Today we’re going to unpack why design is so expensive, specifically logos, branding, and identity design. This is something that many businesses ask us about, and the numbers can feel arbitrary. Here we will discuss a couple of high-level things to consider when selecting a design agency and how those affect your overall cost. How experienced is the team that you’re working with? What deliverables are they going to create for you? And what is your risk tolerance? So let’s try to unpack all of this.
How experienced is the team that you're working with?
Experience is crucial but can vary significantly. If you work with a team that specializes in branding, and that’s all they do, they have a deep level of expertise. They are masters of their craft. They have a clear system for working through that process and what you can expect at the end and along the way. It will be incredibly easy for you to follow versus something like Fiverr, where they probably do not have the experience that a professional designer does.
Going cheap, there will probably be a lot more back and forth. There may be confusion about the goal of who you’re trying to reach, things like that. An experienced team can be a huge benefit to you, anticipating problems and applying solutions before they even arise. Naturally, they can demand a premium because they save you time, prevent frustration, give you a premium product, and lower your risk. So the greater the experience, the greater the cost.
Experience is a significant factor in overall cost but also plays into managing risk. A more experienced team is more likely to deliver success or fix errors in a brand rollout.
What deliverables are they going to create for you?
This is something that can trip you up as you’re looking through estimates. No two studios offer exactly the same packaging for branding design, so it’s never truly apples to apples. What we recommend is clarifying with your design team to see what it is that they are providing to you at that expense. Are they including any kind of brand positioning and strategy? How extensive is that? Do they start with strategy and provide a market analysis? Do they develop vision boards and target buyers? Do they have case studies that they can share with you? What does their design process look like? Are they just going to give you three finished options to select from, or are you going to have numerous meetings with them to choose concepts based on strategy?
Branding is not the same as ordering a commodity. It’s a creative process, unique every time, and there will be a huge variation in what different people or agencies can do for you.
What is your risk tolerance?
When we discuss risk, we essentially mean what is the cost if the project doesn’t go well. The risk to a startup is smaller than to a large corporation. You have fewer loyal customers, you haven’t built out a storefront, you haven’t purchased a lot of product, you haven’t applied this branding onto numerous SKUs of product, and you don’t have a fleet of vehicles with graphics, and so on. Risk means offending or losing loyal customers, and the cost of replacing a significant amount of specialty printed and manufactured materials.
Now let us consider a larger pubic-facing business like Panera Bread. They have a lot invested in their branding, so any change will be expensive because it has to be done for every location. They will have to change uniforms, signage, menus, take-home bags, environmental graphics, ads and promotions, television spots, billboards, their website, and possibly even a mobile app. There’s an incredible number of customer touchpoints, and it all has to remain consistent. Although they have a design team, they will also need an external team to help them with all these pieces and transition them into their new look and feel.
The intangible is harder to quantify; how much emotion do patrons feel for the old brand? Will that sway their loyalty? The cost of doing this and the risk of getting it wrong are certainly much higher. Larger agencies will be conducting research to brand equity and new opportunities, which can all mitigate your risk. Changes to patronage will certainly have an effect on the bottom line, positive or negative.