Cheap logo

Written by Mat Dolphin.

One of the services we offer as a design agency is logo design. No surprises then when we recently stumbled upon another agency offering the same service. So far, so average – the majority of graphic design agencies throughout the world do exactly the same. The difference with this one, however, was the costing of their work.

$42. That simple. For $42 you can get a logo designed with two rounds of amends and a number of different files formats sent to you. Sceptical of the quality of the work and a little surprised at the pricing structure and business model, we shared the find with our loyal Twitter following in our usual measured and level-headed style…

Cheap logo

In short, the ever opinionated ‘design community’ weren’t too happy about the idea of logos being punted out like Happy Meals. The general consensus was that the time it takes to research, brainstorm, design, develop, artwork and subsequently amend a logo of a relatively decent standard could not be sufficiently covered by such a small cost. This got us thinking. We decided to conduct an experiment. Googling ‘cheap logos’ gave us plenty of options for ‘quality logo design services for a fixed low cost’ so we pulled on our fictional overalls and got in touch with a company offering said service to enquire on behalf of our newly-imagined company – ‘Dolphin Plumbing Services’.

Commissioning a cheap logo simply to sneer about how we reckon we could have done a better job would be too easy and not achieve a huge amount. Instead, we wanted to approach the company as if we had no experience or interest in graphic design and see what the process is like for the ‘average punter’. Also, how the experience differs from the service we offer. We made a point of letting them lead us and not getting all ‘designer-y’ with them. This wasn’t an opportunity to lecture them about kerning, for this experiment we didn’t care about the quality of design, we simply wanted to explore the process of purchasing a logo to stick on the side of our non-existent van.

The first company we contacted offered, among plenty of other things, bespoke logo designs and unlimited revisions (which we thought was rather excessive) for only £8.99+VAT. Bargain! It seemed too good to be true and, drum roll… it was – they are yet to return our emails. Not a good start.

Undeterred, we found another company offering a similar service. Yet again, they offered unlimited revisions, so we thought we’d give them a fair amount of feedback to deal with, nothing too unreasonable, just enough to get our money’s worth. They also promised a 1-3 day turnaround for all artwork and amends, so we decided to hold them to that and chase them if they were late. Dolphin Plumbing Services – firm but fair. They were slightly more pricey at £25 but we thought it was worth it in the name of investigative journalism, so we sent the email.

Cheap logo

The very same day, we received a response asking for payment! If nothing else, they were quick, and at least they’d replied. We eagerly handed-over our bank details (without any guarantees, to the random internet company we’d never heard of two hours previously) and waited to see what happened next.

Less than an hour later, we received an email granting us access to our own personal account. We were told to wait for 48 hours before receiving the initial designs. So far the process hadn’t been too painful, we’d done our bit and the real work was now down to their designers. All that was left to do was wait…

Two days later, an email with the subject ‘Your first design samples’ was sitting our inbox – the experiment had started to get interesting. We logged into the account and saw these six designs (below) awaiting our feedback.

Cheap logo

Cheap logo

The quality of the logos is something we’re going to comment on later, but regardless of how good the initial designs are, we have a starting point. Regarding the first of our unlimited revisions, we wanted to ensure what we were requesting was reasonable and similar to the kind of feedback the company would usually get. We weren’t interested in testing their patience for the sake of it. Our first round of feedback was as follows:

Cheap logo

Once again, we sat tight, staring at our inbox waiting for what could potentially become the brand new Dolphin Plumbing Services logo. Can you feel the tension building? This time we only had to wait one day! Another email arrived letting us know that all we had to do was log into our account and we would find the latest logo designs waiting for us — we did, and they were!

Cheap logo

This time around our feedback was pretty simple:

Cheap logo

This didn’t prove too much of a test for our new design slaves, who responded with the changes, yet again, in just one day. Here’s what they came back with.

Cheap logo

We were getting to the point where the discussions had gone far enough to get a reasonable idea of the process and it was time for us to wrap this baby up. We issued one final round of feedback, for good measure:

Cheap logo

Which resulted in the following. Ladies and gentlemen, allow us to proudly present, the logo for the finest fictitious plumbing outfit since Super Mario Brothers – Dolphin Plumbing Services:

Cheap logo

Job done.

The feedback about the colour of the circle had been completely ignored but we pretended not to notice and responded with a grateful approval and requested the logo as high resolution JPGs, PDFs and vector EPS / AI files. These were promptly sent the next day. One techy point to make – the vector logos hadn’t been outlined and there were no fonts accompanying the files. This means that if we did in fact have a van or signage in need of vinyl lettering, we’d be a bit stuck. We would guess the vast majority of customers using these services wouldn’t have the knowledge or inclination to specifically request fonts, let alone own the software to discover they were missing. It seems like the company we used fell at the last hurdle somewhat but perhaps the rush to complete the job and move onto the next artwork carried out at light-speed is to blame for the oversight.

Anyway, the experiment had concluded, now for the analysis.

The easiest thing here would be to tear the design work apart and criticise how it simply wasn’t very good. It wasn’t. But it seems as if that would be over simplifying the point. We paid an incredibly small amount for what must’ve taken somebody, somewhere, a reasonable amount of time to do. Even a competent designer bashing out the work as quickly as possible would’ve had to spend a while producing six logos with three sets of revisions. There’s also the time it takes to read our emails, save the amended files, upload them to our account and let us know they’re there. It’s impossible to say how long that would’ve taken (and we’re under no illusion that the lovely emails we received were personally written to us) but was this time and labour all covered by our measly £25?

