Why Crowdsourcing Your Company Logo Won’t Cut It

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4 Minute Read

Imagine you needed your appendix removed. Would you let anyone with a knife apply to be your surgeon? What if you were looking for a contractor to add a new rumpus room to your home. Would you take bids from anyone with an email address and award the contract to the lowest bidder?

Granted, you don’t need a rumpus room or an appendix, but if they require service you don’t want either handled by an untrained novice. There’s a reason why there are no crowdsourcing platforms for legal advice, surgical services, accountancy, or home improvement. Contrary to what the salespeople from Big Dave’s Discount Surgery Center will tell you, you don’t want to choose critical services from the unwashed masses.

Surely logo design doesn’t fall into that category, though. Relative to an appendectomy, a graphic designer isn’t putting your life at risk. And the investment for a new logo doesn’t approach what an extended living space would cost. So crowdsource at will, yes?

Unless you didn’t read the title of this article, you should already know the answer to that question. The premise does seem sound. You throw open your project to a wide assortment of designers and choose the result that comes closest to your vision. The larger the crowd, the more likely it is you’ll get the perfect logo.

Unfortunately, in most cases, that glorious result resides exclusively in theory. In the real world, crowdsourcing a logo is one of the worst ways to arrive at a quality design. The reasons are legion. Lucky for you, we have them tattooed to our foreheads so that everyone we meet learns what a mistake it is. Since you can’t see us, we’ll transcribe them below.

Quality Designers Don’t Work This Way

Consider the mechanics of a crowdsourced logo. Let’s say 50 designers all submit work for consideration. We know that only one will be selected. That means 49 people will do the same amount of work as the winning designer, but none of them will get paid for their time. True professionals know their worth and wouldn’t tolerate those odds.

This means the designers that choose to participate in this system are usually novices or marginally-skilled. You’ll get to choose from 50 designs, but the lion’s share will be subpar, off-brand, or built from stock assets. Likely all three. You’ll waste a ton of time rifling through poor-quality logos in the hopes that one is useable. That doesn’t sound much like the glorious scenario posed in the intro.

Plagiarism Is a Real Concern

Good logo design takes time. It requires hours of brainstorming, spitballing, sketching, choosing colors and fonts, and reworking initial designs. Do you think it’s likely that a lower-skilled designer faced with a 1 in 50 chance of getting paid is going to make the required investment?

A few may, but most will take shortcuts. As a result, a lot of crowdsourced submissions are built, in part or entirely from stock assets. This is against the terms of service for nearly all stock image providers.

You don’t want to spend money on a logo designed using someone else’s intellectual property. Not only is that plagiarism, but it also means that your logo isn’t unique. Someone else could end up with a logo that looks exactly like yours if another designer (or the same designer) uses those stock assets later.

You’ll Have More of a Relationship With Your Breakfast Cereal Than Your Designer

You’ve been eating Captain Crunch since you were a kid. It’s a comforting way to start your morning, and you know what to expect from bowl to bowl. It knows you, too, and it shows its love with every crunchy bite.

Doesn’t it seem absurd that you spend more time with a bowl of milk-soaked grain than you do with the person in charge of singlehandedly designing your company’s flagship image?

Skilled designers get to know their clients. They learn what makes their business hum — the values, promises, and personality that comprises its brand. It’s an essential step in creating a logo that captures the soul of the business.

You can’t get that from a crowdsourced logo. The 50 designers will have your brief to pull from and nothing else. And let’s be honest, how many of them do you think will spend the time reading your brief?

You’re Feeding an Inherently Exploitive System

You don’t need to be a bleeding heart to see that most designers that participate will lose most of the time. While it’s true that no one is forcing them to participate, it’s still a system built primarily off of unpaid labor. If our example is the norm, then for every paid designer, 49 get nothing for their time. If you have to cheat 49 people out of their hourly rate in order to get an affordable design, you’re not buying a logo. You’re buying a BLOOD LOGO!* Bum bum BUUUUM!!

Now imagine how much your logo would cost if you actually paid for all of the time that every designer put in. That is the fair market value of your logo, and it’s likely significantly more expensive than selecting a design firm and letting professionals handle it.

Your Logo Deserves a Professional Treatment

Crowdsourced logos seem like a good deal on the surface because they cost less than a professional design. But in most cases, you get what you pay for. You’ll end up sorting through pages of uninspired designs. If you’re lucky you’ll find one that’s passable. But is that really what you want? Is “not as bad as the rest of them” what you want representing you to your customers?

Hire a design firm. Like us. We may cost a bit more, but you’ll get far more value for your investment. You’ll get a designer that you can talk to! He or she will get to know your brand and labor until your logo is perfect. In the future, your designer can leverage their brand knowledge to create other collateral for you that feels cohesive with your logo and your brand identity.

It’s your choice. Pay less for a roll of the dice in a game that’s stacked against you (and the designers) or hire a professional and get a logo you can be proud of.

*We’re in the process of shopping the script. Coming soon to a theater near you — Blood Logo!, starring Gilbert Godfrey, the ShamWow guy, and a heaping bowl of Captain Crunch cereal.

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