Wednesday, September 23, 2009

ISTOCK now sells logos?

I have a ton of work to do this morning. Yet here I sit, knowing that I must say SOMETHING in regards to ISTOCKPHOTO’s announcement that they will begin selling logos (for lower than standard pricing) sometime in the near future. I’m not even going to bother editing this one because of time restrictions, so if there are grammatical errors on this post, I apologize.

Just last week, I wrote my blog article “We have become cheap whores” and it is still being circulated around the world. I think my timing was quite good because after yesterday’s ISTOCK announcement, I saw it circulate again and we have some huge protests taking place from designers on both sides of the fence.

On one side, is the uproar from people that have made a handsome living over the years in this industry and understand a brand’s worth. On the other, people that welcome the fact that there is possibly a market for whatever they can produce. As one “designer” wrote on the site’s message board…

“WOW, Just GREAT. Now I have a reason to learn illustrator as I have been wanting to for some time”.

Nuff said.

After reading pages upon pages of comments from wannabe designers congratulating ISTOCK for this new endeavour, I realize that in the design world of today, true professional and passionate creatives have become the minority.

Now, here are some facts and questions as to why I sit on both sides of the fence on this idea.

I’ll start with the negative.

First is the most obvious. I charge my “friends and family” $2,000 for a logo.
For clients, I start at $2,500. And I have always been fairly busy. The reason I charge this rate is because I know a logo is NOT in the same category as clip art. In fact, I believe that a logo design is the hardest thing I can produce. I have been known to create award-winning ad concepts in one day, but for the new look of the dental office down the street, I like to give myself around 3 weeks. The client must be researched. I need to know what kind of clientele they are targeting. I need to know how they want to project themselves in the marketplace. I need to know many factors before I put pen to paper. And then I need to explore different avenues and ideas for the client. Often, a logo is born by making a move (while tinkering for days) with a design until I end up shouting “Eureka”. Then I do it all over again for the next concept. Is this whole process really only worth a few hundred dollars?

Remember when you were young, and you practiced your signature over, and over, and over again until you got it perfect? How much would you have paid to have somebody come up with that for you? What if I could give you a signature that got a WOW response everytime somebody saw it? How much would you have paid for that? This is what we do and why we charge more than a few hundred bucks for this creativity.

ISTOCK claims that you should submit your third round of logo revisions that the client rejected. This sounds great. Only there was probably a reason the client didn’t want it. In my mind, the fact that they paid me for my creative concepts means that by selling those concepts I have just cheated them. They paid me handsomely for the work, and now somebody gets to use what they threw away for a small fraction of the cost?

There are also possible trademark issues and the legal expenses that could be incurred to a company if they end up buying something that has been ripped off. You are a company owner, you buy a logo off the site, you create and pay for all the corporate materials to accommodate it, and the next thing you know, some designer in (insert country here) is suing you for ripping off their work. Seems the “designer” that submitted the logo to the site copied it. Now what?

Now we have the factor I fear most. The cheapening of what we do in the eyes of the public and the start-up company owner. “What do you mean you charge $2,500? My brother got a professional looking logo for $100 off one of those sites”. Our service will now be a much harder sell.

Here is why I like the ISTOCK logo idea…

I have created dozens of logos over the years. My clients generally get a minimum of 3 concepts. Sometimes, I give them more. So, lets say I have created 30 logos over the course of my career…that means I would have around 100 designs to submit to ISTOCK. Let’s say I tell ISTOCK to sell them at a maximum rate of $800 each. I get 50% of that (according to what I have read). $400 x 100 = $40,000.

$40,000 and I don’t have to do a damn thing. Like my ISTOCK photo uploads, I’ve already created them and they were just collecting dust anyway. Have I hurt professional photographers with my photo uploads? For one thing, unlike “designers” that will submit logos, I never claimed to be a professional photographer. This is where the difference lies. If my photo has some grain to it, the one downloading it takes that chance. What you see is what you get. As a professional Art Director, I have still hired my fair share of professional photographers for different photo shoots and I have still bought high-end photographs in the $2,500 range for some of my clients. I’m sure logo designs will work the same way.

If you are looking for a professional design, hire a professional. If you are looking for something to “make do”, go ahead and download from ISTOCK. Just don’t be upset when it comes around to bite you in the behind down the road.

What I find most interesting is that ISTOCK sells photos to designers and art directors like myself. Now, they are going to hurt the business of the very people they rely on to buy their photographs. I believe this is called "biting the hand that feeds you".

