Wednesday, September 23, 2009

say it ain't so... istock jumping on the cheap logo express

i received my email yesterday, as did most designers i know -- we all have accounts with istock of course.

"We're excited to announce a whole new product coming to the iStock collection in just a few months: logo designs...

As a designer, you've probably created hundreds of different logos over the course of your career and we're offering you an outlet to start selling new logos to the world’s largest community of creative buyers.

If you create one of the first 10,000 approved logo designs for iStockphoto by January 1, 2010, we’ll pay you $5 per approved logo and another $5 if we reach 10,000 approved logos by that date. So fire up Illustrator to create some amazing logos or dust off all those much-loved logos that never made it past the third round with a client."

so now there is another outlet, much like logoworks, where anyone can go and get a cheap logo. this is not only undercutting the price of a custom identity package from a designer (and the desire to get one if you can get your brand for $50), but it also opens up the door to trademark and copyright infringement.

thanks a lot istock.

i urge the non-designers out there reading this to continue to look for your brand from an actual designer, not from a logo factory or an easy logo vector download. it means everything to your company to have something that is truly integrated and speaks to what your company is really about -- not something that you can pick off a search on a website.

for more on this development, you can check out logo design love. if you want more information on the importance of branding and identity from a non-designer point of view, go to the thirdway advertising blog.

EDIT: it was brought to my attention by one of my readers that in my anger, i misrepresented the situation a bit above. according to istock's proposed pricing, the lowest price you would be able to purchase a logo at is around $100 ($96 actually). the designer would get 50% of that, which is where my $50 fee came from. not that i think $100 makes it any better, but i did not want to put up incorrect information.

the highest amount to be paid is currently proposed at 750 credits, which i think would work out to somewhere around $750-800. again, that is way too low...

i'm glad the discussion is continuing. =)


Tess Perez said...

This is a serious punch in the face to real designers.

Dave said...

Starting price for logos is 100 credits. This is between US$96 and US$150 depending on the credit package purchased.

Top end price is 750 credits which is US$720 to around US$1125 depending on the credit package.

Certainly cheaper than the going rate for custom logos, but then they're not custom logos are they. There has been no meetings with the client to discuss core company aims, ideal, directions, hopes, dreams, etc. If your client wants a custom logo, they will still engage you for it and you can charge whatever you like. If they just want a generic logo, they can buy one from iStock.

Which customer do you want to service? If it is the custom one, then nothing has changed for you, you just need to explain to them the difference between a cusotm and generic logo. If it is both, then you can spend your valuable time designing logos rather than needing to spend your valuable time meeting with the client, preparing multiple options, performing revisions, etc hence the lower cost.

Nicole Block said...

hi dave. my husband's name is dave. presumably you have to be a good guy then. =) and i appreciate your well written and thoughtful response.

honestly, i don't believe any clients should NOT be custom regarding logos. all designers have sliding scales regarding clients' identity packages, based on size and reach of the business they're working with. with that, all companies can afford a custom logo and identity system. it would definitely fall within the parameters of the istock prices, albeit always on the higher end. there's no such thing as a custom logo for $50 or $100 dollars.

but that's just the point. we are here to service our client -- not just by price, but by content of our design. the point of a custom logo is that you have it tailored to your business -- your offerings, your personality, your location, etc. there is value in that.

why would we say "ok then" to a company deciding they can get an adequate symbol from a stock site? not only do we know that they are wrong on a basic business level, but it also undercuts what our services are worth. don't you think that potential clients would easily say, "but i can get something that works 'just fine' on istock for $100, why should i pay you $800-$1000?" and this isn't just small businesses. good luck telling the bigger ones that they should pay us $5k-$30k and up. they watch their bottom line too you know.

i've seen this happen time and time again with illustration (something i also do). illustrators prices haven't been able to change much since the 1930's. stock illos really hurt us. and those willing to work for pennies put the final nail in our coffin. why ask $500 and up for a custom distorted portrait (aka caricature) when some guys are doing it online for $50 a pop? maybe mine takes more work, more info, more detail. but his is cheaper. so the buyer will go for that. and i think the illustrator should be ashamed. he may be making a living, but at the expense of the industry.

so i say this on all levels -- if the clients don't respect us now, and you come down to their level instead of educating them on your worth, then it's just going to get worse. the old adage of "raise your rates, don't lower them" is going to go out the window. the more other designers participate in the lowering of the scale, the less potential clients will appreciate our value. and on that road, we all wind up poorer.

