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A few weeks ago, a stream of tweets went out within my network about LogoGarden, the latest cheap logo design DIY site to pop up on the internet. What really drew my attention is the fact that many well-known graphic designers were finding logos that they had designed for sell on the site as icons. While the poaching of logos isn’t something new, the audacity with which LogoGarden repurposed some of the best examples of logo design from some of the most respected designers in the niche is. I spent a few hours thoroughly searching the site to make sure that none of my work had been stolen, and I was fortunate enough that it wasn’t. However, many of my friends, heroes and some of both weren’t so lucky. Jeff Fisher of Jeff Fisher Logomotives documented on his blog 20 of his creations that were being sold on the site as LogoGarden originals.

It’s disheartening to discover that John Williams, the founder of LogoGarden, is supposedly a leading logo design expert, who served as Entrepreneur.com’s branding columnist for five years. If he’s truly an expert then he would have a deep understanding of the strategy and client collaboration involved in developing a successful logo. Williams doesn’t even demonstrate a basic understanding of the keys to effective logo design — flexilibity, memorability, differentiation and timelessness. How do you differentiate yourself when you give everyone the same off-the-shelf options for their logos pared with a handful of fonts that aren’t designed with the logomark in mind? If Williams is an expert on logo design because he’s found a way to capitalize on other people’s creations, then I can honestly say that I’m an expert on fashion design in that I’ve sold used clothes in a garage sale. He is, in fact, an expert in finding a vulnerable market and exploiting the consumers and workers for his own profit.

The design community has done an excellent job of bringing the debacle to the attention of fellow designers, but we really need to spread the word to the client base of LogoGarden to discredit the founder, John Williams. I’ve taken time to search out any articles that John Williams has written for small business owners and start ups, and I’ve left comments warning readers about the dangers of LogoGarden. Many business owners may not be aware of the legalities associated with logo trademarks, and the best thing for us to do as designers is to educate them.

I also sent an email to John Williams through the LogoGarden site, and I was surprised when I received a response. Here’s his response in it’s entirety which looks to be a canned response sent to several designers.

“First, I appreciate you bringing this to my attention. To build our vast symbol library, LogoGarden.com contracts with designers nationwide and from around the world. Many of the symbols in question came from a small number of these designers.

If any of these symbols do indeed violate copyright laws, our policy is to extract them from our online symbol library immediately and to terminate contracts with the designers who submitted them. As a business practice, all the designers we contracted with signed a “work for hire” contract that guaranteed their work would be original.

Given the library’s size, although we do our best to ensure originality of our artwork, we can’t catch everything. And while sometimes a design conflict may be obvious, other times it’s a judgment call. We do our best.

We ourselves have issues with our logo symbols being copied, so we appreciate your concern and vigilance. In the future, if you find any symbols that you feel violate artwork you’ve designed and copyrighted personally, let us know.

Thanks for your understanding,

John Williams,

President, LogoGarden.com”

While I give him a little bit of credit for responding, I don’t agree with most of the email. In particular, I don’t see much evidence that the staff of LogoGarden scans any of the logomarks for copyright infringement. I understand that Williams and his staff can’t possibly know every logo design that is trademarked, but I do find it revealing that the World Wildlife Fund panda and the Time Warner eye are included as options. Both logomarks are highly recognizable inside and outside the industries that they represent. Also, the fact that they have their logos copied is laughable at best. Does that make those a third generation copy?

The response only opened further questions for me. Who is qualifying the logo designers that Williams is using? As I business owner, I know I wouldn’t just hire anyone because they can produce what I’m selling. Interviewing, references and a resume would be only a few of the crucial steps I would use to hire designers to represent my business. What happens to the stolen property that’s been sold through the site? While it’s great that he’s removing the copyrighted material, LogoGarden should also be responsible for contacting any businesses that have purchased the stolen material offering a full refund, and taking care of any legal fees associated with the use of the trademarked property for both the purchaser and the designer that created the original work. I would also question how upfront LogoGarden is about the fact that business owners won’t be able to protect themselves with a trademark from their DIY logo creation. Many of the icons are listed in multiple categories, and from what I can tell are not removed when a client purchases that symbol. To put this into perspective, your logo will not be unique. Hundreds of other companies can use the same icon for their company, and hundreds of companies will. Instead it looks like LogoGarden maintains the copyright to your icon, which is not how you want to start your business.

