February 8, 2005

Automation Will Kill Us All

It’s your company. You started it as a small idea and turned it into something people can’t live without. You know what’s best for your company and the best direction to take it. As such, you don’t really welcome outside influence or suggestions on the direction your company is taking. Your company has had the same logo for 10 years, and it’s really showing wear. The mark doesn’t really even represent what you think your company stands for anymore. Clearly, it’s time for a re-branding. Why don’t you fire up your computer, and create your own logo. After all, it’s your company.

It’s your colon. You’ve had it your entire life. Over the years you’ve helped it grow into a happy colon. Your colon has always been your responsibility and you know what’s best for it. Your colon has developed a cancerous tumor. You are in constant pain, and can’t take it anymore. Clearly, the tumor needs to be removed. Why don’t you sterilize a scalpel and surgically remove it yourself. After all, it’s your colon.

Absurd, right? You may think it’s a bit harsh to compare a life threatening condition to the state of your company, but is it really? Your company is full of employees who depend on the income you can produce. Still not life-threatening, but nothing to shake a stick at either. These people place their livelihood in your hands, and you take a short-cut. Ah, the quick-fix. My services are a waste of time and money because all I really am is a pair of hands. Why should people pay me to design a logo when they can design one themselves?

I recently came across another low-cost logo site called LogoYes. I get lots of emails advertising logo’s for as little as $99, but LogoYes is taking this one step further by offering users a nice little Flash application that allows them to build an “original” logo from their vault of type and images. Do you ever wonder why designers have trouble gaining respect while helping clients understand the importance of their services? It’s this mentality (from the LogoYes site):

In just a few minutes, you can build an original logo without the costly, time-consuming process of working with a graphic designer (who must guess what you’ll like).

Yes. We are designers, we are guessers. I spent years in school learning about design history, theory, promotional ideas and creative thinking to sit back and blindly throw darts at a wall. I mean, as far as a client is concerned, they probably think we smack something together like you can on LogoYes.

There has always been a battling misconception with technological advancements; movable type would kill the hand-letterer, photography would kill the painter, desktop publishing would kill the designer, and the list goes on. Why? Common thought is that technology will place everyone on equal footing. Now that Joe CEO has a computer with Photoshop (or “Adobe” as many people seem to call it), he has been christened a designer. He can leave the design agency he has been using behind; his computer now fills in the gaps.

Plain and simple, technology does not take the place of good ideas. You pay a specialist for a reason. I don’t get under the hood of my car and ask the mechanic to use a different oil filter. I am paying him for his knowledge and experience, and I pay a premium price because I want the job done right.

You can say that a DIY logo is a good idea, and you are entitled to your opinions. There are circumstances when a fast and cheap logo makes sense. Does Tony Luke’s Pizza really need an expensive logo that breaks new boundaries in the restaurant business? Well, that’s a question for Tony Luke. LogoYes is threatening. Not because I feel like they have achieved a level of work I can’t, but because they contribute to the already size-able pile of shit I have to weed through in order to convince a client of the value of good design. Occupations for designers and artists have remained intact for centuries for a reason: people who recognize a specialist for what they are, pay for quality work. I know this is a volatile can of worms, but please, chime in.

Commentary (107):

1. Kyle Stauffer says… feb 8, 2005 | 4:05 pm

Brilliant. Nothing I can add would give it any more relevance or validity… you summed it all up and then some.

2. Rob Weychert says… feb 8, 2005 | 4:13 pm

For the record, I would trust Tony Luke to design a great logo for himself or anyone else. He doesn’t even need Adobe.

3. Ryan Brill says… feb 8, 2005 | 4:17 pm

It’s exactly the same with quality web design. There will always be someone who will under-bid you, so you need to convince the client that you will end up being worth the extra initial investment. The prices in this industry vary so much, and the constant under-bidding is so damaging to the industry. How many times have we all lost jobs because the clients 14 year old nephew thinks he’s a budding web developer? Obviously you go back 3 months later and see the site looking like it just jumped of GeoCities, but either way, it was a job lost.

All that to say, I feel your pain… ;)

4. Dan Mall says… feb 8, 2005 | 4:18 pm

Not that it’s not useful, but what spurned this post?

5. bearskinrug says… feb 8, 2005 | 4:21 pm

I think the hardest thing to accept is when the client is HAPPY with the web design or logo that looks like it was done by a 14-year old, or an automated flash program.

Some people really don’t see the difference between professional and amateur work. I suppose the key to success is avoiding these fellows…

6. Matt Galaviz says… feb 8, 2005 | 4:29 pm

I think you have a point, but I really don’t think any serious companies would consider buying a program like that or being chintsy with their money. Those should be the clients you’re aiming for.

7. Justin Perkins says… feb 8, 2005 | 4:35 pm

Nice write up, you see the same thing happening in every avenue of specialty profession. Better yet, for every profession, there is somebody (or company) who will claim to cut out that middle man.

I’ve got to say, if my auto mechanic installed some crappy oil filter (think AutoZone) then I would surely find a new mechanic.

8. Gabriel Mihalache says… feb 8, 2005 | 4:40 pm

Automation is profitable for tasks which are to be repeated, identically. If automation is applied to DIY logos, it is obvious that the products will suck, and the company using that logo will not get the advantages of a “true logo” , or even worse, project an image of utter idiocy.

You don’t want to work for the kind of companies that would even consider this, trust me! Let the stupid perish of their own doing, that’s what I’d say in this case.

It’s not the fault of LogoYes —whose crime is merely to supply a crappy service— or automation, but of people who get their corporate image/rebranding from the back of cereal boxes. Never mind them! You need a client on your level.