Here is my take. Sell it for what it is. There should be a biography beside every one of the logo designs on who is submitting them. If somebody (like myself) has an impressive background, qualifications, and numerous awards for their work, they should be allowed to price their designs at whatever they see fit. I may not sell as many designs but I am okay with that. Hopefully companies looking at my work will see that I took the time to create what they are buying. Not that I whipped something together to put a few dollars in my pocket. An amateur with no professional background should not be worth the same rate.

In the end, if the world changes, you can fight it or you can go along with it. I’m still undecided on this one. One thing I do know is this…

I may be a whore, but as I’ve said before, I’m not a cheap one.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Looks like you've been hybernating for the past five years at least. There are a ton of websites offering logo designs at prices varying from $100 to $250. And since they did not ruin your business where you charge 10 times more, why would iStock do? Don't panic. Just keep working and everything will be fine with you.

Dcdigitalphoto said...

Just a small comment, this is one of the more reasoned responses I have seen to the issue. The upper end price is more like $1125 rather than $800. Credits range in price between 0.96c and about $1.50 depending on package size and the currency in which they were purchased. Yes you still only get 50% of it, but then you didn't have to spend your valuable time and money to market it, host it, promote it, handle the money, etc etc. How much is that worth to you?

LEBOW said...

Oh, believe me. I know about them. But they are not ISTOCK nor do they have the same reputation. I'm not worried per se, more upset about the fact that ISTOCK seems to be biting the very hand that feeds them.

jsdcreative said...

Ronnie I just responded on About re the very same thing, also saying I have mixed feelings on this one. Where I do believe iStock rises above the general crowdsourcing game, is that they're prepared to allow the designer to set the price, the logo comes off the site once purchased (unlike stock photography), and the designer does get 50% of the sell price. So in a way they're acting as an agent for your brain farts.
I do also think the've approached this with some naivety. As you say... who is their market? Their market isn't Joe Blogs and his corner store, it's designers and creatives like you and me. So yes, biting the hand that feeds them is about the correct phrase that comes to mind.
My question to ISP would be, to whom are they marketing this service? How will they handle the post-sell edits? And will their contributor profiles allow for a short bio.
Nothing will take the place of well-thought-through and developed custom identities. But this may (MAY - I need to think about it more...) be a middle ground between high-end custom development, and prostituted crowdsourcing.

Anonymous said...

Well said. I've also told people for about the last 10 years (of my 24 year career) that it's like "Burger King"; I'll do it their way. Graphic designers (for the most part) HAVE become whores. The designers who have stayed above this, and insist on "their way," rather than the clients', still seem to be doing quite well, but are considered "primadonnas," and/or "difficult." IMHO, they also are more respected, make more money, earn more awards, and you won't see their work on ISTOCK.

giantballofdeath said...

Hi there,

I read your article and I can't say that I see your point.

I'm not sure what advertising industry you're in, but in the one I'm in clients have a budget for thing like corporate identity. If you're 'clients' are willing to spend 200 dollars on a logo then I might suggest you're looking at the wrong sort of client. Anyone working in any sort of professional capacity would realize this. I'm certainly not going to feel sorry for someone who doesn't have the talent or salesmanship to beat out istockphoto for business. In this respect, I'm not worried about this at all. This exists on a level so below what I would call design I simply can't see them ever cutting into the professional branding or advertising industries.

My 2c anyway. Feel free to continue yelling in futility about 'whoring out' and the like. I suggest those who are worried get some clients who respect them and their craft rather then pander to those who would cheapen themselves and their brand.

-a

jsdcreative said...

@giantballofdeath:
Somehow, I doubt Ronnie's clients are the $200-a-logo types... as he states he starts at $2,000 at the "friends and family" rate.
From my side, I'll say this. As in any industry, there are the exceptions who are truly truly tatlented, and who rise above the crowd. Those creatives will always be in the minority.
Generally speaking, however, the vast majority of creatives have been people who are good at what they do, are well trained, good executors, methodical, etc, but who don't necessarily have the edge that gets them out of the chorus line into the spotlight.
The deisgners that crowdsourcing hurts most are these designers... the ones who might not be quite as talented as you, but you are still talented and professional enough to have built a good solid business up tl now. The designers who could rely on local businesses, mom and pops, and who weren't ever after the big corporate players and Fortune 500 companies in the first place.
I think of it as a "walmartisation" of the industry.
As a member of an industry that has traditionally placed great stock on ability, aptitude and execution, you shoudl be concerned about these deisgners. they may not be in your league, you might well be so far far above them that they're the mere pond scum way below your line of vision, but they're still members of your profession, and they still deserve your respect.
Nobody is saying that we are going to be limited to clients to whome we have to pander. There is a genuine concern that the value of the service we provide–yes, even to those who have been prepared to shells out 100's of thousands in the past–is going to be impacted by this phenomenon, whether we like it or not.

jsdcreative said...

