What is the cost of cheap design?
We could probably spend all day making a list of the many jobs whose economic viability is being eroded (or just totally wiped out) by the internet and related technologies. From the CEO of Borders to the kid delivering newspapers, the web has displaced a lot of career paths and moved a lot of people's cheese.
And of course professions in design and photography, while benefitting from a world's worth of information and inspiration just a click away, have not been unscathed. We know the villians: crowd-sourcing, spec work, and a million Uncle Daves who will design your website for free.
Recently I was struck by two very different takes on this issue.
On the one hand, there's Seth Godin. The follicle-free best-selling author and marketing guru posted a piece a few weeks back on his blog entitled True professionals don't fear amateurs. In it, he wrote:
A few years ago, typesetting, wedding photography, graphic design and other endeavors that were previously off limits to all but the most passionate amateurs started to become more common. The insecure careerists fought off the amateurs at the gate, insisting that it was both a degradation of their art as well as a waste of time for the amateurs. The professionals, though, those with real talent, used the technological shift to move up the food chain. It was easy to encourage amateurs to go ahead and explore and experiment... professionals bring more than just good tools to their work as professionals
…If you're upset that the hoi polloi are busy doing what you used to do, get better instead of getting angry.
I'd call that throwing down the gauntlet, but then Mr. Godin is a known gauntlet thrower. It's clear he thinks designers shouldn't feel threatened by crowd-sourcing and DIY design resources like logoyes and InstaLogo. It's unclear (at least to me), whether he thinks that crappy logos aren't about to take over the visual landscape, or he's simply untroubled by the prospect.
On the other hand, there's Vonster. Von Glitschka is the owner of Glitschka Studios, an artist, author, designer, and educator with over 20 years of experience creating brand identity for businesses large and small. And now he's added a new service to his website, 5 Minute Logo, which offers 5 minutes of Vonster's logo creation services for the low, low price of just $5! With tongue firmly embedded in cheek, Vonster offers to "become your short order design cook and whip you up a tasty visual morsel before you can say "Craptacular!"
All you need to do is send in the name and type of business, plus $5 and in return you'll get a custom vector logo in a PDF like these:
The most entertaining FAQ you'll likely ever read lays out the terms of service, including the following nuggets:
You can suggest any ideas you have, but since you're a cheap-ass only paying $5 we'll more than likely just ignore your request and exercise our design prerogative as we see fit. (No Whining).
Once again we already know you're a cheap-ass so more than likely you won't like our idea. Life is full of gambles though so live on the edge, toss your 5ive spot in the ring and lets rock and roll!
Obviously, this issue of cheap design isn't going away any time soon. Is competition from amateurs a non-issue for established creative pros as Godin suggests? Or do you like Vonster's way of exposing the "graphic charlatans" by embracing the craptacular…for all it's worth?