A Perfect Dichotomy

Holy cats! I stumbled into a storm. At play here: the difference between a business need and a passionate class of worker. Here’s the story:

I am starting a new blog project. I asked my friend, John, if they designed logos, as he’s doing my site work. He said, no, we use 99 Designs. I said, well, okay! And went over.

The basic premise is that you can pay around $300 (I think the total was $363) and so I started a design project. Seems easy enough to do. The process is really easy.

I then Tweeted about it to see what people had to say about 99Designs and the process.

Holy cats.

So, first off, there’s a site that talks about the designers’ position: No-Spec. They essentially say that this devalues the designer’s work, and that it’s scammy. Here’s some of the comments of designers:

negative view

And here are some more thoughts:

positive 1
positive 2

To be fair to this post, more people than not had a negative opinion.

But Here’s the Big Important Point

Business people were all FOR 99designs. Designers, who get hurt by this kind of process, were all against it. This is the big point. Because from the designers’ side of the argument, this is something that matters deeply to them.

Let’s talk about my logo for a moment:

chrisbroganlogo

This was designed by stresslimitdesign, and it normally would retail for around $20,000 USD (or that was the rate around the time it was developed). It’s a good logo, with lots of thoughtfulness to the design. The process was good, with lots of iteration, etc. It’s a powerful thing.

But, I wouldn’t have known who stresslimit was, if it weren’t for Julien. And I wouldn’t have been that into the process, had I not had someone to hold my hand and explain why I wanted this and not just something whipped up in Photoshop Elements.

But… and this is the bigger but (I like those, as does Mixalot), a business person looking to launch a blog or whatever and get the project served might find it hard to see the difference between a $365 project and a $20,000 project, especially if his or her goal is just to get the thing launched and start creating something of value.

You, the passionate designer might, but the consumer of such services might not.

See where this gets tricky? And by tricky, all the passion in the world doesn’t change how people make their purchasing decisions. It just doesn’t. Example: WalMart. You can be as small-town-local-supporting as you want, but sales are up end over end and people (like me) use those stores for some of their purchases.

Other People’s Thoughts

You should be informed. Here are some blog posts by designer types:

What’s the Deal with 99 Designs.

The Downfalls of Crowdsourcing.

When I read the responses still rolling in on Twitter, the designers are all passionately opposed and saying that you get what you pay for.

When I read the responses from business people, they’re saying, “I got what I paid for, and I’m up and running.”

See why this is tricky?

I’m very curious about your thoughts.

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  • Scott

    A slippery slope. As a designer myself, I understand the snarky rants and the “you get what you pay for” comments. Many of those same designers would critique your logo and tell you the kerning is off and certainly not worth $20,000. The car analogies speak more to brand loyalty than the issue.

    Sometimes you want Tiramisu, and sometimes you just need a Twinkie.©

    From reading your tweets daily, and visiting your blog, it is easy to see that you were simply trying something new. For those who wish to not participate, so be it. opt-out — Move along.

    Your brief was pretty straight forward. Plenty of room for interpretation, style and design, within a clear framework.

    For me personally it would be about balance and value. Take an hour or two, try a few fonts and illustrations, narrow it down–clean it up and submit. What have you lost? A few hours that you would have wasted surfing the web for places to spew your design doctrine. (ROI = $0) What could you gain? $300 and getting a design out there in front of thousands of page views. Page Views on a TRUSTED brand. How many designers have poured their hearts into a project that goes belly up in a year…? For $300, it really isn't about the money, or is it? If the bounty was $1000 or $5000, the number of comments here would surely be diminished. Or if you had offered an iPad, with your books and Apps you like preloaded? It may have more to do with the way information is presented on 99designs. The layout is geared for business and does not lend itself to inspire creativity.

    The sad thing is, (myself included) most people will spend more time crafting a response, telling you why they think this is a good or bad idea. That being said, I haven't decided if I will submit a design yet.

    I feel I probably owe it to you to carve out a few hours. I enjoy your posts and tweets, especially the simple ones like, “Do good things”.

    Thank you for the information you put out there, daily.

  • dan5747

    In the world of entrepreneurism that most of us are drawn to today it’s sometimes assumed that we have to do everything ourselves – or use the services of an outside traditional corporate firm. But that’s totally untrue. It’s never been easier to get the synergy of a mastermind or brainstorming group than it is today. And that’s the power of systems like 99Designs. We don’t have to rely on one professional having the correct solution, rather, we can tap into the artistic talents of a monster group that goes far beyond the talent any one company could have on board as employees. The field has definitely been leveled.

    As for those crying about design specs – how does one define specs on an artistic process? I observe that “quality” in logos is very subjective (Beauty is in the eye of the beholder). I love that those of us who are free agents can at the same time use the collective brain power of thousands of willing contributors.

    • Anonymous

      Dan, you want an overview of design specs?
      Logos should be created as EPS files.
      Clients should be provided with web-safe RGB versions for online applications, black and white for faxing and product printing, CMYK or PMS for printing.
      As for beauty being subjective, we’re not tallying about a painting but a brand element that should represent the company, work visually at both a large and small size, at both a short and far distance. Until fax machines disappear, it needs to work on a crappy printout.

    • Anonymous

      Dan, you want an overview of design specs?
      Logos should be created as EPS files.
      Clients should be provided with web-safe RGB versions for online applications, black and white for faxing and product printing, CMYK or PMS for printing.
      As for beauty being subjective, we’re not tallying about a painting but a brand element that should represent the company, work visually at both a large and small size, at both a short and far distance. Until fax machines disappear, it needs to work on a crappy printout.

  • http://twitter.com/mvolpe Mike Volpe

    Great observation, Chris. So many things are being democratized for the masses today – the big theme of the Internet is flattening, accesibility, transparency, and communication.

    I think a lot of the success of 99designs and similar solutions is for the market that never would have spent $5k or more for design work. Sure, it probably cannibalized some business for high-end pro desiners, but it also makes the market 10 times bigger.

    I think designers (and all consulting/expert professions) should stop fearing things like this and embrace it – it should help them avoid low end projects from people who don't value their work, and help them focus on projects where they add the most value and are appreciated the most and where their talents will actually be used.

    There are lots of use cases from a business person where a $300 logo is perfect, and where 10 years ago you would have hired a college kid or gone without it, but now new services makes it easier. This is not a threat to designers, it actually might increase their profit in the long run.

