Recently, website-creation service Squarespace touched off a firestorm among designers with the release of Squarespace Logo, an online tool that allows anyone to create a logo for about $10 a piece. Simply fill in the name of your company, tagline, fonts and colors, and choose from thousands of logo icons to use as your own, and you’re done. Naturally designers around the country expressed their outrage on Twitter and other social media sites, possibly saying more about the fragility of the designer ego than the rightness or wrongness of the service.
The last time we saw this much fuss, it was over designer Von Glitschka, who whips up a logo in 5 minutes for $5. It wasn’t until the Squarespace story arose, however, that we realized why this whole situation felt so familiar: it’s the “them people coming over here and taking our jobs” vibe all over again.
Yes it’s a problem; now what?
Oddly, the concern over cheap logos operates on the exact same premise (minus the xenophobia, of course): that somebody who’s not as good at your job as you are will nevertheless be chosen over you because they don’t charge as much. And sadly, in a cost-cutting-mad economy, designers are on to something.
Today, cheap rules; the particle-board bookcase is the norm. And if a client isn’t “design savvy” enough to tell the difference between a $10 logo and the one painstakingly crafted by the seasoned designer, what can you do?
“Educate the customer” goes the cry, and rightfully so. But how? How do you convince a client that their logo – indeed their entire identity package – is worth a serious investment? The truth is this isn’t a dollars-and-cents proposition – this is the business equivalent of trying to explain the value of arts and music education in the classroom. If you can’t think beyond dollars and cents, you’re probably not going to get it.
Many (maybe even most) of the Fortune 500 companies have some pretty cringeworthy logos, while some of the best are held by small design firms who are living so hand-to-mouth they’re fretting over the fortunes of a $10 website logomaker.
So what’s the answer? Damned if we know. However, during this, the year of the AIGA’s 100th anniversary, it occurs to us that these are the types of questions that a designer’s association (and any design conferences hosted by other organizations) should make Topic A going forward.