Part one of a series discussing the messy, messy world of creative services pricing.
"How much do you charge to design a logo?" Usually the answer is the dreaded—it depends. It depends on what it's for. What role does it play? What will it be doing for the brand? If the answer is, "It's a very important part of our brand. It is a cornerstone of what the brand represents and needs to say something about what we do!" Or, "I just need something for my business card." Generally speaking, how you answer what it's for will be a pivotal deciding factor in how much energy is put into the conception, and ultimately, how much it will cost.
Logo design is both an art form and a business discipline. When done right, it's equal measure business and art. Understanding it's function and role in what you're doing goes a long way.
What is the logo for?
This question helps uncover the level of potential complexity and how important a logo is in the big scheme of all things marketing. A logo could be the most important aspect of the bigger branding picture and do some very heavy lifting telling a story and locking in a memorable impression with your audience. In that case, the logo design will require additional thought, time, blood, sweat and, if there is a committee vote involved, even tears.
On the other hand, you may not need the logo as a means to help your cause. The brand integrity and how you are perceived in the marketplace either hinges on a great and meaningful logo, or it doesn't. Many industries rely on word-of-mouth or other referral methods to grow. In that case the logo is not a primary reason to believe and not necessarily that important.
Fierce competition demands big thinking
Having worked on logos for fortune 100 brands, I've seen the layers of complexity a logo design process can be. In those cases the stakes are very high and A LOT rides on that logo to help keep the brand top-of-mind. Hence the resources required are exponentially bigger. So, dropping $500,000 for one logo is not out of the question.
I have also designed logos and business cards all in one day and had time to check emails. Targeted, meaningful identities that reflect the brand essence and allow it to shine. All under $500. An exception, but not much of one.
Obviously there is a Grand Canyon sized gap between the two. In the small and medium sized business world, I calculate logo design like most other creative projects—using historical information to calculate how long it will take to do the best creative possible. Given a low operating overhead, it is a more pure, creative, labor of love. A good rule is to agree on the parameters upfront, agree on the reason and establish a ceiling price. Unless things go totally off the rail, we tend to stick to the ceiling price.
The bottom line?
Complexity equals time, equals price, equals sound investment.