Logo/Branding - Help?
August 24, 2012 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Should I buy a logo, a huge branding package, or something in between?

I'm web-shopping around for digital branding services for a VERY small business, and my options are confusing. I could, for a couple hundred bucks, pay someone to design a from-scratch logo based on a consultation with me that would help define/refine my direction. For a couple hundred more, I could have someone do the logo work plus the layout for many combinations of the following - website/Etsy banner, avatar, letterhead, envelopes, stickers, hang tags, thank you cards, business cards, etc. All of these files, logo plus additional collateral, can be provided in a number of file formats, the details of which make my head a little spinny.

While searching, I'm also finding a few "pre-made" logos that can be customized with colors/fonts for anywhere from $15-35. Some of these, for an additional fee, will be "never reused" by the designer. Some of these are quite nice, and would suit my needs.

Here are the things I'm pondering, specifically: I'm not certain if it's worth the extra money for "very custom", or worth the extra money to have all the layouts done. I'm also not certain which file types I should insist on having, but I'd like the flexibility to do print (including printing on "not paper"), web and LARGE (think vinyl banner or poster at an art fair or trade show). Please assume my own graphic design skills are rudimentary enough to be considered non-existent, but I am very teachable. Maybe I spend money on a logo, and learning layout would be a wise investment?

I found this question to be somewhat helpful, but I'd love to hear advice from folks who were once in my shoes. Are you a small business? Did you do any of this legwork? Any advice, thoughts, personal experience greatly appreciated!
posted by ersatzkat to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would encourage you to map out your target audience or the types of people who will be good customers/clients for you. If they are design-conscious or you are aiming at the higher end of the market, I would spend money on "extra time spent on the design by a good designer" rather than "extra formats for my various types of materials."

Otherwise, get what's useful to you. $400 may seem like chump change if you go reasonably professional and end up tripling your income in three years, so a "do-over" won't be out of the question. But if it breaks the bank now, $200 for a logo should be pretty helpful. I would add that I'm a web designer who does a lot of graphic design, and didn't have a formal logo, letterhead, or business cards until I had been doing business for 5 years. I still don't have envelopes or custom thank you cards. :-)
posted by circular at 11:58 AM on August 24, 2012

Many small businesses find a two-phase approach helpful because they can't yet know exactly what differentiates their services/products/whatever from the competition, who comprises the audience/clientele/customer that will be pleased by these offerings, and other critical information that should inform a thoughtful branding and logo design development effort. The first phase entails a placeholder, preferably one that doesn't lean on visual cliches. Then, once you understand the above, do it right.

What kind of business is it? Regardless, avoid substituting excessive worry about logos and collateral materials in favor of spending time, money and effort on figuring out your business. Playing with logos and fonts can be an especially seductive form of procrastination.
posted by carmicha at 12:01 PM on August 24, 2012

What's your time worth?

But hiring a competent, professional designer — even for the full package — will probably be a better value than the time you spend doing it yourself.

If design is relevant to your core business, the equation might change.
posted by brentajones at 12:01 PM on August 24, 2012

A lot of those sites that sell cheap logos have blatantly stolen them from legitimate designers. If you want something truly original, I think it's worth the initial investment to hire a graphic designer.

A good graphic designer will have an extensive consultation with you, going over what kind of logos you prefer (icon vs. text-based, simple vs. complex, etc.) and what you would like it to communicate. This is the important part. Anyone can make up a symbol. A truly talented graphic designer will create something that communicates what your business is all about.

Almost all online printers these days will let you upload the logo, and then choose a layout (or create your own). FedEx Office, VistaPrint, Modern Postcard -- all of the players -- have online tools to help you put together a business card, thank-you notes or letterhead.

The only thing that might be tricky is the etsy banner -- but you can hire someone off of etsy to make you a banner as long as you have the logo.
posted by Ostara at 12:05 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: carmicha - I make jewelry, using fairly fine/uncommon materials.
posted by ersatzkat at 12:07 PM on August 24, 2012

Best answer: Avoid the pre-made logos because those sites steal from each other and there is a chance greater than null you can really end up in a pickle. I'm all for cheap, but... avoid.

Spend the couple hundred bucks to get a designer to work on a logo and business card for you. Make sure you get the logo in PNG, JPG, EPS and AI formats. This should be a no-brainer for the designer and should not come at a surcharge.