  • http://www.mpoweringu.com Brian Hamlett

    Listen, Coca-Cola and the “brand” didn't mean anything when it first came out. Sure maybe the design was meant to convey something to the consumer, but it was just a perception until it met reality in the amazing flavor of a drink that tickled your tongue as it swirled around in your mouth (hence maybe the reason for the curvaceous logo.) The experience of the product and the experience in interacting with the company… THAT is the brand. And sure, that's worth tens of thousands of dollars, but in the beginning of a business… it's all an unknown… so is it really worth that same price tag? Can you, the designer, guarantee that success?

    When I look at the Gap logo, it alone does not make me think that they make simple, clean, comfortable and casual clothing. In fact, I just think “Oh, it's Gap.” What it brings to mind is the experience I have in the stores and when wearing their clothes. Hence the logo is merely the representation of the experience, not the experience itself. People/Consumers/business professionals have realized this and it has changed their perception of what's needed in that… logo.

    Interestingly, I am a web designer (or started out that way 8 years ago) and am now a business owner of a marketing consulting firm. So even hearing myself say that it's time to realize that our industry (and the perception thereof) has changed and we, as designers, have to realize that our skillset does not carry the same weight it once did is a bit painful. I hate the prospects who come to us wanting a $500 web site as much as the next designer. But until I can prove with true, factual, updated, and relevant research that unless a business uses a professional design firm to build their web site their entire business will fail… they'll keep going to GoDaddy's $13/month Web Site Tonight service (that includes the dang hosting!)

    We need to see it designers (as much as it sucks… and yes… it sucks!) Can't fight against a raging river! But find the way to quickly navigate to the forefront and guide the rest of the fishes… and there's the money, recognition, pride, etc. to be had!

    By the way… there are quite a few designers on these spec sites who make over six figures a year with their spec work. So, depending on your own professional goals, make your own decision… your potential customers sure are and $20,000 just doesn't make the cut!

    • Anonymous

      You’re right, the Coca Cola logo meant nothing until the product did. BUT, and this is a big but: it was so well thought out (it was supposed to be hip, youthful, and flowing) that the logo has gone u changes since the late 1800s when it was conceived. Will you get a logo that can still be hip and young a hundred years later from a commodity logo site?

    • Anonymous

      You’re right, the Coca Cola logo meant nothing until the product did. BUT, and this is a big but: it was so well thought out (it was supposed to be hip, youthful, and flowing) that the logo has gone u changes since the late 1800s when it was conceived. Will you get a logo that can still be hip and young a hundred years later from a commodity logo site?

  • http://www.ArrowLightHaulage.co.uk/ Sarah Arrow

    People buy according to their needs, you mention in the post about Walmart, that's a great example. We all do it.
    My day job is a same day courier service, everyone thinks something can be delivered for the price of a stamp! Then you get those that understand what you are selling and how it relates to them. I don't turn away those looking for a stamp, I merely sign post them to the post office as that is what fits their need at that moment in time.

    What justification would have in pointing them to a premium service?

    Back to the business aspect, when you are starting out $300 is the right design. When you haven't gone bankrupt and your idea really is viable and profitable, go get a better one, and then a better one. Businesses change dynamics as they grow and your original logo may not reflect who the company is these days.

  • http://www.jtrigsby.com jtrigsby

    At the end of the day, value is determined by the buyer, not the seller. No matter how good, how well trained, how passionate they are about their craft… if the buyer isn't willing to pay their rate, they are going to have a hard time making ends meet. I'm sure there were many very good, very well trained, very passionate door-to-door scissor & knife sharpeners in their day, but they're not around any more. Why not?

    We've been very quick to notice and comment on the demise of the news industry brought about by improved connectivity and their inability to adapt. Just like authors, I am certain there are designers, and projects for that matter, that warrant a $20k budget. It appears though that, like many markets have experienced over time, the graphic design market is experiencing a change. Designers can either hold out for the big jobs, adapt to the new market, or learn a new skill.

    BTW, I hold talented graphic designers in very high esteem… if it weren't for them, all my sites would be black text on a white background! They have a capability that I simply don't possess and I'm glad they're around!

    @jtrigsby

    • http://www.kristofcreative.com Kristof

      “At the end of the day, value is determined by the buyer, not the seller.” I’ll disagree with you on that point. What a buyer is willing to pay is not the same as determining the value of the product they’re buying. For example; if two client’s come to a designer for a logo; one is a local plumber and the other is Coca-Cola, I believe the designer (seller) can determine what the value will be for the client.

      • http://www.jtrigsby.com jtrigsby

        Key Kristof,

        You make an excellent point and helped me realize that I only addressed half of the transaction. Let me try again. How about this…

        Value is agreed upon between the buyer and the seller.

        The seller will have an idea of the value of their work product and the buyer will have an idea of the value of that work product. Where those two meet, you can have a transaction.

        If the seller values his or her work at $20k and the buyer values the work at $300… well, then there is a pretty big gap. Either the seller is wrong, the buyer is wrong, or (most likely) they’re both wrong. If neither is willing to compromise, they will not reach an agreement on value and thus dies the transaction.

        How about a different example.

        I drive a 1996 Jeep Cherokee with 190k miles. Its very valuable to me because it gets me around town, to and from work, etc.

        If I were to park it out front and put a For Sale sign on it asking $35,000 its very unlikely that anyone will see the same value in that vehicle and pay me what I’m asking. Maybe, but unlikely.

        In free market economics, the price is set by the buyer and the buyer uses their judgement of relative value to guide what they are willing to pay. Sure, the seller may slap a price tag on a product or service, but if no one is willing to pay that price, then its not really worth that price, is it?

        At least that’s where I’m coming from. Make sense?

        @jtrigsby

        • http://www.kristofcreative.com Kristof

          Does make sense. And I can see where the buyer can define the value in what they buy – and if the price meets that value. But in this specific case, value isn’t determined by the client because the price was set by 99 designs. So what the client saw (if they researched logo design costs) was a deal. I equate this to a store sale; I know the value of the product is $X, but it’s now substantially marked down. In which case, the value never changed, only the price to buy it.

          Little something I learned from my brother, “Buy the best you can afford and you’ll never be sorry”. Best advice I’ve ever got.

          • http://www.jtrigsby.com jtrigsby

            Sounds like some pretty solid advice from your brother! The analogy of the store sale is pretty solid too. Not sure how many of the artists on 99designs use it this way, but it could be a really good way to generate new business. I know if I found someone there that was really easy to work with and could easily convert my rambling into coherent design, I’d work with them outside the 99designs framework… if they wanted.

            Thanks so much for sharing your point of view Kristof!

          • http://www.kristofcreative.com Kristof

            … convert my rambling into coherent design” LOL – me too!

          • http://www.kristofcreative.com Kristof

            … convert my rambling into coherent design” LOL – me too!

