Why A Seven Dollar Logo Is Worth Exactly Seven Dollars

posted by Jess Dekoning
Read time 8 minutes

We’ve all heard of this newest graphic design trend: the free logo maker that charges a nominal fee once the logo is designed—to their credit, for free—and it’s time to export some usable files. Dive into a browser-based app where you can choose an icon that relates to your business in some generic way, add some coloured shapes, text, maybe even a slogan of sorts (we’re feeling creative, after all!), and voila! A custom brand for your blossoming business that you’ve created all by yourself. But did you really?

Free logo makers come with all the pre-designed icons a business can require. Choose from coffee beans and steaming mugs for a café; a green leaf or a tree for an organic farm. Let’s not forget the seemingly random, asymmetric splatter of hexagons that can be used for any number of business combinations: beekeeping honey brand, medical company, crafting circle, tech startup, generic science blog or sports jersey manufacturing concern. These logos can be trendy and easy to create, but let’s be honest: we’re left with about the same lasting impression as earned by a magnifying glass symbolizing “search”.

The Great Branding Myth

One of the often assumed requirements of a logo is that it must visually describe your business. But wait, let’s look at some noteworthy modern examples:

  • Apple doesn’t sell any fruit despite their icon being only an apple;
  • Coca-Cola has nothing to do with baseball (okay, maybe sponsorship), yet uses the classic baseball team font style;
  • Amazons logo veers away from any reference to boxes, warehouses or online retail and instead displays a cheerful, confident smirk.

What does this tell us? That this common logo advice—that your brand must visually describe what your business does—is a myth. A logo should be simple, visually interesting and, most importantly, unique. Still, with all these resources out there, why pay top dollar for a professionally-designed brand, especially for new startups with tight budgets? Before we could make a decision, we decided to test a couple of these logo designers.

Everyone’s a Logo Makr

We started with the first website Google recommends, proof positive that they’re doing something right (hint: search engine optimization). This led us to logomakr.com. After selecting our preferred visual, naming our company and inserting a slogan, we were ready to export this beauty:

The Steaming Mug logo, a LogoMakr demo

The LogoMakr process has a few things going for it. It was pretty easy to use, it allowed us to easily change the order of the layers so that our circle could appear in the background, and functions like adding text or shapes were easy to find. Everything was very customizable, almost like a Microsoft Paint or Adobe product would allow for complete creativity. This would be valuable to those with a little experience and software know-how, but might be hindering to anyone who prefers a more hands-off approach.

When finishing and exporting, we were given two options:

  • download only the low resolution PNG image file (seen above) with licensing restrictions including mandatory logo credit every time your brand appears in your own marketing; or
  • pay $19 to download usable files suitable for printing on merchandise, or that can be edited in other software.

Some of the key items that businesses need when starting are made difficult with only a low-resolution PNG. An image this small and in this format cannot easily be blown up to make an impactful sign, or screen printed on branded apparel—don’t even get us started on how the embroidery company will react for those classy sewn-on badges. Another factor is that this image is locked into these exact colours. Gone are the options for a varied colour scheme, or a white logo for situations where a dark background is necessary.

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A Tailored Brand

We pressed on to test another logo designer, Tailor Brands—chosen because of clients that have already used this website to design their own logo, and come to us seeking additional services. Tailor Brands’ process was more in-depth than LogoMakr’s. They begin by asking some questions about your company to appropriately categorize it, including whether you are focused on selling products or services, and entering keywords and information about your industry. The questions continue, guiding each step of the process and leaving little actual design work for the user.

They end the process with an automated brand description. Much like the rationale provided by a design agency, each Tailor Brand comes with its own story and reasoning for why the brand looks like it does and why the colour red was chosen.

All of this added a layer of value to the experience. Upon finishing and exporting, Tailor Brands takes you to a dashboard where editing the logo is always an option and offering links to guided creation of social posts, stories, Zoom backgrounds and more. The whole thing seems like the perfect marketing solution, but overall, we were let down by what their algorithms created. With less of a design app and more of a formatted Q&A process, too much was left to random calculation, and the resulting logo felt slapped together, impersonal and uninspired. Here she is, our computer-generated logo for our fabricated beekeeping equipment company, no hexagons necessary:

bcastles logo, a Tailor Brand demo

Tailor Brands doesn’t have a free option. They allow a sample download of the logo as a low-resolution JPEG image, and offer only monthly payment options—the cheapest of which starts at $4.99 per month.

So, why pay more?

Finally, the question we are here to answer. Why does good branding matter? Why should you pay a professional graphic design agency to develop a brand, with so many free or inexpensive logo creators available? In a nutshell: because it’s worth it.

Ultimately, we can only speak for ourselves, but working with us to create a brand isn’t a set cost. We work with all companies and all budgets, with various useful extras (brand guidelines, additional marketing pieces) included when budgets allow and left out when costs need to be as low as possible.

Getting excited about your new brand makes it easier to create future marketing materials. It’s effortless to put together a quick printed flyer or email newsletter when you’re excited about the combination of colours and visuals you get to use. It’s also easier to put together because we supply usable files in any format you need. Any icons and design elements, fonts, and colour schemes are yours, and either already saved on your computer, or accessible with one email request.

In the end, we all tend to judge books by their cover. Be it an exciting movie poster promising a written follow-up to your latest theatre obsession, or a simple graphic that explores the themes of your favorite classic novel, the cover weighs in every decision. Equip your business to put its best foot forward by making sure it’s wrapped in the best materials and visuals, down to feeling soft and alluring when picked up—business cards, book covers, they can all be printed on that same soft-feeling paper.

Maybe your company has already taken a starting brand through the marketplace. It’s time to making smart branding decisions and invest in a logo you can be proud of. Finally, you can sponsor a Christmas parade float without the shame of sending your pixelated logo creation to a sign shop to be blown up to a full 96 inches of advertising majesty! Want it in white on a black background instead? No problem, we’ve already created that one, let us send you a download link.

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