Brandstack symbolBrandstack logo, designed by Brandclay.

“As many of you know, there is some unfinished business that won’t be taken care of. Many designers put their faith in Brandstack and were left short.”
— Wes Wilson, Brandstack

Isn’t it just another signal that logos created without a client brief are more akin to icons or clip-art, and there’s not a lot of profit to be made from clip-art sales? It’s a shame for those who’ve lost out, though.


Related, from the archives:
Stock trade marks from 1975

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November 6, 2011

Comments

I agree, David. Without a design brief, research, meetings with the client and the invaluable feedback produced through the proofing and development process, the ‘logos’ sold on Brandstack are nothing more than clipart. I wonder where the ‘clients’ are left now that they have no way to contact Brandstack or their contributors if an issue should arise with the ‘logo’ they purchased?

The thing that it’s not the issue of the predesigned stock logos but more of the business model of Bradnstack or whatever really happened in the backend of the company… Since their custom design business was based on the briefs, designers paid for the work upfront, etc Yet the overall design machine failed… So, I guess to blame Brandstack logos for sales as the only reason for a failure is not reasonable… I would rather believe in some serious financial probs or not well-thought-over business model of the entire business

Hopefully maybe some ex-Brandstack designer has learned the lesson and now gets into serious work getting done…

Advice: Never mention having worked for a clipart-logo company. Never.

Brandstack wasn’t just stock logos (and they did have the cream of the crop). Brandstack’s other service “Custom” was an online studio. Real clients, briefs, in-depth discussions, concepts and development. And all involved got paid (unlike logo contests). Sad to see this initiative closed down by criminals.

Unfortunatelly not all got paid on Custom… money were paid upfront to the designer’s accounts, but not all designers managed to withdraw them

That’s right Luke. I know first hand, after a long, intensive branding project. At least I have a new client and work for my portfolio.

I met the founder of Brandstack a while back, and although he seemed very personable, I could never bring myself to do this kind of work. I’ve never been a fan of the “Creative-industrial complex” as Von Glitschka calls it, especially where logos are concerned. It makes sense to buy website themes, buttons, and stock photos, because those are all intended to be modified and changed for the purpose — but to try and sell a logo as a commodity remains bizarre to me.

I don’t believe the excuse that it was closed by criminals. If you were a criminal with a stolen credit card do you think you would want to buy a logo or a domain name?

I too agree that the idea of creating a logo sans-brief and hoping to sell it to a random business just isn’t a good idea at all.

Brandstack did appeal to me as a concept however, in the sense that it was a means to prevent unused designs from being entirely useless, instead providing opportunity for them to be repurposed — eg. you design a great logo for a client who later reneges on the brief after deciding to cancel production of their project entirely before it’s even off the ground (which was what happened to me); the idea of being able to repurpose the design and make it available to someone who could use it, and perhaps was unable to afford a full logo design service, seemed decent.

That logo of mine sold, and I never received payment (which I seriously undervalued in the first place), so it’s safe to say that I regret being drawn in by that idea.
Ultimately the whole experience just served as proof of the importance of finding reliable clients, and that even unused designs aren’t wasted if anything was learned in the creation process, or if they can be used as reference for future projects.

Good to be seeing eye to eye with many of you on this issue. Here’s what I had posted on Facebook in response to your article:

Publicly selling pre-fabricated “brands” for a few hundred bucks…its the whole “solution before the problem” mentality all over again, but in our industry. Big pharma does it by ‘naming’ a disorder and then ‘branding’ a pill convincing you to have both.

That model was destined to fail from the beginning… I am happy to see Brandstack — and the herd of diluting mind-sets in the industry — come to a close. As some of you know, I have been quietly voicing this in since the massive onslaught of ‘for sale’ and ‘for fun’ logos seen all over. It’s fine to sell and display your ‘fun’ and ‘unused’ work however you wish, I do it all the time, privately.

I just feel strongly that designers shouldn’t be pimped during the process. “Branding” is not an off the shelf make-up kit you buy at the drug store. The process of building a brand identity is a comprehensive, in-depth, painstaking, analysis-driven, months-long process (and that’s just Phase 1) which requires teamwork, several resources and good money to accomplish properly. Prospecting clients, if you are reading this, remember that your business defines the logo, and not vice versa. You are making an investment that will give you returns you can not quantify. Your brand identity can be your biggest business asset. For the top 100 companies, it is their biggest asset.

See here: http://www.interbrand.com/en/best-global-brands/best-global-brands-2008/best-global-brands-2011.aspx

Back to designers, let not the hive-mind of the inexperienced dictate the value of your talent — Keep to ethical standards and focus on solid, meaningful hard-work, and you will be happier and rewarded more than you know.

This is serious business.

I for one think companies such as these play into the “it’s good enough” mentality
thats all to prevalent today. I say good riddance to a bad concept.

