60-Seconds 303: fortunes to be made in the 48-hour logo site

by Fred Showker

Fred Showker's 60-Second Window You've probably seen the design community cult-movement "No SPEC" against spec-work, or seen thousands of complaints from graphic designers about the hack logo sites proliferating online these days. Today I got a press release, for DTG, from "48-hour Logos" a crowd sourcing site offering "contests" for designing logos. I've provided reference links below, but first, consider this:

The "48 hours logo" press release said :

Quoting  begins Each month, graphic designers and businesses collaborate at 48hourslogo to create more than 5,000 stunning logos. Logo designers then nominate a handful of their favorite logos as potential winners of the "Logo of the Month" competition. Everyone is then invited to vote on their favorite nominee. The winning graphic designer gets two rewards: First, he or she receives a cash prize for his / her good work. Second, the designer is then featured on a special "Logo of the Month" homepage. Quoting  ends

It's a brilliant opportunity to make a pile of money -- that's one thing you can be sure of. I looked a little deeper and met the owner, Ping He, who opened the site in 2009. Since then he claims to have paid out over a million dollars in design fees. That's good -- I think? Ping recognized the beauty of exploiting a huge market of pent-up, low paid talent. Hungry designers unable to pursue their craft locally can participate, make a few bucks, provide a very cheap logo for a client. Quoting the press release again :

Quoting  begins For a set price of $29, businesses can initiate a logo design contest where they simply describe their logo design requirements and have multiple designer compete for the job by uploading logo concepts matching the requirements. The total cost to the business for a professionally designed logo can be as little as $99 plus a 15% fee. For some reasons, if a contest draws fewer than 10 logo submissions, the business can request a full refund. Quoting  ends

They claim over 15,000 happy customers, and 1,031,615 logos designed! Of course what company wouldn't be thrilled to preview dozens of logo proposals and end up paying a contest "award" of $85. Of course they love it. Yet a quick review of the actual work shows a wide gambut of designs from awfull to lackluster, to an occassional good idea. More disturbing for a seasoned designer who has followed logos for years, many of these logos look familiar. I recognized at least three pieces of clip art freely available online, used for "winning" logo design awards for unsuspecting clients.

Here are a few "submissions" to a client contest that paid $99 to the winning designer. Can you guess which one was the winner?


With over 19,000 contests and 15,000 customers and over one million logos designed, it's a brilliant idea for Ping He in Fairfax, Virginia. If you guessed the very last logo, then you guessed right. They claim nearly 100-thousand contests, each of which the client paid the web site $29, and Mr. He a 15% commission. In the example above a dozen designers submitted several dozen logos. One was chosen, and paid $99.

This kind of crowdsourcing is only going to grow more widspread. Is it a good thing? Is it good for the design community? It may be putting food on the tables of some designers, but who are the winners and who are the losers?

If you're an out-of-work graphic designer looking to pick up a few bucks, 48 hour logo claims more than $156,000 is now up for grabs. Get busy.

Food for thought . . . draw your own conclusion
      thanks for reading

Fred Showker

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GO AIGA position on spec work -- www.aiga.org -- AIGA believes that professional designers should be compensated fairly for their work and should negotiate the ownership or use rights of their intellectual and creative property through an engagement with clients. To that end, AIGA strongly encourages designers to enter into client projects with full engagement to show the value of their creative endeavor, and to be aware of all potential risks before entering into speculative work.
GO Why spec work is bad for the designer and client - www.nospec.com -- The issue of clients requesting speculative work from designers is becoming commonplace. The issues regarding speculative work or “free pitching” have been debated for a long time and are now compounded by the economic downturn, meaning that some designers are more willing to work for free while others have taken the opposite view.
GO Spec work and crowdsourcing - Ethics in Graphic Design - www.ethicsingraphicdesign.org -- Speculative work, or spec work—work done without compensation in the hope of being compensated for the client’s speculation—takes a number of forms in communication design.
GO Industry insight: Are design competitions spec work? -- www.creativebloq.com -- It seems that nothing gets artists more heated than a discussion about spec work. What is and what isn't acceptable has been a topic of conversation for years, and we've asked leading designers to weigh in with their opinions.

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