The Myth of “Unlimited” Design Revisions

Alas, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is

Ooooh – unlimited revisions. Clients and designers are always asking us about this one. Gotta admit – impressive stuff in a red starburst. And we certainly couldn’t offer unlimited revisions without sinking our company. And at a flat rate too. How is this frikkin’ possible? Answer – it ain’t. Speaking bluntly, ‘unlimited revisions’ on a logo design project is a goofy concept, impossible to maintain, and the use of these two words is designed to do one thing, and one thing only. Separate design buyers from their cash. Firstly, it shouldn’t take ‘unlimited’ revisions to arrive at a great logo. A designer worth their sand should be able to hone in on an effective logo within a few revision cycles. After all – the preliminary concepts were initially worked up with target market and business philosophies in mind (in the case of the online ‘unlimited revision’ dudes I wonder if they were).

Visual spam.

Anything else is just Visual Spam – throw enough designs at the project in the hope something, anything, ‘FOR THE LOVE OF GAWD! PLEASE PICK ONE” will stick. The same was said about monkeys and Shakespeare (it’s not true by the way). And just like monkeys and The Bard, the ‘Unlimited Revisions’ promise is impossible to keep.

Testing the premise.

Here’s a fun test – order a logo from one of these online companies, and request, nay demand, that your work-in-progress logo to be previewed in one million color combinations (alright, let’s be more reasonable – ten thousand color combinations) within the three day turnaround schedule. Ten thousand is not even ‘unlimited’. Unlimited is, well, unlimited. And if the answer is anything other than “yes”, then the service is NOT really offering unlimited revisions.

There is a limit. We’re not sure where it is. But it is there.

Simply put – when companies promise you ‘unlimited revisions’ on ANY design project they are lying. Flat. Out. Full. Throttle. Lying. Kinda shake your confidence in their entire design process, huh? Simply put, nobody can truly offer ‘unlimited revisions’ with any ‘flat rate’ design project (unless on billable hours and in that case, the more the merrier). Any single project risks bankrupting the studio. Great-grandchildren could still be working on this logo design project. It’s a variation of the real-world ‘lifetime guarantee’. Who’s lifetime? The customer? Or the company’s?

What it actually means.

So what’s the skinny on all this unlimited revision stuff? Donning my detective cap, I went under cover – answering a freelance job posting from a leading logo design firm, (posted on a graphic design forum), to find out. After jumping through some hurdles (and actually getting the job!), I had an online chat exchange with the company owner to find out the real deal on their services:

Me: If I’m working on a design project, am I responsible for the entire project, or just the preliminary concepts?

Them: Our freelance designers are responsible for the entire project.

Me: That doesn’t make much sense. You’re paying me a flat rate for my design work, but your web site advertises ‘unlimited revision’s. How can I commit to unlimited revisions for flat rate?

Them: Don’t worry about that. If the client has not approved a design in 2 or 3 revision cycles, we cancel the project and refund their money (Ed – minus the service charge).

Me: Isn’t that a little dishonest?

Them: We have been around for a while, and that is how we do business. If you are not comfortable with that, maybe this job is not for you.

Me: You’re probably right.

*End Chat*

So now we can understand ‘unlimited revisions’ and once we take a look ‘under the hood’ it all makes sense. If a client appears to be a ‘headache’, the solution is to end the project, and refund the fees paid. Except for one small detail – the ‘refund’ actually involves keeping a $75 ‘service fee’ (which, by the way, covers the fee paid to the designers in the first place). Not exactly a ‘money back guarantee’ as advertised on the front page. In fact, the sales pitch could actually be translated into “Hire us to create your logo. We’ll go through a few rounds of roughs, and if we haven’t come up with something that you like, we’ll refund a portion of your fee and keep a portion of it to cover our costs in the development of preliminary designs“. That’s not a bad pitch. Honest too. But of course, that doesn’t sell as well as “Unlimited Revisions. Money back guarantee if not satisfied” screaming at you in a star burst.

We’ll be charitable and call this marketing ‘hype’ – we wouldn’t want to call anyone liars or anything.

Steve Douglas

Creative Director

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