November 2010

Why Logos Don’t Cost $10

Logo design. It’s probably the most lucrative design services a designer can offer and can also be the most costly. Whenever I’m approached to do a logo design for someone, I have to admit – I cringe. Not because I hate doing logos because they can offer a design challenge worth taking on but because no one really knows what a good logo costs.

For clients, a logo is just another design task. Often logos come into play when someone has a great idea for a business and wants to be an entrepreneur and set off on their own. That’s great! If you have a great product or service, by all means, set off and start your own business and pursue it. With any new business comes the marketing and identity. The first thing most people seek is a logo. Even before they’ve truly thought things out, it seems natural for many to at least have a logo to show off when you’re trying to get your business off the ground. There are other situations when a logo design comes up. Sometimes people look for a new identity after years in the business and want to ditch their old logo. For others, perhaps there’s a special event or a new website that needs a better logo than the one you have or have been using.

Here comes the problem – how much does a logo cost? Depending on who you ask, you’ll get different responses. The client will say that $100 for a logo is pushing it. A designer may not even consider doing a logo for less than $200, and that’s on the low end of the scale. Some clients will even say that $25 or $75 is a reasonable amount for a logo. Who’s right?

Here’s my opinion – the right price is dependent on the quality of the design you want. You know that old saying of “you are what you eat?” It applies to design as well because you get what you pay for. Cheap design isn’t effective. It’s just that – cheap, quick, dirty and not well thought out. Good design costs money and has great value. A good designer knows that an effective logo is one that works well when blown up to fit on an 8×11 sheet of paper and one that works just as well when it’s the size of your thumbnail. Seriously. A good designer will use a font that’s readable and clean, that knows an overly-complicated logo makes for a messy design all together.

Designing a logo also takes time. Rarely is a good logo developed overnight. There’s the conceptual stage; the design stage; revisions; testing it out on your potential audience and tweaking and refining the logo until it’s really as good as it can possibly be. Therefore, a good logo doesn’t cost you $10 – it’ll probably cost a couple hundred of dollars if you are working with a good designer.

Non-designers will probably roll their eyes at this. A couple hundred dollars JUST for a logo?! Outrageous! But not so fast. Think about the value of your logo – it’s usually your visual introduction to your clients and audience. A logo visually speaks volumes about your company or product, it’s sometimes the first impression a person has of you and your business and it’s something that you aren’t just going to use once. Your logo will be all over the place including online, on paper, in print, on the top of letters, stitched into clothing and in many more places and different platforms. So, how would you feel if you’re trying to sell your product and are representing it with a $10 logo? You’d probably feel a bit embarrassed to admit that you’re asking someone to pay tons of money for your product when you can’t even bring yourself to pay for a decent logo.

And trust me, cheap logos look cheap. Some people may shake their heads in disagreements but someone with an eye for design can spot a cheap, quick and dirty design. Your customers aren’t stupid, either. If they’re looking at your logo and stacking it up against other well-known brands, they’ll notice a striking difference and will go for the company who’s logo looks the best.

Why do logos cost so much? First, copyright issues. A designer is creating a piece of work that you plan on taking and making money from. For weeks after you get the logo. For months afterward. Years! Decades! A good logo will help sell your business and product and isn’t something you want to change every season or much at all. That’s why you’re spending money upfront to basically ensure that the logo you purchase and have designed best suits your business and represents you well. Second, think of company’s like Nike or McDonalds. These established brands have had the same logo for decades. Someone had to design that logo and they made a decent profit from it. The reason logo design is a bit pricey because the artist is releasing to you a valuable design that he or she is agreeing to sign over and give to you to use as you please. Part of a logo design’s price is the ownership being transferred over to the client and business.

Designers – the price of a logo ultimate comes down to you. You can design a logo for any price you feel is suitable based on the amount of time and effort you’re going to put into it and with the fair warning that you never know what will happen with a business you’re designing for. They could just as easily succeed and grow into a nation-wide known company. They could just as easily never take off beyond the development stage, meaning your work and logo never will make an impact or be noticed. It’s very much a “choose your own adventure” type of situation that’s all up to you. But choose wisely – a wrong decision could end up costing you as much money as you’re charging for the design.

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Should Web Designers Also Be Web Developers?

I’m still engrossed in my search for a new job. It’s an interesting experience considering I started working at my last gig weeks after graduating from university and didn’t spend much time at all having to search for a job. Four years later I’m back on the job market and it’s taking considerably longer and is more stressful finding anything along the lines of graphic design.

A few weeks ago it came to me upon much dread that perhaps this was a sign that I needed to expand upon my skill set. As I look at job postings, I’m not seeing much at all for print design but there seems to be a slew of job listings for web designers. Any graphic designer will tell you that designing for the Web is an entirely different beast. Any web designer will tell you the same about designing for print. Both have some elements in common such as composition, color theory and needing to know how and where to use Jpg, Gif or PNG files.

In my quest to expand my skill set and perhaps make myself more marketable in today’s tough economy, I finally broke down and decided to take a course through a local community college that would help me expand my knowledge of web design. One reason I’ve been so resistant toward jumping onto the web design bandwagon is because in some ways I feel web design is more limiting. With print design, you can go crazy. There’s really no limit to the size, the colors, the possibilities of what you can do. With web design, you’re usually tackling a website that of course can only be but so big, images that may look awesome huge and in your face that now need to be minimized and may not work as well and you suddenly have to program and code everything on top of producing captivating visuals.

