The Myth of the Five Dollar Logo, and Why It Matters for Your Brand Strategy

brand strategy

The conversation always goes something like this:

“So, I’m starting a new business and well…I need a logo. Interested?”

If we’re on the phone, what usually follows is a pause. If we’re communicating by email, there’s usually a suspiciously long time before I hit “reply.” And, if we’re speaking in person, the look on my face is usually enough to communicate my answer.

Because…I don’t do logos.

Why a logo is part of a much bigger branding puzzle

Actually, that’s not true. I do occasionally agree to take on a logo project, whether through loyalty, guilt or by just not being particularly good at saying “no.”

See, if the request is for a larger branding project then I’m all ears. A logo will always be a part of that. But, the simple request for a logo, like it is nothing more than some necessary evil—and not part of a larger branding strategy—is what turns me off.

Truth be told, there is nothing most designers want to be asked less from a friend, a neighbor or a client than to create a logo. It’s not that we have anything against creating logos. Rather, it’s that logos, like so many other aspects of the creative business, have been devalued to the point of not being worth our time. Inevitably, the work that will be involved will far outweigh what the requestor is willing to pay.

There’s probably some psychology at work here, too. Logos are small in size, so they are perceived by some as having inherently less value. True story time: I once had a client scoff at the idea of paying x amount for a logo, but, after we enlarged that same file to billboard size, and added a line of copy, well…”now we are getting our money’s worth!”

Recently, I posted to LinkedIn an article written by Sacha Greif about the devaluation of the logo. The article described how the author commissioned three logos—for a made-up company—through the website Fiverr, which offers (or at least did at the time) logos for the low, low, price of just five dollars each. What, exactly, did the author receive for her $15? Well, the results were both entirely predictable, and, shocking.

Two of the three logos Greif received were literally copy-and-pasted from existing, stock logo designs. Her company name was simply swapped out. The same logos were already being used by several other companies. The third logo was, as far as she could tell, original work, but, was so generic as not to matter. Oh, and if Greif wanted files that would allow her to actually use her new logos, that would have cost extra. Ditto for copyright permissions and expedited service.

While Fiverr seems to have evolved their business model a bit since Greif’s article was first published in 2014, the fact remains that you will always get what you pay for.

There’s a much larger discussion, here, of course, one about the general undervaluing of creative work, the offshoring of creative production and the democratization of what were once exclusive tools of the creative trade. But, the story of the five-dollar logo pretty well sums it up: a good logo has value. A good logo takes time. A good logo costs money. And a good logo should always be considered in the context of a larger brand strategy.


ABOUT Ryan Bahrke

One of Wordsmithie's senior designers, Ryan has more than 15 years of experience in creative direction and management, working with companies like Google, Quantcast, RSM, Navigant, Starbucks, and Ace Hotel. Ryan is the principal of Auslander Creative in Denver.