A $120 Logo, Or, you get what you pay for

by Nate Hoffelder

After a decade of running The Digital Reader, Nate is a veteran web publisher with experience in design, maintenance, recovery, and troubleshooting. What little he doesn't know, he can learn.

August 4, 2016

When it comes to developing a part of their branded image like a logo, businesses have a lot of pricing options. They can go for a $5 jobber on Fiverr, spend a little more and get slightly better work on 99Designs, or they can hire a designer and pay them by the hour.

There are many sites which promise to design a logo for $100 to $200, but how good is their work?

In the case of Logowhirl, a design house I just fired, the answer is not too damn good.

Logowhirl offers three design packages ranging from $50 for just a basic logo to $300 for a logo, with numerous revision rounds, and stationary and t-shirt designs. I choose the middle $120 option, and I was so unhappy with the experience that I’d like to share it with you so you can learn from my mistakes.

Let’s start at the beginning. After I paid, I explained in an email what VCD did, picked a couple colors, and said I wanted the design to start with a chicken.

This is where things started to go wrong.

That is a sparse design brief. I realize now that I should have provided more detail, and they should not have let me give so few instructions. At a minimum they should have asked more questions to better understand my preferences, but instead they started working on the concept designs.

The $120 package is supposed to include seven concepts designs. While I did get seven designs, I don’t think I got seven usable designs.


As you can see in the above slideshow, two of the designs were so generic that I could have made them in MS Paint, a third design was a blatant rip off of Chick-fil-a’s design, and three more designs were generically hipsterish (although one of the three wasn’t bad).

Edit: A reader has pointed out that one of the three hipsterish designs rips off a design element which was released under a CC (non-commercial) license. So at least four of the designs were unusable and unoriginal.

Only one design was worth pursuing, in my opinion.

I was frustrated at this point by the hipster, rip off, and generic designs, but I was not allowed to reject them. So instead I decided to push forward anyway. I ended up selecting the following design for my logo, and asked Logowhirl to change the colors and show me a few font choices.

They sent nine font options which were apparently selected at random. None of which are appealing:

I can’t really say why, but I wasn’t happy with any of the options, and while I was discussing it on Twitter a friend kindly looked at the design and then scratched together this design real quick.

new logo

This is just a rough sketch, and for five minutes work it’s pretty good.  I liked it more than any of the designs from Logowhirl, so I asked the company to remake their design with this image as inspiration.

They refused because the image was copyrighted. This is the closest they were willing to go:

Like the font options in the previous round, this was just more generic changes slapped together at random.

At this point I am thoroughly dissatisfied. I didn’t like the quality of Logowhirl’s work or the effort they put in, and they refused to make the design I wanted, and so we were at an impasse.

This is when I decided to fire Logowhirl, so I asked for my money back. They refused, citing their ToS, and countered with an offer of additional concept designs.

I no longer wanted to work with them, so I declined and decided to regard the $120 as the price of a lesson in how to work with designers.

Logowhirl did end up giving me most of my money back, but this was still an unpleasant experience.

As I look back on it, I can see that there was failure on both sides. I don’t think Logowhirl put a lot of creative energy into this project, but on the other hand I didn’t give them a lot to go on. I could have contributed more details, so part of the failure is on me.

Then again, I am the neophyte here. They’re the experts. It’s their job to ask for the details they need to create the design.

They failed on that point, but here’s a key question we should ask: Were my expectations reasonable? Did I expect too much for a $120 project?

I question my own expectations because I want you to consider what you would expect from a $120 logo project.  If you’re like me and would have expected more effort on the part of the designer then you might be as disappointed in the outcome.

If that’s the case then you might want to consider spending more money to hire a better designer.

I don’t think my expectations were unreasonable, but I have also decided to pay my next logo designer a lot more than $120.

Perhaps you should do the same.

image by danjv

Hi, I'm Nate.

I build and fix websites for authors, and I am also a tech VA. I can build you a website that looks great and turns visitors into fans, and I can also fix your tech when it breaks. Let me fight with tech support so you don’t have to.

My blog has everything you need to know about websites and online services. Don’t see what you need. or want personalized help? Reach out.

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