I like to keep an eye on town and city logo rebrands across the web, especially the chores of municipalities trying to balance the cost of getting a good logo with the demands of the public who can’t see the design woods for the trees. This has resulted in a mini series called “City Logo Fails“. I cover successful designs too, such as Eindhoven’s excellent open source city logo.
Everett, WA, is the county seat of and the largest city in Snohomish County, Washington, United States. Named for Everett Colby, son of founder Charles L. Colby, it lies 25 miles (40 km) north of Seattle. The city had a total population of 103,019 at the 2010 census, making it the 7th largest in the state and fifth-largest in the Puget Sound area. (Wikipedia). It’s also got lots of Boeing facilities and a big marina plus a significant Naval presence (as many of the designs represent).
Perhaps a reaction to some other cities efforts and Pr disasters, maybe in the spirit of democracy, the staff at Everett decided to open the contest up to the general public, offering $5000 in a logo design competition.
They also decided to democratise the judging process, placing the entered logos online for public vote. With a wedge of wisdom, they’ve allowed the winners of the public vote to be combined with the preferred choices of the Everett Cultural Arts Commission (ECAC). From this a judging panel will choose the finalist.
They received 849 entries.
Some are drafts and hand drawn, others more developed. Some (most) are dross, others are OK. You can view all 849 and vote before the end of October, here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/everettlogo, but I’d suggest not doing it over 3G on a smart phone, it’s a big old page! (I’ve uploaded a full screen grab here, should the site go offline, it’s 50mb)
Maybe I’m jumping the gun calling this a fail, but here’s why I think it’s a bad route to the result:
1. Is it a false offer of public inclusion?
As mentioned alongside the public vote, ECAC will choose a selection of designs and a judging panel will select the final design. It’s like a talent show vote where the public are asked to choose but thew judges make the final decision (I’m looking at you X-Factor).
There’s a great chance that the publicly selected designs are entirely different from all of the ECAC chosen logos, and therefore should an ECAC logo be chosen as the final brand, the whole public vote becomes nothing more than an exercise.
And they may not have either the greatest artistic talent or the most critical design eye, but the public aren’t stupid, and duping them in this way might just cause more anger than doing the job properly in the 1st place.
2. Designers Shouldn’t Work Speculatively
I despise Spec work, but there is a place for it, especially in the public sector. I’m comfortable with local recycling schemes or children’s charities running a contest for school kids, I could argue against it but I can see it’s place, although see Copenhagen Public Library for the right way to include children in branding.
However, even small public bodies say libraries or schools are now competing in a media saturated world and they need to respond accordingly. Asking folks to design logos in a competition is essentially asking people to work for free.
Sure the vast majority of the Everett entries I’d suggest are amateur, but many are clear created by professional designers. Professional designers should not be asked to work for free and in my opinion should not work for free.
Logo competitions of all sort result in designers working for free, working for the promos of a chance to earn the winnings but none but the actually winner will get paid.
Spec work in all forms is bad.
3. Less is More
How do you choose from 800+ logos? How can you correctly assess the merits of all of these designs? This is throwing paint at the wall and seeing what sticks territory. I can imagine the man hours that the whole process has taken to manage. Uploading all of the logos to Survey Monkey must have taken endless hours, not to mention all the rest of the admin.
This is time, effort and ultimately money that really should have been committed to working with a designer or agency to deliver a professional logo project.
4. It’s Only Part of the Story
Depending on which design is chosen, the winning $5000 cost is only half the job. Once selected, the design will need to be developed to one extent or another and then someone will need to be paid to apply the design to the relevant articles, letterheads, vehicles, signage and so forth.
I suspect some of the creators have considered this, but looking at the guidelines, the various needs are mentioned but not in any depth. Applying a logo is as much of a job as designing it, costs for the project are going to rise.
I wish Everett the best for their new logo, that the final design will represent the city successfully, but I hope other cities can learn a lesson that this really isn’t the best solution to their branding needs!
Here are a few pretty much randomly selected designs from the survey for your viewing pleasure…