Why You Shouldn't Crowdsource Your New Logo

Jason Sievers

When it comes to your brand, crowdsourcing is a bad idea. On the surface, it may seem like an attractive idea—enlisting a small army of designers to compete for your work and having the luxury of picking your favorite design–but there are a number of reasons to rethink chumming the internet waters in an attempt to find the right bite for your next logo project. This is not argument against freelancers, who are a vital part of our ecosystem and provide smaller clients and agencies with great work, but against the idea of tossing your work to the many and hoping for the right result.
Crowdsourcing is like the internet version of a high school t-shirt design contest. Students are asked to submit drawings or designs for the homecoming t-shirt, and the winning students gets the glory of seeing their picture printed on fabric and a gift certificate to a local restaurant. Replace that t-shirt with a bit of real-world design work, and the students with designers from around the globe, and you more or less have crowdsourcing. Still, it might sound like a great idea if you are able to sidestep the ethical pitfall of having a bunch of designers work on your project for little or no pay. One popular site guarantees logos in seven days for $299 with dozens of options to choose from and a round of feedback/revision. There is no way ONE designer is being decently compensated in that scenario out of all the designers who contribute.
Let’s say your are fine with paying McDonald’s prices for your most important piece of identity. Maybe that sounds great, but let me throw out a few more things to consider.
Interaction & Collaboration. Despite whatever channels are built-in to crowdsourcing sites for feedback, they can’t compete with face-to-face meetings and the benefits that come from establishing a relationship over the course of the project (some of which can take place on telephones, in emails and via internet meeting platforms). An agency will take the time to get to know you and ask some questions that can profoundly affect the course of a branding project. Part of understanding your brand is understanding you and your company or product; you don’t want to leave that to chance.
Quantity doesn’t equal quality. Just because you get a lot of choices from a crowdsourcing site doesn’t mean they are good choices. Having skipped the step of interaction, you might choose something that looks good to you, but has no strategy behind it. Because you are getting work from a myriad of designers, you don’t know the level of education or experience they bring to the table. Even though art is subjective to a degree, there are things that must be understood to make a quality logo. Fonts and colors have meaning. While anyone with a design program can access millions of colors and hundreds of typefaces, that doesn’t mean they understand the subtleties of using them correctly. At an agency, you may have a small team of designers, but they will be with the project from start to finish, trying to understand your preferences and help you make an informed decision. And they won’t be working in a vacuum…
More than just design. This is where no crowdsourcing platform can’t compete with an agency. Obviously you need a designer for your logo project. But when you walk through the doors at an agency, you’ll be paired with an Account Executive who will not only manage the design process, but will help ask the right questions up front, facilitate research and confer with Account Planners to ensure your creative brief is right before it is passed off to design. Before the agency presents you with some options, designers have worked with the Account Executive, the Creative Director, and other designers to refine and revise each design against the creative brief.
It’s easy to see the appeal of crowdsourcing logo work. But like other out-of-box creative solutions (i.e. stock photography, build-it-yourself website), it’s a gamble in terms of quality and originality when it comes to the final result. Think of your logo as the foundation of your brand. Then decide if you want to go the quickest, easiest route or if you want to hire a team to get it right from the ground up.