Steve Douglas on January 23rd, 2015

snippets note jan 18

The best, notable and interestingly dubious happenings of the week. 99designs vs. Fiverr, the Canada 150 freak out continues, a couple of new logos, a particularly brilliant one, some slam poetry and other random stuff.

The holidays are but a distant memory, our best of, worst of lists put away for another year. We’re now officially in the doldrums of January and not too much happening on the design front. But it’s still EOB Friday, time for another Snippets and a look back at the week’s events.

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Steve Douglas on January 23rd, 2015

most infamous logos

How simple graphic design missteps and a phenomenon called pareidolia, turned three innocuous logos into the poster children for worst logos ever.

There are logo lists all the time. Top this and that. Best logos. Rebrands of the year. The most valuable logos. Every permutation you can imagine. The most popular tend to be “Worst Logo” lists. There are tens of thousands of blog posts. “Worst logo fails” is a common lead-in to Tweets on Twitter. Everyone loves to harp on logos they perceive as “bad,” “worst” or “fail” and if you check those blogs, or click on the Tweets, you’ll invariably be taken to a gallery of impossibly stupid logos. There are three that are featured on almost every single one. They get added to new lists all the time and you’ve probably seen them repeatedly. We wrote about them back in 2008. Two have been kicking around the internet at least as early as 2005. They are, in every sense of the word, ubiquitous when it comes to “how not to design a logo” features. Let’s dissect them.

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Steve Douglas on January 22nd, 2015

biohazard logo symbol

The instantly recognizable logo for biological hazards has an interesting history. It’s also an exquisite bit of graphic design.

So you think you know logosThe biohazard logo, or symbol, is ubiquitous for biological hazards – kinda the point I guess – and is instantly recognizable to mark nasty infectious stuff anywhere on the globe. It’s been on TV screens a lot these days, most notably during the Ebola outbreak of last fall where it was everywhere – especially on news channel chyron graphics used to trumpet the outbreak that never quite broke out. I even used it myself lately in this post (though arguably a little over-the-top, I did tweak it a bit so I wouldn’t be accused of being ahm, over-the-top.) It was actually that exercise that got me thinking this is one of the most recognizable logos on the planet, and yet I knew exactly nothing about it. I’d done a series of “So You Think You Know Logos” before, and yet somehow missed this one. Let’s change that. First up, the designers. The symbol was created by Charles L. Baldwin of Dow Chemicals and Robert S. Runkle of the National Institutes of Health way back in 1966.

Baldwin had been working with Dow Chemical in developing containment systems for the Cancer Institute at the NIH, where he had noticed there were loads of different warning symbols in use. He figured this variation was actually dangerous – people couldn’t be expected to know the full range of icons and labels – so he set about designing a universal symbol with the help of the Dow packaging design team. The logo wasn’t designed with any symbolism in mind – rather it had to be meaningless – but it needed to be memorable for easy adaption.

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Steve Douglas on January 21st, 2015

thinking of running a logo contest head image

If you’re contemplating turning your logo design project over to the crowd, you should probably read this first. A definitive look at the mechanics of design contests – why they work, some reasons why they don’t and some very real issues you should be aware of, but probably aren’t.

We can start this decision tree with one simple question.

“Do I need a logo?”

If you’re reading this, your answer is probably yes. Ask this one too:

“Do I believe my logo is important enough to require the services of an experienced design professional?”

If the answer to that is “yes,” you probably don’t want a logo design contest. If you don’t really care one way or another – you just want a decent logo – ask yourself this:

“Do I need to see a lot of design options, many of which are completely unusable, just for the sake of seeing a lot of options?”

If that seems silly, you probably don’t need a logo design contest either. A cacophony of proposals, especially if a lot of them aren’t great, can be visual noise that actually hinders the development process and burns up time. If viewing a ton of options is still your thing, or a barometer that you use to gauge “value,” then a logo design contest might be up your alley. There are two ways to go about this.
choices of logo design contest types
The first is pretty straightforward – ask people to submit logos to you. Pick one. Award a prize. This is your typical, organic logo design contest. It will require you to have some base – fans let’s say – to draw from. The other is how things take place on commercialized design contest sites – platforms like 99designs, Design Crowd, Zillion Designs, Crowdspring and a host of others. They often refer to design contests as “Crowdsourcing,” part of the so-called “Shared economy,” also known as the “Collaborative economy” or whatever people are calling it today.

“[The design contest] model short-circuits the promise of crowdsourcing.”
Jeff Howe
Author who coined the phrase Crowdsourcing.

Well, that’s awkward.

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Steve Douglas on January 20th, 2015

logo design contest explainer head image

A follow-up to our Logo Design Contest game infographic, this companion piece is a flowchart of the process, from a buyer’s perspective.

ICYM last summer, this started when we posted a monster-sized infographic on logo design contests, as they play out from a designer’s POV. It was a snarky, fun little project and we received quite a few comments about it on the Twitz and what-not, most of them positive. One quibble was that we should work one up from a client’s perspective, a decent idea and all, but something that turned out to be a lot harder than it should have been. The key to an infographic is to keep it simple and straightforward, not terribly easy when it comes to logo design contests, especially those on commercial platforms. They are some seriously messed shiznet to figure out, understand and then try to flowchart.

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