The Opportunity to Learn

classroom In my post, A Perfect Dichotomy, I highlighted an interesting situation: designers are facing being undercut by very inexpensive labor because business people are quite often happy with “good enough” design. What I learned from the post was that designers are passionate. I learned that business people believe in value, but quite often have to choose between “good enough” or what they choose to allot for a project, and “quality.”

But what I learned most was that the way everyone approached the argument told me a lot about how they probably approach their own business, even if that’s the business of design.

Further, I learned that people had a hard time squinting and seeing the different applications inherent in the post. That’s a fault of my writing style and my framing. I didn’t talk about the fact that professional photographers, journalists, writers, and most every other right-brained business has suffered the same fate.

I learned that people would rather defend their position than learn how the other side thinks, which means they’d rather not sell to the side who’s buying. (And that goes in both directions, by the way.)

Here’s the Opportunity

I’ve highlighted one place where you, the seller (in the previous post, that was a designer), have a new challenge: I, the buyer (and I don’t mean me, but I’m standing in as the straw man for this), need something more utilitarian than end-of-the-world amazing, and thus, I need a marketplace to serve me the opportunity to purchase such a thing.

Specialty shops still thrive in the age of WalMart. You think they sit around and convince anyone that WalMart is evil? No. They serve the marketplace they know exists and they find their buyers.

The opportunity is to understand which marketplace you want to sell into, realize that there are many other methods and marketplaces, that there are many other needs than the noble ones your craft might prefer to see enacted, and that there are many different ways to sell up into these marketplaces.

Journalists all lost their jobs. Many of them are writing for corporate marketing departments. Some thrive at it. Others hate it. It’s not the same as being the Fourth Estate (or whichever estate they are), but it’s what they were able to find.

You Need to Squint More

There are lessons all around us. If you pick up a magazine and look at the ads, you’ll see who’s spending money. If you scan the ads, you’ll see who had a rough position and is aiming at a new position (“now with more FLAVOR!”).

But you have to squint.

Sometimes, the lesson doesn’t start with your first name, and it doesn’t mention what happened last week at the office, and it doesn’t immediately jump out at you as an opportunity to improve your business. Sometimes, you have to work just a hair to see what’s being said and what YOUR response and your business opportunity is, with regards to that.

Do you follow trends? Do you look at where the puck is going, versus where it is? That requires squinting, seeing patterns that might not immediately be obvious, and then acting on the patterns.

Are You Looking For Work?

So, here’s something funny. I haven’t read *every* comment (because I’ve been traveling), but I didn’t see any designer offer to work with me. I got one phone call, from Justin Evans from stresslimitdesign, and I’m going to follow up with him, but that was it from the designer’s side.

Except, know who did ask for my business? Ross Kimbarovsky from CrowdSpring, the other leading crowdsourced design resource on the web.

The designers defended their right to their value. Ross asked for my business.

What Will You Do With All This?

That’s the real question, isn’t it? I got your attention. I raised your dander. I earned a bunch of negative commentary from people who really didn’t stop to ask me much about my side. I’m sure I earned a few negative blog posts.

But this is our business challenge. My business challenge is demonstrating the value that goes into what I charge. My challenge is showing people the payload they receive for the paycheck I expect. Do people think I’m overpriced? Do they go to my lesser-charging competition? All the time. Are those my ideal customer?

What will you do with this opportunity to learn?

Photo credit crunchy footsteps

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  • beckymccray

    This is the second time lately you've reminded us to look at the bigger picture lessons from what you write. What do you, and we, learn from that?

  • http://twitter.com/furnituregirl Alison Heath

    The thing is, you squint. A lot of other people just keep pounding away at doing what isn't working until they go crazy or broke or both. How do you teach people to squint? Can you?

    • http://www.looble.com/ deceth

      If you take away their glasses, they shall squint. If they keep pounding away, remove all objects upon which they can pound, and they shall squint.

      Or poke them in the eye. They shall squint.

  • siob

    Chris…

    You aren't looking for a designer. That's the issue here. You aren't looking to pay for what a designer has to offer you. You don't see the value. There is nothing wrong with that, and that is why you aren't getting offers from designers.

    What you are looking for is a price and a product. Walmart exists the same way, you get your product for the price no matter what the consequence, because the value of the product is more important than the larger impact (child labor, poor worker rights, discriminatory hiring/promotion practices).

