The £25 logo

Many designers are outraged by the growing number of spec and crowdsourcing sites offering logo work for extremely low prices. But what kind of service do these sites really supply? London design studio Mat Dolphin decided to try and find out…

Many designers are outraged by the growing number of spec and crowdsourcing sites offering logo work for extremely low prices. But what kind of service do these sites really supply? London design studio Mat Dolphin decided to try and find out…

One of the services we offer as a design agency, write Mat Dolphin‘s Tom Actman and Phil Cook, is logo design. No surprises then when we recently stumbled upon another agency offering the same service. So far, so average – the majority of graphic design agencies throughout the world do exactly the same. The difference with this one, however, was the costing of their work.

$42. That simple. For $42 you can get a logo designed with two rounds of amends and a number of different files formats sent to you. Sceptical of the quality of the work and a little surprised at the pricing structure and business model, we shared the find with our loyal Twitter following in our usual measured and level-headed style…

In short, the ever opinionated ‘design community’ weren’t too happy about the idea of logos being punted out like Happy Meals. The general consensus was that the time it takes to research, brainstorm, design, develop, artwork and subsequently amend a logo of a relatively decent standard could not be sufficiently covered by such a small cost. This got us thinking. We decided to conduct an experiment. Googling ‘cheap logos’ gave us plenty of options for ‘quality logo design services for a fixed low cost’ so we pulled on our fictional overalls and got in touch with a company offering said service to enquire on behalf of our newly-imagined company – ‘Dolphin Plumbing Services’.

Commissioning a cheap logo simply to sneer about how we reckon we could have done a better job would be too easy and not achieve a huge amount. Instead, we wanted to approach the company as if we had no experience or interest in graphic design and see what the process is like for the ‘average punter’. Also, how the experience differs from the service we offer. We made a point of letting them lead us and not getting all ‘designer-y’ with them. This wasn’t an opportunity to lecture them about kerning, for this experiment we didn’t care about the quality of design, we simply wanted to explore the process of purchasing a logo to stick on the side of our non-existent van.

The first company we contacted offered, among plenty of other things, bespoke logo designs and unlimited revisions (which we thought was rather excessive) for only £8.99+VAT. Bargain! It seemed too good to be true and, drum roll… it was – they are yet to return our emails. Not a good start.

Undeterred, we found another company offering a similar service. Yet again, they offered unlimited revisions, so we thought we’d give them a fair amount of feedback to deal with, nothing too unreasonable, just enough to get our money’s worth. They also promised a 1-3 day turnaround for all artwork and amends, so we decided to hold them to that and chase them if they were late. Dolphin Plumbing Services – firm but fair. They were slightly more pricey at £25 but we thought it was worth it in the name of investigative journalism, so we sent the email.

The very same day, we received a response asking for payment! If nothing else, they were quick, and at least they’d replied. We eagerly handed-over our bank details (without any guarantees, to the random internet company we’d never heard of two hours previously) and waited to see what happened next.

Less than an hour later, we received an email granting us access to our own personal account. We were told to wait for 48 hours before receiving the initial designs. So far the process hadn’t been too painful, we’d done our bit and the real work was now down to their designers. All that was left to do was wait…

Two days later, an email with the subject ‘Your first design samples’ was sitting our inbox – the experiment had started to get interesting. We logged into the account and saw these six designs (below) awaiting our feedback.

The quality of the logos is something we’re going to comment on later, but regardless of how good the initial designs are, we have a starting point. Regarding the first of our unlimited revisions, we wanted to ensure what we were requesting was reasonable and similar to the kind of feedback the company would usually get. We weren’t interested in testing their patience for the sake of it. Our first round of feedback was as follows:

Once again, we sat tight, staring at our inbox waiting for what could potentially become the brand new Dolphin Plumbing Services logo. Can you feel the tension building? This time we only had to wait one day! Another email arrived letting us know that all we had to do was log into our account and we would find the latest logo designs waiting for us – we did, and they were!

This time around our feedback was pretty simple:

This didn’t prove too much of a test for our new design slaves, who responded with the changes, yet again, in just one day. Here’s what they came back with.

We were getting to the point where the discussions had gone far enough to get a reasonable idea of the process and it was time for us to wrap this baby up. We issued one final round of feedback, for good measure:

Which resulted in the following. Ladies and gentlemen, allow us to proudly present, the logo for the finest fictitious plumbing outfit since Super Mario Brothers – Dolphin Plumbing Services:

Job done.

The feedback about the colour of the circle had been completely ignored but we pretended not to notice and responded with a grateful approval and requested the logo as high resolution JPGs, PDFs and vector EPS / AI files. These were promptly sent the next day. One techy point to make – the vector logos hadn’t been outlined and there were no fonts accompanying the files. This means that if we did in fact have a van or signage in need of vinyl lettering, we’d be a bit stuck. We would guess the vast majority of customers using these services wouldn’t have the knowledge or inclination to specifically request fonts, let alone own the software to discover they were missing. It seems like the company we used fell at the last hurdle somewhat but perhaps the rush to complete the job and move onto the next artwork carried out at light-speed is to blame for the oversight.

Anyway, the experiment had concluded, now for the analysis.

The easiest thing here would be to tear the design work apart and criticise how it simply wasn’t very good. It wasn’t. But it seems as if that would be over simplifying the point. We paid an incredibly small amount for what must’ve taken somebody, somewhere, a reasonable amount of time to do. Even a competent designer bashing out the work as quickly as possible would’ve had to spend a while producing six logos with three sets of revisions. There’s also the time it takes to read our emails, save the amended files, upload them to our account and let us know they’re there. It’s impossible to say how long that would’ve taken (and we’re under no illusion that the lovely emails we received were personally written to us) but was this time and labour all covered by our measly £25?

As designers, our time, creativity, experience and technical skills are the only things we’re actually selling. And we’re not surprised that how anyone with the right software can do what we do and sell it for a fraction of the cost proves irritating and perhaps even insulting to the majority of designers. But does the plumber who simply wants something to stick on a business card really care when he can get the job done for such a small amount of money? The process we went through was quick, easy and required very little hassle on our part. Once we found a company who actually responded to us, all we had to do was pay, look at designs and tell them what we wanted them to change. Assuming the role of someone with limited knowledge and opinions on typography, layout and colour, the service offered to us was more than agreeable for what we paid.

However, there is still the angry mob of designers to deal with. First off, it’s worth thinking about what they’re actually angry about. We don’t think it’s because their cover’s been blown and they can no longer charge huge amounts of cash for knocking up a quick logo. The issue, in our opinion, is more the fact that taking shortcuts that allow the work to be produced for a sum as small as £25 both creates work of a lower quality and lowers the value of what we do in the eyes of those outside of the design industry.

Like many other products and services, it’s never going to be too hard to find a cheaper option. But, as the painfully obvious saying goes, you get what you pay for. Buy a cheap car, it’ll break down more often. Buy a cheap meal, it won’t taste very nice. Buy a cheap haircut… you get the idea. If Phil the plumber decides to go for the £25 logo purely based on cost, his service simply won’t look premium. Maybe this won’t be a problem as many of his customers aren’t going to care too much about the typography when their kitchen is flooding, but design matters, and we’re sure we’ve all instantly disregarded companies based solely on the look of their logo, website or shop-frontage. It’s similar to pizza menus on your doormat – you’re not going to pay much but you know it won’t be fine-dining.

Maybe he doesn’t want his service to look premium. He’s a down-to-earth guy making an honest living for a fair price and he wants his logo to reflect that. Fair enough. But at no point throughout the process were we asked any questions about this. It was far too easy to let the designers get on with designing what they thought was right for a company they knew next-to-nothing about. Without this knowledge, can you really create something of any value, or are you simply choosing random fonts and adding clichéd clipart images based on the name of the company?

So, the design is never to going be considered at any great length – because there simply isn’t the time to do so – and there’s a good chance the final design may not be appropriate for its purpose.

The end result? Cheap design that looks cheap and is less effective.

But is there a place in the industry for logo design being sold in this way? Unfortunately, we think the answer is yes. People or companies who aren’t particularly interested in the way they present themselves can’t be blamed for spending as little money as possible on a service they don’t see value in. Is it damaging to the industry as a whole? Again, I’m afraid the answer is yes. Poor design can never be a good thing, for obvious reasons.

So what happens now? Do we rise up and fight back against these companies? Do we boycott? Do we drop our prices to £20 a logo, no questions asked? Feel free, but we won’t be joining you. A far better defence is to produce well-considered, fairly-priced design that includes the client in the process, asks the right questions, challenges the brief, considers the problem from the clients perspective and provides an effective solution. This, done well, is the only thing that can differentiate what we do from the ‘lowest price gets the job’ outfits.

The conclusion of our experiment? You get what you pay for. The important thing to remember is to make your service good value, regardless of how much it costs.

Tom and Phil
Follow Mat Dolphin on Twitter here





CR in Print

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What makes a great slogan? We investigate the enduring power of these clever little phrases in our special slogans issue, dedicated to our choices for the top 20 slogans.

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  • So thats where Gumtree got their logo…

    Fascinating process to have a glimpse into. Anybody (willing to admit to it) have experience working in one of these places? It’d be really interesting to get an insiders opinion.

