Steve Douglas on April 8th, 2010

logo raiders

In the cut-throat game of online logo design marketing, some companies are using logo raiding, a tactic that creeps closer and closer to the boundaries of ethics, and perhaps treads over copyright itself.

The Logo! Factor for designersLatest trend in the online logo design game? Logo Raiding. Never heard of it? You have now. That’s when blog publishers (often producing the blog as an SEO ‘booster’ for another target site), raid logo galleries or portfolio sites (the popular Logo Pond is a favored source, Brandstack is another) for dozens of logo examples from other designers. These logos are then assembled in a keyword drenched post that’s only purpose is to score high ranking in search engines, usually wrapped around some weirdly nebulous logo ‘theme’. Say ’50 emotional logos’, ’20 logos with movement’ or ’60 really cool coffee logos’. Or strange thematic battles that feature ‘This Type of Logos’ versus ‘These Types of Logos’. When people are looking for say, ‘emotional’, ‘movement’, or ‘coffee’ logos in Google or Yahoo!, they’ll find these pages. Like any kind of search engine marketing, this is to get eyeballs on a page. And convert those eyeballs to paying customers.

No credit, no link, no gain

Trouble is, the designs are usually presented without credit or linkage, and any benefit goes solely to the blog hosting the logos, and then onto the target site, either directly via a link, or indirectly through inbound link love. And while the site, or company, using the logos to boost their search engine rankings don’t exactly claim that they designed the logos, they don’t exactly ‘fess up that they didn’t. A perfectly reasonable person might assume they did, so guess who they’re going to ask to “design a logo like this one”? The site hosting the raided logo, or one of their linked ‘partners’, usually a universe, and often a continent, removed from the designer that actually designed it. Usually the company that actually owns, and operates, the blog in the first place.

In use corporate logos vs. concept designs

It’s not like these sites are using the marks of giant corporations (something which we’re all cool with I suppose). Designers write tons of blog posts that critique corporate logos, often quite savagely. So, what’s the difference with logo raiding? That’s the easy part. Most of the logos raided from online logo galleries are ‘concept’ logos, and as such, still the property of the designer. Bottom line, designers’ ‘raw’ work is being used, without credit, permission or link love, to promote another website and the logo design company that’s behind it. I don’t imagine ‘Fair Use’ would cover the practice either. From what I understand, uncredited use of others’ work, for commercial gain, remains taboo, DMCA or not. And from were I sit, this use ain’t very fair at all.

Using competitor’s work to compete against them?

While I get the whole design community ‘we’re in this together vibe’ these sites try to germinate (usually by going to extraordinary lengths to hide their true ownership), the naked truth is most of these blogs are run by cut-throat bastards who are using the work of their competition to promote themselves via search engines. They’re not trying to promote the designers presented, nor send link love or actual business their way. You know, in a quid pro quo hat tip for use of the work. And while sites like Logo Pond and Brandstack feature profiles and links and contact methods for potential clients, on these “40 best logo” posts, the designers aren’t even mentioned.

Displaying design work is for promotion

Oddly, I’ve read comments from some designers stating they’re “honored” to be featured in these spurious gallery pages. Not sure why anyone would be honored by a potential competitor using their logo design work, especially when the designers aren’t credited, nor their sites linked to. Their profiles on the page, save the logos themselves, are non-existent. As far as I understand this internet marketing thing, promotion is the main purpose of showing logo design examples in the first place. More often than not, the designers featured have no idea of the real purpose of the post their work is presented on. Or who’s really doing the presenting. And while it may be cool to see one’s logo ‘in lights’, the promotional gain for the use is zero. Even weirder, the copyright notices on these blogs, usually blanket statements at the bottom of each page, technically claim copyright for the logos presented above it.

Nature of the web

Am I being nit-picky or absolutist? Perhaps. I must admit I do like control of my work. And yes, like many design blogs, I sometimes feature logos that I really like, but I always try to ask permission first, and if that’s not possible, try to track down the designer so that I can at least credit them. Maybe send a little business their way. That’s the ebb and flow nature of the internet and online design marketing. We all pinch a little, stitching various bits and pieces of other people’s work into our own, unique posts and articles, presumably with credit via a mention or link. The designs used in logo raider posts are the post. It’s simply a cynical ploy to pepper search engines using other designers’ work. Without asking to use that work. Or to credit for it. So why would supposedly legitimate logo design companies lift, en masse, other people’s work to feature as wonky galleries on their blog? For the answer to that, we need to understand why these companies hide their identities in the first place.