Nicole Block said...

btw, i hate to bring it up again, but Tropicana should be a good lesson to all of us in "generic design" and what it does to a brand.

Z said...

Regardless of your frustration, your statement that you can get a "brand" at iStock for $50 is just false, and for several reasons. The iStock prices range from 100 credits for the most basic "logos" and up to 750 credits for the more elaborate ones. Also, all you really get at iStock is a design element for your logo (which can end up being your logo, or just part of it), not a "brand" as you call it, as a brand is something else, even though it is built around the companies image, part of which is also a logo. I understand you're upset, but you might want to revise your blog post to reflect the factual data... Kind Regards, Z.

Dave said...

Obviously I don't walk in design circles, I had to look up what you meant by the Tropicana debacle and by extension the Pepsi redesign.

I can certainly understand what you say when you state that a business should be aiming for a custom logo. But then how do you quantify to a client the difference between a $100 generic logo and a $1000 custom logo design and a $30,000 logo design? How do you educate the client as to the benefit? Will a generic $100 logo mean they have 0.3% of the business for the $30,000 logo.

This ability to sell to a client is something that is true in any industry. I work in IT and I come up against the same thing. When i dicuss a design which will cost $X and provide 99.9% up time and fault tolerance I have to convince them it is better for their business that one which costs $X/10 and only provides 99% uptime. How do I do that? By pointing out that that the missing 0.9% means a direct loss of sales worth $Y and indirect loss of sales of $Z because a customer will not see them as reliable, or some such argument.

As I see it for some businesses, the logo is a key (certainly not the only key) to their business identity and as such they are willing to spend a lot of have one created which is unique and recognisable. They might care what the colour represent and the number of cirles and the shapes and the font used, etc. For Joe's Pet Shop he doesn't have such aspirations, he just wants a cute cat that he can put on his sign out the front and his stationery. He could just use clip art from MS Publisher (shudder ...), but he wants something at least a bit different. As a designer, how do you market to him? How do you convince him that a cute clip art cat isn't really going to represent his business? Perhaps you point out that any other business could also use that cat and the confusion involved, or you could point out how the cat only represents part of his business. If he is resistant to spending thousands, how do you keep his business and build a relationship that might lead to more work from him later or his friend who owns the lawn business?

As I see it, logos from iStock are not the be all and end all of a relationship, they are a foot in the door, a stepping stone and it's also another way of getting your work out there. Imagine you have a bunch of sample logos on iStock, a buyer who you would never met otherwise contacts you and says I like your work, can you design me a custom logo?

Nicole Block said...

z, you are correct. a company can buy a logo for $100 from istock. that makes it $50 to the designer (hence the $50 statement). if you read my above comment, you will see it stated as $100 there as well. i don't see this as much better, but i appreciate the correction.

and regarding "brands", a logo is traditionally and should be continued to be created as part of a branding system. a logo is created as an integrated part of a system, not just a stand-alone element. it is generated based on the company's specific needs, goals, and personality. a logo should also be a brand -- if the logo is created effectively, it will speak for the brand.

furthermore, logos are not just the symbols that are created with them. but they also integrate the name. a new company cannot stand on their symbol alone. and therefore the idea of "stock logos" does not work, as you cannot use stock type and therefore cannot create a complete logo.

it is not out of simple frustration that i restate most of this (though frustration is a motivator). no company should be led to believe that a logo stands alone, and therefore can be a circle with a swoosh and it's done.

thanks for your comments Z.

Nicole Block said...

"Dave said...

Obviously I don't walk in design circles, I had to look up what you meant by the Tropicana debacle and by extension the Pepsi redesign.

