Reasons for my improved mental health: I stopped doing logo design.

/ August 16, 2021/ Advertising, Commentary, graphic design, Logo and branding, personal/ 0 comments

Logo design has always been a fun job for me. I love the problem solving aspect of it. The ability to take a vague idea and give it meaning. There is a great quote by Mario Savio:

There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels … upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop!

I have arrived at that stage where I am throwing myself on the apparatus and I am making it stop. I no longer feel the excitement I once did to do logo design. The operation of the machine that is “designing logos” has to stop. Well, for me, anyway. I need to move on to better things. I will explain why.

The “Red Ocean” of logo design

Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne are authors of the book, Blue Ocean Strategy. In their book, they reveal, through case studies, the idea that successful businesses succeed when they leave the red ocean for the blue. A red ocean, simply put, are all the industries in existence today – the known market space. Where industry boundaries are defined and companies try to outperform their rivals to grab a greater share of the existing market. Cutthroat competition turns the ocean bloody red. Hence, the term ‘red’ oceans. There is no other Ocean bloodier than the one of Graphic Design. A subset of that is Logo Designing. 

What I want to do is pivot away from doing logos. I started offering “branding” as my solution. People don’t seem to understand the term. They want a logo. And are willing to not pay through the teeth to get it. With the competition so stiff for “logo designs” its hard to educate potential clients on the difference. The difference between wa brand and a “logo” is huge. One is a simple graphic that says nothing. The other is a personality, a living breathing entity that represents you in the public space. Moving away from the red ocean of “logo designing” to the blue ocean of “Brand development” has not worked as intended.

I still try. I offer brand development. I offer the service of a through-the-line strategic planning for a brand. I am good at this, having done this for many brands in the past. I don’t “do logos” I also don’t do logos “designed by a family member”. You don’t need a graphic designer to turn a sketch into a finished logo. There are many alternatives to that. What you need is a mouse jockey. I am not that person.

The logo design “templates” are here to stay

It wasn’t like a thief in the night that this change occurred. It didn’t happen overnight. One day we didn’t wake up and see thousands of websites offering free or cheap logo designs. No. This is something that has been developing for years. Clients have always wanted to the best for the lowest rate. Now with apps like Canva and sites like Fiverr. com, they get what they want. Cheap design done fast. A template is a good thing, don’t get me wrong, but it has become a reason to bypass creativity.

Everyone can do a course online and start offering Graphic Design services. This “democratisation” of graphic design is a double edged sword. True that it has allowed people to become great Graphic Designers. I myself have been self taught. But what has also come barging in through that door, has been the hustlers and the get rich quick schemers. Everyone’s looking for the quick and cheap turn around and the battle for true aesthetics is on.

What I mean by this is that we’re no longer concerned by the way the thing communicates an idea. We are only concerned about “having something to show.” It’s the curse of this post modernist world. I had a boss once tell me that if you give an employee a choice. They would prefer to sit in the office and forward emails, than engage with anyone. The latter takes work and time. Unfortunately technology has allowed success to come from doing that. Sitting and surfing.

The algorithm is getting better at doing logo design

So in steps the algorithm. The “ai” or artificial intelligence that’s programmed by a small team to do the work of millions. This is not a new concept. Car assembly workers fought hard against the rise of the machines. Every industry evolves and moves forward. Technology outpacing the human factor. In the world of graphic design and art what was once a way to solve complex design problems, has become more. Its driven out the artist and in time will finally replace them.

Do a search for “Design my logo” and you will get hundreds of sites that will do a pretty good job of designing a logo for you. And this brings me to why I don’t offer this service. A way to get out of the red ocean. The problem is my time has to be worth something. I have used the ai to generate tons of options and then take them and tweak them to be unique. Yet the time to do this is “free” time. Clients are not willing to pay for my input. They would prefer to pay for the bot to do it. In all industries everyone seems to be eliminating the middleman. 

If you are hiring me, hire me to eliminate the bot. To come up with something original. The algorithms are getting smarter and smarter, but they still lack that human touch. Logo design is more of a conversation. A process between client and designer to push through to the final solution. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The bot can only get you so far.

But if you are happy with the generic outcome of a bot’s solution. By all means. Do it. Truth told, you don’t need me.

Graphic Design is on its way out. Logos are the first to go

My reason for writing this pretty depressing discourse is straightforward. I am declaring now that I am no longer interested in doing logos for clients. Especially for start-ups, mom and pops and small businesses. Unless you are willing to pay and come with an exciting idea I will decline. There is a lot of good work out there waiting to be done. I prefer to spend my creative energies on something meaningful to me. 

Right now my time is spent studying data and website analytics. Learning to predict the user’s flow within a User Experience and User Interface design project. Definitely don’t come to me with a whiteboard sketch. One that you “only” want “made good for the Trademark Office.” You can find the perfect person for that in India. If you have no idea what you want for your cousin’s hairdresser, or the app that you haven’t even started designing yet: don’t call me

Do call me when you have a plan. That you need someone to help with the strategy. The person with the experience to develop a living breathing brand. Who understands where the brand has to exist. It exists in the world of social media and digital advertising. Its a new world out there, Barnaby. Let’s go exploring.

So what are you really saying?

You can have a great logo, you can also have one that is okay. The decision comes down to your goal. Take your pick, if you want something long lasting then you invest in the thought process. The ability for the logo to stand the test of time. If you want something that is “for now” then I guarantee that you will be back again to redo it. So don’t call me if you are not ready to commit. Call me when you need a proper logo design.

Let’s build something long lasting together. Something we can both be proud of. Not “just a logo.” Let’s build a living breathing brand that exists to do something meaningful. If that’s who you are, get in touch today. Thanks for reading! I also do a podcast on advertising. Check it out here.

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