When you’re a start-up business, every penny counts. You may be building your business on a shoestring budget, relying on your own skills and tenacity as well as the goodwill of your friends to get things done.
With a huge to-do list to get your business off the ground, you’re probably trying to identify where you need professional help and where you can cut costs by doing things yourself. One area that almost always comes under the spotlight in this context is branding or, more specifically, the company logo.
We often deal with businesses that have been established for a few years and want to update their branding so it looks more professional. It’s the same story, time and again, when they talk about their existing logo – “I have a pretty good eye for what looks good so I figured, how hard could it be to design a logo?” or “At the time I thought, I know my customers and what I want to convey, so surely I’m the best person to design the logo”.
To a certain extent, these businesses are right in that they do know their customers, personality and goals better than anyone else. However, opting for a do-it-yourself logo is a serious risk to take with your start-up business.
First impressions count
How you communicate your brand has a huge impact on customer perceptions. Even if your business is just starting out, people will be looking for branding that speaks to them in some way, whether this is a statement about professionalism, an emotional connection or a reflection of your offering. They will also be interested in how your business differs from others, how it is unique.
If your logo screams ‘we did it ourselves’, your customers may ask:
- Does this company not have enough money to get their logo designed professionally?
- Does that mean they’re struggling?
- Does that mean their products and services aren’t good or that their customers don’t come back?
It’s not a huge leap for them to make.
You might be surprised by how affordable a professionally designed logo can be, but if you’re absolutely determined that a do-it-yourself logo is your only option because of your budget, you have several different choices which we’ve outlined briefly below – unfortunately, each choice has inherent pitfalls too.
Do-it-yourself logo design option 1: Logo design software
Type in ‘logo design software’ to Google and you’ll find hundreds of options for designing your own business logo, from cheap right down to free. Software providers promise you can make a high quality logo in just minutes.
But let’s be honest, do you want to spend just minutes creating the visual image that will potentially communicate your company for years to come?
Logo design software gives you access to hundreds of clipart and vector files, as well as logo templates, yes, but there are no guarantees that thousands of other businesses haven’t already used the same images in their logo. Choose this option and you may struggle to stand apart from the crowd.
If you use a logo template, you won’t have copyright over the design or be able to register it as a trademark. You may also find that the logo is only in pixel format and doesn’t reproduce well in print or other web formats.
You can use a professionally designed logo, on the other hand, in all of your print and online marketing without any formatting headaches.
Do-it-yourself logo design option 2: Fiverr
One option is to head to a website like Fiverr where you can literally pay just $5 for a logo design. From what we’ve heard through networking groups and from our clients, the results people get through Fiverr can be hit and miss to say the least. Occasionally you may strike gold and stumble across a great graphic designer (word of mouth recommendations work well here) but, more often than not, you may end up with a logo that doesn’t reflect the quality or content of your business.
After all, how much time can someone really afford to spend on a project if they’re being paid just $5 for their time?
You might reason that for $5 (not even £5), it’s worth the risk but again, we’d caution you to find out about copyright and whether the logo will be easy to reproduce in print and online.
Do-it-yourself logo design option 3: Draw and scan it
Another do-it-yourself logo option is to draw your logo concept on a piece of paper, scan it in and tidy it up in a program like Paint.
Now, don’t get us wrong, hand drawn logos and branding can work really well. We love the little ladies on The Girls Mean Business website or Leonie Dawson’s paintings that add vibrancy to her brand and reflect her unique personality, but neither of these websites have been created without the input of a design professional.
Generally speaking, logos hand drawn by someone without a design background look hand drawn and a bit rough around the edges. If you do go down the draw-your-own-logo route, it’s essential that it’s of a good enough quality to be produced at different sizes and in different formats. If you made it larger, would people notice flaws and imperfections in the design? Remember that first impressions count.
Do-it-yourself design option 4: Run a competition
Another option is to ‘crowd-source’ your logo – this is essentially running a competition to encourage professional designers to submit design concepts for your logo for free.
In August 2014, Showtime approached professional designer, Dan Cassaro, and others like him with details of a ‘competition’ to design the artwork for the Mayweather vs. Maidana 2 Mayhem fight. The winner would have their artwork displayed in the MGM Grand during fight week and win a trip to Las Vegas.
Dan’s response to Showtime went viral. The designer eloquently expressed his frustration at being asked to do his job as a professional designer for free for a multi-million dollar event. As the designer explained to Buzzfeed at the time, “The whole thing is just unethical. You would never cold call a bunch of licensed electricians and ask them to do the lighting for an event like this for free”.
We quite like the story of a professional graphic designer from California who goes by the online alias of ‘krs’ who got so fed up of seeing local companies crowd-sourcing logos to get them designed for little or nothing that he set up ‘Horrible Logos’, a business where he charges $5 (for beer money) to design the worst possible logo for a company. You can read the full story here or check out ‘krs’ Horrible Logos for which he receives hundreds of requests a month!
Although crowd-sourcing is an option, you need to be cautious about whether the submissions you receive are original artwork, whether the sender has copyright which will transfer to your business and whether the designs have been submitted to other competitions. Without checking these facts, you may find you don’t have the right to use the winning logo.
Getting professional help with your logo
We understand that your hands will be tied by your budget but you may be surprised by how affordable a professionally designed logo can be, especially when you consider the value of having a recognisable identity, a strong brand, an emotional connection with your customers, and a professional approach.
Have you tried the do-it-yourself logo option? Did you come across some of the problems we’ve described above? Do you need help designing your logo? We’d love to hear from you.