  • http://www.hotknifedesign.com Jon Follett

    Hah! I love it. You really did inadvertently step into a steaming hot mess on the design side, Chris. This is a major debate that rages back an forth on the inter-webs, with lots of designers feeling punished by the tyranny of technology and cheap labor. I've heard reasonable arguments for crowd sourcing–young designers can get real experience and designers in countries with a lower cost of living can make a good wage, for instance. And I've heard lots of arguments against–it devalues the design industry, etc.

    You're in creative industry too, subject to these same market pressures that are beginning to squeeze portions of the design community.

    I guess something worth remembering is that, as knowledge workers and creatives we're coming up at a time where everything in our industry is moving wicked fast and change management is a daily activity. You don't just need to see where the puck is going, you need to anticipate the ice melting beneath you.

  • http://twitter.com/AllegraStrategy Katerina

    Having started out 10 years ago as a designer and moving into management and entrepreneurship. I see both sides of the coin, there are going to be clients who are more than willing to pay the premiums and see the value and the clients who won't. What needs to be thought about is really the value add and tactical solution.

    It's important that the client understand they aren't just getting a pretty website. Was the user interaction process explained? Were the case studies reviewed? Was the conversion goal for the site tested and designed with them in mind? Great design takes all of these factors into account when creating an elegant presentation layer for a clients site. And sometimes clients aren't aware of what goes into designing or the thought process of a designer.

    In my business I have two approaches for design – One is premium: Consulting, process, methodology, approach, user interaction, strategy, roadmap, multivariate testing, and full on analysis. My second approach is minimal: Understanding the basic needs and goals, and providing a highly targeted low cost solution. That's provided on almost a commodity based level.

    Markets exist for both its about adding real value for the client, but not getting hung up on producing a DaVinci original when a well thought out simple solution will do. That being said I'd love to work with you anytime.

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    What you're missing is that it's not about ME in this story. It's an illustration.

    And yet, you're not all that wrong, people who are looking for budget-minded design alternatives are most certainly seeking a product.

    And so how do you, I assume a designer, sell more in that mindset while still pricing for design, etc?

    • siob

      I think that is the struggle of a designer. You’re (universal you) looking for a product that honestly and ethically I don’t think is right for you, nor do I think it will help you compete or be true to your brand in the long run.

      Do you sacrifice your work and the value of your work, to be in line with what a person expects? Do you work for free and then only expect to be paid if your client likes the job you have done?

      There is danger and consequences to selling to that mindset, Chris. I know that my buyers are willing to make compromises when it comes to price, but it is my job to illustrate the risks of “good enough”.

      Do I want to help the demise of an industry by providing my services under that mindset? On the other hand, am I contributing to the demise of an industry by not selling to this mindset? I may miss a sale, I miss some dollars, but I see the big picture.

      Luckily, I am surviving (so far) by coming in after a company has been in that mindset and now realizes they are ready to actually pay for the value of a designer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Katrina-Miller-Fallick/772248676 Katrina Miller Fallick

    I've always been more than happy to send clients who want, and need, crowd sourced design, in that direction. I've even gone as far as partnering with some of these type of businesses.

    Because the thing is, What I do, as a freelance designer, and what they do, is different. And people looking for that, are NOT a customer for me (right now). Why force something they don't need, or want, on them, damage the relationship, lower the quality of my product, AND make my self un-happy, when I can help them get what they want and need, now, and potentially have them come back as a REAL customer later.

    I think designers could help themselves AND the design community, if they where a little more willing to turn away work that wasn't a fit.

  • http://stayoutofschool.com elizabethonline

    Isn't that the greatest discipline, remaining calm and looking at the other side? Your post evoked a lot of anger because so many people were immediately terrified of the implications:

    What if they, as extraordinary designers, were overlooked or couldn't prove their worth?
    What if the mediocre designers were found out?
    What if the complacent designers had to sack up and find new ways to drum up business?
    What if the hardworking designers who do hours of spec work just to get by or make a name for themselves lose the opportunity to do so because we decide that crowdsourcing really is a bad idea in this arena?

    And then there's the fear from the business people:
    What if I have to increase my bottom line?
    What if I discover I paid way too much for crappy design?
    How do I, the business technician, asses great design? (How will I know it when I see it?)
    Are we talking about art here?

    Everyone is scared. Everyone flipped.
    So much to be learned from this.

    Loved that your brought it to the forefront, Chris.

