Stock vs. Custom Logo: A Side-by-Side Comparison


A year ago I wrote a post on the drawbacks of buying a stock logo vs. hiring a professional designer to develop a custom identity and I stated three reasons why a stock logo will not serve your long-term marketing needs: 

  1. Your logo does not exist in a vacuum, it’s part of a larger identity system.

  2. Your logo and identity system should be custom-fit to your organization’s needs and mission.

  3. A successful logo and identity system is a long-term investment.

While I believe the argument in my original post was valid, I didn't provide any real-world examples to support it. So I’ve spent $40 on a stock logo in order to create a side-by-side comparison with a custom logo that I designed. If you’re a visual learner like me, I think you’ll appreciate the comparison.

I bought a stock logo that was visually appealing and had a similar structure to my custom logo (logotype with an integrated symbol or mark) to make the comparison as fair as possible. At first glance both logos are aesthetically pleasing and, for the most part, visually balanced. So far, so good.

stock v custom 1 final.png

When you convert the stock logo to grayscale it holds up ok but if you needed a single-color version to appear over a dark colored background the stock logo starts to show its limitations. When I developed the TABLE logo, I created custom versions for these scenarios.

stock v custom 2_3.png

A similar limitation shows up when the full-color version of the stock logo is placed over a mid-gray background. The orange of the large text doesn't have enough contrast to stand out against the background and the small text is swallowed up completely. By comparison, TABLE has a version of their logo for this scenario included in their identity system.

stock v custom 4.png

Some clients, such as marketing agencies, might be technically and design-savvy enough to open the original vector-based logo file and make any necessary adjustments. But if you don’t have access to a program like Adobe Illustrator or you're not a designer you’re stuck with what ever version you purchased.

The stock logo has a secondary line of type, "products," that is readable at most sizes but if you reduced it down to be included in a grid of logos for a “our clients” section of a website, placed it on a lapel button, or printed it on a promotional item like a pen, the thin stem of the yellow leaf starts to disappear and the secondary text becomes difficult to read. For TABLE I developed a specific small-use version of the logo that has increased spacing between the table top and legs, and a larger tagline to maintain readability.

stock v custom 5.png

In addition to providing digital files I also give my clients a simple style guide so the their logo will be used consistently across all of their marketing channels and vendors will understand what should, and shouldn’t, be done with the logo in order to honor the organizations brand. No stock logo is going to come with a style guide.

logo style guide

If this side-by-side has convinced you (and I hope it has) that your company’s identity is worth more than $40, let’s connect. I’d be happy to talk with you about developing an identity system that will serve your long-term needs.