          • http://www.jtrigsby.com jtrigsby

            Sounds like some pretty solid advice from your brother! The analogy of the store sale is pretty solid too. Not sure how many of the artists on 99designs use it this way, but it could be a really good way to generate new business. I know if I found someone there that was really easy to work with and could easily convert my rambling into coherent design, I’d work with them outside the 99designs framework… if they wanted.

            Thanks so much for sharing your point of view Kristof!

        • http://www.kristofcreative.com Kristof

          Does make sense. And I can see where the buyer can define the value in what they buy – and if the price meets that value. But in this specific case, value isn’t determined by the client because the price was set by 99 designs. So what the client saw (if they researched logo design costs) was a deal. I equate this to a store sale; I know the value of the product is $X, but it’s now substantially marked down. In which case, the value never changed, only the price to buy it.

          Little something I learned from my brother, “Buy the best you can afford and you’ll never be sorry”. Best advice I’ve ever got.

      • http://www.jtrigsby.com jtrigsby

        Key Kristof,

        You make an excellent point and helped me realize that I only addressed half of the transaction. Let me try again. How about this…

        Value is agreed upon between the buyer and the seller.

        The seller will have an idea of the value of their work product and the buyer will have an idea of the value of that work product. Where those two meet, you can have a transaction.

        If the seller values his or her work at $20k and the buyer values the work at $300… well, then there is a pretty big gap. Either the seller is wrong, the buyer is wrong, or (most likely) they’re both wrong. If neither is willing to compromise, they will not reach an agreement on value and thus dies the transaction.

        How about a different example.

        I drive a 1996 Jeep Cherokee with 190k miles. Its very valuable to me because it gets me around town, to and from work, etc.

        If I were to park it out front and put a For Sale sign on it asking $35,000 its very unlikely that anyone will see the same value in that vehicle and pay me what I’m asking. Maybe, but unlikely.

        In free market economics, the price is set by the buyer and the buyer uses their judgement of relative value to guide what they are willing to pay. Sure, the seller may slap a price tag on a product or service, but if no one is willing to pay that price, then its not really worth that price, is it?

        At least that’s where I’m coming from. Make sense?

        @jtrigsby

    • http://www.kristofcreative.com Kristof

      “At the end of the day, value is determined by the buyer, not the seller.” I’ll disagree with you on that point. What a buyer is willing to pay is not the same as determining the value of the product they’re buying. For example; if two client’s come to a designer for a logo; one is a local plumber and the other is Coca-Cola, I believe the designer (seller) can determine what the value will be for the client.

  • http://twitter.com/jasoncrouch Jason Crouch

    Chris – The reactions you described aren't that surprising – it's the same battle I have witnessed over the years in the real estate industry when it comes to “discount” brokerages. The most common refrain there is the same as the one you mentioned here, “You get what you pay for.” However, if I am looking to sell my house and I can save money and still get the job done, why wouldn't I consider this as a consumer?

    I am aware of a similar site to 99 Designs called Logo Tournament. Would I use it if I had need of a logo? In a heartbeat, but my businesses aren't giant corporations (yet).

    I can certainly understand both sides of this particular “argument”, and your analogy about Walmart was an apt one.

    The bottom line is that I would love nothing better than to work with someone who understands me and my company when designing a logo, but the reality is that my clients probably won't even know the difference between a $20,000 design and one that cost me a relative pittance, unless the lower-priced one is truly bad.

  • http://byronmiller.typepad.com Ron Miller

    As a writer, I've seen these bottom feeder sites, and I find them insulting. How would you like it, Chris, if you were asked to do you work for 10 percent of your going rate. You wouldn't. Sure, businesses like it because it's cheap, but I've often found you really do get what you pay for. You want a cheap logo, that's totally your choice, but remember there are people out there trying to make a living just like you, and if you go for the cheapest online option, you are really undermining there ability to make a living.

  • http://twitter.com/mikeconaty Mike Conaty

    My Point #1: It seems like all of the pro-spec, it's-Darwinian-Capitalism-at-it's-finest folks have latched onto Chris' $20,000 figure as the gospel truth, and just want to chastise “those greedy designers” for overcharging poor business folks. Come on. You can only “afford” a $300 logo because you have only budgeted $300 for it. You don't value the work of a good designer, so you're not willing to invest in good design.

    If it was a simple choice between $300 and $20,000, I would probably agree with you, after all I own my own business, and budget limitations are always in consideration, but there is a huge area between the two figures which is where most of the designers live in this theoretical discussion: to paint this as a simple choice between the “reasonable” choice of $300 and the “unreasonable” $20,000 is intellectually lazy.

    If all you are looking for is an unimportant little picture to put next to your company name, then pay the kid down the street $20 and he'll whip up something in Paint Shop Pro for you, and you'll be ready to conquer the world. Better yet, just whip up something yourself and move on; it worked for Bass Brewing Company 400+ years ago, and they're still using the red triangle today.

    My Point #2: There very well may be some designers on these sites that are making money, but for every one that wins a contest, there are 10 that work for free, contributing to the process with no compensation at all. Informing the design process with their work for nothing. Chris as the client sees a design, comments that he doesn't like it, which then informs the rest of the participants to go in a different direction, and the designer gets bupkus. Some are calling this the free market model.

    A Modest Proposal
    If the design contest is the cutting edge, let's have Chris run simultaneous contests on each of the spec work sites, and he can pay the prize for the one he thinks works best. No upfront payments to the sites, not exclusivity clauses in the TOS, put the contest sites up in a head to head competition, and let the best service win. The others can just be proud to be on the cutting edge.

  • http://shanelife.com Shane

    My good friend Kevin (an excellent web designer who runs the blog graphicPUSH) posted about 99 designs a while ago:

    http://graphicpush.com/99designs-bullshit-20

    There are over 300 comments. Of course that was like 2 years ago.

  • http://www.saulcolt.com Saul Colt

    I apologize if this point has been made already as I haven't gone through all the comments.

    I'm against Spec Work in any way (not just for designers…but yes also for designers) and my feelings towards this has nothing to do with the cost of the finished work and the “get what you pay for attitude” but my dislike for spec work contest sites has more to do with the fact that I would feel like I am wasting the time and creative energy of all the people who “didn't win”.

    As a “closet creative” I know how much heart and soul I put into any of my creative endeavors and would feel odd asking people to “dance” for me to get a job.

    Many people will make the argument that this is a great way to build a portfolio and such but there are many other ways to get work shown through groups like the AIGA or ADC where you will get exposure to the type of people who can help you and employ you.

