Peace o’ Pizza | My search for a cheap logo, great pizza and world peace.

This was originally published as a five-part series from May 11-15. It was great fun, despite the design indigestion. Here it is in one really, really long story. If you make it to the end, I’ll buy you a beer.

Chapter One

Branding isn’t cheap, and it isn’t easy– for the designer or the client. But when done right, the investment is worthwhile. It’s a thrill and a privilege to be part of the launch of a company, a product, or even an idea. An enduring identity requires commitment from everyone around the table.  I believe it also requires knowledge of the market and competition, core characteristics and desired call to action, plus design history for context and perspective. And branding done right includes a creative brief, concept sketches, an understanding of type, color, shape and form, lots of open discussion, trust, time to finesse the details and an ongoing partnership. And, of course, talent. But that’s just my opinion.

The $29.00 scoff and scurry

In the past few years, the internet has been a breeding ground for “instant logos.” We’re an unlicensed industry, anyone with a drawing program can call themselves a designer.  We’ve seen them (and yes, scoffed at them)– name your price, submit your info, and anonymous designers scurry to develop as many ideas as they can muster.

createlogodesign

Scoffing aside, we’re in a recession. I don’t think any of my potential clients have traded me for a $29.00 logo, but it is our responsibility to stop scoffing and define the value that a  project with a higher price delivers, beyond sticker shock. If branding projects don’t show their potential beyond a shiny new logo, how can we blame our clients for doing some serious price shopping?

How bad can it be?
Is a quickie logo all that horrible, or is it the design equivalent of In-N-Out Burger (cheap, fast, satisfying)? And if designers are involved, it can’t be so awful, right?

I thought it would be amusing to visit the dark side. So (admittedly, without thinking this through) I became a cheap client looking for my hookup with the cheapest logo I could find. Sure, underpaid designers would slave for my imaginary business, but I’d learn what $29.00 would buy.

Step 1: Develop my business name and proposition.

I’ve been carrying a post-retirement idea in my head for several years. I live in a college town in need of cold pizza delivery on weekends. My original concept included an art car (for the record, an old mail jeep decorated with plastic McDonald’s toys and Barbie heads, blaring funky music). But this plan needed immediate implementation and called for some simplification, so I traded my imaginary jeep for a bright red bike.

Peace o’ Pizza delivers cold pizza and hot coffee on weekend mornings to college students, and even families who believe cold pizza is the best breakfast ever. My mode of transport is a three-wheeled bike, and eventually I’ll branch out to cookie dough-to-go. I will be the premier hangover-helper in my town. And I’ll be branded with a $29.00 logo.
____________________________________________________________________

Chapter Two

Fast, cheap and good. Pick any two.

Step 1: Name and business proposition in place, I do a little (very little) background work.

Step 2: Research Googled  and Go-Daddy’d the name, and I was in the clear. Hid my identity with a brand new gmail account.

Step 3:  Find the vendor
Googled “$29 logo” and picked createlogodesign.com. Special offer, ending tonight. Four logos from four designers, in one business day. I’m a little excited and want to hurry for this great deal. Pathetic? Perhaps.

“We understand how critical a logo is to the success of your business. We have a dedicated team of logo designers producing customized logo design solutions. We work diligently to capture the look and feel that you always desired for your logo. Our logos are stylish, unique and memorable. Till (sic) date we have designed more than 5,000 business logos. We do UNLIMITED REVISIONS until you are 110% satisfied with your logo. Your Satisfaction is Guaranteed!!”

Step 4: Fill out the form. It took nine minutes. I gave them my company name and description. “Fun, hip, friendly.” Then I got bold and added, “Possible franchise opportunities available.” I paid via Pay Pal.

The receipt came from a company called Kreative Fingers. Yes, with a K.

I started to feel sleazy. And not in a good way.  I Googled Kreative Fingers.

Yes, they are all over the world. UK, Kolkata, Nigeria.

kreativefingers_b

“We believe that there is no limit to imagination and as a client one can  create something which might seem to be a mere illusion. But that is where we “Creative Thinkers” can prove to be handy. We have the efficiency and belief to do it all for you. We have always been inspired by the thought of doing quality work which can have lasting effect in the minds of the client.”

