Dizzy Izzy logo design

“…in today’s Web 2.0 world, with its instant internet echo chamber, mob mentality can be a very dangerous thing… I wondered aloud about how long it would take for a very high-profile incident to occur that would illustrate exactly how dangerous spec work, logo contests and design “crowdsourcing” really are.

Well folks, here it is.”

Great read, Steve.

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April 14, 2009


Thanks for sharing David. This needs circulation amongst prospective clients or people in need of a logo and not just in design circles..they need to understand why 20$ logos are really not worth often..i do remember an earlier post from you on this.
Many people/prospective clients confuse patterns with design. A logo to them, is simply a “pattern” and type somehow put together! And they ask me why a logo design is so expensive? I obviously have to give them a class on “what is a logo” first, if they understand they rely, otherwise bye-bye…

Hi David,

I don’t think exposing those “copy/paste” logos are a good argument to fight against spec work, though. That has much more to do with the designer’s integrity than how the work is comissioned.

Clients can also be victims of anti-ethical designers hiring freelancers and even big agencies. Spec work does tend to exacerbate that, but the other option is still far from safe.

It’s great that you are giving so much space to this debate, though. Hopefully we’ll come up with stronger arguments.

Thanks, I missed all this. I’ve had my head down for the last month and have missed all the blogs and gossip. I’ve just been catching up the last day or two.

I feel that spec work damages the design industry as a whole and is a bad thing for all designers due to it’s impact on the industry….. though many designers may disagree.

I never bother to visit websites such as Crowdspring, Logopond, Logo Lounge and many more I don’t even know about or remember…… I don’t want to be ‘inspired’ by the works there, I think it’s dangerous ground to be looking in those places much.

This latest debacle points towards that, and I even reported on a similar incidence myself only two months ago (the Art Fox scandal)

If someone can explain how a client would be any safer looking for a designer online then contacting them for a logo I would love to hear.

Anyone can palm off whatever they want as their work.

I am neither for or against crowdsourcing, but this argument does not seem to hold much water?

It’s my personal belief that those that involve themselves in design competitions/spec design are ‘more likely’ to be tempted to copy or be overly inspired by other designs to reduce their design time for a concept provided.

After all you can hardly allow yourself to spend hours and hours on a spec design project that you may never be paid for – compared to when you know are definitely going to be paid for your design by a proper paying customer.

The more time you spend on a design, and the research that goes with that, the less chance there is that you are inadvertently copying another design.


You’re certainly entitled to your opinion, and it’s welcomed, but there are clearly a lot of rip-offs posted on logo contest / spec work sites, and Steve does a great job of highlighting them (unfortunately a lot of the rip-offs are at his / his clients expense).

Sure, you can’t guarantee a professional designer won’t copy the work of another, but if they do, their entire business is at stake, unlike the spec websites, who are sure to clear themselves of any such responsibility from the outset. You’d never get a professional designer or agency telling a client they don’t guarantee the work is original.


The Art Fox case was a curious one, and I’m glad it was sorted in the end. The two designers involved have quite high profiles in our little community, so I was interested to see how it played out.

Thanks for responding to Josh, too. It’s obvious to me that those who participate in logo contests don’t spend much time on their submissions, and rightly so. I’d detest spending any time completing work I wasn’t getting paid for, unless it was pro bono, or for a good cause.

i think theres some major issues with the argument from the no spec side.. (not that its completely wrong, opinions will always be opinions just like all political parties have flaws).

first, spec work is a huge grey area in terms of what qualifies… theres $20 logo competitions on 99 designs and other sites, and then again theres EIGHTY THOUSAND DOLLAR product design competitions (where the winnings are spread out, 1st at 20k, 2nd at 10k, 3rd at 5k, and the next 40 at 1k each).. so to lump those all together is unfair.

also, there is no concept of globalization involved. The whole argument is such a first world outlook – there are parts of the world where $20 could easily be a months salary! when 80% (if i remember the figure correctly?) of the world lives on USD $2 or less a day.. $20 is like… crazy! and $20 is on the very low end of the logo design competition sites. Personally speaking – the US poverty line is $27K approximately. I make about $5k a year working part time retail and going to college. considering that I made an extra 5th of my salary working only a few hours for each project is incredible. Granted, they were all t shirt designs which are way more disposable than logos and take less time and work with the client. But it was all procured through spec.. extra money is extra money when you are poor. it doesnt matter if your living on $20 a day like me or less than a dollar a day by someone in extreme poverty in a third world country. Does begging for work make my work less credible? I dont know. ask the millions of americans out there currently begging for government handouts… does that make them less worthy?

i think my biggest problem is that the designers seem super high up on their pedestals. How can you criticize IncSpring and Logopond for selling/showcasing fictitious logo designs? because fictitious designs arent ‘real’ designs…? i dont mean it to be a pun on words, i mean it as if not working with a client makes you not a real designer. If you were a design teacher you would give out logo projects. all those projects are fictitious, and all that work the student puts in their portfolio is fictitious. yet when the student graduates they are considered to be a designer, yet the person making fictitious logos on logopond is not a designer? thats a double standard.

also, and this is a huge concept that many people disagree with, is that time put in and quality of the work do not correlate much. coming from a student, some students just suck no matter how much work they put in. its a fact of life, and it applies to all fields of knowledge. I have heard of fellow students arguing over a bad grade because they put in a ton of effort. but just because a lot of effort went in doesnt mean the project is worth an A. it can go the other way as well – a teacher might give a student an A when they spent half the amount of time on the project than the rest of the class. good work is good work, period. but the whole “i put in effort therefore i deserve a better reward” is a big issue with the design industry. just because you spent a ton of time with the client and catered to their every design whim does not mean your logo is better/more worthy than the fictitious logo someone made in a few hours when they were bored and felt creative. perhaps spending more time with a client is better for the client, but of course, you get what you pay for. pretty much… i dont believe that people think that they should get paid because they worked. its more like, they should get paid because they DELIVERED. look at the AIG executives – they are getting bonuses because they showed up for work. but did they deliver on their jobs? quite the opposite – they went under! certainly working this way isnt for everyone, i just do it to supplement my income and get my juices flowing.