  • Dave Williams

    The problem nowadays is that everyone is struggling to survive and if they can get something on the cheap they will do, including a quick logo design. Anyone can have a go at designing a quick logo with the range of sometimes cheap software available today. Of course the finished design is terrible but if the client is happy then what is the problem? The problem is that when I get an enquiry, they expect me to spend many hours researching their market, coming up with countless different solutions and then they say they have a budget of only around £100!!! So, out of that I have to pay all my bills, pay myself a decent wage and still try to keep my business going. Not sure on what the answer is but it needs to be addressed soon.

  • Enthralling. Great article guys, well researched and well balanced. I don’t think many people could disagree with your conclusions… not really anything else to say on the issue… so I won’t.

  • cez

    I don’t think there is really much to be worried about here for the design community. I think everyone at one point or another has done a job for a friend or a family friend who ‘just wants something for the side of the van’ but doesn’t have money to pay for it and wants a million and one changes. Ultimately, these sorts of customers don’t want a clever idea or something that will seperate them from the crowd… they want to look like every other company in their sector. These jobs almost always end up not being worth the fee they command and are probably better off being sent off to someone who will knock it out for no money at all and are prepared to be at the beck and call of every alteration the customer requires, which generally when they aren’t paying for them, can run into the hundreds quite easily…

  • This is a great article.

    Any chance you could link to in the article?

    Also would you be happy for me to include a link back to this article in the footer of AntiSpec?

    This isn’t a SEO hustle, honest.

    Many thanks.

  • Jack Peterson

    Interesting article. I looked into the crowdsourcing route a couple of years ago and did a test by uploading logos produced by a free logo generating website. I uploaded logos that were absolutely horrible but I got feedback from the ‘clients’ requesting amends. To be avoided – not very bright people to work with.

  • In answer to my question – David Airey kindly pointed me towards some of the comments here, specifically:

  • Sarah

    I applaud your experiment and mostly agree with the conclusion but I have one doubt…
    You said:
    “The end result? Cheap design that looks cheap and is less effective.”

    But is it really less effective? How do we measure that? If great design wins awards and recognition within the design community is it more effective? There are plenty of successful businesses with what could be considered cheap looking logos…Ikea, The GAP, even Google with that drop shadow…

    I just wish I had more tools to argue the need for great design when I sometimes feel it really is just a question of personal taste.

  • John

    Great article as always wondered how these sites worked, I’ve only once encountered someone mentioning this before in a meeting and my sharp response was ‘use them then, see what happens and stop wasting our time’. They used us.

  • Well researched and balanced article. I think that us designers are always going to feel annoyed and frustrated by this sort of service, but this sort of thing has been causing havoc through the world of online design for a VERY long time.

    I DO believe you get what you pay for, but I also think that we think TOO much about stuff (because we’re designers) and feel that everyone judges a company by the quality of its logo. In these modern times of social media, there are far more ways in which a business can build a reputation without relying on an expensive brand.

  • There seems to be some confusion about the service Tom and Phil tested. From what I can tell it’s not spec work, or crowdsourcing, but rather the use of a cheap design service where the client pays for the work of what’s likely to be one designer (or Illustrator/Photoshop operator).

    Regardless, very nice to see a well-balanced account, and the remark quoted below is spot-on.

    “A far better defence is to produce well-considered, fairly-priced design that includes the client in the process, asks the right questions, challenges the brief, considers the problem from the clients perspective and provides an effective solution.”

  • Robin

    When the Gap re-brand proved unpopular they crowdsourced the work with some hilarious results. Submitting logos to crowdsourcing sites can be an entertaining opportunity to upload spoof logos and engage in a bit of banter in your downtime.
    Antispec sound like a good cause.


  • Tom

    For £25 the service wasn’t really bad, I mean yeah the end product is bad but the client would probably be very happy with it. Unfortunate as that is.

    The main victim in all this isn’t the designer (anyone really want to spend all day doing logos for plumbers?) but the public and the country as a whole, they’re the ones who are going to have to look at this shit plastered across shop fronts and vans.

    Draplin sums it up well here

  • I think we have all had clients like that cez and I now know where I’ll be sending them in future. :)

  • It’s a good thing!

    I don’t believe that a £25 logo is something to grumble about. It’s fair game. For those who have a limited budget or who attribute little value to their logo’s presence and message, it’s an option that would not otherwise exist. It’s more like a stepping stone than a final solution.

    I am already thinking of a few cases where a low budget logo would improve a small business greatly where it’s just not possible to justify a larger budget. It will however prepare them for the journey to understanding the impact of brand, and the power branding can wield, which can’t be sold so cheaply.

    Some companies will always be driven by cost and not even have visibility on what a full branding process would provide (individuality, message, brand values, tone of voice, market placement, etc.), these companies may never use a brand agency. but, what’s the problem with someone providing them with a service? Should they not have access to an alternative source? Of course they should.

    All agencies must be able to justify the value they provide and therefore cost compared to the ever changing marketplace.

    For those businesses who can extract the value from a larger investment the work will still to be there, and worth it.

  • Ed

    Is there a case for arguing that clients who want a quick, cheap logo (and only care to a point what it looks like) are better served by using these services and designers looking to produce more considered work are better served by not having to deal with them? Sort’ve like a client buying Tesco’s basics vs premium brands?

    In my experience it’s been a bloody nightmare to deal with people who only want to pay say £50 for a logo design, and they’ve largely been completely unreceptive to any attempts to convince them that maybe they ought to put a bit more thought into it. It’s a waste of time. You can up-sell someone who’s willing to be convinced, but not those who want it quick and cheap thank-you-very-much (contrary to the design myth that every brief and every client can result in wonderful work).

  • Dave

    Great article.

    Design can be practical, cheap and consumable, these logos sit here.

    Creativity has diacritic powers, and fortunately, this service costs a little extra.

  • Stephen

    I say to any good designer who is frustrated by this: Would you really want to be designing logos for the sort of people who pay £25 for a logo? From personal experience I’ve found that such business owners end up getting you to create something as low quality as the one in this post because it’s what they are after anyway.

    Of course there’s a place for this sort of design just as there’s a place for Primark for your average Joe Blogs from Croydon yet Armani for Mr Double-Barrel from Kensington.

  • Hiya,

    Not bad for £25, and in less than a week it seems? I think its a question of priority. I have know people to literally start a business on £10, for them every cost counts. Ultimately its about measurement. For something like branding this is hard to measure (its hard to count clients who never contacted you who would have etc etc) however in other areas of design (eg, web, leafleting etc) its well known that what works (eg, makes the client money) is not what many designers would consider quality. Ultimately its all about market fit.

    If your advertising a pizza shop with an alright but not great leaflet and it appeals to you target market, then the designer has done their job. Often ‘designers’ are not the target market and what we think is ‘quality’ does measurably worse against what we consider rubbish.

    Finally, its also about gateways. A £25 low risk move as a first experience commissioning design is a good thing IMHO. Perhaps in the future they will commission more work and over time understand the value of design better. Ultimately, they are someone’s client so they are helping to pay someones bills. Someone did some design and hopefully learned something. Bonus.


  • Eoghan Vincent

    We complain when a client pays £25 for a logo appropriate to their business but quite happily use wordpress templates, royalty-free images and free fonts to keep our own costs down. It’s tough out there!

  • ash

    then again, would you expect clients to pay for your service knowing you’ve wasted a few hours this week playing with these ideas? Get back to your desk and do some real work.

    It’s simple supply and demand. What you supply you demand too much for. Another company can do it at a lower rate because polished designs that work on several platforms and upload faster just isn’t a problem for most. It would be nice if everyone could afford it, but business is tough.

    I would agree that they are selling themselves short and should spend even a small amount of time thinking. But I would also suggest that if you have a client who doesn’t really need much more than this and your fees are significantly higher, you have just placed yourselves in a category with the bankers, and we all love those!

  • alex

    first off — loved this experiment.

    If people are buying design at any level they understand (to some degree) the value of design. Much like anything, your first buy isn’t always your best buy, but it let’s you know something about what to buy next.

    Plumbers aren’t going to knock on pentagrams door asking for a logo… nor should they, it’s inappropriate. Cheap logo’s fill a gap in the market and the only designers that should be worried are those charging top dollar for tripe.

  • Guto

    I think that the biggest issue for clients commissioning design, is not knowing what they need. Usually they shop around for a logo, not understanding that they need a brand identity tool kit. They see successful brand identities, and think that the application process was free, and just happened. We’ve spent months on application, in contrast to developing the actual mark itself which can amount to days thinking and developing a direction for the identity is very time consuming… and if like these companies who sell logo design for £40 that’s fine. This was an interesting experiment, I was impressed by how smooth the process was, maybe because so little was spent there was a guilt factor and a feeling of not wanting to give them to much of a hard time… our clients spend so much more with us, that they sometimes feel the need to give us a hard time and try and get as much renditions or versions until they exhaust the process, and then they feel happy!! What are other designers views on the cost of brand identity and application, large figures and banded around in the media when a new logo is unveiled, but that figure isn’t reflective of this process in this blog, it’s the whole process identity creation, and it’s further application, including the brand guidelines and kitchen sink…. distilled down it would be interesting to know how much agencies would charge for just a single mark…!