DIY logo sites sound like a great idea for the start-up business on the shoestring budget, especially with costs as low as $79, but the cost to effectively use a poorly designed logo backed by no strategy can put a company out of business in the long run. It’s important to realize that a logo is an investment in the long-term health of your overall brand rather than an item you check off of your brand grocery list. Working with a designer to develop a logo to take you through the first 5-10 years of your company’s life has a much higher value at a much lower cost.

The best thing that we can do as designers is educate our clients and prospects on the dangers of sites like LogoGarden, and to continue making as much noise about the issue as we can in the most professional way.

Other Posts Regarding LogoGarden (via Jeff Fisher)

The perils of do-it-yourself logo makers; The Logo Factor Design Blog – by Steve Douglas of The Logo Factory [08.15.11]

Thoughts on the Logo Garden controversy; by Dani Nordin [08.15.11]

Logo Garden Sells Logos it doesn’t Own; In Brief: August Miscellany – Brand New [08.15.11]

DIY, Crowd Sourcing or Piracy – You be the Judge; Drawing Conclusions – Prejean Creative [08.15.11]

Grand Theft Logo; Northwest Indiana Creative – by Judith Mayer of Keyword Design [08.16.11]

WWF panda for just $69; by David Airey of Logo Design Love [08.16.11]

LogoGarden Should Be Plowed Under; Drawing Conclusions – Prejean Creative [08.16.11]

More Logo Thievery; by Scott Lewis of Iconify.it [08.16.11]

How low can they go?; by Cathy Fishel, LogoLounge.com [08.17.11]

What is the liability of using stolen property for your business?; You get the idea, by Roland Murillo of Murillo Design [08.17.11]

Charlatan, Huckster, Moron, Thief!; Love Thy Logo, by Bill Gardner, RockPaperInk [08.18.11]

How to get your logos removed from LogoGarden.com; Drawing Conclusions, by Brent Pelloquin of Prejean Creative [08.18.11]

Logo Garden’s bitter harvest; The Logo Factor Design Blog – by Steve Douglas of The Logo Factory [08.18.11]

AIGA ACTION ALERT: Check LogoGarden for identity work stolen from you; from Richard Grefé, AIGA Executive Director, AIGA [08.19.11]

LogoGarden Responds Regarding Stolen Logos; by Scott Lewis of Iconify.it [08.19.11]

The Rape of the Bear Logo; by Sean Adams, Burning Settlers Cabin [08.19.11]

Dubious Mother F****r Stealing Other People’s Logo Work and Reselling It; The Denver Egotist [08.19.11]

Official response from LogoGarden.com; Drawing Conclusions, by Brent Pelloquin of Prejean Creative [08.19.11]

Logo Design Trend: Blatant Fraud; ohTwentyone [08.19.11]

AIGA Launches Action Alert for Design Theft by ‘Logo Garden’ Site; by Steve Delahoyde of UnBeige [08.22.11]

Graphic Artists Guild: Advocacy Alerts: LogoGarden.com may be infringing your work.; Graphic Artists Guild [08.22.11]

Leggo My Logo; by Jaci Russo of The Russo Group [08.23.11]

LogoGarden: Copyright and Do-It-Yourself Logos; by Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today (PT) [08.25.11]

LogoGate 2011; by Von Glitschka, Drawsigner [08.26.11]

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2010 Rewind books featuring the work of Creative SquallI thought with all of the year end wrap ups, best ofs and recaps that I’d join in on the fun and celebrate what has been an awesome year for Creative Squall. True it’s a little “pat yourself on the back,” but as my friend Jeff Fisher says “If you don’t toot your own horn, who will?” Honestly, while I’m proud of the achievements from 2010, I know that I couldn’t have done it without the great group of clients, friends, family and the inspiration that I get from the design industry that I’m happy to be a part of everyday.

I didn’t write the book on design, but I was fortunate enough to be included

This year marked the first year that I made a concerted effort to actually enter work into design competitions like the The Addy’s as well as submit work for publication. With the results, I’m not quite sure of why I waited almost 15 years to do so. Here’s the list in case you were wondering.

In addition, a wedding invitation design package was featured in May 2010 Issue of HOW magazine for the article titled “You’re Invited” on pg. 74 about paper selection for wedding invitation design. As a long time reader of HOW, I think this was the biggest moment for me all year. The same invitation design was featured on the Finch Paper blog, and appeared in 1000 More Greetings.