As designers, our time, creativity, experience and technical skills are the only things we’re actually selling. And we’re not surprised that how anyone with the right software can do what we do and sell it for a fraction of the cost proves irritating and perhaps even insulting to the majority of designers. But does the plumber who simply wants something to stick on a business card really care when he can get the job done for such a small amount of money? The process we went through was quick, easy and required very little hassle on our part. Once we found a company who actually responded to us, all we had to do was pay, look at designs and tell them what we wanted them to change. Assuming the role of someone with limited knowledge and opinions on typography, layout and colour, the service offered to us was more than agreeable for what we paid.

However, there is still the angry mob of designers to deal with. First off, it’s worth thinking about what they’re actually angry about. We don’t think it’s because their cover’s been blown and they can no longer charge huge amounts of cash for knocking up a quick logo. The issue, in our opinion, is more the fact that taking shortcuts that allow the work to be produced for a sum as small as £25 both creates work of a lower quality and lowers the value of what we do in the eyes of those outside of the design industry.

Like many other products and services, it’s never going to be too hard to find a cheaper option. But, as the painfully obvious saying goes, you get what you pay for. Buy a cheap car, it’ll break down more often. Buy a cheap meal, it won’t taste very nice. Buy a cheap haircut… you get the idea. If Phil the plumber decides to go for the £25 logo purely based on cost, his service simply won’t look premium. Maybe this won’t be a problem as many of his customers aren’t going to care too much about the typography when their kitchen is flooding, but design matters, and we’re sure we’ve all instantly disregarded companies based solely on the look of their logo, website or shop-frontage. It’s similar to pizza menus on your doormat – you’re not going to pay much but you know it won’t be fine-dining.

Maybe he doesn’t want his service to look premium. He’s a down-to-earth guy making an honest living for a fair price and he wants his logo to reflect that. Fair enough. But at no point throughout the process were we asked any questions about this. It was far too easy to let the designers get on with designing what they thought was right for a company they knew next-to-nothing about. Without this knowledge, can you really create something of any value, or are you simply choosing random fonts and adding clichéd clipart images based on the name of the company?

So, the design is never to going be considered at any great length – because there simply isn’t the time to do so – and there’s a good chance the final design may not be appropriate for its purpose.

The end result? Cheap design that looks cheap and is less effective.

But is there a place in the industry for logo design being sold in this way? Unfortunately, we think the answer is yes. People or companies who aren’t particularly interested in the way they present themselves can’t be blamed for spending as little money as possible on a service they don’t see value in. Is it damaging to the industry as a whole? Again, I’m afraid the answer is yes. Poor design can never be a good thing, for obvious reasons.

So what happens now? Do we rise up and fight back against these companies? Do we boycott? Do we drop our prices to £20 a logo, no questions asked? Feel free, but we won’t be joining you. A far better defence is to produce well-considered, fairly-priced design that includes the client in the process, asks the right questions, challenges the brief, considers the problem from the clients perspective and provides an effective solution. This, done well, is the only thing that can differentiate what we do from the ‘lowest price gets the job’ outfits.

The conclusion of our experiment? You get what you pay for. The important thing to remember is to make your service good value, regardless of how much it costs.

Tom and Phil
Mat Dolphin

Related, from the archives: How much does logo design cost?


The other side of this coin is that “premium” design often means $100,000 to make the new and completely reviled GAP logo. All the binders full of justifications and college diplomas involved don’t matter when nobody likes it.

I agree with this article 100%. For $50 you can get an cliparty illustration and not much else. If that competition ruins your business, you didn’t have much of a business to begin with. Independent designers offer not just art, but branding & identity advice. Many need to learn how to sell this service as a worthwhile investment, not blame the McDonalds of graphic design for stealing their customers.

Lovely article! I’ll bookmark this for when I’m asked why logos cost what they do.

Also, in response to VDM’s comment about the GAP logo, that’s a different story. It wasn’t disliked because it was bad, (although it wasn’t the greatest) it was disliked because they had a strong brand already built and they decided to start over for some odd reason.

Great article – the thing is, you designed that logo, they just knocked it up – you asked for the circle (pipes cross section, right) and the dolphin to be less cartoony. You added the parts that made sense, like the dolphin coming out of the water, and not looking like it was behind.

That is not design, the company had the word ‘Dolphin’ in it – what did you expect.

Imagine if the ‘D’ in Dolphin was the shape of a dorsal fin?

That is design.

Thanks for this great (if slightly unnerving) article, I really enjoyed reading it. I bet that’s the best brief they’ve ever had though.

As you said there are cheap cars and more expensive (and better) ones. Why are people buying Hyundais when they could have a BMW or a Mercedes? Definitively a BMW look nicer and more professional than a Hyundai. Well, most of the people would like to have one of those, but sometimes you just have what you can afford.

((Sorry for the bad English))

Also it should be noted that these guys make a ton of money – are a premium london based company and their identity is awful – the site is terrible too:

My point? nobody cares what the identity looks like for a plumbers, if this is your business, then there is a service for you. That is great for small companies on a budget.

Throw them another one – tell them you are a bespoke mezzanine finance company with a weird name – see how that goes down..


I don’t think what Mat is arguing about is these $50 dollar logo designs stealing customers. I think he’s arguing that there’s no value in that type of work. I think Mat understands how to sell his business and services the right way but what he and many other designers like myself get bothered about is when the proper way to develop an identity or logo is not being adhered to.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the GAP logo either. But I’m curious as to how the process went. Just because someone at first glance doesn’t like the way a new logo for an established company looks doesn’t mean the process taken to develop the solution for them wasn’t used and thought about carefully. Now the other side of that story is that if the client paid $100,000 for a design team to not research, question, challenge, or push the brief and they simply put together a pretty font and some color then I think Mat and myself would be just as bothered.

I’m a proponent of the right process for design. We are problem solvers and we find solutions to our client’s problem or question. That process adds value to our client’s businesses and our industry. I think charging the appropriate amount for our time invested is the right thing to do.

