Hanging a shingle on the Internet doesn’t take much, showing logos in your portfolio should mean you designed them and oh yeah, ebay logo auctions..

Business owners turning to auction site Ebay for logos and design services was always a little perplexing. Not that I have anything against Ebay itself and have been, at many times, an enthusiastic Ebay shopper. During the occasional bidding frenzy, I’ve purchased everything from model train accessories and R/C helicopters to obscure 12-inch vinyl singles and Star Wars toys – but logo design auctions seemed, at the risk of sounding snobby or elitist, a tad unseemly. Other than the opportunity of getting a so-called ‘logo’ for a budget price, what would be the real benefit to the ‘client’? Alas, probably none. Hell, you can’t even be sure that the ‘designer’ you’re dealing has the graphic bona fides they’re boasting.

The never-ending game of ‘cat and mouse’.

Over the years, we’ve been involved in a constant cat-and-mouse game with so-called ‘designers’ who pinch stuff from our design portfolio, throw them up on an ebay auction page, and hoist a shingle offering ‘professional logo design’ services or some such. Comes with the usual malarkey that such outfits like to promise – unlimited revisions, etc, etc. Dealing with this nonsense became so time-consuming – and the steps involved to get a ‘take down’ notice issued so daunting – I threw in the towel a few years back (and never even wrote about it until now.) Despite the teeth-grinding gall of it all, I had more important stuff to deal with, and at the end-of-day viewed these auctions as a massive illustration of Caveat Empor.

You buy $50 design services off Ebay at your own peril.

Knocked off samples

Looks like things haven’t changed a bit. Went on Ebay this morning, typed in the search phrase ‘logo design’ and within two clicks had found a seller who had ‘borrowed’ logo design samples off our site, slapped them on an ebay page and fired up an auction offering $79 design services. ebay-flat-working64-colorsSomewhat cheeky granted – in a case of breathtaking irony the image was nicked from our our copyright page – but is this really a big deal?

Small picture – no, of course not.

On a case-by-case basis (the example above included) it’s more of an annoyance than anything else. But it does involve some issues that might just be a ‘big deal.’ Especially if you’re serious about branding your enterprise, which is what this is supposed to be all about.

A designers’ portfolio is sacrosanct.

Property rights notwithstanding, a designer’s samples are a calling card of sorts, illustrating how they tackled this or that project and more importantly, showing potential clients what the designer is capable of. If you’re using someone else’s design work as examples of your own, it’s design fraud – you’re not capable of creating the work you’re claiming (or you would have already done it.) And if you’re not capable of assembling a few (in this case, 9) examples of your own work for a logo design gallery piece, then it’s not a matter of being a bad designer.

You’re not a designer at all.

And if you’re not a designer, then you shouldn’t be offering ‘professional design services’ on ebay. Anywhere else for that matter. At least if ‘professional’ is meant to indicate a certain level of proficiency rather than simply ‘bought and paid for’. And not that these folks care, but this kind of amateur-hour nonsense pollutes the graphic design industry for people who do.

If a ‘client’ is buying logo design services through Ebay auctions (and business owners really should know better) then – all obvious risks aside – they should still be able to gauge a sellers talents and skills by the work presented.

Not someone else’s.

Which leads us to the heart of the matter – if any ‘designer’ is willing to misrepresent their background, are they really going to provide a decent design for $79? Is it going to be an original work, or something knocked-off from someone else’s trademark?

The ‘But It’s Only’ argument.

When presented with this argument, business owners may be tempted to use the ‘but it’s only’ rationale.

As in “But it’s only $50.” Or “But it’s only $79.”

Ordinarily, I’d agree with sentiment. Over the years I’ve risked paltry sums for the outside chance that the deal is legit. Some of the times I’ve been pleasantly surprised with a killer bargain. More often, my gut reaction was bang-on and had to use the ‘but it’s only’ defense when questioned by my ever-so-patient better half.

The cost of a logo is only the beginning.

Unfortunately, logo design is different. When you receive your wonderful new mark, it is the beginning of it’s usefulness, not the end. The design may have only set you back $70, but your new letterhead and business card printing will add to the expense. The embroidered golf shirts will cost hundreds. The vehicle wrap thousands. The packaging design lots of thousands. And so on. As it turns out, that $79 logo runs the risk of costing you a lot more money than you paid for it.

The ‘But It’s Only’ defense doesn’t apply.

In terms of the really big picture, these kind of antics blur the borders between decent graphic designers trying to make a living, and hacks out to make a quick buck, due to arguably fraudulent marketing. Trouble is, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for ‘clients’ to tell the two apart. Am I saying that all folks offering up logo design auctions are charlatans?

Of course not. But if my experience over the years counts for anything, a lot of them are. How does someone tell the difference?

Unfortunately, I don’t have the foggiest idea.


Despite taking steps to insure that the outfit shown above didn’t get picked up by search engines – naming & shaming anyone was never the goal – the owner still discovered this post and decided to chime in via the comment section. Makes for an interesting read.