How much should a logo design really cost?

It’s a question I get asked and honestly, ask myself quite often. In reality, you can pay anywhere from $5 to millions on a logo. Understandably, people have a hard time understanding how agencies can charge tens of thousands of dollars or more for what might appear to amount to a simple graphic.

As a frame of reference, I want to introduce you to two logos that are quite notable and that I think you might recognize.

The wing of a goddess: the Nike logo

Nike logo by Carolyn Davidson

Nike logo by Carolyn Davidson

The swoosh. I don’t even have to say the name. We all know this one. It was created in 1971 by graphic designer Carolyn Davidson. She was paid $2 and hour for a grad total of about $35 for the original treatment. If you count for inflation that’s around $200 to $250 in 2022. If you look at it you might go, “Sure. It’s not that complicated. Sounds fair.” The take into account how ginormous this company became. How much of that worth was passed through to that designer? I don’t know. I’m just asking. I wonder if Nike’s co-founder, Phil Knight, had any inkling of how valuable this seemingly unimportant image would become in the years to follow. Did he know, or even suspect, that Carolyn was getting a bit of a raw deal? And the when you consider that the logo itself is worth a cool $26 billion today … you might go, “hmmm”.

Now, to be fair I have heard that she was gifted an undisclosed number of Nike shares at some point. So, I hope it was enough to keep her comfortable. After all, I couldn’t find any of her other work so I’m not sure she was really catapulted into graphic design success because of her design. If you want to learn more about the meaning and process behind the creation of this masterpiece, you can read that here.

An American standard: the Pepsi logo

2008 Pepsi logo by Arnell Group

2008 Pepsi logo by Arnell Group

In 2008 Pepsi paid $1,000,000 for the redesign of it’s logo. I don’t know what else to say. The group managed to keep it’s iconic round red, white and blue design and make it more modern, fun and friendly. As if it needed to be more friendly … or American. Not a bad move and not a bad deal for the Arnell Group either. Although I’m sure this came with the whole brand bible that big agencies tend to supply with these sorts of projects. Similar to my brand guide, they’ll specify all the tiny little details that go with this brand icon. Typefaces, use of color, font and imagery. They’ll define EVERYTHING to make sure this brand stays just like this no matter who is working on the marketing. You don’t pay a million bucks to have some boob smoosh your logo or use the wrong imagery beside it.

My favorite logo design story

One of my favorite logo stories, though, is about Paul Rand designing a logo for Steve Jobs back in the 80’s for $100,000. Spoiler alert, it wasn’t even the Apple logo. That was designed in 1977 by Rob Janoff and just the digitization cost $50,000.

Paul Rand Next Logo Brand Bible

Paul Rand Next Logo Brand Bible. Image via www.paul-rand.com

The NEXT logo is an obscure piece of digital art that I wasn’t even aware existed throughout my design career until a few years ago. The value it held to Jobs was undeniable though. He was banished from Apple and was creating a new company. He clearly needed this brand to be successful. I’m not sure how much that fun little box played into it, but eventually Apple couldn’t survive without Jobs any longer and brought him back with all of Next in his pocket.

“After looking through the brand bible, engrossed with typography and romantic ideals, Steve stood up, looked at Paul and asked, “Can I hug you?” The two embraced – a sacred seal formed; peace on earth. Clearly, he was satisfied with the quest’s conclusion.”

What is a fair price for logo design then?

So, what would I consider a fair and reasonable price to pay for something so apparently valuable? The short answer is, “it depends.” Unfortunately, rates can vary a lot and as a layman you may not understand the market or the value of the work.

Here are a few things to consider when weighing money against the perceived value of your future logo.

What do you get?

Part of the answer lies in what you get as final artwork. What is the end result? Did the designer shoot you over a tiny JPG image and leave it at that? Or did you get more than one file type? Did you get the right file types? Will you need a color and black and white version? What about simplified versions for social media? Did you get a brand guide with the design?

Another important consideration is usage rights. Did they sign copyright over to you or do they retain that? If they retain those rights, it’s not your logo. You won’t ever be able to register or trademark that graphic as your own. Maybe they just don’t make a stink over it, but you should. Make sure you get it in writing that you get 100% of that copyright and that they get permission to use it in their portfolio.

What you get packaged up and sent to you (and how) has a lot to do with whether the end product is worth it.

Where did you get it and who designed it?

Did you find a random designer on Fiverr? Maybe your father-in-law knew a guy who’s cousin did graphic design. Or, you could have done a bit of research and found a reputable agency or freelancer to work on it.

These are important things to consider. You might save a good amount of cash on a Fiverr designer, but are you sure what you’re getting is well thought out and original? Who are their references? If you Google image search some of their previous logos, do you find that they’re used by more than one business or found on stock image sites?

Call me crazy, but I think you should have a conversation (or three) with the guy who’s about to define your entire brand and walk away with your hard earned money. Maybe that friend of a friend who charged you $100 is totally legit and doing you a favor. Don’t you think you should know first?

What is it worth to you?

No, this is not a trick question. Think about it. A good designer is going to spend hours, sometimes days (depending on their process) researching, sketching, concepting and tweaking this logo. You’re likely going to send it back for a few revisions (I include 3 revisions). They have to essentially be able to either read your mind or know the craft well enough to know which questions to ask to make the process as efficient as possible.

Then take into consideration that this mark is going to represent a business that has the potential to make you a great deal of money. Think of it this way for a minute. You produce a widget that makes your customer $1M. That customer only paid you $100 for this bobble. Is that really reasonable? Add to that the fact that you only design a logo like that once for any one client. It’s kind of a one off gig.

Maybe you can see why some designers insist on charging thousands of dollars for a well designed mark.

But, won’t the designer gain EXPOSURE from designing my logo?

If you believe that the exposure of designing your logo will somehow replace payment to that designer … that is total B.S. Sorry. I have not once been inundated with calls simply because a client gave me a public thank you on Facebook at launch. Word of mouth is real, though. So, in addition to paying that designer, you should totally be giving them public credit for the work. Not just once. Talk about the experience you had with them. When friends or colleagues talk about needing design, do not forget their name.

You get what you pay for, but you should get what you want.

You can get a logo for nothing or you can spend millions of dollars on it. What you need to remember is that this mark will likely be with you for years to come. Hopefully with minimal changes. It will represent your business history and future path.

When you’re working with the designer you should make sure you’re getting exactly what you want and not settling. Have your designer outline exactly how many concepts and revisions you’ll get. What the final artwork will include and who gets to use the logo for what purpose. If any of it doesn’t feel right to you then you should renegotiate.

Then again, if your neighbor created it for free in Microsoft Word or GIMP (like a couple of these logos), you might deserve whatever you get … or you might get lucky.

Contact me to talk about your branding project and find out what you get when I design your logo.