McDonald’s will always be around. But I don’t think there’s one person out there that thinks a McDonald’s meat patty tastes the same as a filet mignon from an upscale steak restaurant. You get what you pay for. And I hope making potential clients aware of that will progress our industry in a positive direction.

Great post, Mat.

You wondered how someone could spend time on these and make any money. Simple. The work is being outsourced. I wouldn’t be surprised if the person working on this logo was actually someone in India or China.

This is the new frontier of outsourcing, where simple professional tasks can and will be outsourced to cheap overseas labour. That’s why it’s important for creatives to work on “higher” level jobs that can’t be easily outsourced (ie: branding)

Great post. I’ve not read the other comments, but here’s Case 3: Designers who are skilled, experienced and passionate about creating corporate identities the correct way, but are unfortunately in a position where it is their job to create quick, cheap logos in an ‘agency’ where a proper client brief is seen as a blockage in the sales procedure.

In this case, clients are paying £150 for a logo produced by, unlike the case above, designers who are putting their experience, expertise and typography knowledge into good practice to produce logos way above the standard expected for the price. ‘Why bother then?”, you may ask, but if high quality work is all you are capable of producing, whether the managing director of the ‘agency’ regards it as being valuable or not, then it is practically impossible to let work go back to the client if you are not fully happy with it.

9/10, the client is VERY happy with what they receive, of course they would be, they are getting a £1000+ CI for £150. So who is the fool? The agency suits for making less money than they could by offering cheap design, thus not paying the designers what they deserve, the designer for accepting the way of working for the sake of having a job in the current climate, or the client for taking advantage of the excuse that “people aren’t paying for design anymore”?

Nice experiment. And I particularily like how you stayed pretty objective and fair through the post.

I tried something similar on the other day, ordering a logo for a blog from someone willing to do it for $5, just to see what I’d get. What I got back was not even a decent starting point.

I know and agree that good logo and identity design is a process – and I understand why that’s a good thing – but a lot of designers fail to understand their clients’ needs (not just what the need from a logo, but how they need to prioritize their time, money and energy).

To the average two-person plumbing firm, just starting up, a logo design process probably sounds as useful and comfortable as putting a nail through their foot. And when you tell them it’s going to cost a few thousand, mostly for a whole lot of high-flying talk about abstract concepts represented in the logo designs by various dots and circles, and about the different moods of red and blue shades, it’s going to be a hard sale to make.

There’s a lot of room between $42 and $4200, and it’s filled with skilled and educated designers and agencies based in low-cost countries, sites like 99designs, and the girl with the MacBook sitting at the local Starbucks.

I think a lot of designers and agencies will be forced to look for more ways to lower the bar for two-person plumbing start-ups to get a good logo – by simplifying and restructuring their products and services, changing the way they get paid and the way they deliver, shift focus from process to relationship, get better at showing how the process itself is as valuable as the resulting logo, etc.

Many designers (even young ones) don’t seem to realize that the world has changed *a lot*, and that they have to change with it. (It’s not like they’re the only ones who have been asked to adapt: The information age has famously forced record companies, film studios, travel agencies, book stores, news paper publishers, etc. to rethink their business models.)

It should be obvious, but I am afraid a lot of people (and not only designers) are in denial. Those who think they can work today and in the future like their predecessors did in the 1980s and 90s, will struggle.

I would like to tell you about a case I encountered.
I often check out one of the professional forums (around IT in general) and there is this subforum with offers. One of them was a logo design ad/topic. Something like 40-50 bucks for a logo, etc. People posted their opinions full of satisfaction and even awe. However, I decided to check out the ‘company’s’ portfolio. They had like a hundred or so logos in different brands. Something wasn’t right. Well… I download the AAA Logo Creator (or something like that) and …actually found 3-4 signs used in the logos. It was really hard to find more but I bet I could find at least a dozen more. I think that the whole advert was a bit of a scam so I wrote in the topic what I found, submitted screenshots from the application, and asked some questions.

What happened then?
My post was deleted, I got a notice from the administrator and a suspension from the forum. In the post, the author (the ‘logo company’) wrote that this meant nothing and unless I am an unhappy customer, I should go to hell.

This is a great article Mat, so on-point!

Luckily for me, in my brief but busy career so far, I have had the enlightening experience of having a client reject my proposal because it was too expensive… only to come crawling back a few months later when the “discount” logo they paid for was terrible and the designer wouldn’t listen to them.


On the contrary though, I have had clients that simply didn’t have the budget for the services i provide, but still needed SOMETHING… so i have sent them to sites like 99designs and eLance simply because my main OVERRIDING goal is to HELP THE CLIENT! Usually clients that i am able to help out, even if that help is sending them away, will come back to me the next time they need something done…simply because I was a “get er’ done” kind of guy. Most clients just don’t have the time/energy/patience to go out and find someone new. If you helped them once, you’ll be the first call they make. And hey, at least when they come back they know what price range you tend to work in.

I think Mat brings up an interesting point in his comment about the client dictating the changes. This points out another issue with branding happening this way in that it makes the client the designer. Speaking from even my limited experience clients who think they are designers are incredibly difficult to work with and don’t understand the value of design. A service that perpetuates this mentality is surely detrimental.

@Phil Chairez

I meant just the opposite. This article shows that cheap logo sites do a halfway decent job at providing a basic logo. And for many small businesses, that is enough. Everybody doesn’t need an identity counsel, some just want an artist to give them a simple picture.

I’m referring to the many designers who cry murder in the comments of any article referring to crowdsourcing or ultra cheap design. They blame the sites for ‘ruining the industry’ instead of focusing on how to make themselves more competitive.

Logo design as I practice it is about creating a protectable asset for the business, one that has the capability of accruing identifiable value over time.

Why has this requirement of the job been ignored?

Just curious. Is it because they were a cheap logo warehouse that you expected the fonts? I mean fonts need to be licensed by those who wish to use them. So they couldn’t have licensed fonts for you for such a small fee.

