A behind-the-scenes look at a graphic chop shop
The short answer to the question of why are some graphic designers so cheap is that they are taking shortcuts in the creative process. They are using templates. And, now, there are even computer programs that can do it for them! But you don’t need a fake graphic designer, I’ll show you how to design your own logo. I’ll use my old graphic design business, Blue Bicycle Design, as an example. (I still do design, but under my own name now.)
How to create your own logo using a template.
First, pick your favorite online app. There are new logo design apps all the time. Just do an internet search for “free logo design apps”. You’ll be busy for hours just choosing one. (It’s been so long I’ve forgotten which company I used. They probably don’t exist anymore. And, granted, the apps are much better now, but the process is the same.)
Step I: Choose an icon.
Pick a stock image, meaning pick a generic graphic that has already been illustrated, which, as you can see, has no style. They are the lowest common denominator of illustrations meant to please everyone and satisfy all needs. Below are the travel images. They were images that were the closest match to either graphic design or bicycling. Surprisingly, there was no bicycle to choose from. As you can see, I chose the globe icon.
Step II: Choose a font.
Now I need to choose a font. I was given only 12 fonts to choose from, whereas I have over 10,000 fonts. As you can see, I chose the bold, hand-written font.
Step III: Choose a color scheme.
In this case, I was given another 12 options, each using a couple colors out of the 256 web-safe colors. In reality, there are millions of colors that can be used on the web.
Step IV: Choose your final logo.
The end product: A cookie-cutter logo. Below is another logo I designed using a different free app. I got a little closer this time. It’s almost bearable. The brand name could be set in two different colors. A big improvement. But another hour’s worth of work. If you want the best logo, you’ll probably have to try 3 to 10 of the best apps you can find.
Step V: The catch
Wait! We can’t actually have our logo files. If we want our logo, we need to print business cards using the “free” apps printing service. Who knows how to put this on letterhead? You could copy the image the same as I did above, but that’s an image for computer monitors, not for printing. It’s an unnoticeable but big difference.
An alternative 100% Customized logo
Below is my custom-designed logo with my vision fully realized. I think it is:
A cool idea — Why does it read as “bicycle” when half the letters are missing? In a more abstract manner, it conveys my passion for new creations, adventure and design. I hope it will invoke people to ask, “What is the connection between bicycling and graphic design?”
Eye-catching — Simple circular shapes and roughly complementary colors (cyan and gold) read quickly at a glance.
Attention-keeping — It is an elegant design that pleases the eye, and it is a curious puzzle.
Conveys information — It reads as “Blue Bicycle”. It gives the viewer the impression of adventure, design, elegance and simplicity. Also, it combines two familiar elements into something new, interesting and mysterious. These ideas are how I like to view my business and design philosophy, and the type of people that resonate with these ideas are the types of customers I like to attract.
It bears repeating: companies and individuals offering prices too good to be true are using templates, like cookie cutters and simply typing in the name of your company. Worse, they might be using a graphic design sweatshop. And sometimes, they are using computer programs that spit out a bunch of designs based on keywords. They will offer unlimited designs and unlimited revisions for as little as $25. In my experience, and in the experiences of my professional peers, that is less than one hour of work. I usually spend about 1-3 hours consulting with my client and 1-4 hours of research before I feel comfortable beginning a design. Read about how the creative process works.
Even if you get a talented, local artist doing custom work, you need to be careful that they won’t hold you hostage for changes. Some designers won’t give you the original files. This means you’ll always have to go back to them for changes. And, others will make you pay extra for the copyright. And, the worst of all, is buying artwork that has been plagiarized or a blatant knockoff.
How to choose a graphic designer
- What is their work process?
- How long will it take?
- How many designs do I get to choose from? Unlimited is not the answer you want to hear.
- Once I pick a design, how many revisions (tweaks) are included? The more revisions they offer, the less time they will spend on any one design/revision.
- Do you get the original files? For example, you should get the Adobe Illustrator files, not just a JPG.
- Who owns the copyright?
- Is there a downpayment?
- Do they offer refunds?
More articles in this series:
- What is a logo?
- What makes a good logo?
- Bicycle logo design. Some of my favorites.
- How is a logo made? The creative process.
- How to make a free logo.
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Scott is still available for graphic design, information design, web design, branding and illustration. Profits support this website and our work with schools, not to mention Scott himself. Please contact Scott to discuss your project.