    This comment is more of a general one and not focused at Chris but one thing I will point to is that Chris wrote a post a while back explaining his personal price points http://www.chrisbrogan.com/price-points/ and in it he talked about value pricing. Spec work devalues the designers personal value pricing so please as a creative I hope people will take a stand…not for me but for themselves.

    saul

    • Anonymous

      I agree with Saul 100%. Aside from devaluing the industry (I realize most people outside of the industry could give a crap about this), there are real costs associated when you use spec work for graphic design. After seeing Chris’ tweet on this situation, we posted our rebuttal at: http://upstack.com/blog/2010/05/spec-work-the-i…Glad to see so many fighting the good fight here!

    • Anonymous

      I agree with Saul 100%. Aside from devaluing the industry (I realize most people outside of the industry could give a crap about this), there are real costs associated when you use spec work for graphic design. After seeing Chris’ tweet on this situation, we posted our rebuttal at: http://upstack.com/blog/2010/05/spec-work-the-i…Glad to see so many fighting the good fight here!

  • http://www.brandonburgh.com BrandonBurgh

    I read with interest the comment by one person who said about you wouldn't hire 50 roofers, and then pay only one. He must be a designer.
    Nobody was/is formally hired to get the job. I'd like to think of it more as by submitting their various designs, they are submitting their quote. ;)
    You then pick the quote you like and pay them for their performance.

    I like the competition. It's a good thing.

    Brandon

  • http://www.thinkstrategymarketing.com Mat

    You really are asking for it! I live in the tween space, that is between creative and analytical, so I, like you have a slightly different feeling about this. The rub comes down to $$$$. If you're a national brand you better absolutely shell out the big dollars and the job done by the best professionals you can that understand your brand, position, differentiation, etc. But, if you're a small biz or just a small regional player with limited resources then get design work that looks good. No, it may not be the best, but you also didn't shell out a month of revenue for the work up. In my opinion it really is situational. Sure, every business wants the best, but that's not practical some times. It doesn't have to be bad and cheap design. I've had design work done locally that I found very good for $1000. I was happy, my clients were happy and it worked out well.

  • michaeldurwin

    I've seen this argument for some time now. The first thing I can say is to those that purchase logos from this site: next time I'm shopping for services you offer, I'm going to expect them for free from you and 20 of your competitors, you will both execute what I need then I'll decide who I want to pay.

    So Chris wants to know the value of hiring a designer and paying market price for a logo, besides the devaluatioon this business model is bringing to an entire industry and how it will find it's way into other industries?

    First of all, lets look at what a logo is. I don't feel that many that use these types of comoditized design sites really know what a logo is. A logo is more than a collection of letters, shapes, and colors, it is a visual representation of your brand, it is your first impression to potential customers, it is on EVERY bit of digital and print collateral that you release to the public. If you still feel like making decision about your brand's face to the world based on how cheaply you got it, here is more:

    Story: what is the story of your brand? Who are you? What problems do you solve? What value do you offer?

    Diligence: does a competitor have a similar brand mark? Are you certain you will face no legal action because of your logo?

    Competition: does your logo possess the same level of quality as your competitors? Does your logo stand out against not only the competitors in your space but competitors for customers' attention?

    Scale: does your logo scale? Will it look as good on a billboard as it does on a promotional pen? Will it be as legible in the bottom right hand corner of your PowerPoint presentation from 10 feet awat as it does on your business card 2 feet away?

    Color: a good logo needs to work as black and white. How does your look on a fax? How do the colors translate from RGB to CMYK to Hex? Do you even know what this means?

    Format: Did you receive both PSD and EPS versions of your logo? Did you get both RGB and CMYK versions? Did you get a version of your logo that works on your business cards, trade banner, website, letterhead, etc.? Do you know the difference between a PSD and an EPS and why you need both?

    Collateral: once the logo is done, who will be creating your business cards, letterhead, email signature, annual report, trade show banner, PowerPoint templates, notepads, fax cover sheet, etc.? Can you go back to that cheap designer to have them create all of those materials? Are you going to do it yourself? This is your BRAND, are you going to half-ass these? Are you going to put your $300 logo in the PowerPoint presentation you used the built in template for to pitch that $100,000 client? Will their impression be that you'll treat their brand with the same afterthought as you've treated your own?

    Support: Do you know what happens to a PowerPoint file when you embed an EPS logo? Do you know what happens when you send an RGB logo to your printer for your business cards? Have you ever done a press check? Do you know a printer that can rush a large vinyl banner for a last minute industry event?

    Experience: have you ever art directed anything? That's what you're doing with 99designs. Do you know the difference between a logo that looks cool and one that works? They're not necessarily the same thing. Do you know when a logo has been well thought out and designed well?

    All of the above are things that you should consider when hiring someone to create the icon that represents your brand to the world. All of the things above are what a professional designer offers. For $300 do you think that you will get all of that value?

    Chris, I'm shocked that you of all people, a champion of the value of branding, put so little value on the brand mark!

    I'm equally disappointed in the supposedly savvy business people who have commented in support of commoditizing visual branding. Your logo ON IT'S OWN has the potential to have a significant emotional impact and draw business. Any companies that use a service like 99design, and it's so easy to tell who you are, are not companies I'd do business with. It's obvious that they are businesses who see no value in the hard work of talented people, compete on cost, and most likely cut corners everywhere possible. I prefer to do business with a company that doesn't use the cheapest parts and the cheapest labor to create the cheapest product. When is the last time you bought something really cheap that worked really well?

    That being said, a logo doesn't need to cost $20,000. Many small startups can't afford to pay much for a logo, but even if they find a designer who is in their budget, even if its only $300, at least they can discuss the value propositions I listed above with the designer. I guarantee that 99designs takes none of that into account.

    For those that say “well a lot of other people bought their stuff so they must be good”, you just crowd sourced your decision making process! Lots of people bought Britney Spears CDs, does that mean you should? I'm not even saying Ms Spears isn't a quality artist, just that she's not necessarily right for you, just because she's right for a lot of other people.

    But that's okay, because not only do you get what you pay for, but you reap what you sow.

  • http://www.saxondesign.com Pamela Saxon

    This is very similar to what the music industry has been going through with illegal downloads. However, many independent recording artists are learning how to make it work FOR them, and since the market always dictates what is needed, as designers, we need to listen. Unfortunately, for me, “listening” may mean finding a new career path.

    For me, as a freelance designer, there is no way on earth I can possibly afford to spend my time doing spec work. It would put me completely out of business (not to mention the fact I just can't stomach the fact that my hard work and creativity would be devalued to such an extent). However, there definitely ARE designers out there who are apparently making it work for them, so I feel I am just banging my head against a brick wall, trying to compete with their insanely low prices. For me, it's just not worth it.