What a great research article. Thanks so very much. This is sad, but we can’t ignore it!

I recently visited a potential client after a friend called asking me to ‘please go see if you can help this client’.

I wasn’t prepared for that meeting. There it was, the client, flaunting his computer screen showing me 400+ logo designs he had received from one of those online design contest businesses.

He wanted my ‘professional help’ choosing the right one.

I thought it was a joke… but no… he didn’t see anything wrong with having all those ‘designers’ working for FREE for him.

Did I help him? I don’t know. All I managed to say was that ‘this is not how I work’, blah blah blah…

But I know my words went to empty air. He was happy to be paying $400 (logo plus marketing collateral items he had requested from 5 designers he had already picked).

As for me, I just want to make sure I don’t treat anybody that way. People deserve to be paid for the work they do. Regardless of the industry.

I remember feeling the same way when the Macintosh was introduced and my livelihood as a typographer was threatened. When my former customers proudly showed me what they did, I trashed the crappy kerning, typos, bad word-spacing and you name it. I remember making the transition from hot metal to photo to digital and I thought this would be the same thing, we’ll come out of it. Guess what?

There is a difference between providing a ‘product’ (in this instance 1x Logo) and providing a ‘service’ (creating an appropriate ‘brand’ solution, including the ‘logo’ aspect).

If I want some cold and flu tablets I’ll go to a chemist (buying a product).
If I want to know why my headache just won’t go away I go to the doctors (service).

The problem lies in where the client/consumer is unaware of this difference.

Easy answer. They are outsourcing this work to India where anyone who can learn AI or Ps does and gets paid pennies on the hour to turn out stuff like this. There is no skilled labor saying, “I’m talented but get paid pennies, I don’t care.” This is a modern day slave trade.

Offset printing has been experiencing this issue for over a decade now. Designers, can you honestly say you have never purchased laser printing for a project that should have been printed offset? Technology can be our best friend and worst nightmare. My new saying: Don’t be afraid of technology, it won’t byte. Except in our pocket books that is.

A very well-written, well-considered take on “the dark side” of the identity design landscape. I agree that the only solution is to live and let live – continuing to do the best job you are individually capable of, learning when you can, and educating when asked. Chefs with Michelin stars tolerate McDonalds – and great designers can co-exist with practitioners of bare-minimum logo design.

Great work.

Let me give you some insight regarding the workflow of one of those low cost companies:

– a designer gets about 15-20% of the whole commissioned price, so in the case I’m describing, 3-7usd based on the current “offer”.
– in some cases the “characters” logos might get the designer 2-3usd more because of the work complexity.
– for a full time working designer, they get to create around 6-7 new projects every day, and a ton of new samples for the ongoing projects… so basically, around 50 logo samples of various complexity every day.
– the trick is the logo re-use, vector database, quick hands, no brain usage.

The company I am talking about was selling logos in different markets, like UK (for 19gbp), US (29usd), etc… the first 3 samples were sent by next day, new samples were sent basically between 2 to 6-7 days after client’s response, etc…

As a full time designer, you were supposed to complete 300 projects a month… Saturday and Sunday were kind of working days, but the schedule was your problem, so you could postpone building the new samples, just the new orders were the sensitive part.

That’s the kind of overhaul of a shitty job that helps you just pay the bills.

The article was very interesting and it was a pleasure reading it.

I would like to point out that I am not a designer but I work in a company where I have to deal with design and designers every day. I just deal with the client. Creative people do the rest.

I work with very big clients like Unilever, and in my years of experience I have noticed that many times, the decision making people in these big companies know even less about design than our fictional plumber.

My point is; for people who really do not understand anything about design, do you think they would really notice the difference? Isn’t it a very subjective thing whether you like option 1 or option 2?

It’e easy for experienced designers to notice a cheap job from a well done one. However, let’s say you knew nothing about cooking, would you be able to spot a good frying pan from a bad one?

Don’t you think that Dolphin Plumbing Services would not have been satisfied for this work?

Great article, but I can see how these cheap services are filling a need. To many it feels like there are only two options, the cheap option that results in your cartoony Dolphin logo and the extremely expensive option – the brands and logos mentioned in the media costing in excess of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

While many businesses will not want to spend more than the $25, they will get what they pay for; but with the lack of transparency in pricing it appears to those businesses that there is no middle ground.

So with the cheap option they can clearly see what they are getting and service expectations for that $25. I wonder if they could compare to an obviously better design result with the same expectations for $0000 then how many would chose the better option. Its just there’s nothing to compare it to with the same level of transparency.

I have thought a lot about what I would like as a potential customer who would love to be in a position to have unlimited funds for a logo but just doesnt. And its even clear to me that while I don’t understand the design process ballpark pricing with clear expectations would be a start. Allowing me to start with something that I can use and be able to come back and pay more money for it to be developed – so the basics first and then building up on it would be great.

Tiffany, I don’t think Tom and Phil were expecting the font file. The problem was that the text in the vector file wasn’t converted to outlines, so if Tom and Phil opened the vector, and if the font used wasn’t installed on their computer, a substitute font would’ve been incorporated.

Thanks very much, Tom, Phil, for submitting your post. Always good to get some discussion going. And my thanks to the commentators, too.

The analogy of offset printing is fair but does not take into account that the design process is mostly theory and hard to quantify.

Also digital offset printing is still like a slightly more polished colour photocopy.

A good identity designer can spend a month on research, competitor analysis, colour theory and all the other brand work.

All of this work ends up in one tiny logo. You cant expect people to understand that. All they see is a logo.

In the same way – everyone thinks they can ‘do wireframes’ – they don’t realise wireframes are a final deliverable behind a massive UX process.

Providing a logo is possible for 25 quid. Like most things, it always has been.