  • Well done guys. Great to see someone follow up there opinion in 140 characters or less by fully investigating the topic through. Applaud. Overall I think that there probably is a place for ‘design’ of this kind just as michelin star restaurants and fast food can co-exist and Aston Martins and Kia’s (no offence Kia drivers) can share the same roads. With any product or service there will always be a top level and a base level and this is designs base level. It is not a benchmark and certainly nowhere near that standard middle line and above that most of us would hope to operate but it at least gives us somewhere to send all the clients without budgets now! Good work chaps and all the best with Dolphin Plumbing Services I know I would hire them.

  • Very interesting article about your experiment into design cheaper than yours. As an astrologer who charges a fair amount for a consultation, I know that people may decide to order computer generated reports instead of coming to me and they get some of the same information but what’s missing is me, not just the personal touch but the ability to synthesize the info. There are always levels of need to go with the price paid. It may be a sad fact but a local plumber may not need a gorgeous logo as much as a huge conglomerate which will be impressing more clients with higher standards. Sometimes we want to grab a burger on the fly at McDonalds (and yes regret it later) and sometimes a good meal is order. So I think it’s not such a bad thing that these people (probably students etc) are selling something cheaply that you could do better. That way the truck isn’t hand lettered or done on Photoshop by the plumber himself. By the way, I liked many of the choices, did think the dolphin was cute but liked the last one best, sort of spunky. When all my pipes here were changed the plumber was called Adee-do. What the hell does that mean? Is it Adee and does he do? I never found out. Your dolphin logo was nicer than his.

  • Chris

    I’m not a designer in any way, I followed a link on a mate’s facebook page but I have to say it’s very interesting what is happening in your industry.

    Someone out there is going to make a shedload of money combining the two concepts by possibly offering a tranched level of design. What I mean is you can offer the £25 Logo, the £75 logo, the £150 logo up to, I dunno, £1,000. Possibly increasing the price for every additional colour an/or feature used in the logo design.

    I would go as far as to spin the “you get what you pay for” around to “the more you pay the more you get…” That’s possibly where the industry might go next?

  • johnjohn

    excellent article MD — some good food for thought. A quote I like regarding price talks
    “If you don’t like my professional prices, hire an amateur and come back to me in 6 months”
    Don’t drop your price.

  • Firstly, well done guys on a well thought through project and write up.

    “The main victim in all this isn’t the designer (anyone really want to spend all day doing logos for plumbers?) but the public and the country as a whole, they’re the ones who are going to have to look at this shit plastered across shop fronts and vans.”

    Agree, but how many owners etc think of their audience in that way? In truth very few, I know when I work with business owners they are too wrapped up in their own stuff and when considering the design its for themselves only. As I mention, I design for 1,000 pairs of eyes, they design for one, their own.

    Also its a bit like football. If you don’t really understand it you don’t know there are different levels of design capabilities (professional v amateur as mentioned). So you can’t tell the difference between watching a game at Stamford Bridge or Hackney Marshes, at its most basic its the same. 11 men v 11 men kicking a ball.

  • A

    Good read, this is why the design industry needs a body to (dont want to use the word lobby it sounds so dirty), but champion the benefits of good design, to governments, companies and most importantly the public. Most big companies know of its importance but its Joes public, (the businessmen of the future) and small businesses who need to better understand the benefits of good design.

    Also a good reason why young designers, like myself, need to push into more specialist and technical practices that are harder to crowdsource. High end 3D, Animation, Coding etc. Diversify to survive guys.

    Plus hello Chris I like how you found our lovely blog and got stuck in.

  • Thanks for this – a very interesting insight.

    I’ve often wondered if these offers were some kind of scam, but clearly there are people out there genuinely making money delivering this level of work. No doubt there are hundred of clip-art templates being thrown together and re-used over and over. May have to run a follow up test for Dolphin Landscape Gardening and see if the same few Flippers pop up out of a pond!

    Still, if there wasn’t a market for it, they wouldn’t be in business. Clients who value a more considered end to end service, are usually those who have budgeted for it. Had you been more demanding with your list of revisions, the end result likely have been different (which would also be understandable). Well done for resisting the temptation to push this experiment down that avenue.

    Even in a worst case scenario, it is still only 25 quid lost. I’ve wasted more than that on a bad haircut, and there’s no binning one of those…

  • A great read Tom/Phil,

    Having been through something similar recently, where a client came to us for a price for a logo for their online ecommerce site. We submitted our estimate based on the initial face to face meeting and the objectives it had to fulfil and was happy that they promptly accepted, placing the work with us.

    Having supplied several logos for approval and after 3 rounds of development (which was pre-agreed) we settled on a design before the Christmas break.

    Reconveying after the holidays we were greeted by an email stating that, “We’ve decided against using your logo and have had one created online, using similar elements to your original but more to my partners liking.” And for the princely sum of 50TL (Turkish Lira), roughly £17.

    They paid us for all work done, and we parted our ways and for arguments sake the logo they had created was 0.5% similar to the one we developed.

    So my point is this. If there’s people out there happy to pay for it (twice) then so be it, but I’m not loosing any sleep.

  • Thank you to each and every one of you that has read, shared and commented on the post — it’s genuinely amazing to spark debate and get designers talking about a subject close to our hearts.

    For us the reason for conducting this experiment was not simply to put down someone else’s work (we could all have guessed the results without seeing the final logo), but to raise awareness about design education. The design industry is very tight-knit and more often than not we don’t stand back and talk about the more important audience: our clients and their needs.

    There will always be a need for cheaper options, less informed work and quick solutions, but that doesn’t have to undermine your own ability or work. What should be taken from this experiment is the need to educate and explain to clients the benefits of spending wisely. Design is an investment, and the more we do to communicate that, the less we’ll hear about £25 logos.


    Tom and Phil.

  • Its better than the Google logo :)

  • chester

    Hi Tom and Phil!

    Any chance you could whip up a Dolphin Plumbing logo yourself to give the article some perspective?

    Loved it, well done.

    – Chester

  • A

    @ Chester, as they said they would have to at least further fully understand the needs of the client to come up with a nice design. The client being them that could lead to some amusing emails being sent back and forth to themselves.

  • chester

    Hi Tom and Phil!

    Any chance you could whip up a Dolphin Plumbing logo yourself to give the article some perspective?

    Loved it, well done.

    – Chester

  • Rob James

    I would have liked to see your version of the logo at the end of the article.

  • Dino

    Considering how crap some of these ridiculously priced designs cost (ie London 2012 Olympics logo), you cant base quality over money. Also, you need to remember as designers were critisise designs thoroughly. The general public is not really gonna give a damn in most cases, which is why places that are dirt cheap thrive so much. Start out businesses in this day and age can not afford to pay a huge amount for a first design. Later on if they succeed maybe, which is why so many change their logo later on.

    I’ve seen a similar design of the 4th logo minus the swoosh done by a colleague of mine that charged quite a bit.

  • Graham

    So… what’s the difference between that £25 Dolphin Plumbing logo above and the Ski Squirrel branding in your portfolio? Pretty much the same solution isn’t it?

    Only kidding ; )

    Fascinating article and great work.

  • A nice read indeed. Loved the article and thanks for sharing your experience by doing this experiment. One might ask if £25 is enough for all the trouble they went through to satisfy you as the client.

    Well, for the most part, a lot of these companies outsource the design labor to places like India, China, or any other cheap labor countries. When you think that the average person makes $500 a year in countries like these, I’m sure £25 covers the cost of getting their cheap labor.

    It’s a shame, really. Aside from promoting cheap labor, it also devalues our industry but as your article concludes our job is to preach our value and validate that value through our services and the expertize we bring to the table as professional designers.

    My instincts tell me that this may get even worse, as technology enhances, it will give the power to just about anyone to think they can do anything for themselves with DIY software at minimal costs. Currently, we’re sort of almost there. Think of when we come up with the technology to design a website and simply ‘export’ our design as it gets coded for us at the click of a button. Web developers would have a melt down as a lot of them would no longer be needed!

  • moonpig,, google, funkypigeon, pepsi, youtube.. could all be 25 quid logos.
    being naff seems to work these days..

  • David L

    Great insight through a ‘real-world’ example of the process in full…hats off and thank you for taking the time and effort to undertake this exercise! Not sure you should expect to be given the fonts along with a logo however, licensing laws prohibit the distribution (unless free and/or allowed to be distributed so long as you don’t try and sell them etc.) of many typefaces….assuming that as a premium quality designer you’ll be using premium-quality fonts. It’s also a goodway to ensure that a client doesn’t try and emulate your work (badly) to create the rest of the van’s signage and given that the client is happy they’ll come back to you for artwork for other items such as signage, POS, stationery and literature. This enable the designer to retain a degree of control over the brand identity, create guidelines and ensure consistency.

    As you indicate there’s not necessarily a right or wrong way to go about commissioning a logo, only (in most cases) a clearly inherent benefit and value to paying more more.

  • I think a lot of the value of premium branding is the confidence and sense of equity that it instils in the client. My team always have a chuckle when I attribute the design business (and especially new business) as the dating game. Sure, you could probably find a girl (or boy) wearing primark trakkies riding around in a bashed up Nissan. You’re just not going to feel good about it. In fact you probably wouldn’t have a clue anyway.