9. Andrew Hume says… feb 8, 2005 | 4:46 pm

@Matt: Agreed.

Jason, do you really have to deal with these type of firms? Or is this not a specific rant?

10. Bandelin says… feb 8, 2005 | 4:53 pm

Why do I see every middle aged man wearing the same tight ass jeans, nylon jacket, and cheap, bright white reeboks??

People have no taste.

I just wonder if a nice logo even makes that much of a difference. I see popular stores, restaurants, and other businesses with downright offensive logos all the time.

Do people really notice?

11. Patrick Kelley says… feb 8, 2005 | 4:53 pm

Unfortunately, there are not enough people reminding companies of the power of true branding. When companies can actually have a design/logo that fits them so well (e.g. Firefox, Apple, etc.) it really makes a difference, but a company that has never really had a true brand doesn’t know what they are missing.

What would really be lovely is to come up with comparisons that show the difference between a fast (“Kathy Martin created and recieved her logo in less than ten minutes!”), automated logo, and the effort of an experienced designer who is capturing the essence of the company. That would be refreshing.

12. Jason Santa Maria says… feb 8, 2005 | 4:56 pm

Matt: Don’t be so sure, just because a company has a serious business model doesn’t mean the chance it’s being run by a bunch of chowderheads has diminished.

Andrew: Of course! This mentality isn’t specific to company size, you can find it at all levels. This has just been building up because I am sick of seeing these in my inbox and popping up across the web. It always seems to show up at the perfect time; just as I sit back, spent from a tough day… “Create your own logo in 10 minutes!!!”

Patrick: Something already in the works ;D

13. Aegir says… feb 8, 2005 | 5:07 pm

Just ask your client who he thinks created all the images for LogoYes. Besides, all you need is for your client to be using Firefox on a Mac cos the widget just doesn’t work. Hurrah!

14. Tomas says… feb 8, 2005 | 5:10 pm

I agree, a lot of people refuse to comprehend that there is a difference between a professional designer and an executive with an idea.

The only thing that annoys me more than that sentiment is when said executive wants a “professional” photographer to do the photographing, but still thinks he/she’s able enough to take care of the art direction. I have to deal with that every god damn day.


15. Dougal Campbell says… feb 8, 2005 | 5:20 pm

Don’t worry. There are still plenty of us out here who understand the value of hiring a professional.

I’ve run across plenty of people who are unwilling to pay real money for web design. “I’ve got a nephew who makes those web thingamabobs in FrontPage — he’s good!”.

“Uh huh,” I reply. “And when you put that web site up, everyone will know that it was done by your nephew in FrontPage. And that’s not a good thing.”

I don’t claim to be a web designer, myself. I’m not. I’m a developer. When I need real design, I call in somebody else.

16. Jon Hicks says… feb 8, 2005 | 5:23 pm

I tried to create my own logo on the site, but the whole name thing didn’t work for me. Maybe I’ll have to pay more than $99…

17. Kyle Stauffer says… feb 8, 2005 | 5:24 pm

That LogoYes shindig was created by 2Advanced… the self proclaimed “gods” of Flash and all things webdesign… kinda ironic.

(disclaimer, i’m not advocating them as the shizzle… at all. No, really. Not at all.)

Here’s an older article with a similar tone and theme. It’s a worldwide epidimic I tell ya.

18. Ray says… feb 8, 2005 | 5:25 pm

Can I play devil’s advocate here in response to Ryan Brill’s comment? What about those companies or single designers who MUST bid low in order to get business? They may be new to the industry and that’s the only they can gain clients. They might actually be really great at what they do, but they MUST bid low. Or consider this situation: they aren’t as good of quality as what you produce, but they are still pretty good. Is it bad that they got the job instead? The website or project may not turn out as well as it would have had you designed it, but that’s how people gain experience.

I just wanted to play the other side for a moment…

19. Ste Grainer says… feb 8, 2005 | 5:28 pm

Hoo boy. It is interesting that people will trust a specialist with some things and not with others - I can remember student job where I had a rough time convincing a boss that lots of animated gifs on the homepage (or indeed anywhere) would only frustrate users, especially since the site was already image-heavy. And nowadays I struggle with trying to convince coworkers not to use Word art and tacky clip art in newsletters.

When I see those sites or programs that offer “comprehensive design solutions” for $19.99 or whatever low, low price … oh, how that rankles me. And don’t even get me started on the folks who say things like, “Oh, my 13 year old son builds websites - I can just have him do it for us.” My mind boggles at how someone can think so little of my profession that they’d compare me to a child.

20. Kyle Stauffer says… feb 8, 2005 | 5:29 pm

If they end up with something that’s of lesser quality, albeit cheaper, it can end up hurting the client’s objectives in the end which may have been increased sales, branding, image, etc…

Clients should follow the “top of the line” mantra:

Buy the best and you’ll only cry once.

21. Kyle Stauffer says… feb 8, 2005 | 5:32 pm
My mind boggles at how someone can think so little of my profession that they’d compare me to a child.

I think it’s a lack of education on the client end. They just don’t KNOW any better. On the outside it seems so simple and easy… after all they’re just pushing buttons on a keyboard, right?

22. Merritt says… feb 8, 2005 | 5:32 pm

Finally! I can do this crap myself…

23. Merritt says… feb 8, 2005 | 5:35 pm

Never mind…they wanted me to pay for it. Anyone know where I can get a pirated copy?

24. Stephen Caudill says… feb 8, 2005 | 5:39 pm

Personally, I’m stoked with my new logo. It was so easy… and only cost me a press of the print screen button.

