I got this question from another designer recently: “My client requested a logo design. She filled in my design brief questionnaire, I presented a few concepts, and we went through three rounds of concepts, variations, and tweaking. They were not sure of any of the designs and finally backed off. Though I did get an advance, it did not come close to covering the time I invested in the project. How do you handle this type of situation?”
Whether you charge a few hundred dollars or a few hundred-thousand dollars, the great conundrum of logo design is this: If you can’t provide the client with a mark that they are excited about and invested in you haven’t done your job. It is that simple.
Designing a logo is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. Remember, we’re asking the client to build their organization on a framework that we provide—to adopt our ideas, our style, our palette, and to identify themselves with that brand for years, even decades to come. If we ask for that type of commitment from them, it seems entirely reasonable (to me) for them to be excited and energized by what we design.
That type of commitment does not come cheap. You cannot learn what needs to be learned and do what needs to be done in a few hours. I have no idea how many hours my friend budgeted to create the logo, but my advice to him is this: Charge what is necessary to deliver a compelling solution or turn the job down—you owe that to your client and your client owes that to you.
Logo design requires a commitment from both sides to see it through to its end. That means you need to charge enough to do the research necessary to understand the client’s industry, their competition, and to clearly understand where they fall within that landscape—enough to create a design that not only speaks to those issues but that aligns with the aesthetic and intellectual sensibilities of the people within the organization who will be living with it. That’s a lot of people to satisfy, but that’s why logo design is not for the faint of heart.
How do you avoid my friend’s problem? By making everything crystal clear up front. Some designers prefer a formal contract, some a letter of agreement, others just a few paragraphs in an e-mail before the job begins—whatever you choose, choose something. If you wait until you are in the heat of the project to address difficulties, you’re going to get bruised.
Here are a few examples of such agreements.