Creativity & originality wins again, croudsourcing of any type stinks.

Just a thought, how many of the commenters here use iStockphoto/Fotolia/Shutterstock etc for client imagery?

I’ll leave you with that question to ponder…

The Brandstack business model did nothing but cheapen the process of logo design. I have little sympathy for the designers that contributed to the site and lost out – they helped fuel this terrible method of purchasing logos.

Andrew, combined with taking-on employees and not generating enough income, it’s just not a good business model. First, the employees were axed, and finally, the website.

“Design backwards.” Exactly, Grace.

I’m one of the designers who sold some logos via Brandstack. I don’t know about others, but I only sold unused proposal logos which I modified to possibly fit other businesses. I also offered modifications to the buyers because I know those logos probably will need some adjustments to fit their needs/visions exactly.

The way I see it, Brandstack just catered to small to medium businesses who can’t shell out $3000 for a branding identity, yet. Do I think they should pay for a great logo that will personify their company branding perfectly? Of course! It’s a crucial investment. But realistically? For the small businesses it’s between paying this month store space rent, paying the employees, or paying for a great logo. In today’s economy, the choice is obvious.

To see metaphorically, there are people who can afford to buy custom designed/built, custom decorated houses to fit their visions and dreams. For those who can’t there are pre-designed houses that you can ask the builder to customize it with some add-ons (marble counter-top, wooden floor, etc). That’s what I did with my house. And it’s a wonderful home to live in.

These logos at Brandstack, they came out from a designer’s mind for companies/businesses that may share the same visions (or design briefs). In today’s economy, not all of us designers can get $3000 logo project, as it maybe come so easily to some of you. Good for you. But there’s also a need for logo designers who can help out small business owners. Brandstack tried to fill that niche without going spec-work (which I’m against). I did it because I saw it as a passive income, rather that having those unused logos collecting pixel dust in my computer. It’s sad that they didn’t make it, but it is definitely a niche market which whether you like it or not, will stay.

It seems that every designer gets ripped off before they learn better business practises, so let’s hope it was the first time for all those designers who got stung. Then we can be glad this lousy practise of undercutting the industry is taking another jab in the side.

You guys need to get off your horses. Not every tiny company starting out has the budget to employ you for your “comprehensive, in-depth, painstaking, analysis-driven, months-long process (and that’s just Phase 1) which requires teamwork, several resources and good money to accomplish properly”.

Some companies need to allocate resource to what will deliver revenue quickly, and can follow a branding exercise down the line once the concept has been proven.

Take the blinkers off. Just because your job is to create a logo and you’ve got the large company ethos/lingo/viewpoint on it, doesn’t mean it’s the fit for every small business starting out. There are a ton of other expenses to consider.

It’s exactly the same as me sitting here saying every logo designer should go through a $10k web build before engaging a client and failing to do so is some huge failure to the industry. Get a grip.

I feel terribly for the creatives that have been subjected to this mess.

This whole industry of selling a “logo” has been disheartening me for quite sometime. To the point that I’ve actually lost sleep.

The bottom line is our creative minds are being exploited and businesses are not getting what they really need. Businesses are buying a perceive need (the logo) when they really need a brand designed. A process that starts with a clear brief (right Sheana)!

But if we keep selling client’s a “logo” aren’t we perpetuating the problem? There has to be a better way, I’m working on it, but it’s gonna cost clients more than lunch.

@Andrea Designers are not designing/selling brands in most case. Brand is a way too complex notion and logo and identity is just a tiny bit of it. Creating a brand is a complex process of positioning, marketing, etc
As it has been already mentioned, not all businesses need branding, nor all even need a logo to be successful within their niche. A brick-n-mortar store selling used equipmpment, or a woman reselling clothes in a small boutique in a mall or trade center will just need an image or free font logotype, something to put on a sign or a business card… And they would rather invest several grands in supply stock than pay for the thorough branding process… I bet every designer has its own niche when it comes to clients, same as agencies do, so do the clients – some come with 5K budget to David and leave happy, others come with several hundreds in the wallet to an online service, and also leave happy.

Hi LukeSF,

Branding does not have to be as complex as big agencies make it out to be. I’ve worked for them, I’ve re-branded multinationals and I believe it can be quite simple. It might take a bit of time to start with but if the business isn’t doing the same old thang, then 9 times out of 10 they will need a brand. Eventually.

I think selling just a “logo” is a not to different than going to a doctor and telling them what you need and what steps of the surgery to perform.

I’m not placing blame. I’m looking inwards and opening up a dialogue about the change needed, because I believe design has a significant role to play in making the world a better place.