Seriously though, I learned some while back to respond to the folks that say “Well, my x year old blah can build a web site in WYSIWYG PukeDev 4.0” with a firm reminder that while their x year old could take a picture with a Kodak FunSaver, they wouldn’t necessarily want him to photograph their wedding.

If they don’t understand that logic, show them the door. You’ll have saved yourself a lot of headache.

25. bearskinrug says… feb 8, 2005 | 5:42 pm

Merritt - you don’t need a logo - I designed one FOR you, remember? I used like… 5 scripts.

26. Ste Grainer says… feb 8, 2005 | 5:43 pm

Ray, I don’t think he’s talking about competitive pricing between designers. Sure, there are always designers who are starting out and charge less before they develop their skills/clientele.

The problem is the people who create software or quick-stop shops that belittle the research and deliberation that go into a well thought-out logo or design by making clients believe that anyone with a mouse and a keyboard is an expert.

27. Josh Dura says… feb 8, 2005 | 5:48 pm

In no way am I saying that things like this aren’t bad, but truthfully, I don’t think they will hurt designers enough to make an impact.

For one, when they realize that their logo/website/whatever is crap (when some client of theirs says something about it, or they realize it themselves), they will hopefully hire a professional to do it.

Like Matt says though, the companies that need a real logo designed, aren’t looking to use these kinds of apps, and know not to use them. However, not all design companies are lucky enough to start out with the high dollar clients that have this knowledge.

28. Kyle Stauffer says… feb 8, 2005 | 5:51 pm

That’s part of the problem, which is that many people just DONT get it, nor ever will. They have no perception of that’s quality and what’s crap. So lots of people will actually be HAPPY with some cookie cutter job.

29. Terrence Ryan says… feb 8, 2005 | 5:52 pm

I would think in the long run that logo companies like this would be good for your profession, Jason.
Yes, in the short term some companies that would use a professional designer choses instead to use a DIY service. However, I would postulate that the target market for these services are companies that would love to have their own orignal logo, but would not justify spending money hiring a designer under any circumstances. So while they’re cutting a little into your market, they’re really just creating a new market.
Meanwhile, all of these carbon copy designs pop up, and then to truly distinguish one’s brand, one is forced to go to a professional designer. At which point your distinctive talent wins you the business of a company that actually willing to spend money on a distictive style. Plus, now that there are more people in the logo market in general, maybe some DIY’fers will realize that it’s harder then they thought, and upgrade to a real designer.
Or I could be suffering under some sort of free market illness that comes from working at Wharton for so long.

30. bearskinrug says… feb 8, 2005 | 5:52 pm

Ray - I can understand having to go low to get the business - but at a certain point, low bidders have got to be hurting themselves. Are these clients that have been enticed by the low rate going to ever agree to pay actual market-value down the line? Do you want repeat business from someone who’s paying you 1/3 of what they should be?

31. RJ Hampden says… feb 8, 2005 | 5:56 pm

You are all over-reacting. It’s totally awesome that technology can do this stuff. Tell me, what is really wrong with this logo?

32. LindaE says… feb 8, 2005 | 5:58 pm

Bravo! A well though out stream of conscious and we here whole heartly concur.

33. bearskinrug says… feb 8, 2005 | 6:04 pm

Hmm - you have a point, RJ.

I’ll buy that logo off you for 50 bucks…

34. Jason Santa Maria says… feb 8, 2005 | 6:12 pm

Terry: To be honest, it’s not the fact that they are getting cheap logo that gets to me. It’s the type of mindset this sort of thing places people in about design.

I realize that to someone (not you Terry, speaking generally) who isn’t a designer or who is coming at this from a different field, this might sound like whining. That goes double for some programmer friends where open source ideals are the flavor of the week. But in service industries (like design) where you aren’t always selling a concrete product, this type of stuff matters, and it could mean the difference between getting a job or not. It’s easy to say that those are the clients you don’t want to work for, but many people don’t have the luxury of turning down everything but the most cooperative clients. The reality is, this is a job and you don’t always get to work with the type of people you’d prefer. This could open up a whole other discussion about working with clients to the benefit of both parties…

35. Patrick Kelley says… feb 8, 2005 | 6:27 pm
Patrick: Something already in the works ;D

I think I should be excited. I am sure it will be great.

36. Scott says… feb 8, 2005 | 6:46 pm

maybe you should have a contest for the logo…

I saw this and it made my pessimism lift a little.

Fortune: Is an MFA The New MBA?

37. Tom says… feb 8, 2005 | 6:50 pm

I’m saving this post for a rainy day, thanks.

38. Scott Marshall says… feb 8, 2005 | 6:52 pm

opps, I forgot to put a sarcasm emote after my remark about the contest. : p

39. Jeff Croft says… feb 8, 2005 | 7:00 pm

I’ll refrain from going into the same thing everyone else already has. Suffiece it to say that Jason summed up my feelings about this sort of thing just fine.

I just wanted to say — great post, Stan.

40. Dan Kurani says… feb 8, 2005 | 7:02 pm

The LogoYes and Template Monster companies of the world are a blessing in disguise.
They have pre-qualified some of your prospects. Any company that is worth developing a relationship (potential for residual revenue and a true partnership) with already values problem solving skills (design). You shouldn’t have to sell a thing, just provide a solution. If you even consider doing business with a prospect/client that considers LogoYes an option you are heading down the proverbial short pier.

41. Sebastian says… feb 8, 2005 | 7:11 pm

If my ‘89 Camry needs a paint shop, am i gonna spend $10k for classic car restoration? No, i’ll stop by Earl Scheib. These are just not your prospective clients, so why in the world would you feel ticked off by this? Because you spend all these years in design school? Hey, tell it to your resume! We are pretty lucky to have inherited a market where companies are willing to spend dearly on good design work. I would like to think we can handle the “competition” from do-it-yourselfers and helper-monkeys graciously.