Once you have those, ANY designer can use the EPS or AI files to make you Etsy banners or items for print like hang tags, posters etc. In other words, you can stage the development of collateral to your needs.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:43 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Branding designer here: I agree that those cheap sites are not giving you a custom logo. Even if they change the colors for you and call it "custom" would you be okay when a new jewelry store opens with the same logo in a slightly different color? The idea that they won't "reuse" it isn't one I would trust. They could make the tiniest of changes and say they are sticking by the agreement.

I like to take over an entire branding effort for a new company (from logo to collateral to web design) to create a cohesive brand for my clients but they often roll it out in stages. If you shop around for someone to create your logo, then look for a someone different for your banner and create your cards yourself you are likely to end up with a non-cohesive brand (especially if you are using non-professionals who would be charging those rates). If you're selling on Etsy you'll want to stand out and professional design says "this is a professional artist who has their shit together and I can trust ordering from" especially if you're selling more expensive jewelry (anything over $25).

My suggestion as a designer, small business owner and Etsy shopper is to contract with one person to create your basics needs. I have never printed envelopes for my business as I do everything online, for instance. The way I see it, you need the logo, business cards (to hand out to people you meet all the time as well as for craft fairs), and a nice Etsy banner. Perhaps your business cards can be designed to also function as price tags or hang tags on your jewelry. Think of the possibilities.

If you decide to participate in a craft/jewelry fair you can have a banner made at that time. I'm usually attracted to tables that have been "set designed" rather than a printed banner, necessarily. For instance, if your jewelry is dreamy/romantic maybe use gauze and light colors and hang them from twigs with twinkly lights. As a shopper I'd be more impressed with that than a banner.

When you contract your designer make sure it's noted that they must create the logo in Adobe Illustrator and provide .ai, .eps, .jpg, and .png files of the final logo. Illustrator is vector and allows the logo to be any size without quality loss. Any designer that calls themselves a professional should be designing a logo in Illustrator. When my friend used one of those bidding sites instead of investing in a quality designer I ended up spending hours and hours advising her about the designs, file formats, etc. which stinks for us professionals with years of expertise. Good luck, it's an exciting and fun process.
posted by Bunglegirl at 1:29 PM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

another designer here to reiterate that those pre-made logo sites are reviled by any designer worth their salt. they're not really designing anything because they steal, which is why they can charge only a couple of hundred bucks for a logo. it's completely disgusting and why ppl think that design shouldn't cost anything.

as a designer yourself, you must appreciate the difference between hacks and someone who truly values their work and their profession—and that talent comes with a price.

please use a real designer. the work and research they put into their work results in a truly custom identity that speaks to who you are as a brand. by having them create both the logo and the collateral, your branding will be cohesive and integrated. they're not just plugging in colors and typesetting your name under a pre-existing (and stolen) icon.
posted by violetk at 2:27 PM on August 24, 2012

Design is one of those things that you can't really get a "good deal" on. You can pay what it's worth, or more than it's worth, but never less. There can be no discounts because cheap design always looks cheap.

Your customers implicitly assume you are spending some percentage of your yearly revenue on marketing and branding - let's assume 10%. If you have a $20 logo, it suggests maybe you expect $200 in revenue this year. If they are wondering if they should spend $40 with you, it feels like they are deciding whether to be one of your 5 customers this year. That feels risky! More risky than deciding to be one of 5,000 other customers, so your prices have to be rock-bottom for them to want to take the risk.

$20 is the marketing budget of a garage sale. If that's your budget, you better have garage sale prices and products. It doesn't sound like that's the case, so I think you need to spend more. How much more depends on your revenue and the average budget of your competitors. For jewelry, 10% is probably on the low side.
posted by AlsoMike at 4:41 PM on August 24, 2012

FWIW I think AlsoMike is taking a really, really old-school, protectionist approach to branding. The Nike swoosh was done by a student for $35. I have worked through both $300 and $30,000 branding processes and the one thing I can tell you is that the $30K result is no way no how 100 times better than the $300 result.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:57 AM on August 25, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the input from designers about the pitfalls of "pre-made", and thanks for the advice from the perspective of small business owners.

I should have been explicit that I wasn't using a "cheap logo site", in fact, didn't know such a thing existed before this question. I was shopping around on Etsy for designers who offer services in the two flavors I mentioned above. I suppose it could be true that there are unscrupulous folks on Etsy doing the same thing - swiping logos, reselling, etc.

In any event, I found a designer who is local-ish to me who is doing the logo work and some basic designed pieces to get me started. Thanks again for all your comments.
posted by ersatzkat at 10:06 AM on September 11, 2012

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