Why all the subterfuge?

Before spec work and logo design contests started taking some of the heat, many graphic designers were fundamentally opposed to online logo companies. Hated ‘em all. Yes, even our humble shop, referring to the genre as “logo mills” and “logo factories” (the latter one’s unfortunate, especially when your company name is The Logo Factory). It’s something that we’ve kinda put up with over the years, but other than a couple of flame wars here and there, we’ve nestled into our own little niche in the design community. Other companies think, perhaps with some validity, that designers opposed to the business model wouldn’t engage their main sites, and thus they’d miss out on all the benefits of such engagement. No comments, no inbound links and in the era of Twitter and Facebook, no social media love. Solution? Create a pseudo-entity (or entities) that while hiding all ties with the mothership, aim the SEO benefits towards it. Designers, none the wiser, link to the blog, join in the comments and ‘retweet’ posts they like around Twitter. It’s pretty cynical, but it works. Pragmatically speaking, these disguised blogs aren’t supposed to belong to the target company, so they can’t use their own work ’cause If they did, the jig would be up. Trouble is, a blog needs content, multiple blogs need lots of content and producing original material is extremely time consuming (one of the reasons for blog content scraping, which some of these sites also engage in). Raiding other logo gallery sites is so much easier. Taking minutes vs. hours, it’s cheaper too. These 20, 30, and 40 best logo posts all follow the same format. An somewhat oddly worded introductory paragraph that pitches the supposed ‘theme’. Then 30 raided logos plastered over the page. It is an exceptionally effective way to produce blog content and in this era of ROI (Return on Investment), the ROI on these posts is phenomenal, especially when it comes down to search engine penetration, the primary purpose of the activity. Accordingly, logo raiding is starting to be used by a lot of pseudo design blogs (belonging to other companies, they’re more splogs than not) and I’m not the only one who’s noticed. David Airey wrote an excellent post about the practice last week.

I don’t think it’s the last we’re going to hear about it either.




Related Posts

  1. Do you know who’s designing your logo?
  2. Publish a blog? Here’s why websites that scrape content are a pain. Why you shouldn’t do it.
  3. Again with the design contests
  4. Logo review sites. Part deux
  5. Logo Design Splogs (*sigh*).

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17 Comments to “Logo Raiding”

  1. Oh Great article…
    Thanks for sharing this

  2. Duane Kinsey says:

    Nice post Steve. I agree it is an exceptionally easy way to get ROI. That is the problem these days.
    There is a large part of the design community that don’t see blogging as producing original, thought-provoking posts (like this one). They would prefer to take the easy way out by logo raiding (without giving credit to the creator) and rehashing the same crap over and over again.
    The thing that frustrates me is that it is these “fluff” posts that are getting the most airtime. They are the post that people are sharing the most – in-turn enabling the author to get the most back links into their site. It has become a vicious cycle.
    Keep posts like these coming. Great stuff!

    • Steve Douglas says:

      @ Duane Thanks for dropping by. Alas, you’re right. These kinds of posts do work (though they often don’t have any real legs in terms of readership). People tend to move them around social media platforms like Twitter (in a constant search for more content to ‘tweet’) pretty fast. Trouble is, these posts are designed to be ‘quick and dirty’ and crediting the designer is both counter-productive (sending link love outside the host site) and time consuming. Most of the sites that are indulging in this have large databases of designs they’ve saved from various galleries. They’re organized by category (restaurants, sports, etc) for quick access. Keeping track of who designed what is a little more difficult than organizing image file folders.

  3. This post is dead-on and I will be using the term “Logo Raiding”.

    I only started to blog about designing last year and I figured it was a good way to share my ideas and work. I was completely surprised when I started searching for graphic design blogs and found this trend. I would say that a majority of the time, all I found were these types of blogs “raiding” various content and building up their site’s hits.

    In my opinion these blogs are a total scheme, but I see why some designers get a false sense of optimism from the whole thing. They probably notice a spike in their site’s activity and enjoy the publicity. But I bet they don’t generate new business from this type of showing.

    I find that producing original content helps me grow as a designer. It builds on critical thinking and gets the creative process bubbling.

  4. Thanks for this post.

    Being rather less experienced at the blog game, I had noticed this trend, but had never been able to figure out why these posts were so popular. I had just figured it had to do with a lack of originality in coming up with new content. Now it makes sense.