Or do you?

As I get deeper into this course in XHTML and CSS suddenly I’m presented with another curious question: are web designers also web developers?

I looked online for an answer and was presented with conflicting messages. Web designers often think of themselves as graphic designers who simply design graphics for the web rather than for print. Yet the jobs and employers looking for web designers also expect the web designer to be a developer. Many of the job listings that I see for web designers or web masters ask them to know Adobe Creative Suite, HTML, CSS, SEO, Java, Drupal and the list goes on and on. This goes back to my argument that many employers seem to be looking for the one-in-all designer: the one person who can basically do what an entire team should be doing. Is it entirely unreasonable to ask a web designer to know how to code? I don’t think so. The profession “graphic designer” is an umbrella term for many artists and designers: a graphic designer can be an illustrator, a logo designer, they can design business collateral, advertisements, marketing pieces but they don’t necessarily know how to do everything – and that’s ok, at least in my opinion.

Next week in addition to the course I’m taking in XHTML and CSS I will be starting a 6-week course in Java Programming. Many of you may go “Huh? What does that have do with design?” Well, perhaps nothing but if you look at what employers are asking from web designers, you’d think otherwise. I believe we’re moving toward a point where a web designer and a graphic designer are all the same thing and the designer will need to know how to design for both print and web. The designer will also need to know a bit about coding and web development, know about CSS and the design/creative team will be replaced by just one or two people being responsible for all the design needs for a company.

Out of curiosity I googled “what do web designers need to know” and came across “Do Web Designers Need To Know Web Development” by Intervals. This article goes in depth and really covers the question well. At the end they recommend web designers at least know these things about web development:

1. Pixel Resolution: Web designers should know that the optimal pixel resolution for web images is 72 ppi. Also, websites should fit 800×600, 1024×768ppi. You want your websites to be viewable but not too large nor too small.

2. Image Formats: At the very least a web designer needs to know when using a JPG, GIF or PNG is appropriate. Each displays color a bit differently and can vary in size. You don’t want a JPG that’s a couple MBs in size because it’ll take longer to load and for web users, the longer it takes something to load, the more likely they are to bail and leave the page entirely before taking in your website and its content.

3. Basic HTML: You should know the general markup language. In my last job, I was hired to oversee the print design of a magazine. Months into my employment I had webmaster duties dropped in my lap with the explanation being that graphic designers and web designers pretty much did the same thing. Yes, I was actually told that and you can laugh at that load of baloney. Still, I needed to know everything from how to format text (start/end paragraphs, bold fonts, italicize text) to the proper tags and code necessary for displaying images. There are tons of sites online that cover basic HTML and I think every designer should start becoming acquainted with HTML because at some point, you’ll be dealing with it whether you like it or not. Learning XHTML and CSS is a bit of a step up from the basics but that’s where a lot of web development/coding is going so knowing either will set you apart.

4. CSS: Cascading style sheets are basically documents used to style entire websites. If you have a site with dozens or hundreds of pages but the overall style and design of each page has to remain consistent and the same, you’ll want to create and know how to change and edit a website’s CSS. It sounds intimidating but again, you don’t have to be a total expert but just know the basics.

I’ll add to Interval’s list by suggesting a few additional things web designers should know to put them ahead of the game:

1. Google Analytics: When I was having to serve as webmaster, even though I’d been hired to be a print designer, I was suddenly asked a lot of questions such as “how many unique visitors came to our site this month?”, “How many hits does this and that page get every month?”, “How are people finding us online?” Now to a graphic designer these questions probably sound like they deserve a “How the heck would I know?” response but your employers expect you to be able to spit out stats and figures about your site. An easy tool to use is Google Analytics which is easy to setup and then spits out tons of helpful facts and figures about your site. As a web designer, why would you be interested in things like unique visitors and bounce rates? Because often it speaks volumes about your site’s design and the organization of the data. If people are coming to your site and leaving after 10 seconds and the bounce rate is above 50%, something is wrong with your design.

2. SEO: You’ll hear this word tossed around all the time – SEO (or search engine optimization). When designing for the web, you have a lot of competition. Businesses and individuals want their websites and content at the top of search pages (especially Google) and are usually distraught when this doesn’t happen. In many cases a website that isn’t ranked high on Google or other search engines and one that gets few views is considered a bad site, and that is usually equated to bad design. Here’s a few tips (95 to be exact) for good SEO that will at least give you a starting point in discussing it with your clients so that they are aware of how to get their sites ranked higher and visited more frequently.

3. Learn, learn, learn. As I’ve found out, there’s never a point where you can say you know all there is to know about designing for the Web. If you’re a designer, take courses in programming and development. Dreamweaver, Java, Flash, PHP, MySQL are all in high demand so knowing how to program and design will not kill you but give you prolonged life in today’s tough job market. If you’re a developer, take a few courses in design and learn your way around Adobe Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop. A lot of jobs are looking for the rare one-in-all person who can do it all. While you need to be upfront and play up your strengths, don’t let your weaknesses and lack of knowledge kill your job security or prospects.

What do you all think? Do web designers need to be web developers and vice versa? What issues are you encountering with this situation in today’s job market? Leave your comments and tips in the discussion/comments area of this post.

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