Fall Into the Crap

To sum up the last few days: Someone on the internet is wrong, so now I am giving them a free design.

The design community has entered into a discussion around that iconic clothing brand that has recently changed their logo. It appears that it’s not a case of design by committee, or just plain poor execution on a logo as many are saying. Looks like we’ve become an angry mob of free publicity for them. An angry mob that has fallen into a crowdsourcing trap. GAP posted this on their Facebook page:

“We love our version, but we’d like to see other ideas. Stay tuned for details in the next few days on this crowd sourcing project.”

Within 24 hours the design community stopped what they were doing, including our paying work, and started generating free work. Some were even saying the new logo looks like it was from a crowdsourcing/design competition site like 99Designs.

Let me get this straight. It looks like it’s been crowdsourced and designed by some kid in his basement with PowerPoint, so lets all create some options for them to use instead. Ironic isn’t it? We are so quick to become a source for mass generated free design work when we believe that it was generated in this exact manner. It’s actually worse since GAP didn’t even have to pay anything to use the services of one of those crowdsourcing sites.

This all coming from the same group of passionate people that want respect for what we do and hates the idea of crowdsourcing because it devalues our work and profession. What is going on here?

Proving Ourselves Wrong

Some of the reaction has been around the art and science of building a good solid brand, and the design process to create a good logo. There are probably thousands of blog posts and books that talk about the design process and thinking involved in creating one. This process involves things like sketching out ideas and refining concepts, centering the design around a goal and specific customers/users. The costs of creating a logo vary from under a hundred bucks to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It’s hard to argue for any value in the thinking that goes into a logo or the story it should tell when within 10 minutes people were posting ideas. At this point, anyone outside of the community looking to get some design work done is wondering why they should pay any money for our design process. Design is mostly seen as a visual layer of eye candy, and we constantly try to fight that, especially with interactive design. We claim that it’s not just a design, it’s an experience. We say it’s not just a logo, it’s an identity or even a brand.

To be honest, if I look at some of the alternative logo designs presented I think there are some that are nice. Others are what I would expect. I wonder if the process that we love to comment on and reference in our blog posts and books as the best and only way to design is bullshit. Or, maybe it’s just that we don’t believe in the design process anymore. Are we only pushing it because we are desperately striving to attach some sort of value and purpose to what we do?

Because if we can simply open an application, throw down a font, apply some color, and put it in a square or a circle, we are not designers anymore. Yet, this is what we are doing to prove a point.

We fall into these knee-jerk reactions to prove how much better we are than the common person with access to all the same tools we have. I understand that we are allowed to offer an opinion just like anyone else. When it comes to design, I would expect more than only “this sucks” from myself and fellow designers.

We Need to Believe

Almost twenty years ago Brazil was in economic trouble. Their inflation rate hit 80 percent per month. So if milk cost a $1 on the first day, a year later it would cost $1,000. The stores would have to change the prices everyday and people would try to get into the store and ahead of the guy pricing the food and products to get yesterday’s price. The attempts to stop the inflation failed over the years.

This was until a young economist and his friends had an idea to create a fake currency. They called it a “Unit of Real Value – URV.” It was a virtual currency, and did not exist. Everything was listed as a URV. So milk might be at $5 one day, but it was listed as 1 URV. A month later the milk might be $20, but it was still listed as 1 URV. They kept the URV stable. This stabilized the Brazilians faith in their money because they believed it was valuable. The years of inflation ended and over the next few years improved the economy of the country.(1)

I think this is an interesting lesson; A lesson that we can take to design. I’m not sure our design economy is in trouble, yet we do seem to battle with same things (over and over) that center around the value design brings. There is access to design tools where just about anyone can claim to be a designer. There are design competitions and crowdsourcing efforts to offer up cheap and fast work. Terrible logos and websites come out everyday.

We shouldn’t have to prove ourselves to the world. Our proof should be in the day-to-day work we do for clients. I think the process of design is very valuable to them and I don’t want it to be seen as some illusion to get paid some ungodly amount of money. It’s a real thing, and should be for everyone.

We need to believe in design if we want to keep it valuable.

**Update: Looks like GAP decided to drop the crowdsourcing and new logo in light of the response online and continue with the original logo.

1) How Fake Money Saved Brazil – NPR