42. Jason Santa Maria says… feb 8, 2005 | 7:27 pm

Sebastian: Refer back to my last comment, and I am impressed if you are still running an ‘89 Camry :D

Listen, I’m not trying to be up on a high-horse; like I said, I don’t feel threatened in a sense that I can’t match their “work”. Big businesses start out small, and even the best clients may have started out naive. It is a tough mindset to fight through if you client thinks that good design is a click away. I have been there before, you get reduced to being a body filling a role, and the job your are doing isn’t considered good or bad, it’s only considered complete or incomplete. This was one of the reasons it felt like the time to go the self-employment route, and this is a thing you have to deal with at times (especially when just starting out).

43. dzd says… feb 8, 2005 | 7:41 pm
Tell me, what is really wrong with this logo?
Mmm, the delicious taste of Comic Sans.
44. feaverish says… feb 8, 2005 | 7:50 pm

Don’t you think it’s just like any other medium that gets brought to the masses thanks to technology? e.g. thanks to Word we can all set type, however badly. Thanks to iMovie we can edit video and thanks to Garageband we can mix music. These are all things that were reserved for professionals just a few (or 30) years ago.

What happens, though, is that a pretty clear aesthetic line is drawn, with professional typesetting, say, on one side and Word documents on the other, and I don’t think many people would confuse one with the other (and why would you want to work for them if they did?). The ability to do a thing well, the ‘art,’ I guess, remains (even if everyone can make their own movie).

45. nathan says… feb 8, 2005 | 8:02 pm

I agree wholeheartedly…in the end you get what you pay for (most of the time)

46. Nathan Olsen says… feb 8, 2005 | 8:08 pm

Not only is this something that designers need to deal with now, it will only get worse. Automatic design generation technology will only improve and, along with it, the quality of the design. Is this a death knell for talented designers or a boon for small regional businesses who don’t care if their logo looks like someone elses half way around the globe? Larger sized business will never be satisfied with looking anything like their competition. Until a robot comes along who can do it better, your job is safe. A lot of the smaller fish will be swallowed up by this kind of technology though. It’s just a matter of time.

47. Terrence Ryan says… feb 8, 2005 | 10:06 pm

Hey, dude, I didn’t want to imply that you were running scared, or that I thought you were whining. I was trying to bolster your spirits and say, I didn’t think you had a lot to be afraid of. That such commodization of your type of service exists, only goes to separate those with real talent.

For the record, I’ve had to steal all my logo’s, because I can’t afford to hire you.

48. shawn says… feb 8, 2005 | 11:26 pm

Architecture is one of the oldest professions around, requires a whole lot of education and licensing, and is constantly evolving. Yet people still flock to cookie cutter suburban developer-built homes. The point is, don’t expect this to change anytime soon, for architecture, or design in general.

People are too busy to give good design a fair judgement nowadays.

49. Randy Peterman says… feb 8, 2005 | 11:42 pm

What is sad is when people are paying a designer and they get crap :|

Recently an online ordering company (a digital river type of place) announced a new site design with a tweak on the logo. The colors don’t coordinate, it uses bad, non-semantic markup and has image rollovers where CSS could have handled it. I don’t know how much was paid but it was too much if it was more than $100.00.

50. Toastsmith says… feb 9, 2005 | 1:32 am

I know what you mean, I was put out of business by a goddamn toaster.

51. lorbus says… feb 9, 2005 | 3:29 am

We all know that most of the logos generated by LogoYes are crap. But they’ll only get better with time. If case you haven’t noticed yet, our job has been mutating for quite a while. New technology enables designers to spend time more efficiently. Remember when you were hand-drawing logos?

In the future most of us non-Luddite designers will be using automated software to design for our clients. Millions upon millions of creative iterations will spur from our machines and software will choose the one that works best and has the best appeal. Our jobs will be to nudge and refine the grunt work our machines do…

Stop whining, it’s 2005. This is only the beginning. Learn new tricks. Don’t waste time.

52. Francisco Moreira says… feb 9, 2005 | 5:14 am

There is nothing new here. I have been a professional software developer for the past 28 years. Since the first micro was launched I am used to hear the son of the uncle of the boss’ girlfriend can do something like a pro. If the prospect doesn’t see enough value, then you don’t have a hot prospect.

53. Stephen Hay says… feb 9, 2005 | 5:29 am

Jason, you’ve made a great point.

Still, many of us/you have been formally trained as designers, and that advantage can be seen and felt in the work we do, when compared to these hacked logo services. Any client worth an identity will eventually see this. A comparison like the one you’re cooking up, Jason, is a good way to help them see it.

Remember the 80/20 rule: 80 percent of all good design is done by only 20 percent of the designers out there.

I agree in part with Dan: The law of contrasts dictates that the work of educated designers will seem even better by comparison.

There’s always room at the top.

54. Francisco Moreira says… feb 9, 2005 | 7:34 am

I agree 100% with Dan.

In my case, “free” and “open” software are the blessing in disguise. These crapware educate the serious companies to value professional software development and support.

55. Niff says… feb 9, 2005 | 8:46 am

wow! this is a lot of comments!
I just wanna say as an illustrator, i know first hand that the average client/person, has no idea or even cares what is good or bad art/design. i tell people i am an illustrator and they ask me to design logos, paint them a field..whatever. WHEN THEY HAVEN’T EVEN SEEN MY WORK YET! all these people see is “hey, i now know an artist, this could be cheap!” forget that i have been working 26 years developing my skill. ahh, who am i kidding. what skill?

