Don’t Let Cost Undercut Quality

I was reading on the HOW design forum today and noticed a post by Jeff Fisher about Forbes magazine. Forbes had described the graphic design business field “snooty” and two men having made a company where hundreds of designers submit for undervalued “prize” money. Ironically the owners of this new company have backgrounds in design it seems so I suppose that would make them “snooty”.

One of the owners had this to say:

“The beauty of our site is that it doesn’t matter if you have a degree from the Rhode Island School of Design or if you’re a grandma in Tennessee with a bunch of free time and Adobe Illustrator”

If you wanted a lawyer and they hadn’t gone to school or passed the BAR, would YOU hire them? If you wanted a meal at a nice restaurant but the cook hadn’t been trained in food prep and sanitation would you eat there? Now of course there are some times when a designer doesn’t need training, they are an absolute natural. You as a client SHOULD be able to research the designer and find out what their background is and their projects and their clients.

The issue with sites like this (contests) is that a designer can’t have a real relationship with the client. They are so concerned about how their design is going to fare against other designs that they probably spent way to time on the design and even if they didn’t completely miss the mark, they “might” win money but they should have made more given the time spent over the concept and the infinitesimal amount of revisions required before the client makes any actual decision. To top that off, if the client receives less than 25 concepts he can bail and get his deposit back.

Problems with contests for clients

  • If you are a client here are some other issues with this kind of method – you pay a company to find you artwork…isn’t that essentially the same as hiring a firm with designers as employees?
  • You may have no idea who is submitting artwork.
  • You also may or may not have the luxury of knowing who designed your art so if there is a need for edits later you will have to hire someone to edit is since these sites don’t cover edit contests later.
  • You don’t have any kind of assurance that these designers aren’t ripping the art from someone else.
  • You can’t follow up for additional design work later that uses the same branding
  • They devalue the industry (how would you like your company selling stuff for really cheap just to get some kind of money…not even necessarily a profit?)
  • Amateur individuals (typically the people who accept contests are in need of money and are desperate and willing to steal other people’s work for it. Also, you may find yourself with a bunch of designs that you don’t like but you have to pick and pay for one).
  • Devalues you (you might have to pay to post your project but any Joe can submit a design).
  • Even if you get the file in the right format, the designer might have not formatted the actual artwork correctly (fonts that aren’t converted to outlines, shapes that aren’t merged, strokes not converted, etc).
  • If you are able to contact the designer later, you might have issues dealing with them. They may take forever to get in touch with you.
  • Your needs may not be 100% met.

Problems with contests for designers

  • You can’t get all the detailed information you may need to be able to properly design for the client and typically contact is restrained so if you need to ask a question you can’t.
  • The client can withdraw their contest and then if you’ve worked on it there was 0% chance of winning. You will never have a guarantee of payment.
  • You are devaluing yourself. You are willing to work for less and people will take advantage of that. Then you will have to cut brainstorming and quality design time to make up for it.
  • You might have to transfer copyright (sure it’s all good and all if the company pays well but for $100? it’s not worth it!). Some sites have copyrights transferred even if you DON’T win!
  • You have no way of knowing how your artwork will end up and whether or not those who get the artwork know how to use it and so you could be represented poorly.
  • Typically you won’t have a contract so there is no way to protect yourself and your work.

When Advertising Crosses the Line

I was reading up on blog posts on a local design firm (of which I won’t mention so they can’t find this post). There was a seminar held at ThinkTV in 2005 (I started working there in 2007 so I wasn’t on staff at the time thank goodness…or I would’ve had a vocal fit…reason following) about Guerilla Marketing. The Greater Dayton Advertising Association (formerly the Dayton Ad Club) holds seminars at ThinkTV (where I am the Art Director) very often. We donate the space to them and “local firm’s” owner religiously attends the seminars. Well this particular seminar the “local firm” decides to get creative in an unwholesome way. They write on the ThinkTV building walls and sidewalk with chalk such as “You can read a book about “Guerrilla Marketers” or you can hire one.” and “It costs big money to put your name here or here (with arrows pointing to the names of ThinkTV donors engraved in marble along the sidewalk) but chalk is cheap.”

Now the staff at ThinkTV hosed down the chalk. The “local firm” put it back up before the seminar.