    Then you compare that to someone with fine tastes, who understand style – that seems effortless. You know they spent a fortune to look that good, but it’s very hard to put a finger on it.

    Fortunately, for a premium studio that’s how it rolls. Our clients can see the difference, no matter what the man on the street sees. It subconsciously feels right. What is more, they have themselves invested in the process and have, with the agency created equity.

    It’s the same as how you feel when you are wearing something really expensive. It gives you self belief, confidence and the power to exceed. Quite different to a £25 suit I should think.

  • Fast food burgers are no comparison to a real burger. But yet I consume them on occasion.

  • Top article boys!

  • Alexis

    If someone out there can manage to eat earning £12.50 an hour, good luck to them.

  • Mycroburst are the worst culprit of this – link not included for obvious reasons, but this is their strap:

    Receive more than 100 concepts from over 30,000 designers!

  • It’s the same in music production, you have guys working in their bedroom putting samples together and asking a fragment of a normal budget.
    Do you get a good jingle or musictrack then?
    I don’t think so, A soundtrack has to reflect the identity of a brand, it’s necessary to know the history, the goals, the vision of a brand or company.
    Just talking to people can give you on a total different idea.
    The problem is that everybody has access to the tools, anybody can think their a designer, or a photographer or a musician.
    There’s a fantastic documentary on that, check it out.

  • Looking at the originals they returned, I think you biased the article by choosing the tackiest logo to go with in the beginning and then making a comment about the clip art dolphin

    I don’t think they’re great, but if I was a plumber, I wouldn’t be looking to spend more than 25 quid on a logo, in fact, I would be more likely to get “a mate” to do it for free

  • RockinRickBuzzin

    Now let’s see what you would produce for £25 and we can compare the value

  • plord

    £25 is not a lot in the UK but in other parts of the world it’s a large sum.

  • I think this is the sharp end of a wider devaluing of graphic design – no matter what the fee, a lot of clients now see design as a cheap commodity (free pitching anyone?)

  • Great article – i can see parallels with the photography market, in regards to micro-stock and the ever increasing race to the bottom with commission fees.

  • Good article. Well done for trying them out.

    I think the victims are the designers who feel the need to work this way – presumably they only get a percentage of the fee. They are truly undervalued.

  • Down here in Wiltshire clip art is king. I asked a mechanic (superb, mends every make of car) why his logo was a man with an oil can standing beneath a car on a hydraulic platform. He said it only cost him £200. Then I thought, well, that’s what he does – he will perhaps, at some point during a normal day stand beneath a car in his overalls holding an oil can… but it’s not a logo. But he doesn’t care. His name’s spelled right even if you struggle a bit to interpret that horrible script face with the baseline, with outline and drop shadow.
    Whether people know about the raging debates that rock the design Casbah or not, people DO get an idea of the simplest quality that a good identity delivers, and that’s confidence.
    I would never think of putting a dolphin as part of a design where the name says it. Why bother?

    Anyway, near us, in Hampshire is a one-man driving school. He demonstrates with alarming clarity why we still need people who do design intelligently; a fabricator of perspex signs will let you call yourself the Impact School of Motoring.

  • I loved this experiment firstly, gave us all a lot to think about.

    It really does come down to the kind of business in question whether they should justify spending more money on a professional full service agency, or £25 for a wee logo for your (perhaps) trade based business. All the tradesmen I’m hiring at the moment to renovate my flat, I couldn’t give a shit what their logo/business card/website looks like, so long as they get the job done for the right price.

    And thats coming from a somewhat obsessive designer who thinks everything should be well communicated.

    If you’re in the business of needing to appeal to peoples disposable cash (lets say a cupcake shop) then image is everything, so you should find the right designer or agency that probably charge a little more but delivery the right results for the job. The brand should subconsciously convey the kind of place you are.

    I’m not thrilled about my boiler perhaps costing £1k, but I certainly didn’t look for the one with the prettiest logo

  • Great article.

    It’s horses for courses chaps…

    There is a need for cheap logos, just as there is a need for cheap clothes, food, homes, etc.

    People will always choose the best they can within their budget.

    Lets face it you wouldn’t buy a £2 top from a charity shop if you could afford to shop in Hermes now would you!!!

  • Mark Roberts

    It’s something we’re all going to have to deal with and charging less isn’t the answer.

    I stopped free pitching 20 years ago – won’t do it. If a client wants a logo for £25, good luck to them, I won’t be doing it.

    The truth is there was nothing clever in the design, they didn’t inspire but, as a cheap solution for someone on a very tight budget, they’re fine.

    I imagine this work isn’t done in the UK (if you know where I’m coming from). I object to British businesses farming work out abroad – even our local newspaper (which claims to be at the heart of the community) is having its display ads done in India. It’s shocking!

  • Robert Eames

    Considering the majority of potential clients wouldn’t know the difference between good and bad logo design I think the cheap logo designers have found a niche. It’s a perfect solution for the client that does want to get all designer on you. They effectively can ‘design’ their own logo without having any clue as to what they are doing.

    I got out of the graphic design business for this reason. Too many kids with blue hair, charging $20 an hour to design and implement logos and web sites, with no marketing, design, or typography skills to speak of, and clients who want to man-handle the design process.

    Now this client loses the benefit of gaining any actual learning from the process, and they get what they pay for, but in the end, they get what they wanted. I think the bigger picture here is telling us that there are too many ‘designers’ out there. Granted, many didn’t go to school, and purchasing a computer, Illustrator and Photoshop, and even hanging a shingle declaring yourself a designer, does not make a designer, how are you going to educate the consumer/potential design client and convince them that your work is worth ten times more?

  • Surely this is about the difference between logo design and branding.

    For those that understand the true value of branding this type of service is of no consequence. Its not competition, because the people that are willing to go down this road are probably not prepared to pay for
    a professional service in the first place.

    What is important is that as creative and design professionals, we continue to value our work and connect
    with like-minded companies and individuals who have seen the reward that good creativity, design and branding can bring.

  • fuz

    I wonder if they do websites too – if so it that’ll be why I didn’t hear back from that company I schleped 80 odd miles to see before Christmas with my associate writer…

  • Really good experiment and a great insight into what the process actually is for people who tend to use these sevices!! Would love to know the exact details of the process side from the designers i.e how many hours of work, creative process etc.

  • From a purely business perspective i think it is fascinating. Clearly the work is completed offshore…
    Picture if you will a design factory – a firm in the uk collecting revenue, sending more than a 1000 briefs offshore everyday, getting all the work back 24hrs later. Building a dynamic digital asset and content management system, delivering all the content back to clients. Sitting back and making money without having to torture yourself about what value you are bringing to the process. Pure middleman capitalism at it’s best. I wonder what a look at their financial accounts would show?

  • Dan

    After being asked in the past by small design agencies why my photography is so expensive compared with RF stock photography prices it’s pretty rich for designers to suddenly be out raged by the rise of RF in graphics. Welcome to the struggle comrades…

  • matt

    Would be interesting to go back to them as ‘Dolphin Cleaning Services’ from East London and see if you get the same results (I’m guessing you probably will.

    It’s websites like that scare me, where the client types:

    Company Name / Choose Font / Choose Picture / Choose Colour and voila your finished logo!

  • chris

    It reminds me of the violins made in China . The quality began at the low end but kept improving.

    Now, we start to see it in new fields every day. The question becomes, “How do we leverage it?”

    Does on start using these services as their back room production and act as the guide for customers?

    If they have the speed and you have the sense of design, why not team up and make better products faster?

  • timk

    Forgetting they didn’t include the fonts in the final package, I would interested to see how you would have done the logo. As a customer off the street I think the logo is exactly what you asked for and as a consumer of the service I would be happy dealing with the company. Therefore, are you suggesting you are more creative, would take a different approach or what?

  • @matt

    Yeah totally, I know exactly what you mean. The logo design service is absolutely the worse.

    It scares me that can get away with the low-quality design and logo creation services that it offers.

    I would not recommend to anyone looking for low-cost design services. Nope. No way.

    I wish would just disappear from the web.

  • Steve

    You should have tried

    You can have anything done from logos to websites or SEO done for a fiverr (USD).

  • Danilo

    A very similar experiment was run 3 years ago by “160over90”. Here’s the link to the blog (with comments):

    I personally, don’t think that’s something we should worry about. In my work experience the main issues I have are related mostly to the maintenance of a project more than its ideation.

    Will the people behind this service be available when Phil will need its logo to applied to a website, business card or (as mentioned) to provide the vinyl letters to his van?

  • i find the whole ‘experiment’ a bit dirty. you basically took advantage of them for the article.

    there has ALWAYS been a place for this type of work, just as there will always be a place for more considered, and costly work. vernacular design is just changing with the times, nothing to worry about.

  • My first reaction to this was a shiver down the spine… what a horror story. Pity the cash-strapped mac operator that finds themselves in this kind of sweat shop. I wrote my thesis 10 years ago on the subject of democratised design; the cheapness and ease of use of the tools that means anyone can suddenly call themselves a designer, but that’s to say ‘relative’ cheapness – setting up as a studio is still expensive, I just can’t see how they’re making it pay?