56. Richard Roma says… feb 9, 2005 | 9:12 am

Damn, I tried out the demo, and I created a logo that was better than most of the ones I created on my own.

I quit

57. david says… feb 9, 2005 | 9:25 am

While this is a great post, I wonder if it was a bad idea to mention a REAL example of a place that offers this type of service. I’m sure there aren’t many potential clients in this blog’s target audience, but you never know :) I’m uncertain if the negative but true comments would be enough to deter someone from using it; after all, the saying goes: even bad publicity is good publicity.

58. mbstuart says… feb 9, 2005 | 10:50 am

Usually these logo creation pages / web site templates all have a large number of unusable shapes, typefaces, backgrounds etc.
Then, 90% of the people that go through the process are going to pick the same “trendy” design and all end up with the “same-but-different” look.
Using this logic - We should all have Flowbees
“You’ll never need to make an expensive trip to the Stylist again :)”

59. nick santilli says… feb 9, 2005 | 11:20 am

I current client of mine sent this website to me the other day:

…suggesting that it might make my design work easier…

I kindly explained that it’s the design that I enjoy, and I believe that my clients are paying for a unique representation of their site, that is tailored to their business.

I hate cookie-cutters. I don’t know if she meant it completely as “helpful” or if there was a hint of, ‘why’d you charge me XYZ, when it’s only $150 over here?’

60. Kim Siever says… feb 9, 2005 | 11:22 am


61. bryan says… feb 9, 2005 | 11:23 am

If a potential client would even consider using a service like that, do you really want to work with them? Most of us don’t really have the luxury of turning down work, but hopefully none of us are designing corporate identities for $99. I don’t see it as competition, I see it as a way to keep cheapskates with no taste from dragging a designer into their sad world. Good riddance to them and their short-lived cheap companies. This trend worries me just as McDonalds worries Jacques Pepin, it’s depressing and vulgar, but irrelevant to my occupation.

62. Ian says… feb 9, 2005 | 11:26 am

Man, I gotta get me one of these shirts!
Stan, you should post about dealing with the types of clients that insist that they have a really great idea for their website, etc. when you know it’s a really horrible idea (read: flash intro). I could use some advice. And there’s probably a fair amount of people (60 or so) who’d like to vent.

63. Jason Santa Maria says… feb 9, 2005 | 11:39 am

Ah, but it is really irrelevant to your industry, Bryan? If you are lucky enough to find yourself in the position of being able to hand pick your clients, it is easy to take that stance. But, if you are like me, you end up helping to awaken and educate clients every other job. Like I said, even the biggest clients started out small and (possibly naive) at some point. It isn’t even so much about price, it’s more about pride in your craft. I don’t care if you charge someone $99 for a logo, you can still put your best foot forward. With that said, even if you are working for smaller companies, there is no reason they can’t have the same caliber of thought behind their product. Personally, I’m not in a position where I can turn away a potentially good client based on their lack of knowledge when it comes to a quality design. It is part of my task as a designer and consultant to help lead them in a good direction and educate them to the benefits of what I can offer.

64. Peter Santa Maria says… feb 9, 2005 | 11:50 am

Well Jason, if you would just use that font… you know that one I saw on that sign in an ad in a magazine in a supermakert… yes, THAT one… you wouldn’t have this problem.

And it’s too small. Make the type bigger. No, I said B-I-G-G-E-R!

: P

65. Tony says… feb 9, 2005 | 11:54 am

I’m not a designer, but I was a music major back in college, so I think I understand some of the problems designers face. I think the thing some commenters are missing is that LogoYes isn’t really the problem, it’s a symptom of a lack of education in and understanding of design.
With the level of separation of labor that we have in this society, we think that you have to be a specialist in a field to understand it, but the truth is that anyone should be able to appreciate good design or good music. It’s not elitist or unreasonable to expect that our society could educate it’s citizens about what art and design really are.

66. Matt Henderson says… feb 9, 2005 | 12:08 pm

Designers aren’t the only ones facing these issues. Software developers are experiencing similar difficulties. It seems the purchase of “PHP and HTML in a Week” and the ability to search Sourceforge is enough these days to consider oneself a qualified “Web Developer.” We find ourselves often faced with the challenge of explaining to a company that has never procured a software system, why the CEO’s nephew can’t possibly deliver for $500 what we are asking $15,000 for, or that forcing one’s business models into MyFreeCMS might not be the best long-term decision.

67. Phil says… feb 9, 2005 | 12:39 pm

I was going to say pretty much exactly what matt just did. Such is life in a profession that ‘normal’ people see as something akin to magic or voodoo. They don’t understand it, and so, they don’t value it.

68. jeffv says… feb 9, 2005 | 1:23 pm

I used to work for a newspaper but they fired some of us cause they were going to move heavier into putting everything on the web. the web had me bumped to the side to make everything easier. so cry all you want. it’s the web designers that are killing the print designers. We just need to keep at the top of our field or we’ll sink.

69. vibranium says… feb 9, 2005 | 1:40 pm

Interesting article. It easily grabs at the core of what print designers often find the most frustrating.

Perhaps a little too easy…

The anaology about the surgery is, in my opinion, way off. Problem is we don’t know what a tumor is really. Or why it’s there. Or how to get rid of it. What a good coln looks like compared to an injured one. Etc.

Visual language is universal. We ALL know what it is and how to use it. For example…

What does yellow and black together often convey?

What does does lettering that looks in ‘crayon’ with a backwards “s” convey?

What does a sketchy, scratchy line forming a shape convey?

We all get these clues. Every client knows the language. Every consumer knows the language. I’m broadbrushing, but you get it…

I agree with your sentiment and think “logo factories” are crap, except for the examples you mentioned.

