I was recently contacted by a potential client, asking me to quote on creating a new brand identity for her start-up business. The business sounded interesting, so of course I was happy to put a costing together.
Generally, for a designer to quote properly for such work, it is important for them to understand a bit about the business (organisation, enterprise or whatever), and get a handle on the project, particularly what might be required in terms of deliverables. I have a number of standard questions I ask, depending on the project there may be more information needed, but for me this set of questions are a good starting point.
Anyway, the interesting question/answer in this instance was around the budget. It emerged that the client had already searched out other design quotes and that the figures that had come back ranged between £500 and £12,000.
I was quite taken aback by this - each of these figures must have come from a response to the same brief, for the same client - a start-up business. It’s no wonder that the process of commissioning design can seem confusing, especially for someone who may not have experienced the process before.
As a side note on the discrepancy/range of costs - I have no doubt that these quotes would reflect completely different levels of expertise and insight in arriving at a final brand identity, and that each could easily be justified. For larger/more established businesses the financial cost of a brand identity or re-brand can escalate significantly higher - There may be a need for more in-depth analysis into the organisation’s systems, taking views from staff and customers, finding out where they sit amongst competitors and looking at future growth and goals etc. Essentially brand strategy, which would likely involve a specialist consultant or team, working in collaboration with or feeding back to the designers. With this in mind, I can only imagine that the quotes received were basically to deliver different things, and so not really comparable.
I’ve written this post, specifically with a start-up or small business owner in mind, and particularly those who are looking to commission a new brand identity. I’d like to help bring some clarity to the following:
How best to approach a designer, initially for quoting purposes
Ultimately how to find the best fit for you, in terms of who to commission
Approaching a designer to quote on your brand identity
You will have already done the research. There are so many designers and design agencies out there, but hopefully you’ve found a few you like the look of. This may have been via recommendation, or you’ve seen and like some of their previous work. If you’re still looking, I’d suggest an internet search, but perhaps focus around your local area, which means a face to face meeting would be more easy to arrange if you’d like, or look for designers that tend to work in your particular sector.
DO’s and DON’Ts
1. DO Be Open and Honest
Try to give an overview of what you do, the purpose of your business and who your products or services are for.
If you have ideas or a particular style in mind it’s absolutely fine to share - this could help the designer get a handle on the kind of vibe that may be right for your business. However, it’s usually best not to be too prescriptive, you are essentially looking for a professional designer to offer their expertise and design something on your behalf.
Budget. If you have a ballpark figure in mind, it is useful to be open about it. This can save a lot of time all round, and enable the designer to suggest a suitable approach that could fit your budget. If you have no idea on budget, I would suggest sourcing quotes from individual designers or small agencies who you can see have worked previously with similar size clients to yourself.
2. DON’T Simply ask them ‘How much do you charge for a logo?’
This implies that you will be happy with any logo, and don’t require any consideration or understanding of your particular business needs. Also, in my experience, it’s fairly rare that a logo is all that is needed. In order to apply the logo to your social media, website or any printed materials, it’s likely you’ll need references for colours, fonts and an avatar version at the very least.
The best fit for you - Who to commission?
Once you’ve had some costs back from the designer/s you approached, you should look over the breakdowns they’ve supplied and ensure that everything you need has been included (obviously additional things can be added later, but this will add to the cost)
Some ideas to help you decide on who would be the best fit for your project:
1. Look and Compare
The only way to work out what will be best for you, really is to look at your options.
You may get lucky and find that the first designer you come across is a good fit, but there is no substitute for a bit of research and having options to compare (even if it can be a little confusing, as we’ve seen)
I would suggest approaching 2 or 3 designers you like the look of, and get a sense from there. Your decision should not entirely be based on cost, although obviously this may be a factor, but you need to also have confidence that the designer/s you select will create something you’ll be happy with.
2. Align yourself with an individual or design agency you feel comfortable with
This very much depends on you as an individual and how you like to work.
Do you like the idea of connecting with an individual designer, potentially to build a good working relationship which could extend beyond the initial brand identity project?
Would you rather have a team working on your project? You could still be in direct contact with the designers, or there may be someone else in an account handling role to help steer the process.
3. Trust your instincts
A designer/agency may have an amazing portfolio, but if communication with them is hard work, or you get the sense they are busy with other bigger and more important clients this may be an indication of how the project will pan out. It makes a lot of sense to work with someone who you feel is on your wavelength, and who seems genuinely interested in your business. A designer can always design something, but they will do their best work if it is a project that interests them!
4. Spend only what you can reasonably afford, for your business at this time
A logo/ identity doesn’t necessarily need to last forever. It needs to be right and project a good, professional image, but once the business is more established you may find that your focus has shifted a little or the business has developed in a slightly different direction than you initially imagined. It’s likely that after 3 to 5 years you may want to revisit the identity for at least a little refresh.
It is true that a good, solid identity can help your business stand out and thrive, but even with that in place, it’s success will rely on customers/clients buying into whatever it is you offer, and your whole reason for being. Once you know you’re delivering something there is a commercial appetite for, the identity can be further developed if needs be.
Regarding the financial cost of design work, although it’s not always necessary to go for the most expensive option (and that may not be viable), you do generally get what you pay for. You really need to consider the whole package - the expertise and quality of design you would be likely to get for the fee.
I know that there are very cheap logo options available on the internet, so out of interest, I just Googled ‘Logo Design’ to see what would come up…
Fiverr (This one isn't necessarily just about offering cheap logos, although prices can start low)
I really can’t comment on such services, and certainly can’t compete, but wanted to show that there are lots of options, to fit all pockets! If this sort of approach fits with what you’re looking for, then why pay more? I guess it would just be naive to think that for these sort of figures you would get anything individual and bespoke, tailored specifically for your business - it depends what you want.
5. Do you understand the process and what will happen once you have commissioned a particular designer/agency?
As part of their quote, a designer should outline exactly what they are expecting to deliver for the fee. Aside from final deliverables, you should be clear on what you will see at the different stages of the project and what scope there will be for you to give feedback.
For example, it would be usual to see some initial design routes with a number of early options to choose between. Assuming you are happy with at least one of the routes, you would then be expected to select a preferred option and give any comments for the designer to progress to more finalised designs. There would usually be a set number of rounds allowed for client feedback, with additional changes or extra work incurring additional cost.
If there is anything you’re not sure about, or if something appears to have been missed out, it’s best to flag it up, ideally before design work begins.
Often overlooked, but another important thing to clarify, is at the end of the project who will own the final designs. Technically, the ownership of designs stays with the creator, unless the copyright is assigned otherwise. This can be a slightly grey area, so it would be in your interests for there to be a written agreement in place on completion, transferring the rights over to you/your business.
I hope the points I’ve outlined in this post have been useful in helping you to understand where to start when looking to commission a brand identity.
I understand that it can feel like a bit of a leap in the dark - to commission something, when essentially you don’t really know what the end result is going to be. I’m afraid there is no real answer to that. However, I do believe that if time is put into selecting a designer who is the best fit for you, and who really ‘gets you and what you’re trying to do’ then that is a great start. The key is then to try to build a good working relationship, ideally based on understanding and trust - You should feel listened to, but also be open to ideas that come from the designer from a brand/design perspective.
Feel free to contact me if you’re thinking about commissioning a brand identity and would like any more advice on specifics.
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