stop this logo fire sale madness

logo sale

Barely a month seems to pass without someone, somewhere taking a pop at brand design by highlighting the entertainingly high cost of some logos.

This week it is the online enterprise (no stranger to my spam folder) that offers low-grade generic ‘professional logos’ for hundreds, even tens of pounds / dollars. I will not dignify / promote the business by linking to or naming it here, but their pitch contrasts exceptionally fortunate startups paying little or nothing for their first logo (Twitter, Nike, Coca-Cola…) with large corporations (Accenture, Pepsi, BP, Enron, London 2012…) who coughed up six to nine-figure sums for the same thing (no sources quoted of course). So far, so unsurprising.

What takes me aback is the readiness of other design-world entities to aid such efforts to paint brand designers as snake oil salesman (even if there are a few of those out there). Gadget-guide website Gizmodo served up this company’s pitch for our entertainment, as did Brainpicker (interesting stuff for creative people), who surprisingly linked to it without editorialising [update: now LinkedIn and even D&AD award-winning design consultancy Johnson Banks are at it too]. This corrosive anti-design business is now enjoying millions of dollars’ worth of free promotion and much more of the world believes that ‘logo design’ is  some kind of racket.

The popular story is that designers charge large organisations bazillions just to tinker with type and create logos. Here’s the reality: the costs quoted are invariably that of logo development – as a component of a more complex visual system – plus the cost of its implementation (i.e. all of the repainting / repackaging / reprinting / redesigning / refitting / rebuilding of ALL of an organisation’s communications which will feature the new logo). Much of this work happens within normal maintenance cycles and is typically spread over months / years anyway. Such cost are greater the larger or more complex the organisation – although the cost of actually developing the logo might be 5% or less of that total figure.

Million dollar logo ‘scandals’ have been with us in the UK since the 1980s design boom when excited tabloid cover headlines bemoaned the cost of BA/BP/BT’s latest. Then as now, high profile design spokesfolks failed to clarify or defend the headlines – perpetuating the myth of the overpriced logo was good for (their) business. Such misperceptions downgraded the value of brand / identity design and did the reputation of the whole design industry no favours.

If you want a logo for your local plumber then maybe off-the-peg bargain-bucket branding at sale prices – as practised by the supplier not named above – is for you. But if you want to build a brand, nurture an audience, create a future for an organisation, service or product – then don’t believe the hype – engage a brand designer to create a visual identity (including logo) orchestrated to serve your specific needs. You probably won’t get that for peanuts exactly, but you won’t pay what BP did either. Unless of course you are BP.




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