But we should feel less threatened. Everyone knows the language, but it doesn’t mean everyone is a good storyteller or a poet. We get to fill those roles.

70. The Shelanman says… feb 9, 2005 | 3:43 pm

I’m not a designer, so I see this issue a little bit from the outside.

I am, however, a developer, so I know what its like to have clients say “oh but this really horrid piece of crap is perfectly fine, and doesn’t charge by the hour”

But you know what? If you are being interviewed by a prospective client, it is your job to convince them that your services are more valuable than LogoYes, or whatever other crappy product they intend to use. If you can’t, then maybe the crappy product will be good enough for them.

I can tell the difference between a good website and a bad website. But most people can’t.

For example, take a look at Criag’s List. It looks terrible. But it’s enormously successful. Now, it might have been more successful if it looked better, but you know what? It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, all that matters is that people use it, and the site makes money.

Most Craig’s List visitors probably don’t even notice that it looks awful. They might notice if it looked better, but they don’t see the lack.

Craig’s List obviously didn’t need real design help.

71. JohnW says… feb 9, 2005 | 3:55 pm

That’s because Content is King, Shelanman.

What must it be like to go through life without a sense of style, or the gift of creativity.

Do non designers care about style? Do they even notice your subtle, creative illustrations up in that right hand corner?

I think Ideas and Design coexist. Craigs List, for example, is ugly but successful. It’s because they have a great IDEA.

Maybe someone can give an example of where Design outshines the Idea, and it’s successful?

72. drew says… feb 9, 2005 | 4:55 pm

quick n easy with bells and whistles will work fine for most idiots in my generation. Hooorah!

73. BenD says… feb 9, 2005 | 6:42 pm

Just tried logoyes and it makes better logos than 99% of the designers I know make.

74. BenD says… feb 9, 2005 | 7:00 pm

“I spent years in school learning about design history, theory, promotional ideas and creative thinking to sit back and blindly throw darts at a wall.”
You are an extreme exception. Most “designers” (and art students for that matter) spend years in school drinking and getting stoned. However, most licensed surgeons, to whom you are comparing yourself, spend many more years studying and getting certified. Anyone can call themselves a designer. Good for folks who view this “profession” with a cynical eye.

75. Jason Santa Maria says… feb 9, 2005 | 7:11 pm

BenD: There are exceptions to every rule, but I think it’s unfair to lump all design and art students into the slacker category. I am sure there are plenty of med students that are just taking up space. While I am not comparing myself to a surgeon, I imagine I could call myself a surgeon if I wanted to. Other than the fact that I would have to fool everyone at a hospital into thinking I work there and have to get over the fact that I would surely kill whoever I operated on. I take my job very seriously, and this is precisely the kind of attitude that designers have to battle against. Don’t take offense to that, I am sure it is the result of some bad experiences you’ve had, but you must understand that there are dedicated people in this profession.

76. BenD says… feb 9, 2005 | 7:58 pm

Difference is, those med students don’t end up being surgeons. They don’t pass the boards. They get kicked out of their residency. Heck, they might end up on the business end of a malpractice suit.
A much better analogy would be to an auto mechanic. Like a designer, you need respect in the industry, a good set of hands, and a way of tinkering with things that ordinary people don’t have. Switch it to a lower gear and you have my empathy.
Don’t get me wrong; I hold the great designers in the highest esteem, along with the greatest surgeons. But you’re kidding yourself if you think for a minute that a good designer has as much impact on our critical livelyhood as a good surgeon.

77. Simon Cox says… feb 10, 2005 | 7:43 am

Most people who do Design at art college don’t end up working as designers either. Only the best get through the first few years.

Most med students I ever met were partying on pure ethanol or scaring commuters out of money in rag weeks.

If you had time to produce a logo for every single business in the world I could see this Flash application as being a threat. However you can’t and it isn’t. Choose your clients with care and educate them as too what can be achieved with good branding.

Those businesses that want to spend a pittance on design end up with nothing. You get what you pay for.

Good design can save lives - signage for example.

78. BenD says… feb 10, 2005 | 10:43 am

“Good design can save lives - signage for example.”
Enough with the surgeon comparisons. Good design doesn’t save lives. Enhances them of course, but saves them? Please, get off the pedestal.
If you had to eliminate one profession, would it be surgeons or designers?

79. Jason Santa Maria says… feb 10, 2005 | 10:46 am

Enough. It’s an off-topic pissing match and it really doesn’t matter. They are both important. Let’s move on.

80. marty says… feb 10, 2005 | 11:15 am

I don’t undersand how you can argue against apps/services like LogoYes here, and be a judge for the logo design competition over at Airbag at the same time.

To my mind, they are different sides of the same coin, the Dumbed-Downed Design Dime.

Both methods give the client a logo with no creative relationship between client and designer, and as such are as worthy as each other.

81. Greg says… feb 10, 2005 | 11:29 am

Marty, I beg to differ.

LogoYes is an application, like Printshop, that gives a user a choice of clip art to pass off as a logo while over at Airbag designers are submitting work created specially to meet requirements as set by the client.

Both methods give the client a logo with no creative relationship between client.

What kind of relationship are you looking for? Long term commitment with no kids but you can still date other people?

82. Yo says… feb 10, 2005 | 1:40 pm

With the quality of viewers going down, maybe crap is the best way to advertise.

Now maybe I’m insensitive or braindead, but I’ve taken classes in design and frankly, when I see an advertisement, none of the things mentioned in the classes go through my mind. Which is why I think the whole advertising field is black magic.

83. Susanna says… feb 10, 2005 | 2:45 pm

Jason, your post articulates something that frustrates me as well. I’m not really a graphic designer, but I do design interfaces for web apps. I was just talking about this wih a fellow web designer the other day, about how for us getting a job isn’t just proving we’re qualified - it’s proving to the company that they need to hire someone with our skills in the first place.