  • sue_anne

    Wow. I'm actually surprised that given all the tweets that went around and the comments that only one designer actually contacted you and said “Hey, pick me and let's talk about a reasonable price.”

    If are looking for a really great designer and one that won't charge you $20k to create a really great logo, let me know and I'm happy to hook you up with some people that I love.

  • http://www.mindadventure.com/ rob white

    If 'squinting more' means to ask, 'What lesson can I learn from this?” … or … “How does this apply to my business or my aspirations?” … then, indeed, squinting is a very prosperous habit.

  • http://brandinteractivism.com Scott Paley

    Getting away for a moment from the specifics of design, you make a good point. There is a broader context here that applies to a lot more than just design, journalism, or any other subjective thing.

    I tweeted earlier today in response to this blog post “McDonalds existence doesn't mean people avoid expensive restaurants. It means people can choose what they value in that moment.”

    I think this is important. What you value “in this moment” is not necessarily what you will value in a week, or tomorrow, or in an hour. Today I might have a critical appointment in 20 minutes but I'm starving, or maybe I only have $7 in my pocket. What's important for me *right now* is cheap and quick. So I go with McDonalds. I don't love McDonalds, but for right now it provides what I need. Does that mean that a great restaurant has lost value? Not at all.

    There will be other times when I want to take my wife out for a special occasion and McDonalds would be completely inappropriate.

    Chris – you responded to my tweet by asking, “awesome. So what if you sell somewhere in between. How do you convince buyers to give you their dollars instead of McD?”

    Same analogy – there are tons of mid-tier restaurants. In fact, it's likely that your favorite local restaurant is neither outstandingly expensive, nor is it a low-end fast food joint. It might be the restaurant you frequent the most.

    On the other hand, some people may have very limited funds and can't afford to splurge very often, even for a mid-tier restaurant. Instead, they eat fast food regularly. There is no point for mid-tier or expensive restaurants to try to market to that group.

    There may also be the ultra-wealthy that will only eat in expensive places. It would be a waste of marketing dollars for mid-tier restaurants to go after those folks either.

    The point is that there are billions of people in this world, everybody has their tastes, and what people value right now is transient. Businesses need to figure out what they do best and then need to go out and find the people who want what they do, and want it RIGHT NOW. The key is to be “top of mind” at that critical moment.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      And there are multitudes of models. You’ve really done a lot to add to it. Thank you.

    • http://www.kaplancopy.com/blog Jodi Kaplan

      Excellent point, Scott (I was going to make a similar analogy, but you beat me to it).

      I bet the execs at McDonald’s don’t spend much time worrying about what the 5-star restaurants do.

      And, Tiffany’s doesn’t care what WalMart is up to either.

      Different markets.

      The job of the designer set on charging higher fees than 99designs is to engage their market, explain the extra value that their clients get – and demonstrate why it’s worth it.

      Tiffany is established enough that it no longer has to be explained, but it undoubtedly did when the store first opened.

      What feeling/experience/value/delight do I get from Tiffany jewelry that I would not get from Wal-Mart? To quote Seth Godin, “Tiffany doesn’t sell jewelry, they sell the blue box.”

  • http://artofgreatthings.com Jeffrey Tang

    Chris,

    These last two posts, in my opinion, are two of your best. That being said, they do raise more questions than answers (which may or may not be a good thing).

    When it comes to “intangible” value (what you call right-brain industries), there seems to be a disconnect between segments of the market. Some designers are violently against the 99designs idea, but obviously enough of them are for it to keep 99designs rolling along.

    Similarly, some design consumers are willing to pay a premium for what they see as premium design (which begs the question, how does one quantify premium design?) – while others would rather save some money and go the crowdsourced route, which works “well enough.”

    Is it enough to say that the different segments of the market should be content with reaching out to their counterparts – i.e., the independent designers reach out to clients willing to pay for premium work – or is there room here for a change in mindset? I don't think there's anything wrong with designers being willing to work in a crowdsourced format, but are they selling themselves (and their art) short? And if the answer is yes, what should we do about it, if anything? At what point should we just leave well enough alone?

  • Jacqueline

    Hi Chris:

    Great point. It's easy to get caught up in defending something, rather than asking questions and realizing that maybe you're missing out on a bigger and better opportunity. A valuable lesson and interesting follow-up to your previous post.

    Thanks!

