Tuesday, August 23, 2005

If Customers Are Satisfied, Why Should We Care?

In the ever-growing saga of the LogoWorks debacle, a defense is now made by Jeff Kearl, chief marketing officer of Arteis, Inc. who employs designers to do the work for LogoWorks. Here's some excerpts from his defense of their business practices, found at the The Prepared Mind blog:

These designers are not college students being ‘exploited’. While there are a few young designers that we have admitted to the system most of our designers have 7-10 years experience. In addition, every designer must be recommended from someone in our system, must fill out an application and must submit their portfolio. We generally interview the designer by phone and accept less than 10% of the designers that apply to work in our system. We have designers that work at many of the top agencies in the world and have designed Fortune 500 logos. And while the designer compensation system cited in the WSJ might strike many designers as low or unfair, we have many contract designers making $40-65K per year. Just check your AIGA/Aquent salary survey guide for 2005 and you’ll see that on balance our wages are quite competitive with general industry pay rates.

Okay, so far so good. They are actually "helping" designers get fairly compensated. But do you know that these guys pay these designers about $30-$50 per logo? That's outrageous! How many logos does it take to make $65K? Assuming you are making $50 a logo, you must create 1300 logos, or 3.6 logos per day, everyday! I don't call that a good model for these designers. But he goes on:

In this case, none of the logos cited as copied in this post were ever sold to a customer. They were only concepts shown to customers to help identity what style of design the company was looking for...

...Many design agencies (including some of the best) have had to terminate designers for ripping other peoples work. The problem has nothing to do with the company. It has to do with dishonest designers. When you employ as many designers as we do there is a greater probability that we might get an occasional bad apple.

I would have to agree with his assessment here. But buyer beware. Volume increases the chances of this occurring. He also misses an important point here. Is he in business to help his clients, or to get paid by customers? Here's what he has to say:

Our prototypical customer would never even go to an agency. They are choosing between bad clip art templates or something they designed themselves. We bridge the gap between free and agency prices. We don’t claim to offer “brand strategy” or other consultative services. We don’t do in-person meetings. We don’t spend hours in a conference room brainstorming about brand positioning. Designers that do offer all of these services will always have a place in the market. You just have to realize that while they are important, some customers will simply never have the money or desire to pay for them. They just want fast, low-cost design that reflects their personality as a small business owner. To them that is quality.

So, there you have it. They fill a marketing niche: business owners who don't know any better, looking for a cheap solution. Not a business partnership; just providing a product for a buck. That business model is fine if the client knows what they are getting, but they are taking advantage of ignorance. And I have a problem with that. I actually care about my client's business success, and I work to win their trust, not to win jobs. Yes, I am in the business to make money, but not at the expense of my industry, my reputation, nor the client's reputation.

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