@giantballofdeath:
Somehow, I doubt Ronnie's clients are the $200-a-logo types... as he states he starts at $2,000 at the "friends and family" rate.
From my side, I'll say this. As in any industry, there are the exceptions who are truly truly tatlented, and who rise above the crowd. Those creatives will always be in the minority.
Generally speaking, however, the vast majority of creatives have been people who are good at what they do, are well trained, good executors, methodical, etc, but who don't necessarily have the edge that gets them out of the chorus line into the spotlight.
The deisgners that crowdsourcing hurts most are these designers... the ones who might not be quite as talented as you, but you are still talented and professional enough to have built a good solid business up tl now. The designers who could rely on local businesses, mom and pops, and who weren't ever after the big corporate players and Fortune 500 companies in the first place.
I think of it as a "walmartisation" of the industry.
As a member of an industry that has traditionally placed great stock on ability, aptitude and execution, you shoudl be concerned about these deisgners. they may not be in your league, you might well be so far far above them that they're the mere pond scum way below your line of vision, but they're still members of your profession, and they still deserve your respect.
Nobody is saying that we are going to be limited to clients to whome we have to pander. There is a genuine concern that the value of the service we provide–yes, even to those who have been prepared to shells out 100's of thousands in the past–is going to be impacted by this phenomenon, whether we like it or not.

giantballofdeath said...

@jsdcreative

This world runs on a simple principle. Survival of the fittest. If, as a designer, you feel threatened by the level of work coming out of something like istockphoto, you either have to get better at your craft and prove your worth or find a new occupation.

You're arguing from the point of view of a unionist. 'Allow those who don't want to get better to simply continue in their mediocre tradition without fear of competition'. This is not the way the world operates. If istockphoto has figured out a way to take your business, then the better idea has prevailed. You're only course of action is to find new avenues. Don't complain or whine, do.

a

giantballofdeath said...

I would like to add, this is not an argument from respect. I have the utmost respect for freelance designers. I should after all. As someone who never went to university, I had to work my way to where I am now. I never had the benefit of respect. Years of doing the sorts of $200 contracts we're talking about here taught me to settle at my own peril. At the end of the day it was the competition for those better clients that improved me. And I glad for the struggle.

In the words of Mark Twain: "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog."

jsdcreative said...

@giantballofddeath:

Personally, I don't feel threatened
by the crowdsourcers or logo mills. And I don't believe it's about complacent mediocrity either... either shape up or shut up.

I'm certainly not at the top of our industry by any stretch of the imagination, and I'm glad to hear that you know too understand the value of working from the bottom up, of honing and refining one's skills until one has developed a certain niche and skill level where oway business.

But then, we can only say that because we're not just out of design school. We've had the years behind us.

I'm also not of the ilk who believes that things must stay the same. The world evolves all the time, and we have to learn to evolve with it. We have to learn to adapt.

But part of this type of dialogue is exactly that... to recognise that things are changing, faster than we ever thought possible, and that it's the entire industry that's being affected. This is not about "me and how do I adapt to make my buck." I'm not concerned about me. I have enough confidence in my abilities and my wits to know that I'll be ok, I will find other avenues if necessary, and I, personally, will survive.

This is bigger than me, and it's bigger than you.

And I believe it's good for all of us to have open dialogue about it.

Andrew Ptak said...

As a photographer I've had to put up with this crap for years. Thankfuly I'm long enough in the tooth that it doesn't bother me personally, I just hate to see the craft cheapened.

I do find it ironic though that some of the designers who told me my prices were too high because they could get a shot from istock for next to nothing, are now facing the same situation themselves.

Welcome to the club. Devious world, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Funny, more whining about the same thing. Welcome to a free market economy folks, where you been for the past 40,000 years of human commerce?

The idea that any of us "deserve" some sort of protection smacks of elitism, not something that I think the "average Joe" would ever support.

eric said...

We should all really be far more concerned with crowdspring than this.