I had to draw the line somewhere

Mountain GoatsI completed the year long sketch of the day project in late July which helped me hone my drawing skills, let go of my need to polish everything and reminded me again of just how important music is in my life. If you aren’t familiar with the project, you can see what it’s about here and see what I spent an hour of my day on for over a year. I’ve just finished laying out the book version which includes some finished poster designs. You didn’t think I could let 366 sketches sit unpolished forever did you? I’m hoping to send the book to print in the next couple of weeks which will eventually be on sale at Blurb books. I’ll be posting more info soon.

Tweeting’s great, but talking’s better

I jumped on the Twitter wave in late 2009, and instantly made some great friendships — note I didn’t say connections. I had an opportunity at the HOW design conference in June to meet many of my Twitter friends in person for the first time. It really drove home how important it is to not only connect with people through social media, but make friends offline as well. Jamie Saunders from Neenah Paper has easily become one of my favorite people that I met this way. She introduced me to Jeni Herberger, Steve Gordon of RDQLUS Creative, Jeff Fisher of LogoMotives all of whom I have been following on Twitter and admiring their work for sometime. Jamie and Jeff were nice enough to drop some paper knowledge for “The Paper Cuts Series” on the Squall Line. Jeni and Steve are helping me out with my next blog project about creativity in non-traditional creative jobs which will be starting early next year. Don’t worry I’ll post details soon! But more importantly, I hope to meet many of you in person in 2011.

Next year will go to 11

From everything that I’ve seen and heard over the last few months, I think we’re all in for a big 2011. I hope to keep building on what started for me 2 years ago when I was laid off. So, pop open the champagne and join me in a toast.

Here’s to more awards, strong partnerships, and great friends — past, present and future.

Part 3 of The Paper Cuts Series

LogoMotives LogosThough the design industry has changed in many ways just since the 90’s, printing is still a thriving and vibrant source for connecting with consumers, and paper is the key. For this series, I’ve interviewed some of the best printers, paper reps, and designers to give their insights into how paper can strengthen your brand.

Jeff Fisher of Jeff Fisher LogoMotives has been designing logos and  corporate identities for three decades, and he’s witnessed the changes that design and more specifically paper have gone through, all the while maintaining a focus on print as a predominant part of brand identity. Jeff has seen it all, and done it all when it comes to graphic design, and he was nice enough to share a bit of his experience.

Give us a little background about yourself.

My career as a professional designer began in 1978 as the graphic designer for the advertising department of the daily college newspaper at the the University of Oregon, where I was a design student within the School of Journalism. In an economic climate much like today, when I got out of school there were few full-time design jobs to be had. Informational interviews with the principals of advertising agencies and design firms soon led to a lot of independent work coming my way. Eventually, one of my clients offered me an opportunity to join them in-house to create and lead a new design department. In addition, I was the art director for the group of medical publications. My next position was as art director for a Portland advertising agency. Following a move to Seattle, was I hired as the creative director for a clothing manufacturer. Each previous position gave me the experience necessary to go out on my own in 1987. However, it wasn’t until 1997 that I officially adopted the business name Jeff Fisher LogoMotives, and began focusing on identity design and branding.

In the last ten years I have found myself writing about design a great deal through blogs, design sites, and industry magazines such as HOW. I’ve also written three books on design topics: ‘The Savvy Designer’s Guide to Success: Ideas and tactics for a killer career’ (HOW Books, 2004, re-released as PDF on CD, 2009), ‘Identity Crisis!: 50 redesigns that transformed stale identities into successful brands’ (HOW Books, 2007) and the upcoming ‘Logo Type: 200 Best Typographic Logos from Around the World Explained’ (HOW Books). Other books are in the works.

I’ve also been speaking and teaching about design, social networking and small business marketing for almost a decade. I often make presentations at design schools, universities, design conferences, AIGA chapters and business organization events. For a week this past June, I taught at the © CEDIM design and innovation college in Monterrey Mexico, something I would enjoy doing much more. In addition, I’m a member of the HOW Magazine Board of Advisors, HOW Design Conference Advisory Council and the Art Institute of Portland Advisory Council.

What first drew you to graphic design?

From the time I was five or six years old I was obsessed with art – and always told people that I was “going to be an artist when I grow up.” Of course, everyone discouraged me and told me I would never be able to make a living as an artist. Art teachers in junior and senior high took notice of my talents and abilities and gave me a great deal of encouragement to continue. In fact, after complaining that one of my high school art instructors had told me that I “wasn’t doing my painting right,” I was the first student put on independent study in art in my school district and my advisor, art teacher Ken Collins, had a huge impact in my determination to have a career in the arts. While a senior in high school in 1974, I came across the new book “Graphic Design,” by Milton Glaser, at my local public library. It gave a name to what I wanted to do and showed that someone could have a successful career in such work.

