The Expense of Cheap Design

Cheap logos aren't cheap

If it’s really cheap, you’re probably paying too much.

What I mean here is that a very low fee say under £300 in the UK, for a logo design means that the designer is almost certainly not doing much work for that money.

A client came to me recently with a well established equine business. They were using an icon of a horse as their logo, but had seen other companies at trade shows using the exact same icon. As they had the logo ‘designed’ a couple of years ago, they presumed that their company mark must have been copied. They had a conversation with the owners of the other business, who said they had had their logo designed even earlier.

After having trouble contacting the designer they paid for the logo, they contacted me. As expected, it didn’t take long to find the logo as a downloadable vector file on a well known stock image site. The icon had been purchased over 2,000 times, meaning it is being potentially being used to market or symbolise that same number of businesses.

Graphic designers that crank out logos on the cheap are not really designing at all. By just recolouring or appropriating mass downloaded stock images, or even just throwing something together quick and dirty, the results will always lack the invention and professionalism required to symbolise a strong brand.

For such low fees they couldn’t afford to spend time (unless they are happy working at less than minimum wage) on analysing competitors, the company goals, the brand position, sketching and conceptualising. These are all vital to designing distinctive, carefully crafted work, that is unique to a brand.

Another serious issue here is that files purchased from stock image sites are mainly licensed only for general artwork purposes, not as the company logo, which usually requires an extra specific license. In the case of the horse logo this would have cost far more than the fees the designer charged for the work. This lazy, unscrupulous approach by the designer leaves the company saddled (sorry!) with a logo that is not only unremarkable, but completely unusable under copyright law. It also leaves the client with a tarnished perception of graphic designers in general.

Aside from this particular case, it’s really important for companies to allocate an adequate budget for the design of their brand identity. Whether it’s the logo, the website, or promotions in print, cutting corners and going for cheap inevitably means the designer is at best inexperienced, and at worst lacking craft and passion.

If you are hiring a graphic or web designer, remember that most experienced ones will expand on their design process, explaining what you’re getting for your money.

Further Reading

Branding For Small Businesses – 7 Essential Tips

Logo Design – Is It Really a Big Deal?

David Airey: Ask About the Budget