How to get a killer logo design on a shoestring budget

Dan Martin
Former editor
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Josephine Sabin, community marketing manager at leading design crowdsourcing website DesignCrowd, offers a guide to getting your business the logo design it deserves to help bring you more customers.  

If you're thinking about getting a logo designed, what steps do you need to take and where do you go for design services? Small businesses and start-up entrepreneurs have a universe of options available thanks to the online design boom but which one's right for you? 

Your logo is a business asset
The first thing most people notice when they walk past a shop on high street, browse magazines in a news agency, surf the iTunes app store or shop online is probably a logo design. Good or bad, those graphic impressions catch your eye and stick in our minds, whether we sign up, buy now or later.  A professional logo design creates an impression, sets the tone and brand personality, and tells the customer what to expect rom your business.
Don’t under estimate the power of logo design to help your business get customer cut-through when the marketplace is crowded and every brand is competing for customer mindshare. An awesome logo design tells the world who you are and is a strategic business asset. Your logo encapsulates your business promise in a single graphic so it pays now to apply some brainpower to what message it should communicate to the world.
The design brief (the who, what, why, when, how bit)
Ensure your design brief is detailed and clear. Describe what you are looking for as specifically as you can. Broad and ambiguous briefs suck for designers to decipher.  Start with a succinct description of what you do, I call this the Twitter pitch. This is a clear statement about your business in 140 characters or less, and will grab the designer’s attention.
Include a brief overview of your organisation or business. This could include the industry you work in, what services or products you offer, what customer problem you help solve, etc - and then add short descriptions of your target market and your competitors. Side note: If you haven’t got a business name than read this report before naming your startup.  
Use adjectives to describe brand’s personality (imagine your brand as a composite of people: a brand persona) and the image you want to create in your target market’s mind. For instance, if you want to launching a skateboard brand that needs to appeal to young urban men from 16-25 years old, you’re brief could use words like “extreme sports”, “fast”, “edgy”, “cool”, you might provide more information and include some examples such as a link to Pinterest board where you’ve collected or ‘pinned’ relevant images to board categories related to your design project.  Browse designer portfolio sites like Dribbble or Logopond for inspiration.
There are many types of logo design. Which logo style appeals to you and why? Word mark (eg. Coca Cola), an illustration (WWF's pictorial Panda logo or the Royal Mail brand), abstract symbol (think Nike’s swoosh or Logitech’s jelly hand), letterform (H&M), shape-driven emblematic (Shell), characters (the Colonel featured in the KFC logo). Include this information in your brief.
If you already use specific colours or images with your brand, then provide these details, including CYMK percentages or Pantone colour swatches, or if it’s web only include the RGB hex colour codes.
Finally, define the budget and include a deadline and you’re ready to launch your brief.
Design service options
From design agencies to online outsourcing to design contest sites, there are more options than ever to get a great logo design. What are the options and which one is right for you?
1. Design agencies and studios
If you are the type of business owner that needs direct guidance and have more than a shoestring budget (and a tonne of time) available, then working with a design studio or advertising agency that will offer a ‘full service’ could be a valid option. An agency may help you review the current competitor landscape, provide market research services, help you create the brand strategy, the brief and then manage the process end-to-end. If you’re at the concept stage or on a business owner on a shoestring budget then this option isn’t going to provide the most value. It’s high risk, expensive and offers limited choice. What if you don’t like the design options at the end of the process? You’re back to square one and you can’t make up for lost time.
2. Off the shelf template logo designs
If you need a logo in a hurry than ready-made logo websites are a good source for low cost designs, launch-ready designs. A marketplace like BrandCrowd sells complete logo designs and domain and logo template packages. Designers set the price for their original designs and you can negotiate the price and get the design modified for your needs. Expect a 24-hour turnaround to receiving your source files and you’re ready to roll.
3. Online outsourcing
Use Google to find firms locally or around the world that will send you a quote to turn your brief into a logo design. In most cases the cost is negotiable however quality and reliability is variable.
If you want to try this out, start with an established service like Elance where you can hire design firms and individual designers or contractors as they are known on the site directly, or use their tools to match suppliers to your brief and accept proposals or ‘bids’ from suppliers.
You can assess the contractor's work by viewing examples, checking out their performance stats and sending them questions to put your mind at ease. These types of sites require payment up-front and they provide protection for buyers and hold your project budget in escrow until you are satisfied with the outcome before they release payment.
4. Crowdsourcing or harnessing the wisdom of the crowd
Creativity gets turned up a notch when competition is introduced. Why have one designer creating a logo when you could have 50 designers working on your brief at the same time. Online crowdsourcing takes this to a new level with platforms that are open 24/7 365.
Crowdsourcing sites have flourished in many verticals including design. Sites like DesignCrowd or WeLogo in Brazil, manage communities of over 90,000 designers competing to win logo design contests and other design categories.
To run a design contest, write your design brief - these sites walk you through the briefing process and gather your requirements – choose a budget, pay for the project and launch it. You can expect to receive designs within hours. Design contests provide a volume of design ideas for the client’s budget and run for a maximum two-week period.
As a buyer, you are protected by water-tight legal agreements between designers and customers and 24-hour customer support. Like online outsourcing, payment is upfront and the project budget is held by a third party until you have selected a winning design, and if you don’t like the designs, most offer a money back guarantee. 
As the designs flood in your job is to review the submissions and provide feedback to designers, use free polling tools to get your friend’s input and then select your favourite design and you’ll be sent your new custom logo design. 
It’s not just startups posting logo contests, big brands, charities and governments are crowdsourcing new design ideas online through crowdsourced ad agencies and creative marketplaces.
Which online logo design services have you tried? Let us know in the comments.


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By stickleback
14th Dec 2012 13:02

The other side to this argument of getting the crowd to design your logo is geting the crowd to select your logo once you have a short (or long) list.

Just as the crowd might help design - there are some simple ways to let the crowd choose the best logo. Too often it is the Hippo that triumphs - the Highest Paid Person's Opinion. As design and marketing agency we are (honestly!) very good at listening to a design brief. And I think we do well when it comes to developing that brief into a visual concept. Then what? We take it to the client to present and we set the ideas out. In most cases the staff at the meeting look around waiting for a clue from the Hippo and then agree - yep, that's the best logo.

Here's an alternative. Set up a small (cheap) Google AdWords campaign. Run different ads with different versions of your new logo. If the website is ready, then you can analyse differences based on measurables. If not, at least you'll know which of the logos got the best response rates. Surely, that's better than choosing the boss's favourite colour, or using something her neice did for a school project (yep - seen those too).

This used to be called market research. Companies used to take their design ideas out into focus groups and ask people what they thought of each version. It took a while, and no-one was actually sure if this was going to translate into better business performance, but it did help to cover the marketing department's back. Today you can get data based on real people interacting with your logo without them knowing they are part of a test.


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24th Nov 2015 08:33

Good post. If you want a brilliant logo design inside your budget, then logo designers from UK Logos can help you in this regard by providing creative logos.

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