    If you think 3 hours of your time is worth £25, good luck to you. But you need to design a lot of logos to pay for a Mac and the Adobe suite, rent for the space, bills, wages… It’s crazy to think think this is making anyone any money? I got to thinking, I wonder if some kind of algorithmic, automated software is involved? Put in the text you need and a couple of keywords and it throws out a dozen or combinations?


  • A really interesting read. Initially it seems like uncomfortable reading for a designer, but on reflection I’m more optimistic.

    As a designer myself, I’ve long since learned to avoid clients who just want you to knock something out for peanuts. I’ll happily leave them to spend their £25 with the online services, and look to work with clients who value the expertise and experience of a proper professional, and are prepared to pay for it.

    If there is a lesson to be learned, it is this: as designers we should always be encouraged to question the value of what we do, and to strive to add as much value for our fee as possible.

  • Peter

    This is a great article, but I do believe many here are being being too harsh. There’s lots of talk about “branding” and such, but for Pete’s sake, this is meant to be a local plumbing service, not the next social media tech startup. Start asking the guy what concepts he’s trying to get across to his customers and he’ll probably think you’re an idiot who doesn’t know what a plumber is.

  • 6136

    Brilliant article, but very difficult conversation. In these austere times, traditional design and marketing suffers. However the blind-sightedness to this is that it ultimately effects a companies competitiveness. Recent figures have shown that the amount of people being made redundant and becoming self-employed will open this market and debate even further.

    Ultimately, as you say, people will get what they pay for, and if they are not happy with the cheap option they will seek out a better service. However, I have seen cases where a client will ask for quotes from low, medium ahd high price/ service designers.

    What we should do as a community is have the conversation with clients about why paying the premium matters, and not low-balling for the sake of staying competitive. Regardless of the doom and gloom, markets will recover and we need to be careful not to price ourselves out of the game.

  • Great article! I’ve been pondering over these cheap logo / stationary companies for a while. They have their catalogue of logo templates / clipart then insert the company name to suit. There’s definitely a market for them. Take vistaprint for example. Business is booming for producing absolute crap. All because the customer either 1. Doesn’t want to pay. 2. Doesn’t know what they could have. 3. Feels their business doesn’t need a high end Identity, or 4. Simply doesn’t care. I had a friend that wanted some Biz cards producing, they sent over the most disgusting logo I’ve ever seen (designed in house) I tried to hint that it could reflect badly on their company. They did not give 2 hoots. Just wanted done as cheap as possible. Unfortunately some people have poor taste and are ignorant to the fact that design matters! It’ll never change!

  • Joanna

    Really interesting experiment. But a logo isn’t a badge to be designed in isolation and then stuck on things! I would be interested to know what you would think was the right price for a logo with no consideration of how it was going to be used or any supporting material?

  • Dan

    This has been done before. CR should be honest if they’re regurgitating someone else’s old story just to keep the debate current. Not the greatest journalistic exposé.

    This is from almost three years ago:

  • Put yourself in the position of the local kitchen fitter in Norfolk, making a go of it on his own – keeping count of every penny of his low start-up budget. Is he going to go with an agency, which he believes in his head are expensive because thats what people tell him, or is he going to pay £25 for a minimal risk solution that acts as ‘just something’ to start off with because he still doesn’t know if he’ll make it alone?

    I think initially a service like this serves a purpose to some, not all.

    We as designers should accept this, but continue to work hard in differentiating ourselves from such services and focus on the value we add to the process.

  • LS

  • Mark

    I’d like to see what the fictional plumbers would have got if they could afford the cash!

  • Great article, but slightly depressing reading!

  • JHN

    I do agree with Dan Bradfield, it’s the market law. Targeting the right customers is the key.

  • Graeme McQuarrie

    I think you set them up at bit. Calling it Dolphin Plumbing Service, you knew exactly what you were going to get back, and when the first designs came through, you pushed them down the most obvious route with poor feedback/comments for them to work with.

    What would be much more interesting would have been if you had, first of all, not named it something cliched, and gave detailed, constructive criticism to see how they would then deal with the amends. Then you could properly judge the logo and service. If you pay £25 for a logo, choose the most obvious option and give vague feedback, then its perhaps unsurprising that what comes back isn’t brilliant.

  • Sarah

    Good for them. There seems to be a market for this sort of thing and it seems to work.

    Put it this way, aren’t you pleased when you get a voucher for a £10 meal at some nice restaurant? We don’t care about their hard work, skill or what they’re paying their staff (who, I’ll bet you don’t tip).

    Knock down design? It has it’s place, let them get on with it.

    Thankfully it’s not too good, or we’d all be out of a job

  • Andy

    Interesting article. But, yes there is absolutely a place for the budget creative services company; for some people it makes complete sense; tend to agree with comment above; ‘Knock down design does have its place, let them get on with it’. However, there is a key difference between the budget-guys and the creative/design agencies that are at the opposite end of the market. See link below;

  • Ashard

    Interesting article.

    By looking of some of your own work, I don’t see any difference.
    Looking at the squirrel for example, what’s the diffetence? People have to make a living, and
    I’m sure in some countries that 25 pounds is quite a lot of money.

  • Matt Bridge

    Great article

    Does anyone know where the designers for these types of companies are based? Surely not the UK. Irrelevant of the quality of the final design, it would be an impossible business model to make any money at all

    I might use them on every job I am doing in future, to pad the routes out… especially if it involves animals

  • Matt Bridge

    Great article

    Does anyone know where the designers for these types of companies are based? Surely not the UK. Irrelevant of the quality of the final design, it would be an impossible business model to make any money at all

    I might use them on every job I am doing in future, to pad the routes out… especially if it involves animals

  • DV

    Well this was amusing and scary at the same time. Just the fact that they sent through the first set as logo’s was very laughable and it got worse.
    Its a shame these companies are running, its a shame the buying companies dont take more responsibility for what they are purchasing.
    Shame on these fools, but this post made my day!

  • As an x owner of a small design studio in a smallish city in England, your always going to come across people who run small businesses and have little expectations of marketing. Mostly due to lack of knowledge and also to some extent, lack of need. Small small businesses don’t really care about a relevant brand/logo, as they tend to deal with very similar people of that mind set aka Joe Bloggs is a gas fitter for Jane Bloggs.

    There is a second tier of small businesses who do see the potential in growing their business to being more than a ‘sole trader’ and in my experience they have the foresight to spend more. Anywhere from £200 – £500 (Still not a great deal of cash, but enough to put a day or so into the process). It’s rare for small business to spend £500+

    So like most things, different strokes for different folks.

  • Comemierda

    Opting in to pay low prices for lower quality work is not different than paying your fat cousin to fix your leaky toilet, instead of hiring a professional plumber. People usually know what they will get for their money and most of us are fine with that. There will always be room for cheaper alternatives, especially when big agencies continue to take millions of dollars from their clients, to produce work that is marginally better than the amateurs out there.

    Do you seriously believe that taking thousands of dollars to produce some trivial shape that is now called a logo makes sense to your clients? You can take anything in the world and make it your identifying symbol, so why spend so much when you can get the same result for next to nothing, or free in some cases?

    Yes, well designed and thought out logos are awesome, but the real power of a logo is its association with a great product or service that stands behind it. The Nike logo means nothing without the association with their products – people had to be taught over so many years to remember it. The actual value of the image itself is next to zero, when you don’t have much substance behind it, so I’m not surprised that lots of businesses out there choose to go cheap.

  • Just coming back to this…

    Rather than covering individual replies, one thing the experiment has proved is that many of you have confused crowd sourcing, spec work and a paid job. So we wrote another blog post…


    Tom and Phil

  • I may be repeating some sentiments already made but to be honest the volume of comments the article generated far exceeded my free time to read them all!

    Suffice to say, I think this is about targeting. If you are a talented designer and find yourself competing against these logo bureau’s, then you are speaking to the wrong people.

    There’s a place for this service (I know because I used to work with an ‘Entrepreneur’ who would form a new business every week and turn to one of these companies for execution of the logo for business cards.) He didn’t have the patience or cognisance to deal with a real designer. He wanted it cheap, fast and painless. However any designer worth his salt would recognise this and immediately write him off as a potential prospect.
    It’s a great article – well done guys – but simply reinforces the need to be selective with your prospects. Understand that not everyone knows the value of the work that many designers put into things and that being the case, why would you want to work for them?
    A horse looks like a horse to me, regardless of how many races it’s won. Therefore, I do not consider myself a good buyer of horses.

  • First excuse my bad English:
    I agree with what is written in the article, but I think designers should also know how to do marketing of themselves as well as knowing how to design a logo.
    But I know many designers who make their site very nice and wait hoping that the work comes only from the window.
    If you are professionals and want to live by the designer, must have the courage to knock on the door of the big companies do marketing and of themselves, do not wait for the plumber or the florist who want to make your own logo …

  • Angus

    The brief says: “My name is Phil… I’m not fussed about colours and things…”. Suggest that the work is pretty much on brief. What would have happened if a classy insight-rich brief had been issued?