I began my formal graphic design education in the Fine Arts department at the University or Oregon in 1974. Frustration with the program led me to consider quitting school completely. It was suggested that I speak with professor Roy Paul Nelson, the author of well-known books on the design of advertising and publications, who taught in the UO Journalism School. In our first meeting he told me, “Get the hell out of the Fine Arts program and into the Journalism School where you can learn some marketable skills.” To be able to take classes in typography, advertising design, publication design and cartooning I was required to take all the journalism course work. All that I learned in the program still serves me well today. My junior year in college I started working professionally as a designer.

How does paper impact your design process?

I will often have specific papers, or a paper line, in mind throughout the design process. Colors, textures and other paper attributes are usually in my thoughts as I design an identity and consider possible colors and applications for the design. Often the desire for a specific paper color or texture will determine the paper to be used. I’ve appreciated situations where paper reps, or paper houses, have provided sample stocks – and even constructed mock-ups of some projects – allowing me to determine if my design and printing concept is evidence that I am completely out of my mind.

How has the way you spec paper for print projects changed over the years?

Early in my career I would spend a great deal of time in the paper samples rooms of local paper companies seeking out just the right paper for a given project. Later, paper reps would make sure I had complete sets of their paper swatch books. I always enjoyed getting together with them, over a cup of coffee or cocktail, to update my swatch sets. In recent years, I usually request samples of specific papers from the print house producing the final product. Much of my research of paper stock these days is done online, at conferences or by way of those annoying paper stock inserts in design magazines.

Can you think of a project where the paper stock has defined the project or increased the overall impact, and how so?

Barrett Rudich Photographer StationerySelection of a specific paper can greatly impact the success of a designed project. Years ago I worked with a photographer who wanted an extremely unique card. Much of his photography work was black and white, and we ended up discussing a card that would be black on black. It was important to find a heavily textured black paper stock (I don’t remember the specific paper now) that would be almost completely smooth when the photographer’s name, title and phone number were blind embossed. A black foil was used to make the text info on the card “pop” even more. The card was also cut 1/4 inch shorter than a traditional business card; giving the illusion that it was a much different size than normal. It was necessary to work closely with the print house to “test drive” a few paper stocks to get the desired result and give the business card the impact wanted by the client. The card was very successful for the client and appears in several design books. To complete his stationery package, the photographer’s name was imprinted in black foil on a bright white letterhead sheet and envelope.

Can paper be used to define a brand, and in what way?

The texture, content, weight or color of a paper can be an important design element for a brand – just as important as color, type treatment, and actual design elements. How the paper stock is used in branding a business, product or organization can have a major impact on how that brand is perceived by the target audience.

Have you seen a case where a paper choice hindered the effectiveness of a printed piece, and in what way?

I have seen many cases of the wrong paper, or improper ink color, being used for specific project. Some heavy paper textures are not appropriate for the even ink coverage wanted. Ink sometimes soaks into paper stocks, muting the desired impact of a printed piece. I’ve seen nightmare situations where the paper cracked when folded after printing, resulting in an end product being rejected by the client. I know of cases in which designers didn’t take paper weights into consideration and caused postage costs to be much more than budgeted or anticipated.

What has been your proudest use of paper in one of your projects to date?

One of my favorite, and proudest, design moments occurred over a period of six months in 1992 when I was contracted to create the identity for The Governor Hotel in Portland, OR. It was quite an undertaking for a one-person design firm. I was responsible for creating the identity for the hotel and restaurant, and then applying the identities to all branding devices from signage to menus. The client initially looked at me like I was crazy when I proposed printing various project elements on totally different paper stocks. Papers from different mills – with varied textures, colors and weights – were used in producing various brand elements, creating a unique paper family for the hotel. The stocks included laid, linen, vellum and coated finishes, parchments, metallics and others. I designed every piece of printed material for the hotel including a stationery package, computer papers for the reservations office, brochures, a commemorative poster, direct mail pieces, stickers, coasters, grand opening invitations and much more. Many of the pieces were printed on recycled stocks, a bit more difficult to find nearly two decades ago.

