So you want a fancy logo but you ain’t got no money?

The Complete Guide to Your New Logo

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These days businesses are shooting up like mushrooms. Sure, not everything that starts up comes down again (safely), and not every entrepreneur makes it to the Big Exit. But all of them start out somewhere and that’s usually with an idea. All fine and dandy – that is until they realise, “Damn, we totally need a logo too, and it needs to be awesome!” Unfortunately, mind-blowingly great logos don’t exactly come cheap. So what is a start-up with no money to do? Ah yes, ask the internet, of course.

The internet reportedly has an offer for everything, from medical advice to pr0n, and behold, you can even generate a logo online. Enter, Design Rails. This new-ish website lets you generate your logo. And since it’s currently in Beta it lets you do that for free. Obviously, we had to give it a shot.

Logo design made by computer

Design Rails asks you a bunch of “this or that” type questions. Do you want a simple or a complex logo? Is your brand design loud or quiet, subtle or obvious? Each choice is illustrated with pictures:

A screenshot from one step of the Design Rails logo generator, asking to pick between subtle and obvious logo design choices.

Then you simply enter your company name and an optional tagline, select your industry (or multiple industries), and choose some snazzy adjectives from a tag cloud. In the last step you can pick some colours you’d like in your logo and even some objects you’d like to put in there before you hit the “generate” button and then you wait for it.

Fake Walls.io logo generated by Design Rails

This is the Walls.io logo, made by the Design Rails algorithm. I mean, it’s not terrible. If you really had no way to pay a designer you’d get a halfway usable thing out of it. But the problem is that it’s completely generic, and that’s after getting five “different” logo suggestions and a variety of ways to tweak them. They pretty much all look the same.

In fact, we played around a little bit using different names and parameters and the generator still kept coming up with only vaguely different layouts. And a lot of the time Design Rails will plunk your beginning letter, or initials if you use a first and a last name, into some kind of frame like it did with the “W” in our logo. And that’s it for the design.

Auto-generated = auto-generic

Generators like Design Rails most definitely address a need, and I’m certainly interested to see where they are taking this once they get out of Beta and into a paid system. But I just can’t help thinking that the way it is now, I wouldn’t pay a dime for it.

What entrepreneurs need to understand is that, while this may come cheap, it isn’t you. It doesn’t represent your brand, it’s not tailored to your target group. And it’s going to look cheap too. Keep in mind that this is usually the first thing anyone will see from you. It’s your brand’s first impression, your company’s handshake. And an automatically generated logo can never be a placeholder for the thoughts a good designer will put into creating a logo that fits your brand like a glove.

And at the end of the day, there are many different ways to get a good logo, even if you don’t have any/much money to spend on it. Collaborate with young designers, with schools or universities. Offer something other than money. If there’s something you can do for them you can even trade work for work. Support your local talent, damnit!

If you’re hellbent on not paying for the quality you can even spend 5 bucks on Fiverr and get a logo there. I know some bloggers have come out in favour of the service (link content is in German). However, I personally don’t advocate supporting dumping prices like that because they force designers to work for peanuts. Literal peanuts, because I think that’s pretty much all you can get for $5. And they’re not going to put much effort into it either. (Not that I blame them.) It’ll end up looking generic as well, even if it was created by a human. Whichever way you go, in the case of logo designs it’s still:
human > computer. Unless of course…

dog at computere meme “I can haz made you logo! woz easy.”


…I’m sure that cute puppy will indeed work for peanuts. Although on second thought, don’t give dogs peanuts, I think.

By the way, if you do know your way around design stuff a little bit, stick around here and we’ll bring you some cool tips soonish. We are such a tease, aren’t we? 😉

EDIT: We do follow up on our promises and you can now check out our article on free and easy photo editing tools here.