    I come from a performing background and spent the first 30 years of my life as a dancer, typically the lowest paid of all the performing arts. I went into design because my body gave out and, with two children, I was ready to finally make some decent money for the first time in my life, and now this. Believe it or not, I made better money teaching dance as an adjunct professor (and if any of you have ever taught any subject, you KNOW that isn't much). But at least my work and talent were respected, and I didn't have to virtually work for FREE. I have been a designer for 10 years now, and the first 8 were great. But because of sites like 99 designs, I think I may be reduced to giving up design and going back to teaching.

  • http://gorillawebstudio.com BryanG

    Off the top, I will say I am not a huge fan of spec work sites BUT, I think these sites probably do more to EXPAND! the market then they do to shrink it. It brings design services to a lot of ideas that wouldn't necessarily get off the ground if the barrier to entry was higher. By in large, I think people understand the product they are getting and it's limitations. Nobody is going to confuse the Jacquelyn Smith Collection with the Chanel spring collection and if they do, do you really have the time or patience to teach them the difference?

    Some Other Thoughts…
    The argument that because Nike only spent $35 on it's logo therefore, you too can find a iconic mark for your brand at 99Designs is specious. It's not about how much you payed for your logo, it's about intent. Spec work sites, in general, are not an environment that fosters thoughtful, carefully crafted work. Do the math, at $400 logo and if 99Designs (and the like) take a cut, how many logo contests every week do you need to enter to buy some Ramen and a few textbooks. In that scenario logo design, at best, is arbitrary.

    And, don't think your getting your logo designed by some super genius soon to be RockStar designer, (s)he already got hired by an agency to design Chris Brogan's 20k logo. ;)

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  • michaeldurwin

    Actually, Nike didn't exist before the logo. They were a startup shoe company called Blue Ribbon Sports. The owner knew a design student named Carolyn Davidson and asked that she design a logo and offered $35. This was in 1971 so someone can do the inflation adjustment to tell me that equals today. Nike has since given Carolyn a gold Nike ring and an envelope full of an undisclosed amount of Nike stock as gratitude and retroactive payment.

  • michaeldurwin

    How about this: you need 4 fillings you ask 4 dentists to do one each, you pay the one you thought did the best job.

  • http://www.brandonburgh.com BrandonBurgh

    Michael,

    Look, designers get to choose to use that service, or not. If they didn't like it, or need it, it would flop. Digital world is definately different than physical world.

  • http://publicimagedesign.com Daryl Woods

    You can hire a handyman or you can hire an electrician. If you hire a handyman and your house burns down, you'll understand the value of the electrician.

  • http://gorillawebstudio.com BryanG

    Thanks Michael. Read your post before and just wanted to say your right on.

    I have heard the story behind the Nike logo…I just wanted to respond to an earlier comment posted by someone from 99Designs that was using that story to suggest, this could happen to you too, on 99Designs. My point being that it's not about the amount of the payment, it's about the intent of the designer. I'm sure Carolyn Davidson went home, when charged with her task, and put some thought, consideration, and her training into crafting a logo. On the other hand, on a site like 99Designs, designers are hard pressed to do any such thing given the scenario for compensation.

    In any case, most of the people looking for design services on 99Designs, would be better off going to the local college and finding a design student to commission a logo from. The only winner in the spec art market is the spec art site.

  • http://blog.steffanantonas.com Steffan Antonas

    I think what's really at play here is the “rise of the amateur”. There are now hundreds of budding designers who are willing to engage new clients in a process like 99designs' because they can do so cost-effectively. The tools are cheap and there are plenty of talented people out there who can use tools like Adobe's creative suite to do good work where BOTH parties are happy to have had the opportunity to exchange the work for that price. I can understand why designers are pissed about this type of model, but as long as there are designers that are willing to enter these contests and recognize the risks and compete for work, markets like this will exist. The participating designers are voting by participating. You can't blame the businesses for flocking to 99designs – they get what they want for incredible value. Does it cheapen the market, though? I don't think so. It's not all bad. You'd pay $20,000 for a logo if you valued everything that comes with the price tag (experience, vetted expertise, reputation of the designer etc). If you look at the total sum of everything that 's included in the cost of a design like that (i.e. $363 = The design minus reputation, years of experience etc), you do get what you pay for. Besides, people who are only willing to pay $300 for a logo wouldn't have EVER considered paying $20 grand for one. This is just giving budding designers access to the long tail of the market – this isn't actually David competing with Goliath. They arent' even in the same arena.

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  • http://www.fuelyourapps.com chadengle

    “But the most talented designers and most striking and effective designs tend to rise above the rest. And you, as the internet marketer, benefits.”

    “One final note: No one is holding anyone's feet to the fire here. If artists want to compete at 99designs.com, they do. If they think this type of environment devalues their work, they don't. It's self-selecting!”

    Most of the designers that are “the cream of the crop” shudder at the fact of using spec work. I know now days it's all about value and I am about to tell you why crowdsourcing is horrible for you company and why your two quotes (even though they look great and say great things) are really, putting your business in a wrong direction.

    #1 Your Brand
    In SPEC competitions like this, you generally put out a “here's what I want & now you design it”. You get 600 responses. Wonderful. I know get to select from 600 logos and find the best. What are you missing? Personalization. Theres not a chance for you to communicate with a designer who has had experience in getting brands to stand out and be successful in the world today. You don't get the personal touch that you could communicate with a designer on the phone, in person or through whatever means necessary. Basically: You're not unlocking your full brand potential from the very beginning because you're basing you picks off of what is pretty and what you like instead of what SHOWCASE the VALUES of your brand and displays you.

    #2 Devaluing Work & Social Media
    Mr. Brogan has 136,000+ followers I am one of them. Now, he has more than the means necessary to find a more than competent designer through twitter (or any other outlet) because of how big of a marketing/social media celebrity he is. Resorting to a crowd-sourcing site is something that quite frankly let me down about his business practices and how he values branding when he works so hard to brand himself in the social media realm with great connections.

    #3 Originality & Your own Mark
    You can google the amount of copyright issues with crowdsourcing logos online. People take a logo barely change it and then throw your brand into it. Great right? $300 bucks and I am done. Wrong. It's not your logo, it's someone elses with your name. That could get you into legal issues and makes your brand look cut rate if someone else knows the other logo. Why risk losing potential customers because you yourself chose the wrong way to start to shave off some money and get poor value?

    #4 Professional
    “We connect 68,200 passionate designers from around the globe with small businesses who need design projects completed. And, we do it in a timely fashion without the usual risk or cost associated with professional design.”

    Taken from the site in question it says that they do it in a timely fashion without the cost or risk of a professional designer…

    Now, if I get into a car accident and it was a drunk guy that hit me do I want a non-professional cheapy, scammy guy representing me?