  • Denis

    Availability of cheap design solutions is not a problem. Problem is that client do not see difference between good and bad design. How many people can tell difference between good and bad blue jeans? No easy task at all. How to choose what to wear? But lots of people are “professionals” at doing this. And pay a lot for this.

    Buying great clothes and posh cars etc. principally different from buying web site re-design. But this is I guess that “opportunity to learn” which this article about. How to sell design? I would rephrase it. May be it is “opportunity to teach”?

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      I can buy $20 jeans or $300 jeans. What would you do to figure out how to sell me the $300 ones?

      • Denis

        Customers look for good stuff and want to pay premium for prestige. I do not need not figure out how to sell you at a premium. I should figure out where will you look for high quality.

        • http://www.philsforum.com PhilWrzesinski

          Denis, I would tend to disagree. There are two types of people who are not buying $300 jeans… those who know why they should and choose not to, and those who don’t know.

          I don’t know why I should spend $20k on a logo. Isn’t the logo just a representation, not the manifestation, of the brand? I mean, a well-positioned, crafted brand can make the simplest, ugliest logo meaningful. The Nike swoosh meant absolutely nothing until Phil Knight poured millions of dollars into giving it meaning.

          So maybe I need to be educated why I need a $20k logo or $300 pair of jeans.

          • Denis

            First – logo lives in ecosystem of over brands and stands out among them. It is tough task to do this. Nike logo was unique when it was created and helped company to succeed. Nobody after Nike will benefit so much from similar design. But may be Nike was just lucky doing right thing in right time.

            Second – Logo doesn’t say what company is. Impossible task. Symbols do not talk. But rather perfectly aligned with company activity. Logo is a quintessence of all what public knows about company. If company can make great products then it greatly benefit from well crafted corporate image.

            It is like “New Coke” – it was too sweet for true fans. Same with logo. To have true fans company image should be sweet/cool just enough to be refreshing even after 100 years of use.

  • http://www.fuelyourapps.com chadengle

    You're very crafty and well thought of in the community, why not try to find a designer to work with you instead of crowd-sourcing? There are better means than “50 people working on a project with one getting paid” We all have to eat and you just preached it. People can think you are over-priced and go to your competition. But, you didn't use the highly sought after designers you went straight to the competition… You didn't even hold to your core values (you didn't let someone demonstrate their core values that go into what they charge) when you hired someone outside of your realm. You instead took the shotgun approach, devalued the branding of your new blog and went the easy route.

    Did this build good quality relationships with people? Did this solve your problem in the best fashion? Did you step in a bee's nest along the way? Yes. I'm not really sure what the end goal was for these posts, I do know that you would have been better off, tweeting your design needs and relying on these relationships in social-media you build your business off of.

    Would any of us designers liked to have work with you? Absolutely. But, you framed it as I chose spec/crowd-sourcing what are your thoughts…

    Critique of the Logos so far
    Every logo except one uses a gradient (that has been submitted). They are very cliche. The last logo (three colors) is a rip from Kayak.com.

    This is the kind of generic poor brand quality I talked about in my response to your original post. They are just some text, and a gradient.

    I wrote several posts recently about the basics of design. How many of these submissions actually use them?

    Steps of Creative Communication: http://cl.ly/166e

    Innovate: Sketch out your ideas: http://cl.ly/1ABs

    The Lost Principles of Design: http://cl.ly/19OB

    Saul Bass tells the story very well here: http://cl.ly/15YL

    Why am I here telling you this information and commenting for others to read? I care… Design is not a through-away commodity, stop treating it as one. A $300 contest where 1 out of 50 get paid treats it as one.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Super great posts, by the way.

      The opportunity is to make ANOTHER model. If not crowdsourcing, what other model could you give for a budget logo design? What OTHER methods? I know a few. : )

  • http://www.worstdamnblog.com Josh

    I somehow don't get all of this crowdsourcing stuff. As an entry-level graphic designer I'm always willing to work with my clients. I am not to the point yet where I can charge $20,000 for a brand. So, yes, I do charge cheaper rates than most.

    But here's the rub. It's a simple concept really – you enter a contest and design a logo for the prospect of *maybe* making some money. You're competing with hundreds of other designers who are all pushing for the same thing. I've scouted around these sites, and I've seen instances where, the contest holder pulls out and decides that he/she doesn't like any of the designs presented and all of the work is done for nil. And sometimes, a piece of work is stolen.