It’s especially difficult not being in the upper tier of web designers. Those of us in the middle have to compete with nepotism and automation for jobs. (I blogged about this myself less eloquently about a year ago.)

84. marty says… feb 11, 2005 | 12:24 pm

The competition submissions at Airbag may be coming from designers and “created specially to meet requirements”, rather than someone pressing buttons in LogoYes, but the end result is the same. A logo comes out of the ether, with no context, no sense of the design process, no real understanding of the client, who conversely has no real understanding of the designer. Given that we’re in the communication business, this seems a shame.

Compare this, to pick a random example, to the superb series of designs Nessim Higson goes through in creating the Hellblazer logo. Here you see someone working through a range of ideas, slowly circling in on a preferred idea, and then refining it, presumably with feedback from the client. The designer takes us on a journey, shows us the process, of creative engagement. Does it matter? Possibly not, but I think it leads to better design and better results for the client.

85. Jason Santa Maria says… feb 11, 2005 | 12:46 pm

The end result is not quite the same Marty. I don’t think comparing the Hellblazer logo to LogoYes is quite fair either. Obviously, Nessim enjoys the feedback of a client while he is working, whereas LogoYes is completely faceless. LogoYes, the Airbag contest, and a working client relationship (like the Hellblazer logo) are all stops on the same spectrum. I personally see them in roughly that order too, low to high. I understand your problems with the logo contest, and I see why people have a beef with it. But, I also see the merit in the contest, the competition, the exercise, and the fun.

86. Dorothy says… feb 11, 2005 | 8:39 pm

Great read, I recently read an article at www.trendcentral.com that talks about Generation C which stands for the Content generation. All those discipline left brains that write code have enabled the average person to create a monster! Not to worry though there are those who still realize that talent has it’s value.

87. Coudal says… feb 11, 2005 | 9:48 pm

You get what you pay for.

Something is already in the works.
Yes, in fact, it is.

88. Mike D. says… feb 11, 2005 | 10:19 pm

I know a few people who have actually used LogoYes and were quite taken with it. That’s not to say it’s a great service or that it isn’t evil, BUT…

… in all honestly, there are plenty of designers out there who produce worse stuff than LogoYes does. That includes about 95% of the people we’d consider “weekenders” (your typical Kinkos ‘Illustrator’ guy or your neighbor’s high school aged son), and it also includes maybe 10% of actual self-respecting designers. Seriously, sometimes even custom logowork is just crap.

So I guess all I’m saying is that there is a lot worse stuff out there than what LogoYes produces and if you are a business which isn’t going to take the time and money to find yourself a good logo designer anyway, you’re better off going with LogoYes than Johnny NoTalent. Is it better to invest in a talented designer’s work? Absolutely. But the worst thing you could possibly do is have a no talent hack spew out a crap mark for your business… and I see that all the time.

So to sum up:

Good Designer > LogoYes > Crap Designer

89. Brian Weaver says… feb 12, 2005 | 7:28 am

This is the bane of the existence of us all. Including the DNA technician who reads about automated DNA analysis built for cheap for the hobbiest and the home experimenter.

90. Omixav says… feb 14, 2005 | 12:54 pm

good discussion here…thanks Jason for starting a very valid debate.….
I’d say this thing is good, I mean those who can be satisfied with DIY just deserve it, and may be need it just the same, no use telling them what’s good, or better

as for me, the clipart galleries (sometimes free) did not drive illustrators out of job, word and powerpoint templates did not cause corporates to shun custom designed templates (that includes holy MS grail itself), music composers on mobile phones did not cause market of custom ringtones go down, online dictionaries are great, but still few heavy ones still adorn shelf, quote collections are there, and new neggets are still written, web site templates did not churn out all the websites, ready made greeting cards did not eliminate those crafted prose (email did replace snail mail by a large degree though), great fonts- designed fonts still have thier place in this world, even in the DIY logo maker, but also custom fonts are easily available on web as well…
well I guess, its a matter of distribution and differentiation, more soaps there are in market, more important the packaging will be, so let’s have heart, or even our photo-paint brush, and contribute to such efforts, I guess $99 is too steep a price! can we give some free stuff to the guys having it from there and bring it down to something like $49?

91. dave says… feb 15, 2005 | 6:16 pm

What is the solution to this problem? Could it be that graphic design professionals need to communicate to potential clients that design is collaborative process? Specialists yes, but at what? The technology? Maybe. Specialists at listening. Definitely. Solving problems. Sure.

92. Tyler says… feb 16, 2005 | 3:35 pm

I don’t really see this huge problem that needs fixing. The demographic this site addresses are the small business startups that try and get the neighborhood artist kid draw them a spiral and throw on some text. Now they can throw on their own spirals. Designers have real companies that are willing to pay real money for real designs. There may be a job or two lost to the less intelligent or the low-budget, but how many businesses start up every day? There will never be a day when strong savy design is no longer needed. Tools to ooo and aaa at are never going to replace a persons brain. The same company that built LogoYes created a music notation display application (www.lds.org/churchmusic), and it’s pretty cool, especially for a web app. But really, am I going to ever throw away my CD collection for a plunked out piano sound? Does anyone think the professional composer or musician, or artist of any kind, could possibly be replaced by machines? They can’t, and won’t, despite anything the science fiction books and movies portray. Jason, you’re just marketing to a completely seperate demographic: the intelligent who know how much success good design can bring.

93. Tyler says… feb 16, 2005 | 3:46 pm

Correction… MediaRain did that ChurchMusic Player as well as another site very similar to logoYes, called InstaLogo. Hence the confusion. But the same argument stands.

