Ah the 5 Dollar logo. Search online and you’ll soon discover logo and brand design suitable for any budget from $5 to $50,000,000. Now only the hyperglobalmegacorps will be spending the higher end, but thousands upon thousands of small companies, from home based ventures, small startups and typical SME’s will be looking for design at the smaller end of the scale.
This then is a story of why you need to invest more than you’d spend on a good meal out for 2 on a logo. I’m not even considering the idea that you’d buy a logo for the same price as a grande pumpkin spiced latte, which frankly, is madness and will essentially exacerbate the below issues massively, but there are places out there where you can.
I’m always wary when talking about budget logo solutions, as a designer of logos and branding myself, it can tend to sound like I’m whinging about disruptive new forms of design that the world of global internet access allows. That I’m only complaining because my costs are inflated and folks can get fine design on a much more reasonable budget, so I caveat this post a little.
Firstly typical cheap logo sources that you can find on the web aren’t disruptive web technologies in the typical sense f disruptive. When something is truly disruptive it’s usually creative and innovative, it doesn’t replicate an existing system but goes at great lengths to break the expected model. Think Airbnb or Uber. These aren’t simply online outlets for hotels or taxis respectively, but they provide new sources of both service and link providers with customers of these new sources. Sometimes the result is a cheaper alternative, but often the result is more convenience, a faster or improved service or unique new opportunities.
Low cost logo sites however don’t provide this disruptive style of service, rather they connect clients with designers who are willing to compromise within the discipline in one way or another to offer design for cheap. What that compromise might be differs depending on the service, but usually boils down to saving time, because at this level of design, time is quite literally money.
Secondly I don’t wish to tar all cheap logo designers or logo design sites with the same brush, but the risks and issues outlined below are symptomatic and can be seen time and again.
That out of the way, here’s…
I contribute to a design forum sharing likes, ideas, solutions, works in progress and general banter. Amongst the regular contributors, SEO gremlins sign up, post the requisite number of comments to allow them to link to their website. One usually lets them post and disappear, ignoring them.
One day the following appered:
Review my logos that I have created for various companies in the past.
Please grade it and tell which one you like most? more
It was from a poster called “AustralianLogos” and the link above heads to their site. It was quickly followed by a post from “brandingexperts” praising AustralianLogos work and sharing it’s own…
These are really looking good. Sharing ours award winning logo design too. Please suggest.
Typically I’d leave this ignored, but some of the logos from both posters had an air of familiarity so the investigation work could begin. I headed to the websites of each to find out a little more. Both offer cheap logos, branddesignexperts logos start at £23 and they seem to pass the brief onto 3 “award winning” designers. AustraliaLogos use “dedicated designers” and offer logos from $92 AUD or about £50.
So we’re talking the cheap end of the scale but also fast, 2-3 days typically and you can pay more for even faster services. I’m guessing both are subbing out the design to external designers, maybe paying them all a very small percentage of the cost or perhaps offering a larger cut to the one successful designer, making the others do work for free.
Next I selected one of the shared logos from each that had a familiar feel and using a bit of cropping on the symbol elements and Google’s reverse image search I was able to identify a number of logos that seemed to have duplicates available online.
So lets look at another. This time I headed to the AustralianLogo website portfolio and selected an easily cropped logo of a blue tree for “Brain Lab”, which it seems was exceedingly popular,
including the green version with added heart and titled “Greenwood”. So that’s two logos that have multiple doppelgängers, but hey, perhaps these are such good logos, someones copying them. If I could find a logo that has a clear original source?
Fortunately there was a gift of a design on the AustraliaLogos site, a cloud with a ladder titled “Hide and Seek”. I’d almost certainly seen this before, somewhere in my memory, again Google image search helped. This logo was even more popular than before and there were dozens of copies the most authentic of which I found by George Bokhua on dribble from April 2013: https://dribbble.com/shots/1024058-Stairway-to-Heaven
It’s a popular too on pinterest, but this outfit also claim it for there portfolio, but I don’t believe that for a moment: http://www.vibrantwork.com/logo/
I’m satisfied then that the logos that AustralianLogos provide aren’t all original, the identified ones seem simply stolen from other artists work. The cloud logo shows this acutely. They claim on their site:
We believe in producing top quality logos with the peace of mind of the client on top of our priority list. Having a distinct, customized logo will result in establishing your brand image in the mind of the customer.
But we can see that they are far from distinct.
Bee in my bonnet I picked a few from branddesignexperts, and long story short, using the same technique, I spotted a number of logos that could be seen across the web in various places. They claim the following:
UK’s best choice for a creative, custom designed logo at the lowest price. Our high quality logo designs are created bespoke by qualified UK based designers, some of whom are award winning.
But again it’s utter rubbish. Universal Landmarks and Bubble Tree as you can see appear across the web and are far from “bespoke”.
I shared my thoughts on the post and called both companies out on the copies. Neither has responded.
The Moral of the Story – Theft
The trouble we see here with cheap logo design is that the designers choose to save time, enabling them to make money at such tight margins by simply stealing logos. Thanks to the internet anyone can search for “theme +logo” and get a rash of results. Grab the one you like, run a trace in Illustrator, delete the bits you want, add in some new text, change the colour and voila, fancy logo designed!
This isn’t a case of providing a bad solution to the brief, although it may be that, it’s not a rush, unfinished job, but it may be that, it’s not even bad logo design, but it may be that too.
This is out and out theft.
The client will be innocent of this, they’ve been promised “bespoke” and “distinct” that’s what they should get. No client wants a letter from a disgruntled designer with evidence of their work being ripped off demanding compensation or court action.
It’s unacceptable to pass others work off as your own at any price, being cheap isn’t an excuse.
Now there’s some chance that either of these firms may also be innocent, relying on their sub contracted designers honesty, but I’m doubtful. As I say I’ve pointed this out on the forum with no response and the designs still appear online in either portfolio. It feels to me like they are complicit in this, allowing designers to supply logos of questionable authenticity to paying customers.
So if you’re thinking about paying less than a family ticket to the cinema for a logo you expect to last considerably longer than the 2 hours spent at the movies, make sure you’re not being sold a stolen design!
Portfolio link for AustraliaLogos: http://www.australianlogos.com/OurPortfolio
and branddesignexperts: http://www.branddesignexperts.co.uk/portfoliodisplay/1/page/1