Thanks,
Andrea

I purchased both logos and domains from BRANDSTACK. The designs I received were well done and the designers were also professionals. To call the designs clipart is not a fair assessment of most of the designers. Unfortunately or not, logos are a commodity. You can bitch about strategy and backwords thinking but as a business and marketing professional for over twenty years, a logo should embody the flavor of the business and often becomes a visual mission statement. A logo will often get a start-up or idea off the ground. I would not also discredit excellent logo designers like Gregory Grigoriou, now of logoturn.com, who do quality work. I am sorry that BRANDSTACK operated unethically but just as caveat emptor, so must seller.

Though we step aside from the main point of brandstack, but are designers the people who do branding?
How often all we get is just a ready made brief where it states the colors, the idea, the message to deliver, even the tagline and font style and all is needed is to put it together in some creative way using the technical skills someone lacks… it’s like people coming and saying – I think something as simple as nike swoosh but so it’s recognized by all people… Gosh, it’s not just the design, though it does matter to great extend, and David stated it well in his book, but it’s marketing, promotional buzz, product quality, and what not that increases the brand awareness and recognition (though I hate these terms) and makes the logo last for ages…

A logo alone is not going to achieve branding objectives. Branding online integrates the design, mascots, logos, tone of voice, and overall company persona’s. I really don’t understand the hostility here.

I’m relieved that this kind of thing is starting to happen, though obviously not happy about the designers losing out. I’m also seriously impressed that you managed to hold off on a great big “BOO-YAH”, I’m not sure I would have had the same sense of restraint!

“it’s just another signal that logos created without a client brief are nothing more than icons or clip-art, and there’s not a lot of profit to be made from clip-art sales.” – Amen!

They say it was because of fraud but, they weren’t taken down by fraudulent purchases. They took themselves down by launching Upstack and spending everything on advertising for that. I was the #1 seller on Brandstack and they suddenly couldn’t pay me for my sales. I mentioned it publicly in the forums there, they deleted the post and (no joke) banned me from the website completely. Many of the designers there said I was lying about their downfall and those exact designers started emailing me and asking me what to do because they weren’t being paid. Wes Wilson and Brandstack let many of us down and I say “good riddance”.

I won’t say that I’m proud to have been a part of Brandstack (which was Incspring when I joined) but, I actually got my start in logo design on that site. It was almost like a springboard for the rest of my career in branding. I’ve been better off since I was banned.

Great post.

Brandstack was a great idea. A logo is just one small part of a branding effort, and Brandstack merely sold these visual seed ideas and domain names. I think some designers are confusing logo design for branding. Read about how the Nike swoosh came to be to get an idea of what I’m talking about. It was a doodle on a piece of paper that was acquired for $35. The branding and consulting came next and turned it into what you recognize today. Brandstack sold these seed nugget graphics and ideas.

Let’s also not forget to note that Brandstack sold domains with a lot of the logos. Thats huge. Good domains are hard to find and this elevates the product substantially. I was the top seller on Brandstack right to the end and I know a lot about how this business works. A lot of mistakes were made behind the scenes, but probably the biggest was that the site wasn’t headed up by a real graphic designer. So that means Brandstack had to scheme and commoditize like the rest of these logo mills out there because profit was the only motivation. Just as with anything in life, unless you are driven by passion, and commitment to the ideals of your craft, it becomes very difficult to build a strong lasting company.

The enemy to our profession, is and continues to always be crowdsourcing. Even at its peak, Brandstack sold a mere 40 or 50 logos a month. Crowdsourcing websites churn out more than 50, mostly terrible logos per day – on the backs of many designers who are for the most part, underpaid, or not paid at all.

I have since went on to form logoturn.com, but I will always be grateful for the lessons learned from Brandstack.

Einstein said this before and I’ll say it again : “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.”

Brandstack probably made money from this selling idea and they won’t tell you where it is now. It’s easy to setup another online buzzness.

The idea of selling pre-designed logos has been around longer than BrandStack. At least since 2002, if memory serves. Judging by the number of sites now offering pre-designed logos, I don’t think it’s going to go away and we can conclude that the business model is not what broke BrandStack. Others are making money at pre-designed logos.

As someone who’s been selling pre-designed logos since 2004, I agree that working sans-brief is doing it the wrong way around, but only if you approach it like traditional logo design.

Consider that pre-designed logos might offer a way for designers to produce art.

We all have pictures in our heads that scream to become logos. Without a client brief, the designer is limited by her imagination only. I can’t think of a better invitation to produce jaw-dropping art. If that art can double as a logo, you have a pre-designed logo. Might as well exhibit it on BrandStack or 99Designs or LogoGround or LogoTurn or StockLogos or any of the others. If it sells, great!

The truth is that money is a major limiting factor. With pre-designed logos, as with fine art, you get paid only if the right buyer finds you. Isn’t that your real objection to pre-designed logos? You might not get paid?

Sites like BrandStack should be commended for trying to bring buyers to designers. I think the site was mismanaged, but my hat’s off to Wes for trying and for opening a door. Consider going through it. It beats bitching and moaning. It definitely beats being happy when a hard-working, gutsy entrepreneur fails.

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