    I need a heart transplant… Do you want the professional? The guy that studied his ass off in school? Has tried to be the best surgeon in the world? Or do you just want someone to “change my heart”.

    I need my house re-sided, do I get 60 contractors to re-side it and then pay the one that did it the best?

    The point is the internet & the world are filled with multi-talented designers who work hard for your brand and are always ready to help another one. In the world of social media & the internet age, to rely on a spec/crowd-sourcing site because you “can't find a designer” or you're afraid “You're completely at the mercy of a single designer's skills, and how well you can communicate your needs to them.” then that's just plain laziness. Finding a designer to show your brand has NEVER been easier and they will help propel you into the future as well as your brand.

  • adamleedesign

    Wow! Great discussion you've got going here Chris. Thanks for bringing this up. I've made my side of the debate clear but in the end I doubt I'm changing anyones mind. All I can ask for is that people are aware of the argument when they use these spec sites and hopefully this has educated a few more people.

    I don't expect others to be invested in whether or not designers survive this but I do expect them to act in a way that they feel is ethical. Hopefully this discussion has helped people make an ethical decision, whichever side of the fence they fall on.

  • mikemarinelli

    Perhaps this is an opportunity for the folks in the design business to adjust their marketing efforts and better communicate to non-designers, why they should pay more. I think if their passion for their work can be translated in a way that demonstrates value to a client, you have a situation where both sides win. Easy for me to say though, I am not a designer!

  • dapandethi

    Thanks for share!

  • http://lisaellingtondesign.com Lisa

    99 Designs is no threat to my business. With my clients, the value lies not only in the piece I've designed, the value lies in the relationship they have with me.

    I'm not an advocate of spec work, but 99Designs obviously provides a service that businesses need and want.

    Just as word processors changed the business for our predecessors, these services are changing things for us today — its the evolution of the design business.

  • http://twitter.com/107designs Michael Guill

    http://www.chrisbrogan.com/a-perfect-dichotomy/

    Let me reiterate: it's extremely misleading to imply that there exists only a choice between a $400 crowd-sourced logo and a $20k professional one. If business owners checked out portfolios, made some phone calls, etc., they could easily find eager designers looking for a start, willing to work with various budgets.

  • http://www.gabetaviano.com Gabe Taviano

    $20,000……that's theft. Sure hope you didn't pay that much.

  • http://www.facebook.com/texascountry Joe Hyde

    The bar for entry into the Web design/graphic artist world is not there. All you need is an old copy of Corel Draw and a Windoze machine to run it. It's harder to become a Realtor than a “graphic artist.” Couple this with an economy in the tank, and it's supply and demand. Unfortunately for designers, oversupply hurts them, especially when you throw in cheap labor from India and the far east. 99designs is a natural market of supply and demand.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Exactly so. So what do people do to make it go to the other end of the spectrum?

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Exactly so. So what do people do to make it go to the other end of the spectrum?

  • http://iconolith.tumblr.com iconolith

    This is such an old tar baby. This point has already been more eloquently made, but just to add my $0.02 – you get what you pay for. Business relationships are a two way street until desperation enters into the equation. At that point its nothing more than a relationship of exploitation.

  • http://twitter.com/socialmediawave Craig Stark

    Hi Chris- you hit the bullseye with the “perfect dichotomy” as the title for this post. I also agree with both sides of the argument – but I think at the end of the day, those who target large organizations for the 20k design work have created a buffer zone of acceptable efficiency – customers who perceive the value and CAN and WILL pay those fees.

    Your point is well taken as start ups and small orgs just need to get to market for a reasonable fee. The perception still must hold true that the design should be acceptable and good by both groups- customers and designers. That is the essence of market efficiency.

    If those designers who participate in 99designs model get more peer rated reviews and do great work, they will move up the food chain or do more work.

    Look at Real Estate- the For Sale By Owner market is now encroaching on the RE Boards strangle hold on private listing services. Access to those services is now in the hundreds of dollars, shaving the 5-6% commission rates down to a few hundred dollars.

    Do we care as home sellers if the RE agent makes 20k or $900 ? No, if we get what we need and the market provides services at these rates without prejudice, coersion or something illegal.

    You don't have to like it, but you would be foolish to drop 20k to sell a house when you can do it for 900 bucks.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      That’s exactly the point. We didn’t choose these market dynamics. They exist. Now what?

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      That’s exactly the point. We didn’t choose these market dynamics. They exist. Now what?

  • http://www.kristofcreative.com Kristof

    I am not against the idea of crowd sourcing, just that a $300 price point does, in fact, devalue the work — specially when taking into consideration the intrinsic value and long-term benefits a client could receive from a professionally crafted logo.

    But even if the price was $20k, the designer still runs an inherent risk of not winning and thus not getting paid. The only way to eliminate the risk is to simply not take part. It's a simple choice of risk v reward.

    I believe services such as 99 designs could easily increase the fee and still make money while placing a higher value on the work product.

    Personally, when a new business owner with a limited budget (say $300) comes to me for a logo, I recommend they visit their local print shop. They can flip trough a book of 500 business card templates and walk out the door with business cards (with or without clip art logo) for less than $30. Let's face it, new businesses have an 80% failure rate so I see no reason for a home grown start-up to invest $300 let alone $20,000 when the funds can best be used elsewhere to help get their business launched.

    But here's the rub for me Chris. You're not a start-up with limited funds — far from it. And I believe you do understand the value a great brand mark brings to a business. So now that you've received and are using the new logo, how much is it worth to you? How much would you have paid to receive the same quality of work?

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      But this isn’t about me. I used me as the example here, because I caught on that there’s a bigger story here. What if it was a mom & pop shop? What if it’s just the regular person who has a total of $2000 for a new site to spend, logo included?

      Me? I already explained what *I* did for a design for chrisbrogan.com . That wasn’t $300.

      • http://www.kristofcreative.com Kristof

        My misunderstanding. Your reference to your logo and $20k led me to think you used 99 design to create the CB logo.

        From a business owner standpoint, I think a start-up, regardless of their budget, should spend as much as they can afford. Going cheap just because you can is the wrong mindset if you plan on building a successful business/brand.

        From a designer viewpoint, the pricing from 99 designs (and similar services) devalues the product being created.

        But what we’re really talking about is global economics and perception.

        As a U.S. based professional designer, my perception is that $300 is to little to charge based on the value the design can give a business — and that I need more than 2 hours to create a quality design. But that’s me, living here.

        To a professional designer who lives in, let’s say, India, $300 could be the equivalent to a month’s pay — and an exorbitantly high price for an India based business owner to afford.

