Design is not a democracy

Design is not a democracy

The consulting company X had decided that they need to update their brand as it was out-of-date and gave misleading impression about the company.

The former director of sales had an idea to use crowd-sourcing for the logo part and agency for the rest of the design. The rest of the management section went even further with the idea and wanted to have a poll for the crowd-sourced logo contest in order to get consensus how the company looks and feels from employees perspective. The idea was noble, but unfortunately doomed from the start.

Design contest begins

New contest was created at a popular design crowd-sourcing site 99designs.

Those who are not familiar with the concept:

  1. you fill an online brief
  2. choose how much you want to pay
  3. multiple designers starts to work on your case
  4. give feedback
  5. changes are made
  6. pick winner or jump to point 4 & 5 until satisfied

New entries started to pour in and there were a lot of dispersion on the quality and also in the understanding of the brief. This was of course expected as there were tens of designers with different work histories, backgrounds and cultures working on an assignment. Over 100 different logos (many of them were variations of a "base" logo) were contributed.

Two-thirds of the entries were already discarded by the management when the voting began inside the company.

Voice to the people

The poll was sent to all (around 40) employees and each could give a single vote for their favourite logo. After few weeks the winner was found.

I can't go to details, but it was the company's name in dark gray with some sort of scythe's blade forming from one of the letters. Think Amazon and it's line under the logo, but on the top of the text and looking like a blade.

If you looked only from graphics perspective it was quite cool looking, but unfortunately it didn't fit to the development consulting firm at all.

Taking voice from the people

The management understood that the employees had chosen the logo with different mindset that they had thought. The logo was not good for the company and the democratically picked end result had to be discarded.

The management chose strategy called: Amnesia.

Time passed and nothing was heard regarding the logo and brand. Employees focused on their work and gave hope on the logo project.

It took months and then there was an update. Conservatively updated logo was revealed and it was made by a design agency.

The lesson

In a smaller company there should be one person who should take responsibility on brand update and the rest of the team should support it's implementation.