

if cheap is #1 on your list, i will bet you will soon be disappointed with the product that you "settle" on. cheap, fast and quality: pick two. that's what i used to say.
(the point being is you only get two, ie. cheap/fast=poor quality, etc.)
posted by goutytophus at 8:44 PM on February 11, 2012

Do it yourself and keep it super simple. Start with hi-res transparent or white background in Photoshop and create a 1 or 2 color design of your business name in a nice, clean font. Maybe add a bauble or shape or squiggle or small image...but only if it makes sense to do so. Otherwise it's just another name with a pointless thingy that makes people wonder why...that can make the brand look painfully corporate, overengineered or insincere.

Don't embellish it too much, until your business grows and its presentation needs more style to reflect its success. At that point you can always pay for somebody to turn the logo into something more visually complex, and in Illustrator as a vector graphic. That may go hand-in-hand with an entire branding update as your business settles into its form and finds its unique place in the market. You can't quite know what that looks like yet. So for now build up the design as needed, instead of the other way around (going whole hog with a paid-for insane design that is too big for what the business is at this point). It's understated vs. overstated. Humble vs. oversold.

Do the opposite of everything I said if the ethos of your small business is specifically about being flashy, image-conscious or otherwise in-your-face; e.g. a trendy restaurant or nightclub in a high-rent area.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:50 PM on February 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

iamkimiam is on the right track - if you don't have much money, design something simple yourself and then have it worked over by a designer when you have more money.

College students have been suggested a couple of times in this thread. I'm not a fan of this idea. This shows up all the time, especially on craigslist. If something says "great for college students" or "recent grads" it's a red flag, because this typically means that the client wants to pay little or nothing, and often sends the designer into revision hell. ("Oh, just one more tiny change and I think we've got it!" Ugh. If by one they mean 100.) Trust me - if college design students want to work for free, they'd have more work than they ever dreamed possible. They're likely going to want to be paid for doing work, not just so they can have a piece that might possibly maybe be good enough for the portfolio.

Be careful about the use of images in your logo. Never use a photo in a logo, and don't use an image that belongs to someone else. Oftentimes simple geometric shapes work best.
posted by azpenguin at 12:18 AM on February 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Going through a design shop or hiring a freelance designer: Your logo will look good. Or rather, there's a better chance your logo will look good. Unless you're a designer, the "vision" is not necessarily something you should have. (Let the professionals handle that!) But keep in mind: A logo does not a brand make. A simple wordmark or icon to represent your business is just one piece of the puzzle. Building a brand (or even just the visual identity) can be an awesome, thoughtful undertaking, which is why people do it full-time, for a living.

Doing it yourself: You will save money.

Decide what is important to you and go from there. Not every business needs heavy-duty brand-work in the beginning, but any business that expects to grow will need it eventually. If you're not willing to spend the bucks now, go with something SUPER simple, and don't slap it on everything (which will lead to even more money spent later when you have to redesign/reprint every item on which your logo appears).

I would definitely recommend sticking to a simple wordmark. Pick a classic font that represents your style of business* (research competitors and find similarities among their branding) and simply write out the name of the business in that font.** Use Adobe Illustrator (or other vector-based program) and go to menu Type > Create Outlines. Congratulations! You have a scalable logo. :)

* Poll your friends after you've chosen a font. And don't use Papyrus, Curlz, or Mistral, or everyone will hate you.
** Check out for some ideas.
posted by ariela at 11:45 AM on February 12, 2012 is pretty cool, similar to 99designs it sounds like. Starts at $275 (you can go higher if you wish), designers compete, you select what you like.
posted by karizma at 12:32 PM on February 12, 2012

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