I work with an NGO in Kolkata. I was in India a year ago and left part of my heart there. I am deeply committed to working with poor women and girls in India, and I think of them every day.  I am pretty sure someone is being paid $1 to work on my logo.

Now I’m definitely a little sick to my stomach.

I finally confess to my partner, Steve, what I’ve done. I start to worry. Not about my logo, but about the designers.

My fifteen-year old daughter tells me I have been scammed.
____________________________________________________________

Chapter Three

The morning after
Waiting for me, at 6:00 am:

Hi Kim, Greetings!!!

The team has worked on the first set of logos and they are looking amazing. So far we have designed five unique logos. I am sure you would love them.

Please click on the payment link below for $70 and we will come with 4 more logo concept draft. Over and above, we will be providing unlimited changes on logos untill  (sic) you are 100% satisfied with it. Please send us your feedback/suggestions on the logo set provided. We will get back with the revised new logo set within 24 hours. We would be glad to serve you.

Best Wishes!
Steffi,
Client Servicing

And my designs are indeed, waiting.

peace-opizza_260209

I am underwhelmed and somewhat relieved. What if they had actually been good? I am also a little grossed out by the olive+pesto+mocha combination these seem to imply. And my peace sign? The one I had imagined, but neglected to tell them about. Where is that? And what is hip and cool about any of this?

The good news is that it looks like only one person worked on this, so maybe he or she received a living wage. One can hope.

Steve tried to convince me that they weren’t so bad. You know, for $29.00.

Next steps, or next designer?

Well, I could give them real feedback, and more money, and get closer.  $70.00 for unlimited revisions, that could be a deal. Or I could shed my guilt and move on.

I consider gotlogos.com, home of the $25.00 logo. Or logonerds.com for $299.00.  Or logomakers.com and do it myself for free (pick from their icons and type, instant gratification).

I look at all of the sites, and I try to make the switch, and go even cheaper. I spend way too much time looking for the best deal. But I come to my senses and recognize this isn’t a good investment of time or money. I am flummoxed.

But I’m not ready to give up, and have another idea to pursue.
___________________________________________________________________________

Chapter Four

Commit to the crowd
Perhaps $29.00 was too low. Maybe I didn’t do my job as a client. I am ready to commit to doing cheap right (and not ready to admit that “doing cheap right” is an oxymoron), and visit the Ebay of graphic design, crowdSPRING.com. For someone with a life-long professional issue with spec work, I feel like I am going to the underbelly. Designers will be bidding for my project, but by designing for me. On spec.

Ouch.

The crowdSPRING site is clean and intuitive. I try to keep from being seduced. The copy is written in designer-speak. I am unexpectedly comfortable. I create an account and sign up. If I were a real client, I might think this is actually acceptable. As a non-real client, I still have my issue with spec work, but I am in.

They welcome me to the “community” and ask me to complete a creative brief, with real questions—the kind of background a designer would need  (just surface information, but it’s a start). They let me choose my contract (I choose none, but am happy they are working to protect designers). They even let me choose my fee. I pick $200.00  and they scold me that it’s low (yes, I know).

I hit “submit” and begin to imagine myself actually doing this business, despite the humiliation it would cause my teenager.

I expand my creative brief. After all, I have increased my investment, and want the logos to be good this time (well, maybe).

This is a new, fun business in a small college town, delivering cold pizza and hot coffee to college students (weekends only). The transport is a bright red three-wheeler bicycle. The logo will be used for fliers, business  cards, stickers, signage for the bike, and  t-shirts. We’ll promote on student websites and social networking sites. Possibly banners at sporting events. The audience is college students, in the dorms and around campus. Also, some families could find this a fun treat  (really, nothing is better for breakfast than cold pizza). The audience is young and hip. I want them to think this is fun, easy and affordable. Vintage look and feel is fine. I really want it to include a peace sign, but no smiley faces or rainbows.

They promise a minimum of 25 logos. I give them 4 days and my credit card number. I tell them to update me when there is activity related to my project. I try to feel ok about myself again.

