Cheap logo designs – Getting literal for little.

These days, any business owner can get a logo design online. Just answer a couple, very basic questions and voila! A week later you’ll have dozens to choose from. Most of which will be painfully literal.

If you’re in the roofing business you’ll get a drawing of the roof of a house. If you’re in the ice cream business, it’ll be a cartoon ice cream cone. If it’s the veterinary industry, it’s always a dog and a cat together in one logo.

Nothing is left to the imagination. And there seems to be an assumption that all prospects are idiots.

Well guess what. If you dumb down your logo design, and pound people over the head with visual clichés and literal redundancies, you will not make the connection you’re hoping for.

Consumers are smarter than that.

Imagine if Nike had gone the literal route… Instead of the Nike swoosh, we’d have a an illustration of a runner. And Nike might only be a two million dollar company.

If the I.O.C. had chosen the literal, quick-n-dirty design there would be no Olympic rings.

McDonalds… There would be no Golden Arches.

Starbucks… There would be no mermaid.

Lacoste… There would be no crocodile.

See, logos are supposed to be symbolic! They are symbols of something, not literal descriptions of your service or product. That’s what taglines are for.

So stop trying so darn hard to get a literal logo. Let a good logo designer apply a little creative license, and you’ll have a much better chance of becoming an iconic brand.

If you’re just hanging up a shingle, and want to look like a knuckleheaded soloist, an on-line logo factory might be a reasonable option. But if you’re planning to build a business — or better yet, a lasting brand — you’ll have to dig a little deeper.

The problem with crowdsourcing is that a crowd of designers cannot possibly know what your business is really all about. And frankly, they don’t care to know. They just want to crank out enough logos to earn a living. That means doing dozens a week, with no thought about the business behind the logo.

But great graphic design, great advertising, great web experiences, are all driven by insight and spurred on by a thorough understanding of the product or service.

Mary Wells Lawrence, the First Lady of Madison Avenue, once said, “It’s knowledge that stimulates great ideas… Unique products and clear superiority don’t come along that often so you have to gather up information, good and bad, analyze it coolly, shrewdly. Then your imagination kicks in and you become a story teller.”

Essentially, she said, “You have to know before you can spin.”

The best design firms and branding companies know plenty because we take time to listen and learn. We care as much about our client’s business as we do our own. We do the research, study the market, live with the products and pour our heart and soul into helping clients succeed. Because that’s how we succeed.

You won’t get that kind of service or insight with most solo graphic designers. And certainly not with one of those on-line logo factories. Forget about it.

My firm was recently asked to step in and save the day on a branding and web design project. The client had been working with a talented graphic designer for three months without having a single a business conversation. He didn’t know how the sales process worked. He didn’t know the target audience beyond “high net worth individuals.” He didn’t understand the role of the website in the broad marketing scheme of things. He was working with no knowledge of the client’s business beyond photos of the finished product because he hadn’t asked the questions.

And the client didn’t know how much the designer didn’t know. No wonder the project went south.

For accomplished creative teams, every new assignment is a learning process. We have to learn about the business before we can advise, or design anything. And we thrive on the challenge of that.

I spent weeks with that client learning her business before I ever started collaborating with my designer. As it turns out, that client is very demanding. If I hadn’t done my homework and established that rapport up front, the creative process would have been extremely painful.

Crowdsourcing eliminates that learning process and teamwork. It skips right to execution and puts all the work in the hands of an artist. There’s no business thinking involved. The result is a large quantity of work, of very low quality.

It’s too bad. Because there are plenty of companies already trolling around in that sea of boring sameness.

It’s a classic case of “you get what you pay for.”

About the Author

I’m a brand strategist, creative director, copywriter and published author living in the very livable town of Bend, Oregon. I’m also an ad agency veteran and owner of BNBranding. Read more about me »

Leave a Reply 9 comments

Patrick Reply

John, you hit the nail on the head with this one. I am a designer running a solo business and focus a lot on Logo Identity. I have been trying to write this post for a good while and i always end up rambling, because it is definitely a hot issue so I end up dropping it. While there is comoditizing in almost everything, It is a frustrating topic. especially when you get a prospect who say, “Wow, your proposal is high, I can get a logo online for 200 bucks” They want top shelf design/with strategy for cheap. Like you said. you get what you pay for.

Grahame Reply

Hi John, Re: ‘Cheap logo designs – Getting literal for little.’
I read – I absorb – I approve – because for the most part – I agree. Particularly the line – “Imagine if Nike had gone the literal route… Instead of the Nike swoosh, we’d have an illustration of a runner. And Nike might only be a two million dollar company.” Nicely expressed.
BUT, then I look at your own logo – the thing at the top of your blog – on the header – if “logo” is what you call it? – “Bless” – yet another Internet guru – or (visual evidence) hypocrite.
If you can draw your logo design in the sand, with your finger – then it probably “works” as a “logo” – remember KISS ? – ‘Nike’ it is not!

Grahame Reply

Quote from: ‘Cheap logo designs – Getting literal for little.’

“See, logos are supposed to be symbolic! They are symbols of something, not literal descriptions of your service or product. That’s what taglines are for.”

Definition: Taglines, tag lines, or tags are American terms for short advertising slogans.

Here’s some popular taglines – Spot the distinctively ‘literal’ product or service description:

1. Just do it
2. I’m lovin’ it
3. It’s the real thing.
4. Finger-lickin’ good!
5. The best a man can get
6. Probably the best lager in the world
7. Refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach
8. Because you’re worth it
9. Melts in your mouth, not in your hands
10. The happiest place on earth
11. Does exactly what it says on the tin
12. Always Low Prices / Save money. Live better

Oh, in case you’ve forgotten, here’s the product or service they’re (literally) advertising:
1. Nike – 2. McDonalds – 3. Coca-Cola – 4. KFC – 5. Gillette – 6. Carlsberg – 7. Heineken – 8. L’Oreal – 9. M&M’s – 10. Disneyland – 11. Ronseal – 12. Wal-Mart

Cheap Logos Design Reply

Lovely post thanks for sharing.

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multi level marketing Reply

I’m also the one who thinks that logo don’t needs to be a direct slogan: “read who am I and what I do”. In the other hand it shouldn’t be a state of art, which no one understands. Making a logo which is clever and says what should about the company is hard, but “makeble”.

It depends from profile of company, “Nike” can have logo not understandable without contecst, but small shops don’t. Glad that out there are companies which helps to achive such effects 🙂

niki Reply

awesome post, thanks for sharing

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