01 September 2005

[design] LogoWorks Responds To Me

In this post, done not too long ago, I raised my own concerns, as have many designers, about a company called LogoWorks, who will do a designerly logo for you for as little as $299. This is a fraction of the cost a full service firm will charge you (some charge a few thousand dollars for a corporate identity system).

In the essence, not regarding any ethical factors for the moment, I feel thier business model is fudamentally flawed. That's not to say that it won't work–many flawed things do. Some for a while, most for not so long.

Imagine my surprise (and being somewhat flattered) when Jeff Kearl, Chief Marketing Officer of LogoWorks, responded to that post (you can read the full response in the comments, linked above). Jeff, if you do keep track of what people are saying about you, I'm sincerely flattered that you took the time to respond so civilly. I hope you don't mind my returning the honor by responding to your response up front like this.

You started by saying:

LogoWorks has always had very strict rules about its contract designers creating original work. There is a substantial check and balance system to prevent plagiarism. And to clarify, the logos in question were never sold to customers.
It's praiseworthy that you have rules and a system in place to try to block actionable plagiarism. It would, however seem to require some fine tuning. Respectfully, it seems to me that a substantial check and balance system would catch the obvious and all-but-unaltered copying of the Xerox logo and the Gazelle logo detailed at the BAD DESIGN KILLS!!! gallery.
Even I, with my community-college graphic design education, could see that the Xerox logo and the Gazelle logo were used without any changes whatsoever.

Any interested reader can go to that gallery and see for themselves. Here's the link.

You add:
They were used in marketing brochures.
And, as the BAD DESIGN KILLS!!! gallery shows, on your website. There are screenshots. I'm no legal eagle, but it seems to me that merely using it in a brochure is letting yourself in for potential trouble if you didn't get permission, never mind using it on your website.

And you continue:

We've served about 35,000 small businesses and never had an issue. Lastly, we offer everyone of our customers a trademark search and application service that starts at only $149. We strongly encourage our customers to do this.
Sincerely, congratulations on your success. I should be so lucky. If I'm 1/100th as successful as your company, believe me, I'd call it happy. When discussing plagiarism, however, I think your general success is really beside the point. Plagiarism is kind of like an insidious poison; its presence pollutes everything you do. I don't know about you, but I recall many instances lately of newspaper columnists who've done a body of solid respected work whose careers were utterly ruined because of one time they plagiarized or made stuff up. Joe Biden's presidential campaign of some years back was thoroughly ruined because of one plagiarized passage in a speech.

Indeed it's praiseworthy as a thing that you offer a trademark search that starts at $149. But I think it shouldn't be optional. It would be stellar if you offered it as a standard part of your package. Sure, it would raise the price a little but, judging by the current bill of fare you'd still be offering about the lowest prices in the industry for logo design. Also you'd get a severe amount of goodwill if you indemnified your customers against harm from a plagiarized design. Those are just my ideas.

Moving on from this topic, you talk money:
We also think our designer pay rates are fair. Each time we add more designers to our network we receive many times more applications than we have positions available. We are also working on several ways to to give our designers a greater variety of work as well as pay them more.
I have some idea of what an entry level designer can expect to make. Hourly wages would beat the flat payment a LogoWorks expert would get for a logo within half a day (speaking net income, anyway). I find your rates extremely low. LogoWorks, from what I'm reading, makes a ton of money selling design work cheaply. Why not pay them more right now?

This is one of the biggest weaknesses, I think, in the buisness model. This places a high amount of pressure on designers to put out a lot of creative work to get enough pay to make the whole enterprise more than a losing proposition, time-wise. You wind up burning through an awful lot of talent that way.

You continue:

There certainly are pros and cons to our service vs. a traditional designer for customers. That said, over 98% of our customers say they would refer another business to our service and our referral business is significant.
That's no surprise. At least in the short term, people like getting a lot for a little and you obviously have the idea of customer service down. Customers can't help going away happy.

You finished:
I'm not surprised that some designers are upset with the model. We charge a lot less than a traditional designer. In many cases, we are a competitor.
Sure, some get maybe a bit upset. There are deeper reasons than, though, merely being competition. I'm not convinced that charging so little for creative work will be good in the long run, for designers in general, or for your company. Low wages for creative work will eventually bring the standard down, not raise it, and plagiarism should not merely be uncommon, but vanishingly rare.

That's my opinion. And, once again, thanks for the civil response.

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