Keeping that in mind…ThinkTV is donating the space. ThinkTV is the most widely used nonprofit, educational and cultural service in southwestern Ohio. Each week more than 750,000 viewers watch ThinkTV. More than 1,000 schools serving more than 400,000 students, K-12, receive our daily educational programming and services. ThinkTV is funded by a public-private partnership including government support and community-based support from individuals, foundations and corporations. More than 17,000 individuals voluntarily support our public television stations by becoming ThinkTV members each year. Their support is critical to our annual operating budget.

That said, I think the “local firm” crossed the line and it was definitely done in poor taste. What they did insulted the character of ThinkTV and the seminar attendees (and some of those represent ad agencies who are just trying to better fulfill client needs). I can’t believe “local firm” hasn’t been banned from the premises. The firm got an ADDY for their chalk graffiti but I can’t imagine it ever being a true success.

Custom Tutorials

Need a little foot in the door with Photoshop? I’ve created (and I’m continuing to create) a series of small walk-throughs on various topics. I started this up from helping people on Yahoo! Answers in the photography section.

Here is what you can find so far:
Polaroid Effect -> GO
Black and White and Color in a photo ->GO
Color Effects -> GO
Vector Look -> GO
Create Border -> GO


Crimping My Style

So you have a design or illustration style in mind for your project. You take a look at various sites for different people and you don’t see anything you like because you think their work doesn’t fit into what you are thinking.

Designers and illustrator design primarily FOR their clients (unless they are a fine artist) and thus their styles are defined by the clients preferences and project requirements. If you don’t see a style you like but you like the work the designer or illustrator likes, ASK THEM if they can do it! More likely than not they have already but they just don’t have it in their portfolio or they just haven’t had the opportunity to do it. Just because I don’t have flash presentations in my portfolio doesn’t mean I haven’t done them. They are too big to post and typically are confidential in nature but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t send a cleaned version by mail for preview.

I saw one job posting that requested illustrators for a site and the poster showed three VERY different artistic styles (simple and minimal, detailed and three dimensional, and highly stylized) but based their decision what was in portfolio of illustrators rather than the overall quality of work and skill without ever showing the illustrators an example of the style of the site itself.

We aren’t mind-readers! If you have an idea, please be specific so we can visualize what you want or show us an example that is exact!

What defines a logo?

Logo: a graphic representation or symbol of a company name, trademark, abbreviation, etc., often uniquely designed for ready recognition.

Someone had made a post on a forum I frequent about wanting a logo done (for free). My comment was to put together some text that reflected their style. They came back and said “but I want a logo”. That got me thinking. What really defines a logo?

Obviously you want the logo to reflect yourself or your company or your product in some way or form. This does not have to be done with a fancy graphical illustration. If you notice, FedEx’s logo for instance makes use of white space to form an arrow. If you are working with the environment you could have the text a green or blue. If you are working in the food industry then a brown, yellow, or red might due as they often are associated together. If you are working with technology it wouldn’t make sense to use a frilly font.

Here are some things I consider when designing a logo:

Your personal style – you are more likely to like what I design when it reflects what you like and what defines you. If you aren’t a fan of swooshes because they are overused then I shouldn’t be using them!

Icon/Type – sometimes a logo is fine in just type by itself, but sometimes it needs a graphical representation to go along with it. A logo can be a combination of type and a graphic (logotype and logo icon).

Simplicity – you want to make sure that your logo reads well scaled down for things such as business cards and promotional materials. I make sure that illustrations if used (and I illustrate them myself) are not too highly detailed but are detailed enough to be able to understand quickly their meaning/use.

Vector base – you also want to make sure that your logo doesn’t look pixelated when scaled up for large format printing and signage or vehicle decals. I work in Illustrator to make sure all work is deliverable in a format you can use on any medium. If you want Photoshop effects, you need to understand the limitations of raster-based graphics which is primarily conformed to the original designed size. There are some instances where this might work such as a blog or web-based use where the design will never be used elsewhere or needed in a higher resolution for printing.

Black and White – I always make sure that the logo can be easily transitioned to black and white and now deliver files with a black and white version. You might not think you need it, but if you are sending a fax then if you have a color logo it will most likely be lost as faxes do not perform in anything other than black and white (no grayscale).

Trendiness – I try and not look at current trends because they can easily date a logo (swooshes, gradients such as in web 2.0 logos, transparency, etc). You want to pay for something that is timeless like a Rolex where it looks good at any age. Obviously, there are times when certain things are required in order to define your company and that takes an exception, but being trendy for trendiness’ sake is not necessary.