7 Reasons to be Wary of Micro-sourced Logo Design

This post sprouts from a conversation on a design forum, one of those where I spent far too long replying to the opinion of the original poster. I thought therefore that it was worth turning that effort into a useful article!

The ad I saw on Facebook - 16.04/2015 - the SpeelMakker logo caught my eye as a copy or stock image, which a quick search discovered was the case.
The ad I saw on Facebook – 16.04/2015 – the SpeelMakker logo caught my eye as a copy or stock image, which a quick search discovered was the case.

It’s one of those articles that might sound a little snarky, I considered not publishing it at all, but then an advert for Fiverr appeared in my Facebook timeline that chimed exactly in tune with a few of my thoughts and my mind was set.

A few caveats to start.

Firstly no industry can stand still, just as imported products have been undercutting many western manufacturers for decades, the internet has opened up opportunities for services to be provided by people from across the globe at highly competitive rates. In design this is often seen via spec work sites, which help users run design contests entered by designers across the world, and from micro-sourcing sites like Fiverr who provide a shop front for designers with very cheap rates, form $5.

As an operator within this industry, I need to admit a vested interest in the subject. I don’t want to compete with the Fiverr market, or compete for Spec work, it’s not pricing area I work within, but I am a designer so this needs to be read with that in mind.

Both spec work design and micro-sourcing design have their drawbacks, this article isn’t about the former.

The logo also features on the Fiverr log homepage (21/04/2015).
The logo also features on the Fiverr log homepage (21/04/2015).

Secondly Fiverr is packed with designers who are real people, they’re trying to make a living and they see Fiverr as part of that. Many of them are in countries where the cost of living is significantly lower than our own and who are otherwise unlikely to find a conduit connecting them with a wealthy business audience.

But these are people trying to earn a crust, people who I’m not attacking personally. I’d suggest however amongst the honest folks, there are some crooks, but that could be the case within any industry and across the price spectrum.

Buying a logo for $5 – be careful!

The bulk of this article is a response to a blog post, reposted in a forum. It’s worth reading as it’s a considered argument, but in my opinion, set out below, flawed.

The linked post lays out a few tips to help potential Fiverr logo purchasers avoid some of the typical pitfalls found across the micro-purchasing realm, these aren’t unique to the logo design sector. The post sets out a best case scenario:

  • The purchaser has effectively weeded out the charlatans & identified a reliable designer.
  • The purchaser understands that in reality it’ll cost the in the $20-$30 region to get the files they need with some revision.
  • The designers cost of living is much less than western audience.

Shortcuts taken to get a five dollar logo

I suggest however that even taken this best case, any designer will have to take one or more of the following shortcuts to keep costs down to the price of a couple of coffees.

1. Design research extends no further than a quick  Google search

The trouble here is that more and more the results of this type of research, be it by Google or just as bad, LogoPond (who’s aim might be to showcase great logos) is that the designer is no longer coming up with ideas, but simply taking them from others. There’s a fine line between inspiration and copying and I suggest that the economics of Fiverr are more likely to lead to the later. The resultant logos are generic and uninspired.

Two sides to the story, firstly, when designers have the same idea: When logos look alike | Logo Design Love.

Then when themes and ideas get overused (in part due to this kind of ‘research’): Generic and overused logos – Avoid them!

2. The budget designer uses stock art (perfectly legally)

Most buyers on micro-sourced design sites are looking for original artwork to attribute to their enterprise, stock art, used perfectly legally is unoriginal artwork, it could be used by any number of businesses or even competitors.

Most logo ‘gigs’ on Fiverr put in their offer that the design will be “unique” or “original”. Semantics aside, we all know what we’re looking for when selecting things that are unique and original and it’s not a modified stock image. I selected the first two advertised on the Fiverr logo homepage. Both plug either unique or original.

To avoid this it’s recommended the purchasers spend time reverse image searching examples from dozens of designers portfolios in the hope that I avoid stock artwork. This assumes the purchaser has both the time and skill to undertake this.

3. Simply Stolen

Google comes in again. An unscrupulous designer can submit an internet search, grab an appropriate image and using some professional design tools within Adobe Illustrator, trace the logo, tweak the design and output it as a new product.

Again a purchaser will need to reverse search on some real portfolio examples, with all the time and effort issues as before.

4. Unfinished Design

At any budget, a designer and owner can’t agree on a logo design, owner left with something they can’t use. This can be especially acute when working across the internet with designers from other countries. Fiver has a refund system but arguing that you didn’t receive the service requested can be tricky, and the come back legally towards a foreign designer tricky.

It gets worse if you’ve agreed on a design and rolled it out across your branding, say I’ve sign written my van with the logo, had all my menus printed, my coffee cups, uniforms and then find out my new logo infringes?

Am I able to take my Fiverr designer to court to recover costs and lost revenue & time? Will Fiverr support me?

5. Bad Design

Design is subjective, it might look great to the owner, but either aesthetically or technically, it’s bad. Technically bad logos will cost more down the line to correct, that budget design starts to cost significantly more than you expected.

With the best will in the world, most clients don’t have the skills to recognise one or either aesthetic or technical appropriateness of designs. One role of a designer is to teach and guide the client. By having to make this decision up front, you’re taking that role away from the designer and leaving it to the client. Again, this can happen across budgets, but is more acute at the lower end.

6. Inappropriate Design

This is linked to a lack of research and time, as above, the client, who is not always best skilled to know what is appropriate (as opposed to what they think looks nice), has to make this decision up front themselves if the designer produces suitable solutions.

Their logo might look pretty but it may be a bad fit with their sector.

7. Bad Open Source Fonts

Either badly designed, badly constructed or with a short a character set or two (can I have the bold version? Oh, there is no bold version?) Many open source fonts are provided by Google Fonts.

Google Fonts is full bad fonts. Simple. There are some gems, Open Sans, Lato, Alegreya, but many more that are poor. Being within Google’s benevolent arms doesn’t excuse bad fonts.

Well made, fully featured fonts cost money. They don’t cost the earth, but will often cost more than the price of a fiverr logo.

A safe niche?

The smart Fiverr designers it seems specialise, they take some of the mystery away by offering things like “A Retro Logo” or “A Funky Text Logo” so business owners know a little more about what they are getting. This means the transaction is more transparent. It still means some of the above are shortcuts are hit, such as no research on appropriateness, font licences etc.

I guess the former uses a pretty formulaic approach and logos look very similar and the latter (text logo) are generally using decent fonts purchased (or not) from decent font websites and kerning them appropriately. It may also be the case that  need to be buying a licence for each client they use the font on.

Both suffer from the appropriate issue as it’s the owner who is selecting the style of design they think fits, when it might not. The onus is on the purchaser to make decisions that really a designer should be advising on.

Ultimately if designers wish to sell their time on Fiverr, that’s up to them, but time and again I both talk to people and read about folks who have been burnt, with little or no comeback, by the compromises taken to have a logo designed for so little.

Have you had good or bad experiences of Fiverr or other micro-sourcing design solutions? Anything else good or bad I’ve missed? Shout out in the comments.




LogoCurio.us is a website sharing opinion on logo design and branding.

Kieran Harrod is a freelance designer based in the United Kingdom. more…


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