    If you had a business, and I were to come in and want to buy a product but say to you, “I want all of these products, and whichever one I like best, I may pay you for it.”, would you do it? Of course not. You'd tell me to get the hell out of your store. You like to mention Walmart, but could I go into Walmart and pick out a dozen different products and *promise* to pay for the one I like best? Hell no. I'd get security called on me and kicked out of that store.

  • http://azzcatdesign.com Catherine Azzarello

    Chad has hit the nail on the head.

    A tweet from Chris would have flooded him with designer portfolios and recommendations. Yet instead, he went straight to spec.

    I vote for the one that looks like Kayak.com. Would be interesting to see if it plays out in copyright court.

  • http://www.twitter.com/mdemmick M. Drew Emmick

    “…this is our business challenge.”

    I agree 100%.

  • http://miyostudios.com/ camille

    I agree with your thoughtful response, Chad. I understand that different clients have different needs (and can only afford what they can afford), but I, too, would think someone like Chris would first look to his vast network of contacts to seek to work with a great designer. There are many who would jump at the opportunity, I'm sure.

    I typically work for small businesses who often have limited funds (not the $20,000 clients mentioned in the first post), but even those clients understand the value of a well-developed brand and a strong mark. Ultimately, in my book it's about respecting people as professionals, asking questions to understand what they do if you aren't sure what goes into their work.

    As others have mentioned, I feel that the crowdsourcing route eliminates the most important (and interesting) part of the process – forming a relationship that can benefit the client and designer now and in the future as the brand evolves.

  • timderoche

    Last year I used voicesdotcom to hire some voiceover talent. Within days of posting, hundreds of voice artists had uploaded MP3s with their reading of my piece. Paid less than $200.

    But I've also been on the other side of this….Can't believe how cheap you can get talent these days.

    Tim D

    http://www.momentary.org
    free mobile gratitude journal – use promo code “laugh”

  • http://twitter.com/blueturtlefl kim smith

    I'm sure that tons of businesses looking for a cheap solution will continue to enter contests like 99Designs. Of course these are the same people who don't value their brand and just “need something, anything, ASAP”! I guess what I don't understand, is how someone who talks all day about leveraging relationships in business, who is in contact daily with a HUGE design community (via twitter, etc.) wouldn't think to “leverage” those relationships by asking for referrals or recommendations. Instead he goes and enters a contest on a site that devalues our work. For what? For a cheap logo? I just don't understand. Chris says in his post that this shouldn't shouldn't be about him, but it is! After the first post why would any designer approach him about working with him after he's already made the statement “I don't value what you do” by going to crowdsourcing? Seems to me, like a slap in the face to the designers out there fighting to keep the value in their craft.

    My two cents anyway.

  • knealemann

    Before we defend what we think is competition, we need to look at ourselves. Are we being crystal clear with what we offer? I refine that question all the time because I’m asked it every single day.

    More economic chat is minutia and the genie crushed the bottle and left the room. Now what?

    I have had to pick myself up and hose myself off a few times and I'm still here. I was on a pretty sweet trajectory in my corporate media career and one day the line was drawn through my name. I was too expensive. I had an opinion. I had ideas to make things better. Sound familiar?

    We have all had to realize in the last few years (Canada, where I live, hasn’t been hit as hard as the States) that we are not defined by our “jobs” and when our gig is threatened by a cheaper or “good enough” version, we need to sharpen our proverbial pencils and figure it out. Crying about it does nothing.

    While the music industry attempted to imprison Shawn Fanning, Apple found a way to make money from downloaded music which is played on their gadgets. Yes that is a large corporate example, what's yours? Have you tried? There has always been and always will be someone cheaper than you or me – we need to deal with it.

    Don’t blame the manager who gets to keep their job by spending less of the company’s money if a cheaper option is presented and doesn't hire the more qualified supplier/consultant/designer. Some think the cheap wine will do – sad but true. Boo hoo.

    Do you always pick quality over price? Always?

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    I was totally thinking of iTunes v Napster. I was thinking of Red Box v Netflix v Blockbuster.

    That's slightly tricky, but you see it.

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    The thing is, Kim, I'm one person blogging my experience with this. How many prospective buyers OF YOUR SERVICE don't even know about you, and/or don't even know about the opportunity to work with something other than 99d?

    Further, how do you explain why they should pay 10x or more than they'd pay at 99d or related sites?

    YOU understand the difference, but if you stay on the “Then you clearly don't know what you're buying” side of the fence, you're not helping a buyer.

