Imagine someone handing you a guitar and posing this challenge:
You need to create a riff . . .
with no more than 8 notes . . .
that no one has ever heard before . . .
that is super catchy . . .
and embody everything about you.
That is logo design.
Just consider the creative constraints involved. Today, a good logo needs to simultaneously:
Be identifiable – even when all or part of it is scaled down to favicon size (just 32 x 32 pixels!) On most screens, this tiny square is smaller than a baby’s fingernail.
Be simple – yet uniquely distinguishable from thousands of other, pre-existing logos in order to avoid legal trouble (I’m looking at you, Tokyo Olympics).
Be attractive - in order to leave a mental impression on a target audience - and encourage their engagement.
Be representative – to evoke a sense not only of the company’s personality, but also the customer’s experience of that company’s service or product.
In short, designing a good logo is really freaking hard. But as with most things in life, it is this inherent difficulty of the task that makes it’s pursuit so rewarding.
It is like shooting for a spot on the Olympic Team: every logo designer knows there are thousands of other designers competing in the same market for the same clients. And even when a client reaches out and you earn a spot on their team, only a small fraction of the work you put in will ever be seen or recognized.
On this point of work volume, those of us crazy enough to offer logo design services will never tell you the actual number of hours put in for one simple reason:
You’d never believe us.
To explain, by the time your logo designer has: clarified the job brief and questionnaire, researched your company and your competition online, created a moodboard, narrowed down the aesthetic, ideated dozens of potential solution, and spent our “free” time imagining/obsessing over more solutions . . . a good logo can easily take 20-30 hours to develop.
And this is on the low side.
For example, the FedEx logo famously went through 200 solutions created by a team of designers before the one with often celebrated hidden arrow was finally selected. That’s easily +200 hours for a single logo. But all the time and effort resulted in a timeless brand, so it was clearly worth it.
And every logo deserves this kind of obsessive, time-sucking, client-pleasing commitment to excellence.
But at a rate of $50-$100/hour, logo designers know we can’t be honest about our actual time spent. After all, even before you get that email with your first 3 options to pick from, we have already exceeded your budget multiple times over.
So given the inherent difficulty and the absurd amount of time involved, why do we logo designers even bother?
The fact is, we love it.
For the logo designer, coming up with a unique, simple, memorable, attractive, and representative solution for you - is the ultimate challenge. It is a rare confluence of the creative and intellectual aspects of our being - attempting to do the impossible.
And while getting paid for all this time and work is rewarding, it is this creative challenge that really drives, consumes, frustrates, and compels us to keep at it.
So thank you for trusting us with your logo, but please be patient.
We’ve probably already exceeded the time limit of your budget.
Published on December 6, 2018
by Kevin McMahon - Artist. Founder. Olympian.