The Road to Hell is Paved with “FREE”

This post is written with love, affection and your brand’s best interests at heart. It’s a response to a post about Free Logos.

Okay. This is me speaking as a designer. There’s a simple rubric to follow when you’re making choices about graphic design. You’re probably already familiar with it: “You get what you pay for.”

You’re developing your brand – a dynamic stew of content, design and technology that you offer to the world one contact at a time. Your potential clients, users, customers, community members make their purchasing or engagement decisions based on the totality of your brand – not fragmented parts – like a one-off logo design.

A logo is one element of your brand identity. It’s developed by a designer as part of a design system for your brand. Your brand identity is redefined for each application – as a mark with no type, with type, with a logo line, in print, in a large display graphic, online, mobile.

A designer develops a logo in context – on letterhead, on emails, in a website, on texture, black and white, spot color, full color, in a display ad, on a packaging label, on a T-shirt, in a motion graphic, on a T-shirt worn by an actor in a motion graphic.

A logo is part of your brand identity. The free image you’re creating now isn’t a logo. It’s a placeholder. It’s a sketch. A suggestion. Today you’re going to begin creating a brand identity book. Start tearing images, art and typography out of magazines. Choose images that capture some quality that you FEEL expresses the heart of your project – your brand.

Avoid timid choices. Go with your gut. Include things you LOVE. Include things you HATE. Include things that make you CRY, LAUGH, DANCE. Start saving website URLs that speak to you. Pick colors. Build a mood board – photos of everything that shows the texture, color, story, energy of your unique brand identity.

Developing a brand identity takes time. Think months not weeks. A brand identity isn’t static. It evolves as your business evolves. It’s not mushy. It’s clear, distinct and fresh. It’s your heart and mind in dialog with your passion.

While you’re building your brand identity start figuring out a budget for design, photography, illustration. Don’t go cheap. You’ll cheat yourself and weaken your brand.

Once you’ve developed your mood board and understand your brand it’s time to talk to a designer. Ask around. Ask a client. Ask a vendor. Get a copy of The Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook: Pricing and Ethical Guidelines.

You can even ask me. I would love to tell you where to go. – MM


One thought on “The Road to Hell is Paved with “FREE”

  1. Holly

    Thank you for sharing the true meaning in as much impassioned depth and breadth as spaced allowed of “logo.” Personally, having worked with designers, I was aware logos have more to them than a visual appearance; mine was not meant to be a slapdash affair, but to one with little design knowledge (and no design software or time to learn it), I thought it was serendipitous that I happened upon the site. The color choices were perfect, the shape , the 3D effect… The only sad part is not having the ability to add lace to the “shuttle.” And now, it’s all moot, as Hillary discovered it all cones at a price that I’m not willing to pay–so I’ll be taking mine off and replacing it with a mundane title–but at least it’s my own–until I learn enough design basics to create a logo.


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