  • Apologies for being a late comer to this great experiment and blog piece and in advance for probably repeating items raised by others comments which I scan read at least 30 out of the 96 ……

    Well done to those that took the time to carry out the experiment and convey the results in such a balanced way

    The world is changing rapidly for the design sector – and whilst many comments are correct regards getting what you pay for, quality issues, price and so on – does it not also present opportunities for the sector to demonstrate quality and premium services and also to re-consider its business model?

    Crowdsourcing and cheap labour is not going to disappear – it is going to increase. But one item that the professional design community holds and many businesses require is ‘originality’ and ‘ownership’ of intellectual property over creative work they have paid for.

    One of the commentators mentioned ‘clip art’ downloads – and for sure the dolphin was not an original illustration – which means the next plumbing firm bogus or real that contacts the cheap logo firm (with an impressive fast turnaround service!) are likely to get much the same. God forbid that we’ll see a 100 plumbers with said Dolphion logo offending our visual senses!

    And likliehood is that the firm starts with Google searches on the topic in hand and downloads – irrespective of whether permission to use is or isn’t required – others works for better or worse, that is simply adapted for the logo required. And at some stage someone is going to be challenged over intellectual property rights

    So how about beating them at their own game ….. a design industry online spin-out of industry and subject specific imagery that the firm of plumbers (or anyone else) can use to create their own logo without having to even bother you with an email.

    1and1 web hosting ISP has done exactly that with templated web sites at £19.99 per month for as long as it is live that enables over 100 trades to sign-up and use their templates to design a standard web site with all the obligatory plug-ins and pages and switch colours, typefaces and so forth to suit, upload content, edit it, upload images blah de blah –

    So why not do that for logo design – get together a 100 or so designers – or any number – agree a series of industry sectors and trades – produce a whole host of illustrations and images & letterhead templates to choose from representing the industry sector and a range of font and address and letterhead styles, van stickers and decals blah de blah and let them get on with it …..

    Group illustrations and templates into different price brackets and let the user decide how much they want to spend according to what illustrations and templates they want to buy – and before you know it, a popular £50 illustration or letterhead template at £30, adapted by the user, has sold over a 1000 times – netting you potentially more ‘per item’ than you would have charged ‘per single customer’

    All participants can get on with their day jobs working for real clients seeking originality and true brand development – whilst you effectively earn royalties from one piece of decent work – be it an illlustration, a letterhead template, a van sticker or whatever else, sold over and over again, where the user/buyer does the work – all you guys need to do is band together with a decent web designer and develop and egineer the system in a way that is so easy for the amateur user to use. And you retain your IP rights to all your work whilst non-exclusively licensing it to every punter that buys your items and creates their own stuff with it

    Truth is – designers can either turn this sorry situation to their own advantage and see it as a way to put higher quality work into the publics hands and earn from it without being precious about careful research and relationship building etc or they can just moan and blog and snort about quality etc

    Quality clients won’t use the service but individuals, trades and budget start-ups probably will – so give them something better to choose from and put them in control – afterall clip art is so popular and predominently used by consumers and businesses to produce quick and short-term items such as birthday cards and event flyers, promotions etc etc because that’s all they have accessible to them

    Two things people do value are their time and quality ………….

    Do likewise with higher quality for those that understand quality and consider those minimal costs as repeatable royalty payments

    And for those seeking authentication & protection over their truly valuable concepts – protect your work and design rights at

    Sorry couldn’t resist the professional plug …..

  • I’ve not read all of the comments above as there are so many due to such an engaging article, so apologies if I’m repeating other observations

    One thought was how articulate the logo brief was, which is never the case in my experience. Writing the brief is as challenging as the creative execution. Many business owners can’t describe their positioning or foresee the context of where their logo might be applied. A client rarely wants discriminates any market and it takes much deliberation to convince them to commit to targeting a specific demographic.

    I agree that the customer must be listened to and involved, its just very frustrating that a studio brimming with degree standard professionals can be undermined by a recreational design hobbyist who unlikely depends on their £25-a-pop logo business who muddies the creative industry with their inaffective, and uninformed ‘have-a-go-graphics’.

    Rant over…

  • Very interesting article. Do you have any idea, where these designers where working from? Its nearly impossible to pay for living in europe, when you only charge your clients 40$.

  • Clearly this article has made ​​a great publicity to this design studio … for a proposed three logos, are now demanding more money!
    Or the £ 24 was a limited promotional offer …
    But I wonder, a customer who buys from them, can feel comfortable with the copyright of the logo? considering the low price, there is the risk that designers use similar logos already registered ..

  • £25?! – try $5 on
    Agencies will have to concentrate a lot harder on quality and cleverness. Small businesses and bootstrapping startups may well look for the cheaper option – and good luck to them – but for spinoffs and ventures backed by larger organisations, a more ‘bespoke’ and deeper understanding may well be required by the client.

  • Depending on where the operator who did that work lives that £25 could be quite a bit of money. Many of these services put that actual work out to India, Eastern Europe and the East Asia and take a big cut just for handling. Same is happening now with all kinds of work, such as web development, basic admin services etc. In a global economy its hard to compete with people who can buy a months food for a few quid!!

    Ultimately I feel it takes advantage of the actual operator, who in another world might make a good production artist or artwork, and is also probably being ripped off.

    The middle men providing the service are the only winners.

    For those of us running small agencies who deal mostly wi small to medium size businesses this will start to slowly eat away at our bottom line.

  • So the age old question continues, what is a fair price for logo design, from a designer who caters for the clients requirements and produces THEM with the best design solution. It surely can’t come down to an hourly design rate. Good design takes the time it takes to produce the right design solution.

  • Great Experiment , for me i prefer not to work with clients looking to pay $20 or less for a logo :)

  • Rob Stephenson

    Looks like you got your monies worth. And nothing more.
    What a shocker. And these people have the cheek to call themselves designers. Laughable.
    If you swap the word plumbing for any other business type, it’d work equally as well. So what you have ended up with is a generic logo with a name attached.
    Could have been so much better with some proper research and consideration.
    If your business got a big as McDonalds, would you be proud to have that logo on show world wide?
    That’s the question you and your clients need to ask yourselves before deciding on a design.
    Make it relevant and clever too.

  • I’m not a designer – I’m a Joe off the street with my own business who stumbled across this website whilst looking for classic advertising slogans!

    I read this thread with interest and my tuppenorth as a customer…

    I’d be happy if I was dolphin plumbing services.

    Our company logo was made for about £50 using the same type of source – it’s not brilliant but it’ll do

    And to be fair guys – as long as the customer’s happy…..
    I’d be intrigued for balanced to see what the designers bemoaning this logo would have produced and at what price – it’s all very well taking a pop but what woluld the alternative be?

  • Great article, I feel the same way. I have chosen not to lower prices and continue to do great design work in reasonable time frames. I think the minute you start dropping your prices to low then your standards have no where to go other than down too. I think it was a great experiment and and great article to show clients who complain about costs!… Mel

  • I can see why this appeals, like you said not everyone would see the benefit of throwing some serious cash at a logo.

    Either way though, How can this designer ever make a living out of this? Must be working for sub minimum wage, unless he just outsources it all and takes a margin.

  • Daisy

    How about following this up with a similar experiment but showing a range of logos at a range of prices (£25, £100, £250 etc etc), including your own Tom/Phil, without saying which was at which price band, and vote to see if people really can tell where the money is being spent – does spending more money really equal better quality? This is an interesting article I agree but would be good to follow up to see if the £25 logo really doesn’t hold its own against more expensive designs. Over to you!

  • Only £25??? Result! Although Im not keen on the circle mind.

  • This was a fascinating read.

    How I first started out was on those Freelance websites where people posted their projects, designers posted a proposal and then the client selected the pitch they liked. The problem was (and still is and it now grows in number) that some of the perspective clients didn’t base their decision on the best pitch or work of the designer or their ideas, they based their decision on the price.

    What I’ve noticed is that this expectation of just picking the lowest priced provider, isn’t contained to the logo design field. Now, it seems people are after fully realised and highly detailed illustration work, full album covers, full app User Interfaces, conceptual design work and more, for next to nothing.

    I’m not sure if it is a new trend because I haven’t been in the field professionally for very long and it seems like this is all I know, but at what point did people start thinking that creativity and technical application wasn’t a skill that not everyone can do.

    But there is hope. There is still a big number of people out there who appreciate the importance of good design and are willing to make the investment in time and money to get something really nice put together.

    From what I have noticed, these people tend to be of a much different mindset and they tend to not have money on their mind and are more concerned with the image of their business or product. These people also have bigger plans with their project and seek to use the design in a really affective way.

    I’m not ultimately driven by money and, as noted in the article, you get what you pay for when it comes to work. If a client comes to me expecting the work for very little money, I don’t consider them or their business to be very serious in their intent and make a bet that the design the end up with will make very little impact or they will get no where in the business field (you can usually tell the type of person I am referring to here: unapologetic, demanding the earth before the you have even agreed to any terms and usually rounding off the email or phone call with “this will be very good for you portfolio”).

    If a client comes to me saying they have a lot of money to dedicate to a design project, I don’t think “Oh I’m going to make a killing here,” I think that the client is very serious about their project and is looking to get something very good. These are the clients that deserve our time and deserve our best work.

