I hear it all the time. Someone brings up design for their business, and a friend chimes in “I got a [insert cheap price here] [insert project here] on 99designs (or other bid for design site)! You should try there!” Hearing it makes me cringe. While there may be some wonderful diamond in the rough designers on those sites, more often than not, you get what you pay for. What’s the difference? Let’s talk about what you get from working with a professional.
Logos are expensive. They are an investment. Your designer is designing something totally unique to your company. They are adjusting every detail – making sure every line is smooth, and every letter is kerned perfectly so that you can use it with confidence. Logos involve research, a thorough understanding of the company and hours of design. In addition, many professionals include a brand guide on how to use the logo, and a variety of versions for different media. If you are working with a company that designs $10 logos, do you really thing every design is fresh? That they put in the time to understand you and your company?
I have experience working with both designers and typesetters to produce multipage books with various headings/photos/etc, and I can tell you, there is a huge difference between paying $10-12 a page to have something typeset, and paying a designer to design your book. While typesetting may work well enough for a text heavy document, a more complex workbook or annual report really needs a designer. A designer will react to how things fall on the page, and alter the designs accordingly. Visually, the design will be easier on the eyes and will flow better. The time saved by someone paying attention to every page will far surpass the cost. Trust me.
Websites are another project that can be greatly impacted by what you spend. A few years ago, I was doing research on wedding photographers, and I can tell you, the more I went to, the more I saw the patterns of people choosing the SAME template. While templates are great, and I sometimes recommend starting with them, they often benefit from being heavily modified and customized. A poorly customized template can make it difficult and costly to make changes in the future. Not doing the research and choosing the same template as the competition, on the other hand, keeps you from standing out. A professional will not only give you something easy to work with, but they will likely make sure your template is different enough to set you apart from the competition.
Overall, you pay for experience, and experience means you gain from the knowledge the designer has accumulated over their tenure. They know a logo needs to be workable in black and white, because they’ve sent projects off in one color. They know you need extra margins for a saddle stitch book, because they have a sample at their house. They know what plugins you need to keep people from hacking your site.
In the end, you’ll spend far less time “fixing” later by using a professional.
Branding has become a buzz word in recent years, and more and more companies are offering “brand guides” (or style guides) that give insight into how to best use your logo and brand elements. These can be as simple as a page (which is what I usually offer to most clients) or as extensive as 67+ pages, which I encountered at the last company I worked with. What is best for you and why do you need it? Let’s consider.
Pretty much every company needs a simple brand guide.
This goes without question. A simple brand guide can be as little as one page, and should include your logo, and the fonts and colors used in your logo. Colors preferably are given in Pantone, along with the CMYK build and/or HEX code.
It is important to know these things so that you can easily work with your brand in printed materials and on your website. You don’t necessarily HAVE to use the fonts in your logo all the time, but they may be useful for headings, or to keep from visually clashing when choosing fonts to pair with it.
Most of the time, something like this is sufficient for a small business or start-up. It is less costly, and provides them with the necessary launching point to work within their brand.
When would you need more?
This depends on your company, and what you expect from the designer.
If you are a big company, with multiple designers or offices, a larger brand guide will help to keep your design consistent. This sort of guide would go further, to include things such as logo placement, fonts for body copy and headings in printed materials, what NOT to do with the logo, minimum and maximum size, secondary colors, advice on how to choose images, etc.
If you hired an external designer not only to develop a logo, but also to build out your brand to include collateral, this sort of guide will be helpful as you move forward, and continue to work within the brand independently. The designer likely has a clear vision for you, and can develop a guide to answer most of your questions and concerns.
This sort of style guide is an investment, as it is much longer and requires a thorough examination of how and when to use different elements of your brand. Companies with large brand guides include Adobe, The International Baccalaureate and Skype, among others.
Don’t worry if you can’t cover every base right away. Your brand guide is a long term investment, and will likely continue to grow as you work with the brand, adding sub brands and design elements, and run into new challenges.
My recommendation is to look at where you are, and evaluate from there.
Did you just finish your very first company logo? Maybe you just need a one-pager for now.
Has your brand been around for a while? Is it disjointed as different people work with it? Maybe you need a longer guide.
Have you established a look and feel in your collateral that you want to see used consistently? A longer guide might be best for you.
If you want to explore your options, we’re happy to help!
Good luck on your branding exploration!
Today, a little insight into me…
What aspects of a project make me truly happy? It might not be what you think. Sure – it is fun to launch a project with a big client, but the things that make me happy to work from day to day are actually much more subtle…
I LOVE details. The things that are less obvious, yet really cool. I just finished a draft of a folder, and you know what I enjoyed designing most? The inside. I can design the front, but what I WANT to design is that pattern or color you see when you open it up – that bit that surprises you. That is where the fun is.
I love using tons of white, with a pop of color. A white business card which flips over to reveal a hot pink back? Yes! I’m all in. Again, there is that element unexpectedness to it that makes it interesting. White space not only creates contrast, but is a great way to call attention to specific elements of a design.
I want to really let type shine. When I design a logo, I think about the personality of the typeface. Are you destined for an elegantly refined serif? An ultra-modern sans? An inviting and friendly slab serif? Finding the perfect fit is half the fun.
As primarily a print designer, I love to pick out paper. Different weight, tone and texture all add an element to design that can’t quite be achieved digitally. A really nice paper calls out to be touched.
What makes you happy when you see a design?