The Governor Hotel Identity System 1

Unfortunately, there was a great waste of paper in the process of having items printed for the hotel. For all elements of the project I suggested earth tone ink colors. The interior designer of the hotel butted into the project and recommend a much bright color selection. I did my best to discourage the hotel management, but they went with the brighter palette in the initial printing of 10,000 of all pieces. When the printed materials were delivered, the hotel general manager opened the first box and exclaimed, “Oh my God, it’s the Taco Bell hotel.” The ink selected by the interior designer printed a much brighter orange than she ever expected. All printed materials were scrapped and the entire project was reprinted in the colors I had originally speced. Much of the earlier printing was salvaged where possible to create half-sheets and notepads.

The Governor Hotel Identity System 2My printing rep, Tom Switzer, was instrumental in keeping me sane (and the client happy) during the months of the project. I still work with him as a printing rep 18 years later.

In what way do you collaborate with your printer or paper rep during the design process?

As a one-person design firm, over the years it has always been necessary to create a personal team of collaborators – often including print and paper representatives – to successfully initiate and complete a project. I have paper and printing reps that I’ve worked with for almost 20 years. From the beginning of my career, over 30 years ago, I have almost always made contact with my printing rep and the print house production staff a priority early in the project. I’ve never been one to finalize a design and then drop some production nightmare on my chosen printer. For me it’s always been important to share my concepts with the print house and learn how I can make the process, from design through printing, smooth for all involved.

Having worked professionally as a designer for 13 years prior to a computer appearing on my desk, I developed a very hands-on approach in working with printers and learned a great deal about the printing process. My participation in the process continued when I was able to hand projects over to the printer on disks. Throughout my career incredible relationships developed with print reps when we would be meeting at all hours for press checks for major projects. I’ve spent quite a few hours sleeping on couches in the lobby of print houses waiting for a specific project to go on press. In the two years that I designed all marketing pieces for the Seattle Seahawks professional football team, my printing rep Julie Beaver and I became great friends. All projects, printed in six colors to ensure NFL logo colors and with runs of up to one million pieces, required personal press checks.

Over the years, my paper reps have always been very helpful in providing samples, creating mock-ups of folded pieces and making sure that the stock desired is available. Often that meant the rep was responsible for tracking down examples of a specific paper and hand-delivering samples to my home-based studio to meet a client demand or deadline.

In what ways has your role changed as a designer with online digital printing, sustainability efforts and the economy?

With online digital printing, I do still need to babysit – or lead – the client through the process. I still make paper and printing method recommendations. I don’t like to completely step out of the process of a project until the final product is delivered to the client and meets their satisfaction. I appreciate that many of my clients feel much more comfortable being involved in the digital printing process, than the traditional processes of getting projects produced.

What’s your favorite paper stock and why?

I’ve always been a fan of ESSE – and have only been able to use it on client projects a couple times. I love the watermarked grid of squares in the stock. It’s one of those papers that needs to be particularly appropriate for the specific project to really pull off the desired effect. Your question made me realize that I’m a long-time champion of many Neenah papers. In the past 30 years, I’ve recommended that many clients use papers such as Classic Columns, Classic Crest, Classic Laid, Classic Linen and others in printing their stationery packages.

I would consider myself anything from the French Paper line, because it’s more utilitarian, unassuming and a little rough around the edges. Which paper stock would you be and why?

I also am a fan of French Papers, but if I need to be a specific stock I don’t want to copy you. I suppose it would be the Eames line from Neenah Paper. There’s an ability to convey sophistication or be a bit more pedestrian. The color palette, variety of finishes, patterns and weights, and the way the paper invites closer inspection by those coming into contact with it all seem to convey various aspects of my personality.

Is print dead or just playing dead?

If dead, I think someone forgot to make print aware of the fact. I think it’s funny, and telling, that David Carson’s book, “The End of Print,” is in something like its fifth printing. Print has not died – it is just constantly evolving.

Jeff Fisher LogoMotivesIf you’d like to find out more about Jeff Fisher LogoMotives visit jfisherlogomotives.com. Be sure to follow Jeff on twitter @LogoMotives, and become fans on facebook of LogoMotives. For the latest on upcoming design books and helpful articles on business and graphic design check out bLog-oMotives.

Check back next month when we talk packaging with a New Orleans graphic design firm for Part 4 in The Paper Cuts Series.

Like what you see feel free to email me at tad@creativesquall.com and don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook. Check out the Creative Squall site to see how we’ve helped clients add a touchy, feely side to their brands with paper.

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