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Company logos have become something of an art form over the course of time. That said, there’s clearly a wide range of opinions on exactly what constitutes quality of design.

While some logos are fiendishly clever, others can be somewhat baffling. In the clever camp are obvious winners like the Nike swoosh, which cost just $35 to produce in 1971 and is now recognized by 97 percent of Americans. Landing squarely in the “what-were-they-thinking” category is the “cover the earth” symbol for Sherwin Williams, which is under fire for being environmentally insensitive but apparently kept on board for its longevity.

Business logos have actually been around for several thousands of years, dating back to when ancient Egyptians used hieroglyphs to brand animals and Romans and Greeks marked pottery by manufacturer. Later, coats of arms symbolized status and property throughout Europe, while hallmarks were stamped on the work of craftsmen.

With the growth of color printing and advertising systems in the 20th century, such symbols became even more commonplace, allowing for instant recognition of brands in a fast-paced, consumer-oriented world. Logos became simpler yet more sophisticated, imparting information on both conscious and subconscious levels. These days, some even have hidden meanings.

Because it remains an art, however, logo design is subject to a wide range of price points. Often, artists at the most affordable levels can produce the same quality of work as elite advertising agencies. Sometimes it’s unclear exactly what major corporations are paying for when they spend millions on such designs in their quest for the perfect logo.

Industry anecdotes

Check out these examples of the large amounts spent on logos over the past several years, sometimes at the customer’s peril:

  • BP is said to have spent $211 million for a 2008 logo and rebranding project resulting in the stylized sunflower logo that adorns stations today.
  • Norwegian postal services company Posten Norge is said to have spent $55 million on a massive new logo and rebranding in 2008.
  • New logos released for transportation network Uber Technologies Inc. in February 2016 have been roundly criticized for failing to represent company functions. Elements for two separate designs targeted toward company riders and drivers are reportedly based on “bits and atoms,” though many consumers fail to see the connection. “At the heart of Uber’s rebranding debacle is the company’s lack of understanding of some of the core principles of building strong brands,” writes Alexander Chernev in Fortune, who predicts a weakening of the brand.
  • In 2009, international banking group ANZ reportedly spent $15 million on a rebranding project that included a new human-shaped logo. It was meant to represent customers and staff in its three core markets of Australia, New Zealand and Asia Pacific. “An alien? A croissant and two biscuits? A hygiene product?” guessed one protester. “Either way, it does not seem to be related to a bank.”
  • Arnell Group spent a reported $1 million in 2008 for a Pepsi rebranding and logo redesign.
  • The BBC famously spent some $1.8 million to make over its logo in 1997, switching from slanted fonts and color splashes to simple letter boxes in slanted Gill Sans font.
  • In 2012 the London Olympic committee spent $625,000 for the creation of a new logo for that year’s games. The image was despised by most Londoners, including the mayor.

Making the correct investment

While the right logo design can be invaluable, large investments of money don’t necessarily translate into success. Here are some suggestions for working toward your logo design:

  • Cut out the middleman. Instead of hiring an agency that works with a designer, bypass the agency and work with the designer yourself. But don’t get carried away and cut out the designer. You need a professional with a trained eye to develop a sharp, one-of-a-kind design that resembles no other logo on the market and works well in all technical applications. That will require artistic training, technical skill, market experience and an understanding of industry expectations. For example, different logos succeed in different industries; a minimalist approach taken with one brand may be disastrous for another. In short, an experienced graphic designer can create the logo that’s best for your company and your industry.
  • Shop around. After narrowing down your best bets for designers, strive to learn their reputations. Seek guarantees, samples of previous work and positive reviews.
  • Know what you want. You’re paying a designer for their expertise regarding the best kind of logo for your needs. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t come to the table with ideas and expectations. You can expect the final result to be unique, clever and brand-specific. It should use color and font effectively (and perhaps psychologically), use appropriate imagery and show up clearly and attractively on a wide variety of mediums. “It’s important to have a balanced combination of simple and quirky,” advises Lindsay Rothfeld on Mashable.com. “You want your logo to be interesting, but you don’t want someone to have to sit and stare, analyzing the logo.”
  • Talk through your thought process. Find someone willing to hear details about your unique business before they begin creating.
  • Set your cost range. Because of the broad price range available, those not in the graphic-design industry may find cost research somewhat confusing (don’t believe us? Conduct a brief web search). Guidebooks are rare, and many logo designers seem to charge arbitrarily high amounts while others offer rock-bottom prices just to get business.

That said, most sources place a reasonable cost range at $250 to $600. That should buy you a well-defined company name and mark, though intricate patterns and complex lettering may increase the price. Your package should include at least four concepts along with two rounds of changes if needed.

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