    I can’t tell you how many of these inspirational logo posts I’ve gone to check out, just to see if my work is in the collection. As you mentioned, it is not often that a link or my name has been included. Most of the time, I make a comment and state which logo is mine, just to make my claim clear.

    I often struggle with what kind of content I should produce to keep up with the voracious appetite of design-interested readers and must admit I had thought once or twice about a post like this. My reluctance was the ethical one you mentioned about attracting potential clients with others’ work. I’m glad I abstained.

    Whenever posting others work or writings in my articles, I am always making a concerted effort to make sure my readers know where it came from. Although it takes a bit more time to produce more original content, I think I’ll try and stay that route.

    • Steve Douglas says:

      @ Leighton Thanks for the comment. What I’ve found is this ‘best of’ posts get a lot of heat (from Twitter retweets and what not) but they don’t have any real legs (they don’t get linked to in other blog posts or mentioned in other articles). Their benefit is fleeting. Original material may not get as much ‘quick’ action, but they have much more longevity in terms of readers and mentions. It’s a bit of a pain to come up with original material on a regular basis (I’ve been tempted to throw together a ‘best list’ post on numerous occasions, but like you, always resisted). I’m a regular reader of your blog and it features content that’s your own, and that’s much more interesting than the regurgitated work of others.

  5. Good post, I’ve seen some pages like what you said, I’m going to revisit some to see if they have any credit to the designers. Thanks for the info.

  6. Leon Poole says:

    Love the term ‘Logo Raiding’!!

    I’ve noticed a lot of (what I call) ‘logo showcase’ themed blog posts too without designer credit. To be honest I do like blog posts that showcase good logo work, but you’re right that designer credit is often lacking. Next time I come across it I’ll definitely speak up.

    • Steve Douglas says:

      @Leon Glad you like. It’s a pretty apt phrase for what’s going on I think. Blog posts that showcase good logo work are great, but it’s the intent of the post that’s driving this issue. As the posts are for SEO penetration and rankings for particular keywords, it would be counter productive to feature credits or links (why spend all the effort to get people to a page, and then invite them to leave, to a potential ‘competitor’)? I’m all for promotion and marketing, and if these posts would credit designers, and toss a little link love their way, it would be beneficial to all. Trouble is, most of these logo raider posts are purely for the benefit of the publishing blog. Speaking up is great.

  7. I totally agree on this post and with Leighton. Although I do visit these posts, it’s mostly to see if my work in included. Most of the time, when it is, there is no mention of me or my website and I will comment with all my info so that I can lay claim to the work, and SEO that is gained from the *free* use of my labor. I will say that it does feel nice to see your work included in these posts because it would mean that the author liked your work, but I’m starting to think that these posts are also blind copies of each-other too. Meaning, I rarely see different work in different posts. It would appear as though these authors are just taking what someone else deemed as “good” and ran with it instead of picking out their own favorites. This leads me to believe that these people are even lazier than originally expected. Anyway, just my two cents.

  8. If I’m reading this right, does this mean that these collections are from crowdsource websites, where unpaid, spec submissions for projects are displayed for all and sundry to view, rip of and redistribute?

    • Steve Douglas says:

      @MD Not necessarily from spec, contest or ‘crowdsourcing’ sites (though if we poked around, I’m sure we could find examples of that too). Most of the material we’re talking about is taken from logo ‘gallery’ sites like Logo Pond, Brandstack, et al.

  9. Blue Cuevas says:

    Wow! I have been seeing a lot of these lately, a number have included my designs with no credit. Hmmmm… sounds fishy. I remember seeing a series where hundreds of designs were used without any credit to the designers.

    Here are a couple of link, you might even find yours somewhere there:

    They credited the galleries where they took them but not the specific designers. That doesn’t really benefit the designers but just the authors.

    This is awful…

  10. Designers deserve credit for their original work. All artists should watermark everything that they put online for this exact reason. Watermarks can always be removed, but a drive-by content thief isn’t generally the sort to put forth that kind of effort. Path of least resistance and all that. “Top 10 so-and-so” and “Inspirational this-and-that” blog posts always reek of SEO content aggregation or a looming deadline for a blogger with writer’s block. Search engine results are completely bogged down with this kind of junk. Less frequent original content is much more intellectually valuable than a daily dose of stripped content, but a search engine spider can’t tell the difference. Quantity almost always wins out over quality when looking at any automated evaluative system.

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