        So our perception of value is greatly defined by our economics.

      • http://www.kristofcreative.com Kristof

        My misunderstanding. Your reference to your logo and $20k led me to think you used 99 design to create the CB logo.

        From a business owner standpoint, I think a start-up, regardless of their budget, should spend as much as they can afford. Going cheap just because you can is the wrong mindset if you plan on building a successful business/brand.

        From a designer viewpoint, the pricing from 99 designs (and similar services) devalues the product being created.

        But what we’re really talking about is global economics and perception.

        As a U.S. based professional designer, my perception is that $300 is to little to charge based on the value the design can give a business — and that I need more than 2 hours to create a quality design. But that’s me, living here.

        To a professional designer who lives in, let’s say, India, $300 could be the equivalent to a month’s pay — and an exorbitantly high price for an India based business owner to afford.

        So our perception of value is greatly defined by our economics.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      But this isn’t about me. I used me as the example here, because I caught on that there’s a bigger story here. What if it was a mom & pop shop? What if it’s just the regular person who has a total of $2000 for a new site to spend, logo included?

      Me? I already explained what *I* did for a design for chrisbrogan.com . That wasn’t $300.

  • http://www.jeremymeyers.com/ Jeremy Meyers

    If you, as a designer, dont like the terms that 99designs has set up to bid on projects, don't submit designs. 99% of companies who need logos haven't heard of 99designs to know to go there anyway.

  • http://www.bigseadesign.com BigSea

    $20k is certainly a stretch and I know you can get a great logo from a great designer for far, far less.

    That said, I'm torn too, Chris, and I'm a 'designer.' I build websites for startups and small businesses. They are stretching every last buck from their home equity line of credit and they don't see the value in a $3,000 logo. They still have to pay their rent and feed their kids while they start their business. So, when they don't want to pay my 'designer' fees, I send them to 99 Designs.

    And you know what? I don't feel guilty about it. Each and EVERY SINGLE ONE has been beyond happy with what came of the process. The same sort of joy that I see on the faces of my clients who shell out the $3k and get their perfect logo too. So what if the process was different? We all put different value on different aspects of our trade – and that's ok.

    I see it with web design all the time – people charging three times what I would for the same (or worse) project. If someone is willing to pay it, go for it. If not, that's ok too. There's money to be made for all of us – we just need to demonstrate our value. The onus is on us to show people we're worth it – not on them to decide they want to pay more.

  • http://99designs.com jaiken

    Thanks BigSea – there's lot's of room in the market.

    Cheers,
    Jason
    99designs.com

  • AnneLikesRed

    There will always be business people who do not want to pay for design, but still want to have the business benefits of design.

    These people want to have lots of choices, because they either don't know what they want, or they cannot communicate their business goals.

    These people frequently cannot separate personal opinions from business objectives. They just want to judge their own personal beauty contest.

    They value design less than their desk.

    Yet that design, will either positively or negatively: entrust, encourage, entice, inform, educate, motivate, sell — their product or service.

    These may also be the people who think designers are happy to have something, anything to work on, because they love what they do.

    ***

    There will always be design people who want to get paid for practicing their craft.

    Some of them are just starting out and didn't learn much about professionalism in design school. They don't value themselves.

    Or, some of them didn't go to design school, but have a copy of Photoshop and want to whip up some flashy design goodness.

    Maybe they're just hobbyists.

    Or maybe they have a different standard of living or cost of living than those of us who are in sub/urban areas of the U.S.

    ***

    Then there are the business people who need something specific, legal, communicative, aesthetic, smart, appropriate, and usable… and are willing to pay for it. That way their designer is able to make a living, just like them.

    I will hold out for those clients. Because I know I can provide a valuable service to them with my knowledge, experience, perspective, and talent, when we engage in the design partnership.

    If the day comes when I can't, I will take David Baker's advice and deliver pizza (or sell coffee).

    And frankly, with health insurance over $750 per month, who can afford to work for $99 per logo? Seriously.

  • Gabe

    The “storm” to which you refer is what concerns me. I see it more than just finding the right vendor: it's figuring out what I not know (but should) that may have significant implications for my company.

    As a business owner, I seek expertise in numerous areas and frequently rely on colleagues, industry publications, etc. Because of time and energy constraints, I rely on recommendations from people who are essentially in the same industry. That's SOP for most of us. But therein lies the danger because it's limiting. Let me illustrate.

    After 10 plus years in one business, I changed industries. During a recent meeting with other owners about successful website design, the “storm” started brewing. What I know about website design from my prior experience was at odds with what other owners were buying from “experts” in my new industry.

    That incident has been a wake-up call: What do I not know that other businesses in other industries/fields know that I should know and be doing? And what do my industry's vendors / experts not know, because their skill or service (marketing, management software, etc.) is filtered through their primary expertise (manufacturing, real estate, or medicine)?

    Fortunately, it's easier now than ever to get information and expert recommendations outside one's industry with social technology and tools.

    But, it requires putting aside the SOP and sometimes going outside one's industry–which isn't always easy, convenient, or acceptable– to get what your business needs evolve and meets customer's needs.

    So really, for me, the question is for which outsourced activities do I need to break ranks and

  • http://www.kristofcreative.com Kristof

    “$20k is certainly a stretch and I know you can get a great logo from a great designer for far, far less.” This is an interesting statement because if look back, companies would charge substantially higher prices (and many still do) to design a logo. But with the introduction of digital capabilities, freelancers were able to compete for the same work at much lower prices. And now we're seeing the same thing as a global marketplace now compete with the freelancers. So now you could say, “$2k is certainly a stretch and I know you can get a great logo from a great designer for far, far less.” — like $300 ;)

  • http://twitter.com/megfowler Meg Fowler

    As part of a company (@Sametz) that puts CONSIDERABLE effort into coming up with branding and design for our clients, I think there's a big difference between the kind of conversations we're having and the kind of bulleted lists that drive spec work. If you know exactly what you want and what your customers/audience will respond to, but you're just not able to implement it yourself, sure — might be just the trick.

    But there are pretty amazing possibilities when people look at the bigger picture of how design fits into their overall communications, and they find a designer that listens to them, challenges them, and works with them to come up with something that is enduring, vivid and evocative.

    It all comes down to how much you want from the process. I won't drag you to have a chef's tasting menu if all you have time for is a Big Mac.

    But from my own personal perspective, as a writer (another profession rife with spec work), even if you have a limited timeframe and a limited budget, I'll still make you a better Big Mac than McDonald's can, anyway. :)

    Quick or slow, you still get more from a pro.