    Am I slapping designers in the face? No. Not even a little. Am I pointing out that there's a Red Box to your Netflix to your Blockbuster? Yes. 100%.

    Did you read the post above? Even a little of it? I'm betting no.

  • http://twitter.com/jenajean Jenifer Olson

    This is an old example, but maybe it could help to think of it this way… in the 1950s when Tupperware didn't sell in stores because it was too expensive compared to shelf brands, the company marketed its wares via the home party and became one of the most successful direct selling companies in the world. Identifying your market, as well as understanding, engaging and servicing your customers, is key to any business success. There will always be someone who will undercut your price, but there will also always be a customer who who needs your unique value proposition. Has Tupperware had some tough days since the 1950s? Sure, but their continued success (they are still very much alive) in the face of increasing global competition rests in their ability to reinvent themselves through the eyes of their customers.

    As Chris says, “The opportunity is to understand which marketplace you want to sell into, realize that there are many other methods and marketplaces, that there are many other needs than the noble ones your craft might prefer to see enacted, and that there are many different ways to sell up into these marketplaces.

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    I think that's definitely the point/opportunity that needs highlighting. There's a buyer for everything, and a METHOD for buying that might be different and/or differentiate, as in Tupperware. Great point, Jennifer.

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    The opportunity is to make ANOTHER model. If not crowdsourcing, what other model could you give for a budget logo design? What OTHER methods? I know a few. : )

  • http://www.kristofcreative.com Kristof

    “I didn’t see any designer offer to work with me”… Priceless.

    “My challenge is showing people the payload they receive for the paycheck I expect” Excellent point and I believe this to be true for anyone who works to earn a paycheck.

    But I think the bigger challenge is in the “how”. How to go about showing people the value of the designs they create.

    When you give a presentation, people have an immediate response. They walk away with a feeling of receiving value because they've learned something. With designers (and I'm sure many other fields too) they hand a design to a client — nothing more than shapes and colors that has no immediate intrinsic value. The value is only understood over time. And sometimes, not even then.

    For example, what is the value of the NIKE swoosh? I'd imagine at the time is was designed, it didn't have any value. The swoosh only has value now because of the success the company has achieved. Had NIKE failed, the swoosh would be worthless.

    As I write this, I'm thinking that perhaps the whole flat rate pricing model is completely backwards. If a logo/mark only gains value as a company succeeds, perhaps the pricing model should be more in line with “pay for performance”. Or, in this instance, “pay for success”. In which case, a designer could charge an entry level fee with a contract that pays them more as the company grows.

    Granted, since 80% of all new businesses fail, the designer is knowingly taking a chance they won't receive any residual payments. But like you said, once the designer is in the door, it's a whole lot easier to up-sell them or procure additional projects.

    As for the 20% of companies that do succeed? I'd sure like to be on the receiving end of recurring NIKE paychecks.

    BTW: I do want your (brand monitoring) business. And I have a free beta account over at TweetReports waiting for you.

  • Jeannine van der Linden

    I have read this post, the one before, and also all of the comments. I may be unique in that, if in nothing else. But it looks to me as though this is by no means limited to the right-brained businesses. For those amoung us who didn't get the memo yet, may I just take the opportunity to steal this podium for a moment and say this:

    Scarcity is yesterdays's news. You cannot make scads of money any more by trading in scarcity of supply, nor can you create artifical scarcity. Scarcity of this kind was once the basis of economic thinking. But it is over now, o-v-e-r. Stick a fork in it, it's done.

    Ever heard of Zara clothing? In 1975 the first Zara store was opened, making cheap knockoffs of (scarce and expensive) designer clothes. Then Zara started working on its business model, and the result of that work was this: circa 2010, Zara gets its own designs from sketch to showroom floor in its 4,000 stores in four weeks.

    Did I mention that they do not advertise? They do not advertise. At all.

    So Zara started as a knockoff couture store. At this moment they are instead designing their clothing for their customers, by their rules. How they got from point a to point b is an interesting read and has everything to do with use of information within the organization, which is what killed scarcity in the first place — but I expect the readers of this blog can do their own research.

    I am not a pitchman (er, woman) for Zara. I don't work for them and I don't know anybody who works for them. I don't even own any of their clothes. But it seems to me that it is time to stop indulging in reasoning which is based upon protecting one little piece of the pie. It is past time to stop with approaches based upon convincing folks that the rest of the pie really isn't as yummy as this one piece, or that the rest of the pie is made of poisonous apples.