Pizza delivery
Later in the afternoon, a few logos start to trickle into the “gallery” that has been set up for Peace o’ Pizza. Hand lettering, peace signs and pizza. Not a classy combination. And not helped by the corner “pick me” snipe. They ask me to “score” the logos with stars, and to leave feedback.

pop_11

At first I resist, because someone is giving up their time for my little boondoggle. And then I can’t help myself and respond with a few notes. I try to be kind, and treat the designers gingerly. I point out where the type isn’t readable, where the colors could use muting. I thank them for their efforts. Some logos can’t be improved, and I ignore them.

POP_Strip_2

I feel guilty again. More logos show up. Fifteen, thirty, fifty.

I am helping to perpetuate bad design.

POP_Strip_3

Eventually, I am weary. I am even afraid to check the gallery.  I write a public note and ask where the real typographers are. I wonder where the elegant solutions are. Clever, clean, smart. Is that too much to ask?

For $200.00, maybe it is.

__________________________________________________________

Chapter Five

Can Peace o’ Pizza be saved?

My fifteen-year old refuses to look at the logos in the Peace o’ Pizza gallery. She claims they suck. She is also concerned (and horrified) that I might actually launch this business.

POP_1_2

Steve looks at them, and just says “Wow, they aren’t very good, are they?”

POP_5_7

I wonder if it’s the name I chose. Or the creative brief I wrote. Maybe if I chose a spa instead of a pizza-cycle, I would have something classier.

POP_7_1

I check the other galleries. Buyers offering $300 have hundreds of submissions. There are spec ads here and packaging. And thousands of mediocre logos.

Back in the Peace o’ Pizza gallery, I find a few that are almost acceptable. I ask for a new type font. Make a few color suggestions. Discuss scale. Ten percent improvement.

POP_7_9POP_3_8

I lose my patience with someone who clearly just threw the logos together. I write to them, “This peace sign looks like you drew it with blood.”

pop_2

By the time my project closes I have 82 submissions. I no longer feel guilty.  I am annoyed. I appreciate innovative business models, and applaud anyone who can find new and  profitable ways to deliver creative services. But Peace o’ Pizza isn’t launching with one of these logos.  At least not in my town, where I would have to look at it.

I finally pick this one, despite issues with the type. It feels fresh and fun. It doesn’t annoy me as much as the others.

peace-o-pizza-proof-logo

It even makes me a tiny bit happy. Must be the mushroom nose.

I think I am done. It would hurt to continue, and I have hit my threshold of bad-design pain.

I get my files, and close the transaction. I send the designer a thank you, but I haven’t confessed to him. I may just let him live with the belief that somewhere in northern California, a 51-year old woman is riding a giant red trike, delivering cold pizza, branded with his logo.

Steve reminds me that if I was doing this thoroughly, we would treat this as a studio project, and he would design the logo. However, that would require proper research, and I am not up for that. Besides,  if I were conducting this experiment properly, I would also ask my sister-in-law to do a logo. She’s a trained psychologist, she’s clever and has a Mac, plus the Adobe CS software. That counts, doesn’t it? While I am at it, I could also ask my daughter who is in college (and the one in junior high, who claims she could do better).

Or I could have a contest and let you vote on your favorite.

But this has to stop. Now.

Is creative conflict the path to world peace?

I am conflicted about this. I like that designers have a new way to work. It’s a new economy and we need new business models. CrowdSPRING does seem to protect their rights. And they try to educate them on client interaction. That’s all good.

But the end result is that clients only get part of what they deserve. They are missing out on a creative partnership that will pay off in ways that far exceed their original investment. And they are missing out on beautiful type, well done. Design isn’t honored or valued, it’s just checked off. And the honor and value thing? That goes for the designers as well as the clients.

There’s more. As I am finishing my Peace o’ Pizza project, I discover incspring.com.

This is the stock photography business model. Pre-designed logos. You pick, you pay, you work with the designer to make the changes you want. Forget the creative mumbo-jumbo, just go in and grab your stuff and get on with the business of building your company.  The logos are much nicer on this site, the prices higher, but it just feels lazy. I don’t have the stomach to explore this.

Kim’s takeaway (and not the one in the pizza box):

A recession is no excuse to take the lazy way out. That goes for clients, and for designers. In fact, it’s the best reason to produce the strongest work possible and use the tools we have to differentiate our companies.

