I’ve got nothing against low-priced design. You generally do “get what you pay for”, but there are exceptions, and really, it may be all you need.

Morgan Lynch, founder of Logoworks, tells a story of the disappointment and expense that led him to start the company. Designers should read it, and his criticism of the traditional design process, to learn some important lessons about providing exceptional value for clients.

Why do so many designers charge more? Because, if they are doing their job right, they’re spending time and resources to give you a symbol that will be pivotal to growing your business. When your business grows, the value of that symbol will grow tremendously. Experienced designers understand that value from the beginning, and provide abundant sweat equity to give it a voice.

What are they doing with all that time and effort?

They’re asking questions, and listening – to you and to your industry. What’s important to you? How does this project fit into your long term goals? How do you expect to use and reproduce it? And hopefully, how might you unexpectedly find yourself using it?

Another important element is research. It overlaps listening, but includes the leg-work involved in finding out: What attracts, inspires or offends your target market? What’s the smartest way to produce your materials (printed brochures, coded websites, etc.)? And what’s new – what couldn’t we do before that we can do now?

Finding a good design studio that won’t vaporize your budget takes some careful poking around. There are also a lot of talented, hard-working people out there who are not charging enough to cover their own overhead (if you choose this route, make sure to be gracious, and to pay them promptly).

Lower priced designers often don’t have the time to do much listening or research. They must produce and bill quickly to make a project worthwhile. On the other hand, lots of people have wasted ridiculous amounts of money for poorly researched work, or an identity program that completely missed the mark. You may be one of many businesses who’ll have plenty of delight and success with their $99 logo. Before you click the buy button, though, read this article on the USA Today site about how to work with cut-rate logo services.

If you decide to go with the traditional and more costly designer, find someone that you sense will really believe in you and your project (more of my thoughts about outstanding design are here). Find someone you personally like, because that makes it easier to ask for and get the level of involvement you want. Most importantly, be willing to give and take time with it. It’s kind of what you’re paying for.

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