    Pick your piece and eat it already.

    nota bene: the Nike swoosh was designed by a graphic design student as a favor for her accounting professor (he happened to be Phil Knight). She billed him $35 for it, at their agreed-upon rate of $2 per hour. At the time, the minimum wage was $1.60.

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    Great points all the way around. I'd never heard of Zara, but it's great that you added it in here.

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    But that would be assuming that the logo is responsible for the success. I don't know that we could ever prove that to be true.

  • http://www.kristofcreative.com Kristof

    Not my assumption at all – far from it. I can't think of a circumstance where a logo could be responsible for a business' success. My thinking was that a logo becomes more valuable as the company grows. In which case, we could look at different options for pricing the work that could benefit business owners and designer's.

  • holycowcreative

    So true. I used to look at the topic of spec work to be very black and white…I've learned to see the grey. I've also learned that it's probably going to stick around.

    That doesn't mean roll over and join the crowd, and in fact means encouraging (true) designers not to fall into the spec world, and it also means that part of my job is to show people (in my case the church) the important role a logo, and creativity as a whole plays in the way we communicate and interact.

    It also means doing things a little differently. I no longer set the cost of a logo at $3000. Instead I let the client set the budget and we find a way to work with it. (that's the simplified explanation and there's certainly a conversation that happens.) I've also brought in a young in-the-process designer that can work with churches that truly have no budget with the understanding that he's learning and not everyone is accepted.

    While creatives need to see both angles, I hope those looking at spec work will too. It hurts people, and people count.

  • inuclative

    WOW…I can relate to both sides of the fence on this topic…but it's way to easy to get in the feature/benefit puke at this point…which is kind of worthless!

    But a couple of key points all of us can learn from, at least I have for my upcoming business.

    Number 1 – Never ever underestimate the power of a referral. In your previous post, A Perfect Dichotomy, your relationship with 99Designs began with a referral. John, your friend, referred you to them, so why shouldn't you check them out and their process. 99Designs gained instant credibility with you, because you were referred to them by a trusted friend. What can I do to get referrals?

    Number 2 – One of the things that 99Designs does pretty good – in converting sales is provide the “Why Not Factor!”….why not give them a try….you set the budget, you get what you want out of it (hopefully)… This has led me to think about what's my “Why Not Factor”….why not choose me as your designer…something we all need to define or refine… What's your “Why Not” factor?

  • susangiurleo

    So, I'm a small business…and I'd love a design. No designer who left comments here gives me any real reason to contact them. I will admit, I don't get design, I don't have a lot of money for design, but I'd like a logo. If someone can explain the finer points, give me something of value at a reasonable price point, you may be onto something. I work with lots of “me”s who need similar services. But again, I don't see that here,so where do we go? Chris mentions his experience and I think Chris knows a thing or two about business branding, so I go where Chris points me.

    If you squint hard enough you might see ME and my needs and my tribe and then there is no need to wait for the Chris Brogans of the world to send you a tweet and ask for your business.

  • http://www.philsforum.com PhilWrzesinski

    Chris,

    Brilliant business lesson here. Whether you did it intentionally or not, there is a ton of material from which we all can learn.

    One quick lesson that jumped into my mind is how we all need to be open to understanding other people's perspectives. In this instance, designers have to be aware of how marketers perceive the value of logos, while marketers have to be aware of how much effort and labor is involved in quality design (and why quality design is important).

    More importantly, however, is a strong business lesson we all need to follow – that your business, whatever it is you do, could quickly and easily be replaced or minimized in the marketplace as unimportant or unnecessary right before your very eyes, and how you redefine yourself in that instance will be critical to your success.

    As an independent retailer I could either despise and complain about all that Wal-Mart has done to change retailing, or I could choose to focus on what I can do that Wally World doesn't do. One way makes me a bitter old man with no friends except the other losers and whiners. The other way makes me wealthy beyond belief with riches not just monetary, but in the connections I make and the people I serve.

  • http://garybloomer.com/ GaryBloomer

    Hi Chris,

    I was busy yesterday and only read your post about designers serving businesses and the whole 99 Designs concept just now. Here's my humble two cents' worth.

    I'm a business owner (direct response marketing and social media advice) AND a graphic designer. My business is new and my website is still being populated with content.