94. michelle says… feb 18, 2005 | 12:31 pm

“It isn’t even so much about price, it’s more about pride in your craft. “

this is, indeed, the heart of the matter. when the marketplace is flooded with inferior widgets of any kind, widget-uesr expectation is diminished over time. the standard of quality for everything in that widget class is lowered.

it’s mass mentality syndrome.

and it is important to take a few minutes now and again to lament the erosion :-). we may not be able to escape the (d)evloution, but like any changing thing it is important to mark the passing changes lest heritage be lost.

on a more practical note, image really is everything. in any industry. perhaps if we market ourselves as status indicators and it becomes expected that any credible business have a professional design affiliation? imagine a bunch of business owners networking at some convention…”we hired a *real* designer to do our [logo, brochure, website, etc.]… and where did you get yours?” ;-)

95. Eden says… feb 23, 2005 | 11:28 am

Just like Wal-Mart…the downfall of America.

96. Adrian says… feb 24, 2005 | 8:50 pm

The ultimate example of industry shite:

Template sites selling site templates for use as the corporate site of, wait for it… web site design companies.

97. Sam says… feb 27, 2005 | 4:54 am

Let’s see… you’re complaining that a new technology is threatening your business model.

Sounds familiar.

98. Joe says… mar 3, 2005 | 2:39 pm

Forget your job, what about our industry? Many people require some experience, and when you can automate cheap labor, the only work left isn’t something I would give to a beginner. So you need experience to work, you need work to gain experience.

I think this keeps us on our toes. The people who do make it must pay their dues.

99. Ryan Sonnenberg says… mar 3, 2005 | 4:35 pm

Being only 17 yet still a serious web designer, I can understand how things like this LogoYes and other prepackaged website templates are discrediting our industry. I realize that I don’t have the same experience or education as most other designers who may read this, however even with my few clients that I’ve worked with, I’ve had to deal with the “well my friend can make me a site for free. Why should I pay you for the same thing.” People don’t realize, at least at first glance, what defines quality work. For instance, I designed a site for this band local to my area. The original site they had was a GeoCities site with a poorly made logo and terrible navigation and no real design features at all. It took some convincing to get them to allow me to design for them, and the results were a major improvement, and I suppose once they saw the difference between some halfassed job in a sitebuilder and something created by a person who knew what they were doing, they really understood the quality of a professional.

100. bearskinrug says… mar 3, 2005 | 5:31 pm

Finally! My chance to be a hundreth comment!

101. Frank says… mar 25, 2005 | 12:33 am

In an interview not too long age designer Stefen Sagmeister warned of an environment in the near future where design for the masses would be completely automated. I just didn’t think it would happen this quickly and that people were brainwashed to the point of accepting such auto design junk. Sagmeister thinks that in the future the only design that matters will be design that touches the heart . I think he may be right.

102. Max says… apr 6, 2005 | 6:36 pm

I don’t appreciate all of the kids=bad design stuff you’re spewing. I am 14, and no, I don’t use FrontPage, I code all of my sites by hand in SubEthaEdit. I’m not saying that not using frontpage automagically makes designs good (although it doesn’t hurt…). I do think I could make a lot of improvements on my designs before I could offer my services as a web developer to others. However, if I do say so myself, but my designs are pretty good (my mother, a professional graphic designer likes them). So I really wish you would stop battering “14-year-old nephews” and “high school aged kids”.

103. Peter da Silva says… apr 20, 2005 | 9:15 am

I think the hardest thing to accept is when the client is HAPPY with the web design or logo that looks like it was done by a 14-year old, or an automated flash program.

The thing I run across is when I hit a web site that someone obviously spent agonised hours at, and it’s ugly as hell to my eyes, or doesn’t work in my browser, or doesn’t fit on my PDA’s screen, or using it makes my Mac mini’s fan run because their Javascript preview is sucking up all my CPU time and making my input lag half a minute behind my fingers and I can’t turn it off.

Does that last one remind you of anything?

104. David H. Ford says… apr 22, 2005 | 10:53 am

It’s exactly the same with web design as a few have already mentioned. I deal with it everyday… people get hold of a copy of Dreamweaver (or even worse FrontPage) and then can’t understand why when their “site” doesn’t break in the latest IE, it breaks in all other browsers or vice versa. I want to say to them, well more importantly as to why it’s breaking or not is why would you want to put something so hideous in front of potential clients/the public. I sometimes take it personally that they value so little what I do, that they think they can do something comparable instantaneously just because they got a copy of some wysiwyg program. If/When they ever do come crawling back to me with questions or fixes for crap sites they’ve done, I just want to say F**K OFF!! It is getting me fired up just typing this comment!! ARGHH!!

105. Kevin says… jul 1, 2005 | 11:00 pm

I totally agree with you about the logo company and templates company too.

As well I’m thinking about Template Monster which will actually kill other web designer like me. Also, I will have to judge really hard to get customers away from Template Monster.

Lastly, I wish Template Monster crashes it server. :S


106. Chris says… sep 10, 2005 | 6:57 am


LogoYes, LogoWorks, a sad state of affairs. I agree with what you have put so eloquently, and now so timely with the LogoWorks mess.

Check out what Chris Gee has to say over at Prepared Mind has to say.

It’s amazing AIGA, GAG and others have not said a word. What good are they to Designers then? Total silence from those who have set up organizations to educate on ethics, etc, and charged for it.

Disappointed is what I am.


107. Danny Foo says… sep 27, 2005 | 11:57 am

You go Jason!

Now, if only clients were actually smart enough to understand the difference between an impression and a goal.