  • Mike

    Interesting article,
    I was looking for a logo design a few days ago and I stumble upon an interesting website that offers free logo design, you can check it here:
    I’m wondering how a a project with them will look like :).


  • greg

    I definitely think you should create one, for some perspective, if his is cheap and worth £25, what would one at your cost look like ?

  • Chris

    Well I definitely agree with you on this.

    I’m an amateur designer and I do contests in and clearly see the quality of outputs. Of course for me I have to do the best I can to achieve a good quality and will be on par with the prize but most of the time the prize really don’t matter as long as I see that my design is one to be proud of. I also see to it that I discipline my self when designing.

    I feel sorry for companies or individuals who don’t get the quality for what they paid for even if that design costs $150. I see designers skills degrade in this site and respect for design is greatly fading.

    Though we are called anti-spec designers, it’s the only option for me since I’m in a third-world country where employment is really hard. So all I can do is to be the best I can without losing respect for design and consider every values in designing – that is for now until I get a decent job in the design industry.

    Enjoyed the article thanks!

  • I just finished my dissertation on crowd-sourcing’s impact, affects on industry. If youre interested in a read, let me know

  • There is still a big number of people out there who appreciate the importance of good design and are willing to make the investment in time and money to get something really nice put together.

  • Totally agree and seen this time and time again – I wont do15 mins of design for €15 euros for 15 minutes for fame

  • You get what you pay for !! … if you paid somebody $500 to go out and buy you a car… do you think their gonna come back with a BMW !!! maybes a BMW badge or a model car =P … But on a serious note,,, this is something to be worried about and clients complain that we charge a lot,, but our web designs start from $10,000 after all :)

  • samantha

    I saw at least one other person comment on the fact that the work is clearly done offshore. I think this raises a more important question. Could designers eventually see themselves as Americans in the auto-industry now see themselves? Jobless and fucked? I don’t think so, however, its important to realize that there are people in the world willing to work for less. I have been turned down for almost every freelance job I have found since graduating in 2009, and its because I ‘ask for too much money’. I don’t believe that charging people a fair price for my time is wrong, and I don’t mind paying for quality items with more ‘quality’ prices.

    Unfortunately, there aren’t many people who feel that way anymore. Go capitalism/globalization!

  • Very interesting article and comments. I’m a UK Graphic Designer of some 20 odd years who manages an existing fairly succesful small design company. As an experiment really and with no grand masterplan, at the start of the downturn in 2008 or thereabouts we set up a new website offering a cheap logo design service with online prices (minus paypal fees) at under £30 +vat for level entry logo design, which consists of 1 initial design concept and 1 round of amends. We also have more comprehensive packages available with more initial design concepts and further rounds of revisions upto around £150 mark (with free stationery set design thrown in) all artwork supplied in vector and online formats. Our cheap logo design clients seem to broadly fit into 2 catergories, the first being the sort of folk who begrudge paying anything online and will have very clear (often appalling) ideas about what they want and designing for these clients is a heads down – yes boss, whatever you say boss, afair. The second camp very often pay for the higher level of service and if they’ve got any sense let us come up with the ideas and more often than not get a reasonably priced quality logo at the end of it. If you’re a competent speedy designer who can knock things out in their sleep – get in touch – we’re always looking for a few extra pairs of hands (just don’t expect to be retiring anytime soon).

  • While it’s true to say the design is not going to win any awards. It has to be remembered that not very many tradesmen have the eye or indeed care very much for what passes as the latest in cutting edge design and are quite happy with a cheap and cheerful logo. A sole trader/small business such as Dolphin plumbing Services is probably going to be just as successful with this quasi clipart look than with a logo that looks more sophisticated. In fact looking a bit more homemade (read cheap) may find said plumber more work because his rates are likely to be cheaper than one of the big boys.

  • Having been given a project to manage where the client had already hired a very similar company to this one, if not the same one by the standard of work and revisions my experiences were just as above. The company I was dealing with claimed to by located in the UK however from judging both from their emails and the time the revisions tend to be completed I doubt the people working on the logos are based here.

    As a service it does deliver what it says however the logos on the companies website were of a much better standard than anything we received. Two of the logs we got were identical to those above, sans dolphin and the revision proves only seems to go one round, i.e. you ask for something to be removed, asked for a change of font, suggest something is needed above the logo and you get the first log back again. It was hugely frustrating and basically a waste of everyone’s time.

    Did they come up with an acceptable log at the end of it? No. we eventually created something ourselves and they never had to deliver, I would imagine this is what happens more often than not, ‘unlimited revisions’ didn’t seem to be about getting it right but more about wearing the client into submission to accept a substandard logo.

    As said, you get what you pay for but I do think in the case of the service we used the website selling the logos were misrepresenting themselves on several levels.

  • I’ve seen a heck of a lot worse.
    In fact, if some small sole traders near me (think 1 person outfits, hammered by economy, doing their best and with no big bucks to splash) paid £25 and got this sort of response, I think it would be a million times better than the MS Clip Art they’re using at the moment.

    Horses for courses. And for many businesses, something vaguely professional and certainly affordable is better than what they have at the moment.

    This sort of logo is utility. Real in-depth design and consistent visual identity creation is a different kettle of fish entirely.

    On another note – shame LOCOG didn’t get this lot to do the London 2012 logo.

    Ohh. Catty.

  • A lot of the more negative responses seem to be from UK based designers/agencies that may not have fully grasped yet that the internet has opened up the whole world as a service supplier, bringing with it a levelling of costs typical to the so called developing economies. I wouldn’t be surprised if there exists a similar forum to this one in India, bemoaning the cheap and shoddy services offered by the burgening chinese logo design companies. As UK based graphic designers ourselves it certainly is tough out there. The halycon days of 5-10 years ago when you could charge the best part of a grand to come up with a brand identity are not going to be coming back anytime soon…

  • It’s a valuable experiment but not sure what we can conclude from this other than ‘you gets what you pays for.’ Had the logo designs submitted been totally unusable then there may have been a clear case for rubbishing this whole end of the market, but as they generally did what was asked of them eventually (probably not in their native language so there may well have been some confusion as to any instruction) you have to accept that it’s not a bad service for the money involved. Any company seriously looking to brand themselves though might do well to dig a bit deeper in their pockets…

  • Negative feedback from uk designers is also due to the fact that a uk plumber would not lift a finger for $42, they charge a fortune.

  • Yes I agree with you Simon.

    However, some people are on tight budgets so you need to accommodate for an array of people.

    Check out our award winning designs too here in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. We are an all star female creative media agency who won numerous awards.

  • Gary Hoff

    I don’t get it, so is this a plumbing service just for Dolphins?

  • Vic

    Simple question would the Plumber fix you leaking pipe for 25£, No it would not even cover labour. No other industry I’ve worked for undermines itself as much as Design. I saw this coming over 10 years ago and decided it was time for a career change. I’m sick and tired of hearing designers say ‘I do it for the love it’ , the more you say this the more clients will abuse the situation . Prediction , 10 years from now we will have small select big companies dealing with the high end, the rest will be kids living at home doing it as a part time job while they work at McDonalds to cover their life costs.

  • Gary Hoff

    David Thorne had a similar request and wrote about it in his book
    The internet is a playground.

  • I don’t charge very much for logos. I am self taught and do a lot of hand lettering and illustration mainly for girly sorts of businesses. I do offer all branding and what not. Again cheaply. Not £25. But a small amount. Why? My whole business is just me at my desk in my front room, I am scared to ask for more in case people think my designs are crud. Ifclients say they can get it cheaper elsewhere I don’t barter (I’m cheap enough) but I can see where I fit in to the grand scheme of things. A lot of my customers are businesses my size, and they want to look professional and have nice branding and a design reflective of them but they don’t have the budget… I feel like I can’t charge more when I work from my front room and have no formal training (10 years plus in the industry though). Win win? Perhaps. It works well I enjoy my job and my clients enjoy their results. I don’t work a lot and don’t get involved in the competitiveness of design my price is my price, so it suits me. One day I might get brave and ask for more but I don’t honestly know what my designs are worth more than the effort I put in. Anyways… Great article and an interesting thought!

  • DShep

    Paralell devaluing is happening everywhere. I believe this is the sign of a cash strapped society. I was an Occupational Therapist for 10yrs, at uni during my OT degree I studied group dynamics, how to grade and adapt activities for all sorts of disabilities and picked up numerous skills during the years. There has been a rapid decline in OT positions, and even our professional body, the COT, recommended we apply our skills in non OT roles…and guess what- nearly a 50% drop in pay and no recognition of our professional skills and knowledge! To survive we need to grow and adapt….and sometimes that means a change of occupation!!!

  • Susan Dupres

    At least you get to avoid the waiting list that graphic designers put you on and the endless waffle and nonsense. Just ask for the fonts/outlines if you need them. I’ve never seen a graphic designer send fonts over anyway.

  • It is sad for us in the design industry to find that there are people who charge so much lesser than we do. They are probably just freelancers looking for extra cash. I do not understand how £25 can cover what with the many hours spent making that logo not to mention all the revisions made. That’s only coffee spent for the client meeting to discuss their specifications and branding. I do understand that there are small business who cant afford to pay premium and they are grateful to have these low cost designers to make them what they want, but it will surely devalue the work put behind by design agencies where we have people helping with the branding, conceptualization and the actual designing of the logos.