  • http://www.bigseadesign.com BigSea

    I don't ever mean to devalue designers' work – my only point is that we all place different value on things, in general. It's why some spend their cash on cars and others on vacations. Personal value choice. And it's all ok :) There's room for everyone.

    • http://www.kristofcreative.com Kristof

      You do make a good point, just thought it was ironic how cyclical this is. Thanks

    • http://www.kristofcreative.com Kristof

      You do make a good point, just thought it was ironic how cyclical this is. Thanks

  • http://twitter.com/BeyondCreatives Amy Halleran

    Capitalists vs Creatives – I happen to be both. As in life, this issue is not black and white. There's a lot of work to be done, a lot of workers to do it and a lot of middle ground gray for us all to play.

    I'm a relatively young designer. I've worked for free, for friends, for strangers, for individuals, for small companies. Most of my clients are low-tech/no-tech small mom and pop shops just beginning to venture online. They are my market for multiple reasons:

    1) E-V-E-R-Y business needs an online presence, if for nothing else, just to be found. (Are the yellow pages still available in print???)

    2) Not every business can afford a huge marketing campaign or $20,000, $10,000 or $5,000 logo developed by some of the larger companies.

    3) Low cost does not mean low quality.

    4) Affordability is relative.

    I'll work with anyone's budget. I try to price projects fairly, but typically under price my work because I'm a sucker for a good cause.

    I am obviously not going to attract a business who is able to pay $20,000 because I'm new with a small portfolio. And that's ok. As my business grows and I'm able to charge more, I probably will a bit. But it is not my goal to attract the big business or charge those prices. I'm much more interested in helping those mom and pops, non-profits and stay-at-home-mompreneurs who need someone to give them a fair price and quality work.

    As a designer, I won't be competing for work on 99Designs. But I understand the designers who would chose that route and I'm sure their reasons are good ones. Maybe they are trying to break in to the biz and develop a portfolio, maybe they are testing the waters for a second career or expansion of a personal hobby. The companies posting projects are trying to get the best bang for their buck. Seriously, who can blame them in this economy.

    I was a Purchasing Manager for General Motors for quite a few years. Before I retired, we had started using real time auctions for bidding rounds: suppliers got the specs and were quality approved to bid in advance. When the bidding started, we would see the market develop live as suppliers bid all at the same time. It was a drastic change in the way the auto industry had worked previously. It was painful for those bidding on the work. But it was what the market would bear.

    Businesses like 99Designs are filling a need in the market. Until there is a better way to connect business needs with worker bees, it will continue. It's guns and butter folks. Simple econ 101.

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    I love your thoughts, and I'm glad for them. Thanks for laying it out the way you did.

  • anon

    All the designers need to stop complaining about this because every person is on a different budget and going to shop based on their price point.

    If you pay 20,000 for a logo you are a sucker (no offense Chris) unless Davinci came back from the dead and made it for you.

    I do not see any problems with sites like this because it is just promoting competition. If you are good enough to develop your own following, this should not bother you because people will come to you for your great skills.

    The ones complaining about this are lacking in talent

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    Love the Big Mac analogy. Thanks for sharing it. It makes perfect sense to what we're talking about, and I like the match to the chef's tasting.

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    It's pretty interesting, this question. This whole perspective of “who knows what's the right way to do it these days” really puts this in another whole direction. I'm not sure I have a great answer. For instance, unless the site itself is an application/system, I would NEVER build a site that wasn't technically blog software, even if I didn't create chronological content on it. Make sense?

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    Let me ask it a different way: what if the design part just doesn't matter as much? What if it's a short term design, or a sub brand design, or something like that? Is it *always* important to be as design-conscious as Apple?

    • Anonymous

      Hi Chris, First let me correct the reference I made to $99, as I see that your logo “prize” is $295.

      If the design part doesn’t matter as much, why even use it at all? For decoration? Fair enough, but then a designer has to try to figure out your personal aesthetic. Your brief is lacking insight to that as well as key business information which should inform the design. (I have a 3-page questionnaire for clients, to begin the information-gathering phase.)

      Consider, it may not matter to you, but be assured than any design choice you make WILL communicate something. Most business people don’t want it to communicate the wrong thing.

      Let’s look at your contest, there are 9 entries posted (but only 7 unique designs…variations don’t count as new ideas). #1 MAN*GO — is it a fruit?– it’s unbalanced due to the negative space where “on the” appears. Also, it’s an analog metaphor with a wannabe 50′s script. Is this a retro blog? #2 looks like angel wings at first, then upon closer inspection it’s a teenager, with a backpack. Kid on the Go? And the reflection, . Even if you wanted a reflection, this one is so dark it makes the name illegible. It’s dreary, and the Franklin Gothic Bold looks so heavy. It feels like this kid is on downers, not on the go. Look at his posture.

      If the design doesn’t matter, then just use a neutral typeface (most of the typefaces in the grotesque sans serif classification), like Helvetica. Wait, that’s considered design, too. Swiss international style. (http://wiedler.ch/download/felix/books/260_cover.jpg)

      So, to answer your last question, it is important to be conscious. You can’t escape it; even non-design is design!

      Also, it helps if your designer has a basic understanding of intellectual property rights, what typefaces can and can’t be used for trademarks, and that they have properly licensed the fonts they’re using. Not to mention an understanding of typography.

      Best,
      Anne

  • http://www.brianyerkes.com Brian Yerkes

    To quote your big point: “Business people were all FOR 99designs”.

    Do these business people realize that they are facilitating a “work for free” , “work on spec” environment? Just because there are people willing to work for free, doesn't mean that they should, and doesn't make it ok for business people to hire them.

    Sites like 99designs take advantage of uneducated (in the marketing industry sense) business people, and naive, inexperienced “designers”.

    Chris, your biggest failure in this whole process and these two blog posts is that you are failing to look past the business;supply and demand aspect of it…. There is a much more important point in all of this that you haven't taken into consideration (at least, not publicly)…and that is the fact that people are working for free here….on spec….hoping to get paid. One of them for each contest gets paid (sometimes, depends on whether or not the contest holder just wants to take all of the logos and have his son's friend do it, without choosing a contest winner) .

    What would your thoughts be if thousands of twitter and facebook users joined a website that holds “social media strategy” contests, and let's all of these people compete with each other, without pay, to see who can make the contest holder the most successful social media strategy?

    If this social media contest site started to gain in popularity, and perhaps you had a potential client tell you that they were going to hire you but then they found this contest site…and decided your services aren't worth more than $270…how would you feel about the future your industry, your career and your livelihood?

    Yes, we as professional designers may be overreacting, but it's all in an attempt to safe guard our careers and the value that we, on a daily basis, have striven to provide to our clients that have invested in our skill, experience and education.