How a $5-Logo Can Ruin Your Brand (Hint: Can You Say Lawsuit?)

filed under: Design

Hiring a designer these days can be a dangerous job.
Especially a logo designer.

You may not realize it, but when choosing a logo designer for your company, you’re risking the entire reputation and well-being of your company on that call.

Your logo is not just a cutesy design to stick wherever there’s free space on your business documents. Your logo is your business identity. The thing that defines your brand.

Just think about how often you’ve made assumptions about a business just by looking at their logo. Not sure you have? Take a look at these hotel logos and tell us where you’d rather spend an all-expenses-paid night.


So what should you look for in a good designer? How can you know you’re trusting the right person with this über-important and definitive piece of your company? We’ve put together some guidelines to make your life easier.

1. Would you like a lawsuit with that?

We know, we know. Your first question is why should I pay anyone good money to just doodle me a logo when I can go to places like fiverr and 99designs and have people competing for my $5?

First of all, because respect. When was the last time you did anything for $5? And what sort of work do you expect to get for $5? Let’s be honest here: a color photocopy might cost more than $5 these days!

The irony of it all? When you pay $5 for a design, you might in fact be getting A LOT more than you bargained for. Like a LAWSUIT more than you bargained for.

A $5-designer will invariably and inevitably copy someone else’s design and pass it on to you as original work. Because no one spends hours working for $5. And this is exactly what happened to the owner of Marie’s Cafe and Deli below:


The owner of the place paid $24.99 and got the logo on the left, freshly ripped off from the logo to the right designed by the legendary graphic designer Louise Fili.

The only reason the rip-off logo owner never got sued was because he got lucky.
One of his regular customers was designer Felix Sockwell who saw the new logo on the sign, menus, advertisements, napkins, tee-shirts and what-nots of the restaurant, and alerted the owner to his violation of copyright. The owner of the restaurant took everything down immediately, feeling “thoroughly ashamed and angry,” and admitting that “he should’ve known what to expect at that price.”

Was $24.99 worth his losses in reprinting his signs, menus, advertisements, napkins, tee-shirts, and what-nots all over again? Nope. It wasn’t. Not only that. He then had the added cost of finding a real designer who respected him and his business enough not to put him through such trouble.

2. What’s your name again?

When you hand over your scrunched up $5-bill to a “designer,” you can’t really be expecting much in terms of personal attention. And it’s not just your name that they may not remember, but the name (or values, or principles) of your business. You know… that thing they’re supposed to be working on…

Designer Sacha Greif did a little research into the $5-logo industry by commissioning a few fiverr logos himself. The results? The only decent-looking ones proved to have been bought straight from the template factory. (And we all know how special that feels!)

This may not put you into direct violation of copyright (depending on the license that comes with the design. But then again, you’d never know), but it does violate that good ol’ respect for your efforts and your company. You’ve probably spent months trying to come up with a good name for your business and differentiate yourself from your competitors in order to define your space in the market place.

And for what? So it can all just be wiped away with the click of a button from a non-caring copyist who clicked “buy” on a template.

Does your company name have anything at all to do with clouds and sky? Then why not add your identity to this pool of common-logo users?

You can find the template here. It’s only been downloaded 215 times!… How special is that!

3. I’m just not ready for commitment yet, you know?

Gah! Words we all hate to hear from a partner we were hoping would turn out to be the one and only, right? Well, anyone pricing themselves at $5, or even at $25 for that matter, is only looking for a quickie (and does NOT care to do work that will be your one and only).

Get in, get your logo copy, get out. Next!

But is that really what you want from the person who’ll be responsible for designing the entire identity of your business? We’ve already established that a good logo isn’t just a pretty design. A good logo is the result of the branding process which requires research not only into your company, but also your target market, ideal audience, and competitors. Otherwise, how is this little silly design thing going to identify your company and make you stand out from competitors?

What you should really be looking for in a logo designer is not only someone who’s work you like and appreciate, but someone with whom you can create a long-term relationship.

Your logo will go everywhere and on everything you do. As your business expands and grows and moves into new areas and markets, and media (especially online media), you’ll need to return to your designer to request additional files and appropriate adjustments.

A good designer isn’t just a designer. That person should be a long-term partner. Someone who cares for you and for the well-being of your company. Someone you can trust with your vision. And most importantly: Someone who won’t have moved-out, closed shop, and/or dropped off the face of the earth next time you look for them. A good designer is your designer and is proud to be called your designer.

4. My molars aren’t really that big. Shouldn’t I be paying half the price?

Would you ever argue with your dentist like that? No. No, you wouldn’t. Especially if the drill was already in her hand. But you know what? You wouldn’t even argue with your plumber for the cost of his work. So why do so many people think it’s okay to argue with their designers?

Part of the problem comes from the non-respecting how-low-can-you-go copyists (sorry, can’t type designers while referring to “them”) we’ve talked about before. They give you the impression that design should, or could, cost far less, even though all you get from them is copy, not design.

But another part of the problem comes from the nature of creative work. Creativity can’t really be measured or tracked in billable hours or “lines drawn.” Can you imagine if architects charged by the line?

“Well… I don’t really want the wall between the kitchen and the living room. Can you take that off and charge me less?”

Creative work is paid for by the “concept,” the idea, and the originality that goes into solving the problem. What’s the appropriate rate to charge for an idea that came to a designer while showering? Should it depend on the brand of shampoo used?

Kidding aside, creativity is a major factor when doing creative work (duh!). When paying for a good designer you’re not simply paying for his time, but you’re also accounting for his or her education, knowledge, experience, and originality in design.

So don’t shop around for designers intending to drop their prices. Sure, negotiation is a natural part of business. But if you want your designer to respect you and your company, then you need to respect their craft and their value. Respect breeds respect.

5. Whatcha mean you can’t drop 25 grand on that design?

Sure, not all of us can afford the prices of the grand artists. But it’s not like your options are: $25-thousand-a-pop maestro, oooorrr $5 copyist.

Loads and loads of different designers work at various points within that spectrum. The reason for the price difference? Could be anything from talent, to experience, to previous work, to size of the agency, to freshness out of college, to (quite honestly?) confidence in pricing.

It’s not your job of course to figure out the reason behind the different pricing. All you need to know is what you get for the price and whether you think it’s worth it.

But please please please? (And yes, this is a PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT on behalf of all designers out there) Don’t go to someone with the sly excuse “this will be good for your portfolio.” We’ve all heard it, and we’ve all puked a little bit in our mouth while trying to smile at the person saying it.

Because you know what else does wonders for our portfolios? Cash. Cash to pay the bills, cash to live, cash to be able to create, and cash to actually afford a freaking portfolio. So, pay cash. It is the common currency, you know?

Remember that when you look for your ideal logo designer price is not all that matters. Getting a logo designed for your company is a very important process that will (literally) mark your business forever. Shouldn’t you leave such a job to the hands of a respectable and client-respecting professional who can deliver true value to your business?

We think so!

Your turn!

Gush about your business logo and how you came to it. Good experience? Bad experience? Was it all worth it?
Tell us in the comments! We’re dying to know!