Quick and cheap ways to design a great looking logo for your startup

By Shaun Symm, March 07, 2017
Neon light in the shape of a dollar sign

If you are working on a startup you are going to need a logo.

Designing a logo can be an expensive and time consuming process. So, unless you are a graphic designer, or are flush with venture capital money, you’ve got a problem.

To help solve that problem here are some great ways to design a logo, for your startup, quickly and cheaply (the solutions below are listed from cheapest to most expensive):

1. The Typeface Logo

If you are very early stage, you might be able to get away with a simple typeface. Just choose a nice looking font and a colour that you like.

The downside is that the logo will lack personality and potentially will look cheap. If you’re using this technique then try to avoid default fonts that people see everyday (e.g.: Arial).

Here's an example using the Orby logo:

Orby logo

You could pay a designer to help you select a font and play around with things like kerning (the spacing between the letters) to make the logo a little better.

In most cases, a typeface logo without any treatment is something you would use as a placeholder while getting started. You can use it in prototypes and possibly in a minimum viable product.

2. The 5 Minute Logo With Icon

I came across this little logo design hack thanks to Ned Dwyer in a post titled The 5 minute logo (Ned got the idea from Marc Hemeon in his post How to make a logo, for free, in about 5 minutes).

Basically you are going to take the typeface logo from option 1 above, add an icon to it, and then add some colour. The icons can be sourced, for free, from The Noun Project.

Following Marc’s guide, here is an example of how the Orby logo could progress:

Example startup logo

It is important to note that if you use an icon from The Noun Project always check the license. If it is Creative Commons ensure that you provide attribution to the creator. If it is Public Domain then there is no need to. You can avoid attribution too by paying $1.99 for the icon which gives you full royalty free usage. The Orby monster icon above courtesy of Alex Waza.

If Launch Lab is developing your startup application, we’ll be happy to create an ‘MVP’ logo for you for free using the 2nd method above. If you want to invest more and have a logo custom designed we can help with that too.

3. Fiverr Logo Design

Fiverr is a marketplace where you can outsource projects like graphic design and have the projects completed very cheaply.

The Fiverr logo design service indicates that some designers in their marketplace are prepared to design a logo for as little as $14. They also offer a premium package where you can spend over $120 to get more design options and more revisions.

I’ve never used Fiverr before so I can’t comment on whether this is a good option or not. I would however exercise caution and know that the logos that you get back may not be what you like. It may be an iterative process that ends up costing much more than you initially expected.

However, at such a low price the risk might be worth it and you could get very lucky.

4. Online Logo Generators

I came across Emblem on Product Hunt last week and have had a play with the product. It is billed more of a way to design a brand. Essentially you get more than just a logo. You get a colour swatch as well as a brand pattern.

Creation of the logo and brand assets happen automatically on the website and pricing starts at $9 per month. A question raised on Product Hunt is why people would continue to pay a monthly fee for this service. I guess it becomes a place where you can save your brand assets and continually update them.

However, if you want to keep costs very low then sign up on the month-to-month plan ($15 per month), generate your brand assets, download the assets and then close your account (this advice comes from the founder of Emblem).

A product similar to Emblem is Logojoy. I think I prefer Logojoy to be honest, but to be fair, at the time of writing this Emblem had only be around for less than a week so probably much more to come from them.

If you are using Logojoy avoid the $20 option. For $65 you get all the assets you’ll need in future for business cards, your website etc.

Here is an example I created on Logojoy (look familiar to what I created in option 2 above? I guess they are using The Noun Project API to source their icons):

startup business card with logo

5. 99Designs

99Designs is a 2-sided design marketplace. Their logo design offering starts from AU$399 and from what I know is massively popular. While the starting price is low this can go up to over $1,000 and beyond.

The designs on their website look amazing but that doesn't necessarily mean that is the quality you are going to get. I had a client who used 99Designs a couple of years ago and the quality was nowhere near the examples shown on their landing page. Don’t get me wrong, for about $600 this client got a good result.

6. I Know a Guy Who Will Design The Logo For Free

I mentioned at the start of this post that the order of these logo design solutions starts with the least expensive and ends with the most expensive option.

So, you might be wondering why this option is #6. Well, time equals money. I’ve seen this one too many times. If you have a friend who is a designer and says that they’d be happy to design your logo for free that’s great.

However, in most cases (in my experience) there are problems with this. Free isn’t sustainable so your ‘guy’ probably has a day job where they spend 8 - 10 hours every day designing things. The last thing they want to do at night is get home and work on designing your logo for free.

Some will. Some will take weeks if not months to deliver. And, dare you ask for a change … add a few weeks.

I don’t want to sound unfair here. Sometimes having a ‘guy’ will work out great and you get an awesome end result, for free, with no hassle. My experience, on numerous occasions has been different and so I’d place a value on the ‘free logo’ of at least a few hundred dollars in wasted time and frustration.

To avoid this, offer your 'guy' some reward. Something more than free. It shows you value their skills and acts as motivation. Of course, if you are paying your 'guy' then you should be able to agree to some project rules (like a deadline date) before they start.

7. Freelance & Agency Designed Logo's

This is where logo design can get expensive. You’ll generally end up with a superior product than in the methods described above but you’ll pay for the designers time to work with you, understand your brief, think hard about the best direction to go in and how the logo design fits in with the overall brand style.

If you are just starting a startup you could consider this option and get quotes for logo designs but, you should also consider your available budget as well as all the other things you’ll need to do in order to launch your startup.

Could the money be better spent on a copywriter to write higher converting headlines? Better landing pages? More Adwords clicks?

Wrapping It Up

Great logos pay for themselves over and over again. It is often the first thing a customer sees when interacting with your company. It instills trust and helps to position your brand. It helps identify you.

A great brand can also make a startup defensible.

Why then would a startup scrimp and save on a cheap logo design?

If your startup solves a big problem for people then they’ll forgive you for your MVP logo in the early stages. Once you’ve validated your startup idea you’ll probably have the money to invest properly in option #7 and have a logo, and brand, designed that will position you correctly and will last for many years.

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