Some companies don’t need the process, so for them there is a service.

Professional design – 95% theory / 5% deliverable

25 quid logos – 5% theory / 95% deliverable

Also factor in the fact that the logo you got was not bespoke. And your logo will probably need to go on stationery and a van, uniforms etc, all of which would need to be factored in.

BTW the font is most probably Serpentine – which is free to download,serpentine

Awful font, and really overused.

Great article. I must confess that during my early Designer days I might have been guilty of the same things, but I have since been made very aware of the errors of my ways. It’s sad that as we become a more ignorant nation, we lose sensibility and appreciation for good design. In an instant gratification, walmart society it is only natural that this type of thing occurs.


you know, I see logos like this everyday. I think a random client, uneducated in design, would think these logos were great. so that’s where the issue lies: how do we convince smaller clients that this is not good design? sometimes they want a crappy logo over a more quality one.

As designers, do we not need ‘bad’ design to measure ourselves against?

In theory, I have spent most of my career trying to educate companies about the value of good design-I feel I’d be negating my duties as a graphic designer if I didn’t. But that’s just my opinion and I’m sure a lot of people would rather I just kept my mouth shut and got on with the work.

With regards to the Hyundai/Mercedes comment; IMO, Hyundai, much like Kia and perhaps Skoda before, are learning the lessons that good design is essential to the survival/growth of the company.

Thank you to each and every one of you that has read, shared and commented on the post — it’s genuinely amazing to spark debate and get designers talking about a subject close to our hearts.

For us the reason for conducting this experiment was not simply to put down someone else’s work (I’m sure we could all have guessed the results without seeing the final logo), but to raise awareness about design education. The design industry is very tight-knit and more often than not we don’t stand back and talk about the more important audience: our clients and their needs.

There will always be a need for cheaper options, less informed work and quick solutions, but that doesn’t have to undermine your own ability or work. What should be taken from this experiment is the need to educate and explain to clients the benefits of spending wisely. Design is an investment, and the more we do to communicate that, the less we’ll hear about £25 logos.


Tom and Phil.

I am a print broker who is a learning and aspiring designer. I have been doing various work for clients, as a designer for about 1.5 years now.
I am self taught due to reasons too lengthy to get into.
I would like to understand WHY all of the designs are bad. Honestly….I liked the first one best. I think the first 3 weren’t too bad. The last 3 designs I didn’t like and even I can see big problems with them.
Is the difficulty that there are mostly bad logos around us, so I don’t see what is lacking? The design community has always been great at sharing and supporting. If anyone can help me see why design #1 and #3 were so bad, I’d love the insight.
From an aspiring artist…….( I never stop watching and learning!)

I think the article misses out on some points-

1. You guys regard $42 as cheap on US price base, but for most of these companies, which are located in third world countries, where more people make $5 a month, $42 might be a pretty good pay.
2. Every product have a price range, and that’s ok. The fact that I can eat mcburger for 99c doesnt mean no body goes to chef restaurants. Not every business can efford a $10,000 or even $1000 logo and the fact they can’t afford it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a logo. Yes, you get what you pay for, but sometimes that all you can pay for.

Button line – if you’re a great designer, you will find customers that want your product. Stop trying to think everyone need YOUR product.
Yes, it would be nice if all logos are awesomely designed, all food is great & healthy, all products are apple quality. But in the real world, not everyone can afford that.

This is a complex problem. I think that Ran Segall and Mat (not to be confused with Mat Dolphin) touched upon few of them.

So, we’ve got:

· small companies with no budget and that probably don’t REALLY need a logo, only some sort of identification
· small to medium companies that really don’t see the value in design
· thanks to the Internet, we’ve also got people willing to do technichal work for very little compared (which might actually be more than reasonable for them)
· a lot of process for very little deliverables (for professional designs)

I like the comparison with fast food, until a point… The comparison breaks when we consider that people don’t really fool themselves when eating fast food. However people fool themselves when, just for example, they pay for design competitions.

It’s also about education, that’s why the “Make My Logo Bigger Cream” video is so funny. There are people out there who just don’t know what works visually. And there are even more people who, even knowing what works, don’t know what it takes to arrive there.

@jez cook – “do we not need ‘bad’ design to measure ourselves against?”

Don’t go down that route, instead measure yourselve against great design. Don’t grow complacent.

What scared me the most wasn`t the situation or the conclusions, was to find out that the same lame situation that occurs here in Brazil`s corporate identity market occurs in UK as well.

Here – especially due to historical reasons – we can for sure find out people who sell design for these prices, of course people who have downloaded the programs and now try to make money, but we here always have had the ilusion that in US and Europe this kind of things were not that serious.

I thought some people there charged little as in here, but not as little.

Another concern that comes with low-cost logo designs is originality – given that these logo design companies handle several clients at a time, what are the chances that they duplicate the artwork?

“It was far too easy to let the designers get on with designing what they thought was right for a company they knew next-to-nothing about. Without this knowledge, can you really create something of any value, or are you simply choosing random fonts and adding clichéd clipart images based on the name of the company?”

But you laid it out to them in the initial email that you are a “new 2 man company” and proceeded to list off what you do and what you offer. What else is there to say about a plumbing company? It’s not as if you founded the fake company back 19th century that now has a heritage and would have expected some antique looking logo containing “& Sons”. Maybe this would have been the ideal test to give them i.e. modernising an old company :)

But yes, these type of services do cheapen the industry as a whole.

What an incredible story!

As you know, I haven’t been in the freelance graphic design game for that long and I haven’t had much time to build an opinion about that kind of work but I pity them to be honest.

The designer/client relationship is what makes it great. Understanding a client and their needs is what a designer has to do in order to design a logo that is unique and doesn’t just blend in the mass amount of logos that are generated everyday.

Thanks for sharing this David. It’s a proper eye-opener as to what’s out there and what the design community has to stand against.