    However, I see the position that non-design business owners are in when they use a service like 99 Designs: they want work that's good, fast, and cheap, AND they want the ability to pick and choose in order to get something that works for them.

    The whole “no spec” side of design aside, here's the point that creatives who want to remain in business need to wrap their minds around. It's the client's money that's being invested here so why wouldn't they (the client) expect a service that affords them the ability to select solutions that best suit their needs AND their budgets?

    Design-wise, many creatives simply don't get the idea that they're supplying a service. Much of the fault here lies in the world of design education, where creatives simply aren't EDUCATED about going above and beyond IN ORDER TO WIN THE BUSINESS. There is no business owner on earth that'll remain in business for long who will accept 100 percent of no sale when it makes far more sense to cash a cheque for 100 percent of a $300 sale.

    Yes, I know there are branding studios that ask for (and get) huge sums to design logos. My take on this is more power to them if they can command those prices. And if the client thinks they're getting a good deal, what does it matter to anyone else? It's the CLIENT'S money and the high dollar branding studio's business, no one else's.

    Personally, I've been involved in the world of graphic design for almost 25 years (I trained pre Mac and STILL know my way around a drawing board). On top of this, I know about direct response marketing—which is the world of the business owner and entrepreneur.

    Being creative is all well and good and I applaud it, truly I do. But what I don't applaud is creatives focusing too much on being creative when the thing that matters most to their business clients is getting the work done so that it can drive revenue. Many business people simply don't have the time to focus on the creative side of things; they’re too busy running their business.

    Two years ago, as I was struggling to drive home the point of the value of branding to a client, I asked the legendary ad man George Parker for advice his. George told me: “Forget about branding, focus on sales”. Those six words changed my life and I became a student of direct response marketing. Using my 20 plus years of experience in graphic design and combining them with my new understanding of direct response marketing and social media, the result has got me where I am today: starting my own business.

    Am I looking for design work? Yes Chris, I am.

    Design-wise I specialize in design for print (which includes logos, typography, and page layout) and I'd be only too happy to meet your needs if I can. Here's a link to my online portfolio. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mu8QEAaHyL0

    If I can help, please let me know. Kind regards, —Gary B.

  • John Rosa

    In viewing the posts (and maybe I missed something), I see the arguments on quality vs just good enough and cheap vs expensive, but what I don't see is quality based on a client's budget, i.e. what the client can afford, not what he's willing to pay.

    When you are doing well, of course you can afford a Ferrari, but when you are starting off, well maybe a Ford Focus is all you can afford, but in either case you need a car to get from here to there. Using that analogy, if you are starting out and can only afford a something with 4 wheels that still moves, what do you do to get that brand of yours going on the cheap (so to speak), but bring and hold onto as much “high quality” as possible without going bankrupt before you've even put your first page up.

    I've listened and I've seen sooo many hestitant to start an endeavor, but don't make that first move because of the perception (and in many cases the reality) that quality costs and sometimes costs a lot. If you don't have that $100 Grand in your pocket to start, you feel at a loss before you even start, unless you are talented enough to create your own quality logo, web site, purchase hosting services, purchase URL(s), etc.

    Sometimes, good enough is all there is for you, don't you think?

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  • Comm Dir

    In the old days, we all thought that recording quality was what mattered in music – that nuance and subtlety made a difference. Then someone figured out most people just wanted the music -the small stuff was lost on them; give me the beat, man. Made for a whole new arm of the industry.
    This is what creates the long tail. There is enough for everyone, and it is all good.

  • http://mediacreole.blogspot.com Aprille

    I appreciate the squinting element. I like to think that's one thing I do well. In my trend presos or product brainstorming, I often draw from novels, neuroscience, criminology, self-help, etc – because there are connections, themes, threads. And that they emerge in the same relative timeframe means there's something bigger to consider there….

  • http://twitter.com/ipattorneyfirm Nancy Baum Delain

    As well as excellence in design, business owners need protection of trademark rights. After all, why spend $363 or $20K on a wonderful mark, be it words or logo, that someone else then uses in commerce? Think now re infringement; call your IP lawyer today to safeguard your mark.

  • http://www.yuregininsesi.com yuregininsesi

    Availability of cheap design solutions is not a problem. Problem is that client do not see difference between good and bad design. How many people can tell difference between good and bad blue jeans? No easy task at all. How to choose what to wear? But lots of people are “professionals” at shopping. And ready to pay for this.

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