I can certainly understand what you say when you state that a business should be aiming for a custom logo. But then how do you quantify to a client the difference between a $100 generic logo and a $1000 custom logo design and a $30,000 logo design? How do you educate the client as to the benefit? Will a generic $100 logo mean they have 0.3% of the business for the $30,000 logo."

hello again dave.

it's really not about what you provide for the money, but rather what a logo might be worth to the company as it stands. a fortune 500 company would pay more for their identity system than a local pet shop (to use your example). their budget is higher, their returns are bigger, their audience is larger and more affluent. therefore, their logo is worth more to their business and worth more to you as a designer.

while i don't think that the local pet shop should have to pay $30k for an identity system, i do think that paying $500 to $1k for their logo is not out of the realm of reason. this is something they would purchase for the long run, to appear on their business collateral, to get them known around town, to place in their ads, to hopefully propel their business forward. therefore, yes, something better than the generic cat face would be necessary.

i'm not trying to close out small businesses. quite the contrary. i'm a small business. i just want business owners to understand why designers are worth paying for. and sites undercutting us aren't helping our reputation.

Z said...

Hi Nicole! Well, I definitely don't want to start an argument here, but since we are already discussing this... I did re-read your post and I still think that in order for your $50 statement to be able to hold any water, you would have to reword the following part: "you can get your brand for $50" to something like: "you can get your logo for as little as $100 ($96 really) out of which the contributing author (designer?) gets a 50% cut". I'm saying this, because the costumer still has to pay the full price of 100-750 credits, regardless of what the designers commission is. I also think it would be fair to your visitors to mention that 100 credits price point is just the lowest point at which only the most basic logos will be priced, while the prices will be ranging up to 750 credits (and possibly more, since iStock did say they are willing to consider changing their pricing structure given that we provide them with constructive feedback as to why they should). I do understand that your post is more of an initial reaction, a rant really, but by being informative (by sticking to the facts) you will still get your point across, while you won't be misinforming your visitors, which I'm sure you don't want to anyway. Take care, Z.

Nicole Block said...

fair enough z. i've edited my original post.

thanks for the feedback.

Stevie G. the RDQLUS One said...

Hmmm… I think the scariest factually stated point for all designers is "$5" for submitted logos to have a CHANCE at one of your logos getting selected from potential millions. You know what we call that? SPEC WORK! Fact! Beyond any argument that is "spec". Look it up. IF you "win" by getting a logo chosen, then you can start discussion about final pricing. But if you are NOT selected, you just got 5$ to enter a spec work contest with your work that--even if it took you only half an hour--is worth more than 5$!

Like Logoworks or other sites you will see a few individuals get selected time and time again, while the vast majority sit waiting anxiously with their golden 5$ in hand, fingers crossed, all hoping they are worthy of going halfsies with iStock on a payday.

Just my take, respectfully…

Haiku Harry, The Kamikaze Contributor said...

all this quibbling over what the actual fees and payoff for the client/designer is meaningless-- if their _top-end_ package hits the ceiling at 750 credits, the price is still a serious undercut to any fee a professional design studio (or freelancer for that matter) would charge for a logo design study.

and while the assertion that this service might fill a niche for small scale clients and provide a designer with a "foot in the door" is, on the surface, a promising scenario (and, generally, not at all accurate), it still _devalues_ the industry on a whole. To "Dave's" point, if you think trying to educate a client about the value of design is already difficult now, it certainly isn't going to get any easier if cheap logo sites become ubiquitous.

Dave said...

For what it is worth I agree that 100 credits is probably too low at the low end and 750 credits is probably too low at the high end. I have stated that respectfully in the thread on iStock and based it on the fact that if I wanted to be paid $50/h as a designer I'd have to be churning out quite a few logos and hour to get that.

In response to Stevie G, I think you might want to reconsider whether or not it is spec work. If you think it is spec work then it would appear you are out of touch with how AIGA views it. See here

It would also seem that you misunderstand the nature of "stock" work. By it's nature stock photographers, illustrator, videographers ... (whatever those sound guys are called) produce work which may or may not be sold. The skill is identifying trends and needs without the client having to spell it out for you. Of course it is different from meeting with the client and learning about them and doing a custom shoot, but it is no less a skill. Some are very good at it, most aren't.