I was the one who asked why the designs are so bad. As a printer – you don’t know just how bad logos can get, until you see the stuff people submit to print and they actually feel good about it. I think I am understanding that we are, in fact, talking about the difference between design and simply providing a client a visual identity for their business.
I’d like to add that as a printer – we encounter MOST of our clients who NOW NOTHING about design, and as usual, can’t understand how to buy what they can not yet see and hold.
Some of our clients are larger, and tend to use their own “in house” designers who they keep on staff, so discussions about design are almost no-existent with them. Then – the other business to business does tend to want something quick and simple, and they want to only pay a moderate price. This is the tension we all live with. I encounter many clients who would be happy to have paid a moderate price, and achieved something they can use. I think the more we know our own business, the more we know the clients we can serve best. I encounter it with printing all the time, and have to re-direct people to a quick copy or office supply store that will be the best and fairest price for what they want. Sometimes you have to advise a client where thier needs would be met best, which is sometimes the quick production of a “logo” that might not be the best thing, but they client didn’t want the BMW of logos anyways. This was a really great exercise. We should all try it, to be on the client end of the experiece!

One point not addressed in the article regarding the speed in which these logos are produced concerns originality.

In my mind, this is the real danger and problem with these cheap logo mills. I’m not offended or threatened by the cheap prices, but I am concerned about the lack of original art work.

On the most benign level, the designers stockpile their own “clip art” to reuse. I this case, they may have a file of “plumber” art. So the design you get may include graphical elements they’ve sold to a dozen other clients. A small business may not see this as a problem – until they want to trademark their name and logo.

More severe, however, is that many of these companies have been caught outright stealing other professional designs and passing them off as their own. This is clearly unethical and illegal, yet the small business really has no clue that they are buying an already copyright (or trademarked) design – and in the worst case scenario, they get hit out of the blue with a cease and desist.

Bottom line, maybe there is a place for cheap logos for really small companies with no budgets, but the notion of “buyer beware” is paramount – and sadly, these small companies looking for a logo are the least educated when it comes to knowing what they’re getting into.

This is a very interesting subject that I haven’t previously given much thought to but the argument you pose has a lot of depth to it and when clearly explained in this way, makes a lot of sense. I agree that you get what you pay for so I do believe that logo’s should still be well priced as long as the input is there to reflect it.

I also agree that there needs to be a cheaper option out there for those with less money and who aren’t so fussed about the complete package of a logo. However, I can’t get my head around how someone can charge so little for the amount of time they take to produce the final design – how are these businesses profitting?

Great article! I’ve actually been really wondering what these mills turn out, as in your experiment that you did. It’s fascinating to see the progress of it. Kind of feel like a fly on the wall :)

I see the point of others in that not *every* small business needs a $10,000 logo. So my questions is then, is a $25 logo the middle ground? Why can’t they invest a few hundred at least and hire a design student?

My first logo I ever did, my first year of college, ended up costing around $300. Which I think should be the bare minimum a company should be willing to spend on themselves. Most business people agree to the adage that in order to make money you first have to spend some money.

Even if you’re a thread-bare start-up, there will be start-up costs. I think a big part of it is educating our clients that identity design should be considered in that expense.

You should have sent in another job to the same place posing as another but similar type company, and see what they would have come up with. If the solution was the same atrocity that was presented on this round, then you can do a comparison and make an even stronger case.

I laughed so hard with tears in my eyes while reading this. As an aspiring designer, I have created much better work, yet still bail at the thought of putting it out for criticism. But I am getting there, one class at a time. Thanks for such an entertaining read!

hoo boy, I’m gonna hate myself for this in the morning, but here goes…

Every craft, discipline, trade, vocation, specialty or what have you has its niche markets. And providing something better, faster, and/or cheaper is as fundamental as a business model can get. And yes, if someone actively sought and bought that so-called sacrilegious logo, then it is “better” for them. Fair enough.

I may be speaking for myself only, however, I think what we are really reacting to here is fear of competition. And even though it’s super cheap competition, in reality “cheap” is still relative. Competition is a good thing when it goes our way, right? But not so good for us when we now have to compete with emerging global markets. Yes, the quality or effectiveness of the logo can be considered questionable, but that’s not the real point. In fact, like every other industry, there’s always been the “good enough” factor. Nothing new.

And to complicate things further, I believe these types of sites will proliferate and the services and deliverables will become increasingly sophisticated. Yet the prices will remain cheaper than anything we can come close to or at least choose to.

Basically, it’s not a matter of is it right or wrong; is it quality or crud; is it ethical, patriotic, fair, just or moral; but rather it’s about a simple business transaction of charging/paying what the market will bear. The reality is we all signed up for this the day we handed out our first business card. And like an earlier poster stated, other industries have been greatly affected by the new paradigm of technology and global marketization. Since the first cave man opened his new tire shop, this process has been a natural and perpetual progression. And I’m betting that the first cave dude got pissed when another tire shop opened with the new and improved Lava Rock Dubs.

Personally, if a fellow designer somewhere on this planet is in a position that they have to live off a few hard-earned dollars a day, then I support them because I’m assuming most of us here reading this site have access to more opportunities to eke a living than other people in emerging countries.

I also want to caution that not everything is or needs to be villianized by relating it to terms like “outsourced,” “off-shored,” “crowd-sourced,” “sweat shop,” “slave labor,” or “made in some-other-country-that-stole-my-job”.

Unemployed Graphic Dewhiner,
Terry Veiga


Fantastic article with expected results, but you hit the nail on the head when you said that there is a place for this kind of work instead of just slamming it.

It is difficult to swallow, but small local businesses just lap this stuff up, you see it ALL the time. It has a Dolphin & BIG text. Job done. And can we really prove a better logo (for the local plumber) would increase business? That would be a great study…

Of course this approach is not suitable for all companies, and most serious ones know this asking for bespoke logos, copywriters and web design, etc…

And it is those that keep me hooked on coffee.

