Logo designs - are crowdsourced sites better than boutique designers?

Last month I began designing my latest project - a web application that is targeted at the guitar world - specifically at teachers who post guitar lessons via video.

Normally when I design a site, I will either create the graphics myself, or go to one of the many pre-made graphic resource sites around the web such as graphicriver.net or creativemarket.com.  But THIS time, I decided that I wanted something custom made, so I would try out fiverr.com to see how that panned out.

Expectation were not high - after all, the site says that each job will cost only $5.  I soon discovered that this was not strictly true, as the initial price of each job is $5, but there are all sorts of additions (some non optional, such as high res copies of the logo etc.) that add on the to the costs.

In the end, the job was going to cost me $10, so I entered my brief, including a description of the site, and sent the job off to one contractor on that site who specialised in logo design.

A few days later, I got a reply from him with a suggested logo.  It was a nice logo BUT... All he had done was to google my site name, grab the first image result on there and flip it right to left.

I was amazed at his audacity, and emailed him back immediately to inform him that I thought this was a rather lazy effort, even for $10.  He emailed back his apologies, and told me he would rework the logo.  True to his word, he got back to me a few days later with another logo.  This time I did a quick Google Image Search but it didn't come up with a match online, so it appears that he DID design this one from scratch.

End of the day, I think it still looks a little amateurish so I probably won't use it and will probably approach another site to help me design one.

By now, most professional graphic designers reading this will be having an apoplectic fit.  "This is EXACTLY what is wrong with using crowd sourced design sites!", you will shout.  Along with "Well, you get what you pay for - pay peanuts, get monkeys!".  And you would be right.

Sort of.

As a 'boutique' software designer myself, I can relate.  I hate those sites that promise coders who can code up an entire web site for $100, when my normal quote for a similar job is $2000.  I have had clients reject my quote so they can go down that path.

When I started my business back in the mid 1990's, I needed a logo for my company, so I approached several local design firms to come up with an idea.  My experience was actually quite wonderful.  All of them took time to talk to me and get an idea of what my business was about, and all of them prepared some beautiful presentations and concepts for me to look over.

One designer in particular, was very effervescent in his enthusiasm, and went to the trouble of printing out mock business cards with my name on it and some glorified title that I cannot remember now, but he was trying hard to 'paint the whole picture' for me.  We didn't go with his firm, but instead chose another one that was more conservative.  I remember this guy as being the only one to call me back after I sent him a "Thanks, but no thanks" letter.  He got quite agitated that I didn't go with his design, but I explained that I thought it was great, but a little over the top.  It didn't seem to sooth his feathers.

I just put it down to him being a little too personally attached to the results of his work, and just left it at that.  Heck, I am the same with MY work most of the time.

But a couple of months later, I was driving down the industrial district of our town, and I noticed that a new dry cleaning business had opened up with a brightly painted warehouse.  The huge sign out the front screamed their company name and motto, and... the EXACT same logo that was designed 'just for me' by the abovementioned designer.

I just laughed it off and carried on.  After all, it makes perfect sense to recycle your hard work and not waste your creative energy each time you pitch to a new client.  I just wondered if he told these new clients that this logo was design 'specifically for them based on the dynamic nature of their business', like he told me.  Actually, I wonder if even *I* was the first one he designed that logo for?  I could have been just one of a long line of business he had brought that one out for.

Fast forward to a few months after that, and I saw the same designer one the front page of our local newspaper, and not in a good way.  You see, around the same time we were getting our logo design done with him, he was designing a new logo for our local electricity company.  They had spent millions on their rebranding and associated collateral, and then.... they discovered that their logo was the exact same rip off of a European Union association.  Not even slightly altered, but a direct copy.

I reflected on this.  Sure, recycling your design work is perfectly acceptable, but plagiarising work from other is definitely overstepping the mark.  

So nowadays, when professional designers call out the cheap design sweat shops online, I have to stop and wonder about the fact that the two seem to have more similarities among them, than major differences.

After all, does the amateur designer hunched over a laptop in a small flat in Karachi care LESS about her work than the experienced guy working in a 10th floor award winning design firm in London?

I would think that the drive to create something new and wonderful is the same in everyone, across the board.  However, the ethics involved in the process of creation seems to be rather more flexible than I would have thought, regardless of the respective hourly rate.