We are all in this together. To create great work and envision our futures–together.  Creative partnerships where we share our strategies, our ideas and our energy, are how we will all survive and thrive–together.

And that post–retirement pizza delivery idea? Thanks to the recession, retirement is a long ways off. I’ll have a new idea by then. But I am not giving up on world peace.

If this phenomenon of how low can you go bothers you, check out what others have written about crowdsourcing.  See Leighton Hubbell’s article on what you won’t get with crowdsourcing (via Quipsologies). And after I started this, I discovered Logo Design Love’s article on the $50 logo experiment (with perhaps with an even cooler business name, Cheeses of Nazareth).

And, if you have stayed with me for all five chapters of the story, thank you. I’ll buy the beer and the pizza.

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9 Responses to “Peace o’ Pizza|My search for a cheap logo and world peace”


  1. 1 David Boni June 20, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    Excellent, albeit horrifying, story. It’s nice to more fully understand this whole “spec work” thing. I feel extremely guilty for designing my first commissioned logo for $60.

    Also: There was a small restaurant near where I live with the same name (though it utilized all the hippy paraphernalia, including rainbows). No type of logo—perhaps they ran into the same problems as you did? It went out of business.

    • 2 Darby November 4, 2009 at 5:37 pm

      Wow – more designers should read this. Just when you think that the extent to which you have gone to validate your color choice is going to make you puke – you get the $26.00 logo. It makes the fight work fighting in my book. Good research.

  2. 3 Suzette November 8, 2009 at 12:52 am

    Is it too late for that beer? Heartbreaking, infuriating, and funny post, all at once. Thanks.

  3. 4 Ryan April 27, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Hi Kim,

    I think there may another point of view on crowdSPRING.com that you haven’t explored yet. There is no question that it seems to be a rip-off for the clients, but it seems to me that it could be a good learning tool for the designers.

    Students (and most of it looks like student work) who are posting logo development work regularly on sites like that are participating in a bit of real-world back-and-forth interaction with real clients. Maybe the next generation crowndSPRING should be created to be forthright about the fact that most designers involved are students. That would explain the low rates and serve as a great learning tool for up-and-coming designers.

    Consider your specific case from the students’ perspective: 80 students were able to submit designs to you for free, and then you paid to give some of them feedback on their work. YOU paid to give THEM feedback! haha! Again, bad business model for the client, but invaluable experience and “testing of the real-world waters” for students. I feel this kind of interaction is sorely lacking in programs today – it seems that much of the learning that goes on is centered around fantasy clients and made-up assignments. Easy to control the constraints for the teachers, but it would be nice if the students were more versed in dealing with real clients and their sometimes crazy behavior patterns. On top of that, practice makes perfect does it not? Well, maybe in this case, we might just have to settle for practice making “better” 🙂

    It’s the e-quivalent of going to the beauty college for a haircut. It’s going to be dirt cheap, but it also might look like crap 🙂 This seems to be the real issue with sites like crownSPRING – a more honest description of who you are working with and what you could expect to receive could really change your impression of it from a crap-factory scam into a useful tool for cash-strapped companies as well as a great training ground for young design school students.

    Any thoughts?
    -Ryan

    • 5 kimtb May 5, 2010 at 2:20 pm

      Ryan, thanks for your note. Yes, you are right…and I would feel better about it if it were called CRAPspring. But I do think this degrades the designer, the work and the client. I did give feedback, but it wasn’t thoughtful enough to be helpful. And our industry is at fault because we aren’t a licensed industry (like interior designers). Anyone can be a designer. Crowdsourcing provides cheap logos for sure. It doesn’t provide brand strategy or a creative partnership. But it’s up to us to differentiate ourselves and sell it. And my advice to students would be to find a real mentor, and real projects, even if they are pro bono. They will learn more and eventually be worth more. Because design is valuable…and so are designers. (I feel like Stuart Smiley…gosh darn it, we’re worth it! : ). Kim

  4. 6 Ramona Brown July 6, 2010 at 8:22 am

    I “Won” a contest at crowdspring and was never paid for it. Long story but the bottom line is “awarded and not paid”


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