A better logo may not increase business, but a well thought out, creative, consistent, innovative brand almost certainly would.

Great article and comments, but I find myself agreeing more than I’d like to with Terry and Steve.

I know a couple of plumbers who I am pretty sure are making six-figure profits from their (one-man) businesses and both would be more than happy with the type of logo shown here.

Both are excellent tradesmen who type their name/company at the top of their invoices and their address. phone number and VAT number at the bottom. They gain new trade through word of mouth and there is a long line of people waiting for their services. That’s a nice place to be. As designers, let’s all take a reality tablet – these two guys simply don’t need a logo (sacrilege!). If they did, the service listed above would be more than adequate.

I also agree with one of the comments made earlier though – the design agency gave the logo farm too many clues, particularly with the name “Dolphin”. Perhaps a better test would have been to ask them to design a logo for Fred Jones, a consultant Industrial Production Manager and see what they came up with.

Finally, although I work as a designer / art director within a multi-national organisation, I also normally take on a couple of private commissions a year for which I do a professional job and charge a professional rate. On top of that, from time to time workmates will approach me to “do a quick logo” for their friend / brother / sister / whatever, who’s starting up in business. Assuming that they’re will to pay for it (some expect it for free!), the amount they have in mind is always £25.00 – £50.00. I simply tell them I’m not interested and suggest they check out a logo farm on the web or approach a college student. Price yourself against the market you want to be in.

Ah the famous online logo designers. Some stock swashes and globe gradients and you’re a logo designer. People don’t even notice that these places have a handful of stock design elements and fonts that they mix and match as needed. They see all that business and think they’re getting over on us “overpriced” designers. My favorite is when someone comes to me with their logo and says they don’t like it. No problem, I’ll design something nice. What’s that? I have to match their $125 price. I don’t think so.

When I have interns I give them these simple instructions: bw, no clip art. Go! Fries their little minds right up.

WOW please dont take this as a tangent, because the more I read this article the more aggravated I got. I can’t believe there were so many people saying how great this BS research was.

Yes you can, designing a logo can sometimes be cheap, but not cheap looking. I think there’s a huge difference. Not everything has to be museum quality that requires a lot of “research, brainstorming, development”, etc. I actually agree that prices are jacked up a lot of times by narcissistic designers like the “we” people in the article. I sometimes don’t think we can sell a logo by using design jargon. I think basic fontograpghy is sometimes forgotten, and can be every bit as custom and awesome. A logo designed by a recent college grad/intern could take 4-5 hours to design, or a well seasoned artist could design the same logo in 1 hour. Is the logo that took 4-5 hours worth more money? HELL NO!

If the client is not wanting brand solution, you give them a well designed logo for $60.00-$200. If they are wanting branding and solutions, advice, & usages, the same logo is now $200-$600 plus. If the customer is getting what they want and more, that is the service and they are happy.

Another note I would like to add, is I think the people designing the Dolphin art may have been so efficient it made the testers mad. They got better service than they could provide themselves to their own customers. Some designers/firms are just more efficient than others. I don’t think its fair to level the playing field.

It’s people like that who are damaging our industry not the logo designers with the “right software” selling a product affordably. I get 36 page brochures that have been in some advert agency’s hands for months and they then are in such a rush to get it printed. Then when they give it to the printer, they can tell their client it’s out of their hands and at the press, but it’s actually not. It’s being preflighted because the designer doesn’t understand one thing about printing, resolution, spellchecking, color, trapping, etc.

What a great article. As a graphic design student I found this topic extremely informative. The value of the design isn’t in the final artifact, but the process it takes to achieve a meaningful design.

My one worry, is that as these low-cost options become more commonplace, it will become the norm. If regular sharp cheddar quadrupled in price and everyone had to eat cheap government cheese, and this continued for many years, government cheese would become “cheese” and sharp cheddar would become “weird gourmet”.

I think the problem with low-end shops with one-design-class designers and foreign money markets on their side is that they take away the chance for both the client and designer to make an impact. They also take away business, period. I feel that no business such as logo design should be offered that low. I do feel that some software should be offered to allow people to do their own for a low price. Competition is one thing, clogging up the market is another.

Simply put, there are too many f***ing designers with too little design education and not enough respect for their industry. I think that people that can’t pay but $25 dollars for a logo design should just get a type-based logo without any iconography and without any customization beyond fill and stroke color. I think the industry in general should force that visual distinction, as making other options available produces a very slippery slope. Most businesses out there don’t have $1,000 USD for a well thought-out logo.

The other thing to consider is that if you start offering these cheap solutions, your portfolio eventually becomes prominently flooded with cheap designs as that will be all you have to show for the past X years that look anything close to modern.

Touchy subject here.

Great Post. I would be curious to see how a company such as this manages a client that is not so easy. Many of these business types will take full advantage of cheap options without regard for how little they actually are paying, and are often even unaware that people pay thousands for a good logo.

While I understand taste is subjective, I see numerous flaws in the logos (poor letter spacing, elements that won’t translate well to smaller size, use of cliche and/or hard to read fonts. And the fact the designer failed to outline or embed fonts; that’s design 101.

showing your designs for dolphin plumbing would be a nice touch to this post. that would make much more of a case for good designs at competitive prices rather than cheap cheap mediocre logos than any amount of words can.

If that person will do work for just $42 then who are you to pick on them for doing so? That is the price they wish to charge.

Your ‘we are fucked ‘tweet just says it all. That is so low class. Lower than the 42.


Maybe someone’s already pointed this out, but the logo samples seem to use prefab elements like swooshes, water drops, and dolphins readily available for $1 on sites like — and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were hundreds of such sites; over the years I’ve encountered dozens. In fact, I just did a search for “dolphin” on Vectorstock and got some suspiciously familiar-looking hits.

