Getting a logo developed can be expensive. Tying a visual trademark to your company name isn’t easy either. It requires a lot of time from well-trained and talented logo design experts. Someone who’s going to pour their heart into your company logo project, then turn this creation (and all reproduction rights to it) over to you. This will require a potentially exhaustive process, hours and hours of studio time (not to mention the years of experience and training) to come even close to getting it right. Market research. Technical prowess. And to top it off, access to design software that costs (for legal versions anyway) thousands of dollars. So how is it that some logo design websites can offer up what they refer to as ‘free logos’? Doesn’t make sense until we understand what’s really going on, and as we’ll see, the ‘free logos’ bit turns out to be a little bit of a misnomer. It’s pretty sage advice to state that in life, nothing’s really free and when it comes to logos and design, the adage holds up pretty well. I’d also argue that the idea of ‘free logos’ is an Internet love child – a technique that exists to get people to click on this or that website link.
In many instances, the ‘free logos’ being offered up is known in Internet parlance as ‘link bait’ – the term used to describe a website page that’s set up to be found under popular keyword searches on Google, Yahoo, or Bling (or whatever the new Microsoft search engine is called). The phrase ‘free logos’ is a good one – it’s often the keyword phrase that people first use when they first decide to search for online logo design services. It’s also served up by most of the search engines as a ‘related search’ (the auto-acked keywords that show up at the bottom of SERPs), so having a website ranking high for ‘free logos’ on the first few pages of a search engine pretty well guarantees a wellspring of traffic. It’s just part of the ongoing search engine wars to get people to visit a website.
Invariably the pages you’ll find are full of Google Ad Words and other pay-per-click advertising. Not that there’s anything wrong with this practice (even our studio does it – we’ve a series of free logos over in our Morgue Files, without the Adwords), but for you the client, it’s just not a particularly effective way to develop your corporate logo, at least with any level of credibility, or as a method of finding a suitable design firm. When you arrive on the page you’ll invariably find some form of auto-ack logo generator into which you can input your company name, add a few gimmicky special effects, and then download a low-resolution bitmap of this so-called ‘logo’ to use to your hearts content. Trouble is, it’s not much of a logo (you could probably create something similar in your own office software) and any application – visual issues notwithstanding – is pretty well limited to your website.
If you perform a search on Google for ‘free logos’, one of the top ranked pages has this title -
Pretty intense keyword stuffing, and one supposes a site screaming these promises would certainly offer you the ability to develop a logo sans charge. Not really. This is a favored technique of the flash logo generators that are popping up all over the Internet and I’d argue a pretty disingenuous way of getting you to select their URL over the other search results presented. If you click on the link (the reason behind the upper caps ‘free’ one supposes) you’ll find that there’s really nothing free at all. Basically, you can take a look at the web sites battery of clip art logos (which they claim aren’t) and enter your company name into a flash-driven interface. That’s nice. You can “ooh” and “aah” over how you new ‘logo’ looks without paying a dime, true. Course of you want to download the logo, it’s gonna set you back $39, $49 or $99 bucks which the last time I checked, isn’t really the definition of free anything. I’d also argue that these clip art icons aren’t even worth the $49, but that’s another argument entirely.
You may actually manage to find sites that on the surface ARE giving away free icons – I managed to find a few this morning – but even these are worthy of closer inspection. Most are full of pay-per-click ads (the real reason for the site in the first place) and offer up downloadable bitmap .gifs and .jpgs which truth to tell, aren’t really logos at all. The images that can be described as logos may have some ownership issues – one site had at least 4 registered trademarks on the first page – and using the designs featured will probably run you into some serious legal issues at some point. A site that’s sole purpose is to get visitors to click on PPC ad links is not terribly serious about logo design, and those thousands of images had to come from somewhere. And where they came from is the million dollar question – it would certainly cost a lot more to create a library of icons than one could hope to earn through a few Google ‘click-throughs’. If you drill down a little further in the search results, you will find a few people who seem to be offering free logos as a way of getting inbound links to their blogs, and websites – not a terribly bad idea really – though the designs previewed aren’t the best in the world and most are replete with technical issues. However, if you’re set on getting a free logo, these sites represent about the only real freebie scenario that seems to be without any copyright and/or trademark problems. If you manage to find a site offering logos under these parameters, I’d say go for it.
I recently read the blog of another well-traveled design website in which they had a rather somber post that outlined how you could get the most out of gratis logos (though the article was more linkbait than a helpful treatise). They went on to advise readers that if they were set on using no-pay services, they first needed to perform a few steps – some of which involved interrogating the hapless designer on his CV, experience level, portfolio, customer service, technical support, etc. I found the piece amusing as it pretty well ignored something that I thought would be understood – if you’re not paying for a design, you can’t really expect technical support, hand holding through the implementation or other types of services that design firms offer up in order to entice you to pay for their services. I also had a fun time imagining the response people would get once they started hassling the poor inexperienced designer who thought that offering up a few downloadable icons was a cool way to convince people to visit his/her design blog. Would probably start with “You’ve got to be kidding me”. As I pointed out earlier, we have a series of artwork over in our Morgue Files that you can download and play around with. It’s simply not possible to offer any technical support if you choose to use it – nothing personal, just the realities of business. And while we’re discussing our Morgue Files, guess I should point out the source of that artwork – rejected project work and random doodling from our staff. Granted, some of the designs in our Morgue Files are pretty cool, but I’d certainly NOT try and tell anyone that this is the best method to develop a corporate identity.
So you managed (against the odds) to find a gratis logo. Should you use it as your company identity? Probably not. Simple reasoning really. You managed to find a source of no-pay designs through Google, Yahoo or Bing (heh, I did know the name after all). And so might your clients or customers. And as the design will probably still be featured on the web site (can’t really expect anyone to remove a design if you’re not paying for it) your client (or potential client) will be able to see that you think so little of your company identity that you simply grabbed a free logo off some website and slapped it on your business card and letterhead.
Not exactly the most professional image in the world, is it?