Template & “Ready-Made” Logos

True story. Why template logos are. A. Very. Bad. Idea.

While we’ve been nattering on about the risks of template logos for quite a while now, here’s a perfect example of why many of these services should be approached with a great deal of caution.

When reading up on my daily dose of logo related news material, I noticed an electronic press release about yet another template service (rather than creating a unique identity, clients can select from a library of ‘logo templates’ – should be an oxymoron really – and slap their company name on the design. Trouble is, this same image can be purchased by dozens of other companies in exactly the same way). However, this template shop promised to be ‘better than ‘the rest’:

“Providing business owners and individuals with ready-made logo designs, xxx.com empowers them to have a professionally designed logo cheaper than ever before, and if they decide they must have their new logo at 4 AM, well xxx.com is there to serve them 24 hours a day.”

Fair enough. Normally, I would tend to disagree. A ‘ready-made’ template is a terrible way to develop anything to do with a brand but for the sake of this exercise, I’m gonna let it slide. Say I wanted to purchase a new, ahm, record company logo. Sounds good. Let’s select a template that is appropriate – say, this one:

Logo template taken from our online portfolio

Nifty. Its got earphones and stuff – perfect. And now, I don’t have to pay one of those lousy professional designers to create an original brand. But what to do? According to the good folks at xxx.com, I can either download the artwork for ‘limited use’ or buy it ‘outright‘ as an ‘exclusive‘ purchase.

Ordinarily, obtaining a new brand image is a time consuming and expensive process, requiring business owners to contract a graphic design firm or designer, with custom development costs ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars. It also involves the time to oversee and approve the entire process. Xxx.com offers exceptionally affordable prices ranging from $10 to $15 per logo(!) for a copy of the artwork, while optionally allowing the designs to be purchased ‘exclusively’ for $100-$150 per logo.

Buying template logo through Pay Pal

Sounds great. Now that you mention it, I am tired of ‘relying’ on graphic designers. And who can beat fifteen bucks? I’m on a tight budget, so I only plunked down $15.00 for non-exclusive ‘rights’ (which will become hilariously ironic in just a few seconds), paid through Pay Pal and downloaded the files (complete with user guide and fonts – hey, is that legal?) all presented as various digital formats of my new ‘logo’.

Exclusive or Non-exlusive. The choice is mine.

Waddaya know – it was easy. And they were right – I did feel ‘empowered’ – not having to rely on a professional designer or some ‘snooty’ graphic design firm. Who needs stinky professional designers anyway, when peachy keen el-cheapo services like these exist? On one hand, I might be worried that dozens of other folks would be using my new-found brand as theirs. On the other, for only US $149.00 I could buy it ‘outright’ so that it’s mine and mine alone. Waydaminnit. Once I bought the logo, shouldn’t that after negate anyone else picking it up as an exclusive rights logo? You’d think so. Strangely, after I checked out, it was still available to be purchased for exclusive ownership. Guess I’m missing the point on this non-exclusive vs. exclusive thing. Maybe the people who bought it before me are confused too. In any case, it appears that I more or less own the nifty little earphone character for use as my own logo. Awesome.

Only one small hitch. The logo is remarkably similar to a design that The Logo Factory® created for Diversity Records and a design that’s been on our web site for years. Actually, it’s not just remarkably similar. It is, in every shape, line and tone identical. And being a trademarked logo, it is the property of someone else (ie: our client).

The logo as it appeared in out portfolio

And that logo is not available (legally) for use by anyone else, exclusively or non-exclusively. So unfortunately (and $15.00 later,) while I believe that I can use this artwork for my new company logo, I can’t (it belongs to someone else) and am running the risk of being hassled by the true owners, or the original designers, the minute this ‘logo’ hits print. As this was all a bit of the blogging equivalent of ‘theater of the absurd’, I won’t be taking that risk. Unfortunately, unsuspecting clients of ‘logo template’ merchants may not find out their spanking new brand is a rip until it’s way too late.

Lessons learned?

For potential buyers of graphic design services – remember that old saying ‘Caveat Emptor’. And ‘desingery’ folks – if you’re going to open up a template logo web site, please remember that it is not cool to sell material that you don’t have the rights to sell. Nor is it cool to be (as they invariably put it) ‘inspired by’’ other people’s stuff and make like you designed it. It can potentially lead you, and your clients, into a world of hurt.

Now, wonder if I can get my fifteen bucks back…

The follow-up.

After sending an e-mail pointing out that the logo in question seemed to be, ahm, borrowed from our site, and that such practices are not cool, the mark quickly disappeared from the site. I also received a full refund for my $15.00 (thanks, guys!) accompanied by a rather snooty e-mail (considering the circumstances)…

Hi Steve,

I must say that first of all, I completely apologize for the inconvenience that was caused. You should know that I rely on a few designers to complete the various products we sell on xxx.com and while I personally approve every product that we put up for sale, there is no way for me to verify where the inspiration for a particular design may have derived from. Comparing the two designs, it is quite obvious that there are strong similarities, but at the same time, it is not a direct copyright violation as our logo was created from scratch and we do have all original source files. I will accommodate your request and remove the product in quest(sic), refund your payment, and discuss positive business practices with all my designers, as I would rather avoid such incidents in the future.

As for the rest of your comments, I do appreciate your advice, but I would leave the decision making to myself as I do find them a bit inappropriate in nature. How we promote, sell and distribute our products is our concern, not yours. The internet in nature is a global market, and I do believe there is enough market share to go around without the need to step on each others toes.

Have a great day.

Best Regards,

XXXX XXXXXXX

xxx.com

Too big to get it right?

Well, I could argue that while I have no interest in how these dudes distribute their products, it’s of great interest when somebody tries to distribute something which could be described as our products. Or those of our clients. I could also argue that it’s not my concern that their ‘model’ does not have adequate safeguards to avoid this kind of thing – might want to print that on their web site – and that this claimed lack of vetting (if true) is an inherent weakness of the logo template business model itself. I could also argue that this is a little more than a case of ’strong similarities’ but downright logo copying, the expressed opinions on copyright verge on cluelessness (having possession of ’source files’ has no bearing on copyright whatsoever) and that it was our humble studio that had our “toes stepped on” in the first place. But I won’t.

Now, wonder if I should buy that boat logo..

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