  • Jim McGovern

    I found this article very interesting, particularly as I work for a company that specialises in budget logo design and cheap graphic design! We do strive for excellent customer service and offer unlimited revisions. It is true that many companies offer substandard work at a budget price, but we nearly always receive outstanding feedback from our customers. 10pounddesign: budget graphic design

  • Mark Slater

    As a start up on the verge of releasing our first product, we found we needed to change our logo last minute for legal reasons. As almost all of our budget is already invested in our product and advertising spaces at upcoming trade shows, we opted to try

    They advertise a 3 day turnaround yet 17 days later we have only received our initial concepts. We explained that we are a new games studio focusing on tools for console developers. As our tools are built around data structures called trees (so named for their similarity to real trees), we named our company Arborescent Digital. We clearly stated that the logo should prominently feature either:

    1. a tree composed of computer equipment
    2. a tree like fractal (to give a feel for modern computing).

    We sent along a couple of samples demonstrating the effect we were going for along and the required text.

    The results? Of the concepts we received, only one of them featured a tree. It was extremely basic – to proove the point, one of our programmers made something very similar using GIMP in just under 3 minutes. We strongly suspect the others were stock, pre-made IT logos which ignored the brief. Ironically, their garden/landscaping portfolio features logos that far better match the brief than any of the concepts! While we expressed our disappointment, a couple of the concepts were of a sufficient standard that we still felt that with some changes (mainly the font choice and swapping out a noisy background layer for a radial gradient) they would at least be of temporary use for the upcoming shows (while we raised the funds to hire a more professional logo designer). We sent our feedback and asked when we could expect the revised versions. Since then we have heard nothing from them – not even a confirmation email. We have left messages for them via email, phone and skype. On Friday we requested a full refund (but we aren’t about to hold our breath).

    Clearly you get what you pay for!

  • I was really impressed by that awesome transitions from the start up to the logo was completely done. That is what clients are actually looking for. Impressive! Graphic Design Chesterfield

  • It is not an easy thing to deal with customers and get their “green signal” for any design, you have to work very hard make for customer satisfaction which is the main and important thing in any business. Your work shows your perfection and grip on designing and creativeness.

  • “You get what you pay for. The important thing to remember is to make your service good value, regardless of how much it costs.”

    Well said Tom and Phil

  • Zippy Marshall

    WOW £25.00 – yes it’s pants, but…

    London 2012
    Capital One

    I have been a designer for over 20 years, we really are up ourselves aren’t we?

  • Like so many here it I hope everyone can see the difference between the professional logos of some brands that for example Zippy mentioned above and a logo presented in this example… Quality should be something everyone is looking for if they are after a logo design that works and will last. “Brand” have been proven again and again is what will gain your business customer loyalty & give it that professional look & trust.

  • I sincerely think that if you pay peanuts that you get monkeys. However…I totally understand how some small businesses don’t have the funds for a professional designer. Maybe the £25 logo will suffice for a start up – just so that they can get their name out there and portray at least a bit of a professional stance. But the designers who are doing this aren’t doing themselves or the industry any favours. Yes, there’s always going to be someone out there that will undercut you. But I certainly don’t want to work for £5 an hour. I’ve been there before and that was 20 years ago when I worked in a fast food chain trying to get myself through college. I’m definitely worth more than that.

  • There will always be clients who want the cheapest option and on the flip-side clients who appreciate the value of good design. And a hole bunch in the grey area in the middle, the challenge is to educate those in the grey area that your service is worth the investment for their business and not worry about the ones who consider price only as you are preaching on deaf ears.

    In my mind the design industry has always had this problem, the cheap logo services available today are just another version of an age old problem of people not appreciating what work is involved in great design and how it benefits them.

    So educate them.

  • I suppose anyone who believes they can get well crafted logo designed for £25 has no real concept of what design and branding really mean. Therefore they are never likely to be a customer for any designer or agency that goes through a creative process to produce meaningful results.

    That said, it still winds me up when I see that guys face on ‘I’ll design your logo for a fiver’ ads.

  • We specialise providing design and print for Estate Agency Marketing and logo design is by far our least favorite work! Our prices start from £350. The majority of our clients have little idea of what they want and detailed briefs are rare resulting in a long drawn out process with a very unfulfilling job at a very unrewarding hourly rate. I think this £25 logo service is excellent to refer clients with no brief to, it saves wasting our time and their money!

  • I have been designing logos for my small business web design company in Vancouver. My logo designs are simple and affordable. The Vancouver, Canada market is not as strong as say a New York City market would be, so therefore graphic designers such as myself are required to reduce our profit expectations. If one is really wanting to make real profit then one should work for a larger advertising agency in a large city.

  • Get a life! You obviously cant make money on what you do or trying to do!!! Suggest that you spend more time in spend or criticizing or complaining about cheap logo design companies such as us.

  • sam

    Competition usually benefits but in this case the competition has ruined it all. A cheap logo is just a un-analysed color mix.

  • Rick

    Well, how I see that the graphic design industry (if I can call it this way) is suicidal. No client would demand cheap logo or cheap graphic design if there is no one who would serve him/her. There in no other professional occupation (architects, lawyers, doctors and yes even plumbers too) which would undersell theirs services and expertise. These professionals keep their fees to professional level. So they are well paid and enjoy respect of their clients. Who really should take blame is graphic designers themselves for not being united enough to refuse play this game and cry afterwards. I read somewhere that the start up comanies can not afford to pay for good logo or branding. It was written in such way that graphic designers should sponsor them making it affordable. Well if one can not afford start a business he should propably not to. Can you imagine you want go set up your own business and the landlord woul give you huge discount on your premises. Then leasing company gives car for 20% of its value just becasue you can not afford it. Really?.. So why everybody expects from designers give their service for low fee, like it is their moral duty to sponsor somebody’s business.. I tell you why. It is because designers let it happen..

  • There’s a lid for every pot. For companies who don’t see or understand the value of branding there are people who will happily bash out cheap and frivolous work. I totally disagree that it is damaging to the industry as a whole or even at all. The client who pays £25 for their logo was never ever EVER going to be convinced to pay much more. Sure, maybe he would have paid £50 or even £100 if those were the cheapest options available, but whatever, its still massively off course. Whatever. Who cares. If there wasn’t a service that offered super cheap clipart logos, he would have had his nephew create one on a cracked version of photoshop, for which he would have paid nothing.

    This is simply a reality. It always has been, always will be. There are people who understand and value good things, there are people who don’t but are open and can be educated and then there are those who don’t understand and simply don’t care. These categories have and always will exist. The world will continue to revolve. The sun will rise, I’ll eat dinner in the evening and studios/agencies around the world will continue doing business with people who understand the value of what we do. Companies who understand the potential of their brands will continue to invest accordingly in the development and maintenance thereof. I don’t think a company offering budget logos to budget clients has any far reaching effects on our industry, or even any effect at all. It just is what it is.

    What is concerning is that someone is effectively being employed to work below minimum wage because I know this process, as hastily bashed together as it is, was not achieved in under 5 hours. 12 logo version in total plus correspondence and output was not achieved in under five hours, ESPECIALLY when you consider that the person doing this was almost certainly a junior. Legally speaking, this company must be operating in a very grey area. I would not be surprised to find that they are exploiting illegal immigrants or something equally unethical. Thats where the debate should be, thats where the spotlight needs to be focused on. How are they getting this done, and are they paying a legal wage? Hell, this could even be a money laundering setup for all we know.

  • Col

    Interesting article and having used logo creation and buying facilities like Fiverr (for research) and, I agree with David. As a self funded one man startup I was never going to spend hundreds or thousands of pounds on branding. These sites provide value that people in my position seek and a logo or branding can be replaced or adapted over time as the business gets bigger.You have to start somewhere.

  • Is it possible to make a living designing these types of logos? I am wondering about freelancing this service along with my small web design company.

  • Cool article!

  • website design dubai

    What is concerning is that someone is effectively being employed to work below minimum wage because I know this process, as hastily bashed together as it is, was not achieved in under 5 hours. 12 logo version in total plus correspondence and output was not achieved in under five hours, ESPECIALLY when you consider that the person doing this was almost certainly a junior. Legally speaking, this company must be operating in a very grey area. I would not be surprised to find that they are exploiting illegal immigrants or something equally unethical. Thats where the debate should be, thats where the spotlight needs to be focused on

  • David

    Minimum wage in India is $2-$3 per day. A lot of these cheap logo design companies are not in the UK, even if they purport to be.

    So, £9 would be around a weeks minimum wage give or take for exchange rates, welcome to the global economy!

  • Sara

    Fascinating and interesting article. Confirms what we all know: You get what you pay for … AND you get what you have the capacity/education to ask for. Not saying paying premium will necessarily get you a great logo though! It’s down to your choice of designer/agency.

  • wonderful blog, keep it up :-)

  • Really great post !! In this post ,I Like many other products and services, it’s never going to be too hard to find a cheaper option. But, as the painfully obvious saying goes, you get what you pay for. Buy a cheap meal, it won’t taste very nice. If Phil the plumber decides to go for the £25 logo purely based on cost, his service simply won’t look premium.
    Thank you for information..