Shortest logo brief ever: “just don’t copy other logos”

propose a logo newspaper advertGraphic design briefs must be getting less and less demanding. Emphasis is mostly made on what the client wants and less (sometimes, nothing) on what, what they want should achieve.

I must admit, I hate the challenge that accompanies the visual communication discipline, the part where you have to spend a huge chunk of your time trying to convince and prove that graphic design is a necessary, worthwhile and rewarding investment to any business. This could highly be because, it’s hard to provide a client with accurate measure of their return on invest regarding professional design.

Clients with little or no knowledge, in regards to graphic design, are easily lured into practicing crowdsourcing. An act of taking a task that is traditionally performed by an employee, individual or contractor and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people or community in the form of an open call. The thought of tens, hundreds and thousands of design “options” is simply hard to resist, as the client thinks the more options they get, the better.
I think the only time where options are a good thing, is when one has the privilege to choose one graphic designer (or firm) amongst other good designers not having to select one of the thousands possible design solutions presented by a community — of which, the majority of the participants are not even graphic design students, they just have a copy of Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, GIMP or a trial version copy of CorelDraw.

Yes, graphic designers will try a whole lot of design options, but it’s the duty of the designer to choose what works best and present that to the client.

Most clients are usually living in this illusion, “I’m giving everybody an opportunity”, my questions is:
How is this an opportunity if you ‘hire’ thousands of hopefuls when only one is going to be remunerated for their efforts?

David Airey wrote a post “Logo design contests are bad for business”, so instead of recycling his post, I’d rather direct you to it.

Before I get carried away and forget to mention what pushed me to write this post.

I saw an ad on yesterday’s paper [City Press, 24 May 2009], the National Youth Development Agency, which is a merger of National Youth Commission and Umsobomvu Youth Fund, is apparently calling:

“We are calling for all South Africans under 35 years to submit a proposed logo for the newly established National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) in any format no larger than 3MB. You stand a chance to win R25 000 if your logo is adopted. The logo will become the sole property of the NYDA.”

And their logo design brief?

The logo must:

Apart from stating that the deadline is in about a week’s time, which gives the ‘participants’ 7 days, that’s it!

I’m sure that I am not the only person that feels that this is way to little information for a graphic/logo designer to work with, in order to develop a logo that is meaningful.

They then advise interested parties to visit for more information.

I went to their website hoping they’d offer more information regarding the logo design project proposal, but I failed to get anything regarding the project. I guess, they meant more information regarding the Umsombovu (one of the merging organizations), not the design brief’s specifications.

They are also inviting professionals to take part:


Is this move a result of a low budget? I don’t think so!

First of all, the R25 000 ‘price giveaway’ is not wow but it’s something most professional graphic designers can work with. Add to that money they have already spent on this competition; the cost to hire someone to design their print advert and the cost of the ad spaces across whatever number of publications they employed.


Once again, as a usual case of crowdsourcing, the client gives the “participants” way too little information, preferences or restrictions to work on. If this was a house building project, their brief would be equivalent to:

  • Preferably paint the house in our faviourite colours, white and blue.

  • Make the house different, let it not look like the Jones, our neighbours.

And then that would have been all. The “participants” have no solid idea as to what the client is looking for or at least what they wish their logo to communicate or reflect.

This reminds me of one of my faviourite quotes by Lewis Carroll:

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”