and that ‘you get what you pay for’ goes both ways. you can spend $20 and get a shitty stolen clipart logo, but you can also spend millions and get the worst re-branding done in decades (peter arnell and tropicana…). or you can spend $37? and get one of the most well known logos in the world – nike, where the designer who was later recompensated was being paid $2 an hour. so even money spent doesnt justify how good/bad it is.

i think the best way to be able to tell if a logo was good/successful or not is the intent. same with the buyer of the logo. was the logo made for just money or because the person was into the idea as well? was the designer doing it out of desperation or out of boredom to get the juices flowing? and with clients, why do they need the logo? do they need it because everyone needs a logo, or do they need a logo to define themselves and their brand? do they want to pay you what they can honestly afford or do they want to fuck you over?

and last but not least – the designers who are high up on their pedestals complaining that $20 logo competitions are ruining the profession would never even work with the posters of those $20 jobs. ever! they would never want to have a client like that – who would? but theres a market for everything, and essentially, thats what these contests sites do, is exploit the market from both the designer side and the client side.

by the way, I’m not saying you personally are up on a pedestal. I don’t know you personally, so how I wouldn’t know. But the whole design industry and those behind no-spec are. It is no wonder that designers are known to be pompous… just because your job title is ‘designer’ does not mean you deserve to make a lot of money. It is the quality of work that you put forth that should determine the money you make. if the only clients you can fetch are the cheap bastards, its probably because your work sucks.

I just realized I made it little mistake in my accidental essay up there.

by “i dont believe that people think that they should get paid because they worked.”

I mean – that the amount you work and the amount you should get paid are two total different things. If you worked 40 hours on a logo, and it came out looking like utter shit, then it would only make sense that you should be paid $100. But, if you worked only a few hours on a logo and it was the greatest thing ever, you should be paid a hell of a lot more (whatever would be considered fairly decent for a good logo in your area since prices vary around the world).

I’m a firm believer that if you want to make more money, its not the amount of hours that you are working that needs to be increased, but rather the quality of work you are putting out. Perhaps less hours and higher quality work, if you can work that way. Most of my best work usually comes from my first or second sketch, for others it could be after 20 sketches.

“i think the best way to be able to tell if a logo was good/successful or not is the intent”

I disagree with that statement entirely.

The best way to determine if a logo design is successful or not is if it works well for the business that commissioned it … .i.e. does it work well in their marketing campaigns, does it speak to their customers and project the right image.

In effect does it work well as a marketing tool and aid in making that company more PROFITS.

Logos are a marketing tool, a successful logo design works well as a marketing tool, and the intent or motives of the designer has little to do with it.

For instance; one can have good intent but produce something that does not work well for that business; this then deems it a poor design not a good design just because of the ‘intent’ behind it.

@ Amanda Vlahakis-

I wrote that pretty late at night so I don’t think I was clear on what I meant by intent.

By intent, are you in it solely for the money or are you in it because of that and other reasons (such as love for design, ect)?

I think if you are in it solely for the money alone and no other reason, it shows in your work. Whether you are competing for $20 or working on a million dollar contract… it will still show in your work. That’s why the $20 logo designers have a habit of stealing other work because it takes the least amount of work to steal therefore the greatest return on their time if they win (not that I support stealing – I don’t at all). And that’s also why the guy under the million dollar contract goes out of his way to over justify his crap work, making up pretentious connections between his logo designs and great works of art. Because if he doesn’t do all the extra research work after the fact, the client will probably notice his crap designs.

(Yes, I was sort of referring to the Pepsi redesign there – but I am sure it happens in other less expensive contracts by other people as well)

I do agree with what you wrote, the logo has to work for the business it is commissioned for.


I’ve not come across one designer who entered the profession for money. It wouldn’t be a very smart move.

Amanda and I have just been discussing spec work on another Logo Design Love post. The main point for me is that I consider the whole concept to be unethical. You can find our chat in the comments over here (if it’s of interest).


First, the medicine: Don’t waste your brief time in this life on this planet churning out passable facsimilies of current passing visual trends for a small chance at very little money. Please?

Then, the sugar: Once you’ve achieved basic adobe competence, those spec sites are no longer actually making you any better as a designer, except at churning out quick-n-speedie high-turnover “fast-food” design. The kind of stuff that might sparkle & flair but doesn’t actually help the client (especially, if you’ll permit me, the sort of client whose understanding of branding has led them to churn out a 100-word “brief” on the spot for a spec contest site).

Why? These contests stunt your creative evolution. They chill your ability to grow in the industry and get really really good, because your experience stagnates. And the high turnaround, rush “shooting-in-the-dark” jobs, certainly don’t give you the time to break through to an original visual vocabulary or truly unique stylistic language.

If you don’t want to separate from the pack, however, I say spend a few more days and weeks and months and years crankin’ out those quickies. (Which unfortunately keeps your clients from separating from the pack as well).

So, in the immortal words of Paul Rand, “get off you highfalutin’ spec-designer pedestal,” and do the nitty-gritty hard work what it takes to truly push yourself and become better and really learn your chosen industry. It’s the only way you’ll ever be truly valuable to your clients.

If not that, at least shoot for doing work that is truly original.

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