advertising and other stuff. no, really.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Nike, the original crowdsourced logo.

Came across an interview with the designer of the original Apple logo which then reminded me of the history of the Nike logo, just, you know, to fan the crowdsource flames. Not that The Nike logo was crowdsourced the way people think of the term now; it was designed by Carolyn Davidso, a student working for Phil Knight. Where it fans crowdsource flames is in the fee: $2 per hour, or $35 total.

It’s ironic that you sometimes give your work away like that for a company that turns out to make it big. Fine if it was a labor of love because you designed for reasons other than money, but the problem with crowdsourced logos is that designers compete against each other for the lowest price. That’s hardly the best way to design, mostly because clients will always want it cheaper.

Take the 17 hours spent on the Nike logo and apply that today to the typical logo contest with an average prize of $500. My math may be fuzzy, but that’s $29 an hour for the Next Big Thing.

You better love to labor for that amount.

As for Apple, the history of that logo is similar in that agency designer Rob Janoff never thought Apple would blow up as big as it did.

(Apple story via David Plain.)


Byrne said...

Looks like the Nike swoosh designer did okay. If she was a student in 1971, and retired in 2000, she may have retired in her early 50's. Not amazing, but not an option available to just anyone.

mtlb said...

Since she eventually was given Nike stock, I’m guessing she was able to retire comfortably too.

Ben Kunz said...

It's really a supply and demand problem. Thirty years ago, creative was a magical art. Video production took huge facilities; even basic design required training and tools in specialized printing techniques.

Now, anyone with $1,500 can pick up a video camera and laptop and launch into full service creative. That's not to say they are all great talents; but even if 1 in 1,000 people has strong artistic sensibilities, you end up with a lot of oversupply for creative.

As markets get smarter about finding ways to get these people involved, the price for traditional agency work is under pressure. The only defense I see is for agencies to move upstream into marketing strategy, showing how to influence results, and that can defend the prices they charge for creative work. But crowdsourcing is here to stay for the agencies that can't justify a more integrated package.

Management guru Michael Porter had a good thought in Competitive Advantage -- basically, it's a mistake to worry about differentiating just one service. Figure out a way to differentiate your involvement in the client's entire value chain. Just as brands are more than logos, client results take much more than just ad creative.

Ravi S. Kudesia said...

It's actually, in my opinion, quite helpful to see this "rush to the bottom" in terms of graphic design.

For so long making pretty images has been confused with actual brand strategy - now that the graphic design element has become rather commoditized, the full service ad agencies will really have to prove their relative worth.

There is so much clutter out there, I'd love a force that pushed big advertisers towards asking their agency for some sort of ROI. This might, to some extent, help elevate the quality of our ads.

mtlb said...

@Ravi - But it’s that brand strategy that agencies do better than the person willing to design a logo for $200. Clients may turn over the occasional logo to the masses, but they still want an agency to handle the overall picture.