Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Good News on the Logo Front

I'm happy to report that last week I learned that three of my logos were awarded recognition in two competitions! The venerable GD:usa annual awards chose these two:

LogoLounge, an online portfolio and tool for logo research, discussion, inspiration and reference chose this one for inclusion in its 2012 book of logos:

I really appreciate this recognition - there are a ton of great designers out there and I'm thankful to have been included with them. Definitely a good week!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Advice from Anne

The last comment on the previous post was from  Anne C. Kerns, AIGA who closed by referring to another comment she made in reply to the plight voiced by Anonymous in Joplin on the original crowdsourcing post. Mysteriously, it kept disappearing, so because I thought it was excellent advice, I am making it available as a regular post. Thanks for sharing your insights, Anne!

I am a self-employed designer. I don't do spec work or contest work. If I work for free, it's because I choose to donate my services, unique outlook, and skills for a cause or organization I support. (When in doubt, refer to www.shouldiworkforfree.com)

@Anonymous near Joplin, MI:

I am sorry for your situation. If you have time to do contest-type work that doesn't pay, then you have time to do the things that can change your situation.

Why not put all that thought and research into developing a business model where you pick an industry, develop a portfolio, and then pitch it to actual paying clients.
Redesign some poorly-designed materials and pitch those to those businesses.
Pick a problem in the world. Design a piece that educates or advocates. Pitch it to the organizations that address that problem.
Go to the library and check out some marketing and self promotional books.
Ask to borrow another designer's marketing and self promotional books.
Call the institution you graduated from and find out if there are networking events, or job hunting advice, or career fairs.
Find a business mentor. Barter design services.
Partner with another un- or underemployed graphic designer and support and coach each other with real ideas, not complaining. Same time every week. Set goals.
Write and illustrate a children's book and sell it on Lulu.com or Amazon.
Make illustrations and sell them to a stock image company.
Make illustrated portraits of people (or children, or pets) and start a web business doing custom portraits.
Start a unique creative project, put it on the web, tweet about it, and watch it spread like wildfire. Many personal projects have turned into paying work or books -- dailymonster.com, postsecret.com, stuffwhitepeoplelike.com, typographyforlawyers.com, dailydropcap.com, thisisindexed.com, gapingvoid.com
Come up with a Kickstarter idea and write an awesome proposal to get it funded.
Do more than just one of the above.

You obviously have internet access since you posted a comment on a blog, why are you limiting yourself to Joplin? You can work for clients anywhere these days.

Good luck -- make your own.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Yet More about Crowdsourcing

Today I received a thoughtful comment on my original crowdsourcing post of 8/1 from Shopsanity, a start-up that famously crowdsourced its logo, only to find that the design had been stolen. The writer still seems to think crowdsourcing has its place, especially for small businesses that don't have $200,000.00 for branding (what ShopSanity thought it would cost). My response ran pretty long, so I am making the exchange this week's post. Read on:

Shopsanity said... The doctor example doesn't feel right. The "right" design for a business is an aesthetic choice made by the buyer and its customers, where the "right" diagnosis in medicine can often be a scientific certainty. 100 well trained designers might come out with similar, although still entirely unique, brand identities for the same client. That's the beauty of design and of any creative field - the creative possibilities in the final design are endless.

That's, unfortunately, also the draw of a design contest site to a small business owner. They're making an aesthetic choice in the end, and irrational as it may seem for the design community, sometimes aesthetic choices face the cold reality of financial capability. Quality correlates (imperfectly) to cost, and sometimes, small businesses are willing to degrade quality to get lower cost and a design isn't. That seems to be a fine choice on both sides - if I were an artist and could afford to only do what I considered to be worthwhile art, I would only do that. I wouldn't frown on the people who couldn't afford my choice.

I completely agree with @Rochelle above: "I believe that the design profession (and many others) is at great risk of becoming commodities. As such, it's incumbent upon all serious designers to provide services that justify the fees they charge. " "Quality" and "experience" are good selling points, but they don't solve the issues @Rochelle raises.

Finally, crowdsourcing is a great way for designers like the commenter above who lives near Joplin where the design firms shut down to get work when they don't otherwise have it. It seems like the design community could be supportive of those designers in that life situation while still selling the value of superior service they can provide.
@ Shopsanity – I appreciate your point of view. However, your diagnosis analogy reveals a misunderstanding of what designers sell to their clients. If it were simply a matter of aesthetics, picking out a logo design would be pretty similar to picking out a pair of shoes. Everyone is their own best judge of what they find attractive. But the most important service a designer provides is not aesthetics, but guidance through a strategic decision process that profoundly affects business success. A logo is first and foremost a tool that supports a company’s goals. Designers sell ideas. Aesthetics is a by-product. (See the post by Dave Bricker.)

What Logo Design Really Takes
Creating a logo requires research, analysis, concept generation and high-quality execution. A merely pretty logo, with little thought behind it, has none of this. The issue with crowdsourcing sites is not that they're low-priced, but that they pass their products off as equal to custom design created professionally. That is a much larger disservice to clients than it is to designers, because it is deceitful. At least designers can recognize the dishonesty - clients are far less able to see it. And since many logo mills sell their wares by implying that professional designers are rip-offs, it is no wonder that we take offense.

The Deception of Equal Value
When my client talked to the VP at the crowdsourcing site, he led her to believe that they were selling her something equal in value to what I had designed for her. She was able to understand my explanation because she has to contend with the same deception in her own profession. All professions are being commoditized and it is up to individual professionals to make their value case. I too am in total agreement with Rochelle. As I stated in my follow-up post, “I think that for designers, client education and marketing design [services] have to be synonymous . . . it also has to do with the disinclination of many designers to bother explaining their worth. We need to get over ourselves.”

Respect vs. Ranting
A lot of the noise about crowdsourcing design is unproductive ranting. Everyone has to make ends meet and get the most value for their money. In my small town, my clients are also friends and neighbors. They respect what I do, and I respect that their budgets are limited. We meet at the place where I can deliver work that adds value to their business for a price they can handle. Creativity is applied to finding solutions that meet their business goals as well as my goal of making a living.

Regarding Anonymous in Joplin, hers is a hard case. But I don’t think it will help her situation to sweat over design projects that have a high probability of no payment and being ripped off. Promoting the idea that working for free is a good thing for the worker is exploitative, as is cashing in on false promises of a pay-off. That and the deception of equal value is the true fallacy of crowdsourcing design.

Branding Is Not An Afterthought
On your blog you say, “… as a startup software company, investing in brand isn’t our priority.  Building software is.” So apparently you aren’t crowdsourcing your code, even though it would save you money. Viewing branding as less worthy of your investment sets up a false dichotomy. Which leg of a three-legged stool is the most important? If your branding is inferior, those perceptions will accrue to your product, no matter how great it is. Think it over.