As expected, the design community has responded pretty negatively to Squarespace’s decision to offer up automated and assisted logo design for their customers. There’s some intelligent back and forth on Twitter and of course ironic Tumblrs abounding.
- Of course, the negative responses are rooted in the most classic of human anxieties: will this harm my livelihood?
- Others have intellectual questions like: will this dilute the appreciation of well-crafted design?
The truth is that this is inherent to creative advancement. From Giotto to crowdSPRING, the technological advancements within creative work actually advances the quality and progress of creative fields. I know, this is a very counter-intuitive position.
Giotto was an Italian painter from 1337 (h4x0r for elite amirite) who was known for pioneering the concept of perspective in art (foreground, middleground, background). Legend has it that he was commissioned for many a Roman Catholic job because, simply, he illustrated a perfect circle. To this day, the horror of drawing perfect circles lives on as the Donut Project at Kent State in Ohio. Just ask Ricky Salsberry about the traumatic effects of drawing a perfect circle.
It’s important to realize that this simple exercise lives on within the art world because in spite of a tool as simple as a compass, the artists’ ability to execute, think, and thus create is irreplaceable — whatever the task.
crowdSPRING launched in 2007 offering a variety of creative services for people through crowdsourcing. People were terrifically angry. Designers from overseas could replace us! Worse yet, it was spec work because you could spend weeks working on a design and receive no payment.
Funny thing is that Ross Kimbarovsky loves design. In fact, the design of crowdSPRING was crowdsourced. He just happens to have a very strong affinity for the idea of democratized design; make good design available to anyone who desires it. He’s also whip-smart and founded the business based on that idea.
Wired ran a contest back in 2007, and my client Greenlines (a surf company reliant on recycled plastics) lost to crowdSPRING for most positive innovation/start-up.
Being the egomaniac that I was, I had to investigate and have been tracking crowdSPRING since including my own personal experiments with participating and competing. I even had some dipshit accuse me of plagiarism because I followed the client’s art direction. Please focus on those last three words.
After working on dozens of projects, a very unexpected result came to light: none of these people used the logos they paid for through crowdSPRING.
Many, in fact, spent much more on individual designers and began researching good design to find something better. More of these customers just kept their old logos. I followed up with a few. I yelled at a few for being dicks (I was 25 years old!).
My favorite was a woman running a blog in Brooklyn who paid $100 for a logo that came from the Phillipines. I like her blog a lot and you probably do, too if you live in Brooklyn. It’s quite popular and it’s very visible with its new logo. The new logo was a redesign by Heads of State for $1500. Her reasoning was, "I thought design was easy, but if hundreds of people couldn’t nail it, it had to be worth paying someone who obviously could, right?"
Beautiful. I couldn’t make this shit up. I’d love to be able to write fiction with heavy morals like Aesop and tell you that everything will right itself in this world, but the truth is that money and value exist independently of our own morals.
Whatever your opinion about Squarespace’s logo creation feature, remember that it has nothing to do with you. In 2013, they had $17,000,000 in revenue. I suspect that will continue to grow through 2014 whether or not designers are offended. I suspect more and more jobs will open up to designers. As Futura and Gotham become ubiquitous and replace Helvetica as the mainstream world’s go-to “look, I kind of know design” badge, our craft will just have to be better.
You can still tell me that Squarespace is a bunch of dicks for creating something that’s an insult to the very people who have given that $17,000,000 in revenue, but I’m much more interested in how this plays out.
Remember the Motorola Rzr? It was $500. Phones were terrible. The iPhone came around and set the stage. Now we have more smartphones than computers and soon it’ll be the dominant traffic to our websites.
This, my friend, isn’t a terrific and frightful innovation. This is what is called trendsetting.
You won’t be replaced. You just have to do something new.