I’m not against such sites on principle; they can be quite useful for icon design especially when time is of the essence, a deadline looms, and there simply isn’t enough time to devote to an original illustration. I’m sure we’ve all been in the position of being asked by clients, mere hours from deadline, to generate a new set of icons for some additional content. And I agree that not every business — probably most businesses, in fact — don’t need top-level design the way a Fortune 500 company would; but on the other hand, $100,000 for the GAP logo doesn’t really sound like that much, considering how much value they sought to derive from their identity. Of course, the epic fail of the new logo is another story, but in most cases it is very much in a company’s interest to spend big on identity, and it pays off.

@Kevin, yes, I would love to see how they professionally will make the logo as well. Has anyone ever heard of a start up company, has anyone ever heard of someone, maybe an individual who is excited about starting a company yet cant get a business loan because of their poor credit history or even ethnicity? THOSE are the people that are serviced by the “cheap” designers.

If your company is pulling in millions a month and you have thousands of clients every week, by selling “logos, branding etc” at $4,500, then why oh why are you concerned about someone shelling out logos for a start up? When I heard the logo for the Last Olympics went for 1.5 million I almost lost my marbles on that super ugly design. I would never pay a crazy amount just because you say you’re the best. IT’S 2014, and just about everyone has the ability to “design”, just like photography. Maybe some people should make adjustments to how they are OVERCHARGING for an hours worth of a design” so it seems. Why does it take months to “research” a logo? lol its insane. So ancient history. Step up your game. Cheap designs and outsourcing is where its at for the small business… When they get to a place to pay 4k for a 4×3 inch logo then maybe they should find a better place. lol

Moe, a small business doesn’t need to spend 4k for a good logo, and they don’t have to go the crowdsource route. There are many good and competent designers who will create a quality custom logo for around $1000. If a business owner can’t afford an investment of $1000, then they should be second guessing their venture.

I agree with the previous commenter that this is very complicated, but now, after reading this article and most of the comments, I think I understand it much better:

I believe, at this time, we artists and designers are witnessing an awkward stage of growth in the evolution of the design industry. At this time we are having to accommodate (1) global competition, (2) evolving technology (which makes both design and foreign outsourcing easier), and (3) the recent economic downturn which causes many businesses to move design way down on their priorities list, or off of it completely.

I will add the 4rth factor which I have separated because it is not a current trend: Others have already mentioned in their comments, that the average businessman does not understand the benefits of an authentic design for their logo. But why would they? We cannot blame them for this. That is what we designers and artists are here for.

From a designer’s perspective, there is much reason to complain about this TREND of cheaper-the-better logo purchasing, and no one to blame really. There are things we can do to alleviate the pain. Also, I believe there is more hope in the future.

Yes, designers overseas have a much lower living cost hence lower payment requirements, also, designers overseas can get pirated software at the mall for $2 – the same software that we, in the U.S., have to pay thousands of dollars for; or else download pirated versions while risking our own hardware, not to mention gigantic fines and jail-time (allegedly). I am not blaming them. As a person living in a country with high living cost it is impossible to compete with them through pricing. It is also impossible to blame them for my lack of work, they are just charging what they need to be paid while competing with each other.

As designers and illustrators who cannot work for pennies (lucky us (really)) or who refuse to start dishing out quick and mindless work, what do we do about this? Give up on logos? Nah! We need to seek out clients who understand the value of quality design and concept for creation of their visual identity, and the need to have a solid logo that can be used for the long-term. Maybe it can help to explain to clients how much of a risk it is to change their businesses identity later when they are ready for a high quality logo (confusing their customer base, etc.). Often, the client needs to be educated how a brand identity/logo can truly reflect who they are, attract the customers they want, and impress a memory of their fine company in the brains of the public. It would help if the PUBLIC was educated on the usefulness of good quality logos and brand-design (more art and business education in school would be great!).

As designers and illustrators, how can we be optimistic about this trend? Here’s is one way of looking at it: Now, EVERYONE can have a logo. That is kind of a good thing. It promotes the idea of getting a logo. Another optimistic theory: This will be marked in art and design history as the “cheap-o-logo” fad. Eventually (I think sooner than latter), every new “cheap-o-logo” will be an exact copy of another. Businesses will try to sue each other and both will want to change their logo afterward because that magical sense of identity, that they once thought they had, suddenly became terribly tainted when they saw it, or something way too similar, being worn on another business. When that precious sense of individuality and pride vanishes in their hearts, THEN they will understand the importance of having a professional put thought and effort into creating a design that is authentic, unique and specifically FOR THEIR business.

As far as overseas competition goes, the client should know that it will save them a lot of time (which is money) to deal with a designer who speaks their own language fluently – that, I believe, can often make up the difference between the price tags.

One more point to mention, a copyright in one country is not necessarily recognized in another. A “designer” in a foreign country might have little reason to regret re-using or stealing a design. This could spell legal trouble for the business who is, unknowingly, purchasing the non-authentic design.

A good logo is truly a wonderful thing, and for me, as an illustrator, there is NOTHING else in this world that gives me more pride than accomplishing the task of satisfying a client with quality artwork, and gifting them with a strong visual identity that is, truly, their own.

@Harl, yes, you found 1 example in the millions of logo designs to prove your point that good design can be cheap. Yes it can be, but nine times out of ten, you’ll receive better design from a professional.

Have a look through some of the logo contest sites and you’ll see very quickly, the quality of logo that $35 or even $150 will buy you. Design theft runs rampant, the quality of work is low…very little time is spent on communication, research, conceptualization and so on.

So yeah, it’s possible to receive a good logo for $35. It’s also possible to win the lottery…doesn’t mean your chances are good.

Share a thought