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This article is published in the new book by, Logo Nest: 02, the book by Logo Designers for Logo Designers

A like for a like

With a title like that it would be understandable to assume that this is going to be another run of the mill article on plagiarism. Instead, I have chosen to tackle a subject, which seems to be downplayed or mostly ignored.

At the end of each year many graphic design related publications, both online and in print, offer analysis on the current and possible future trends. This applies to all disciplines of our trade, but scrutiny of logo design trends or even ‘clichés’ seem to be most prevalent. Design elements and techniques are identified to inform what should be avoided so that your work doesn’t become classed as bland and common.
Something that is hardly ever analysed is the behaviour of designers rather than just focusing on their output. One particular trend I have noticed, which surfaced around a year ago but is now rife, is having a strange effect on the industry. Most designers partake in this practice, yet nearly all don’t even realise they are doing it.

Everyone wants to be liked; it’s a natural human instinct. For designers, it seems it is more important than ever for peers within the industry to like or even ‘love’ the work that they produce. I partly blame an increased emphasis on this need to be liked on social media. It’s true that the social media boom has connected people more than ever, making it possible to increase a networking base that would have been previously unachievable. However, it’s also been argued that when you increase your number of connections, it makes them weaker individually.

These connections can be with peers, old clients and new. Never before has it been easier for a designer to showcase their work or even collaborate with new contacts. The avenues made available to showcase work have also increased as a result. It can be difficult for any designer to keep up especially if they want to gain as much exposure as possible.

However, part of me is worried that this increased desire or even ‘need’ to have your work liked by the masses is not only effecting the mindset of designers but also the way in which they work. The problem is that social media platforms and inspiration showcase websites put an emphasis on your own personal totals, which could be misconstrued as a reflection on your own ability, performance or social standing within a group of peers. When I say ‘totals’ it’s all about the number of followers you have or how many people like your latest piece of work. I’m sure any designer who is on twitter will have noticed tools which ‘guarantee to get you hundreds more followers’. They don’t. But that’s for another article.

I’ve seen it all too often that some people, especially those who are new to their careers, fret and worry about how much their work is liked as if it is a definite condemnation of their true value as a designer. It also works the other way in that just because a designer is top of the pile on a certain network, they start acting like a superstar designer (which is a non-existent entity anyway). This is partly due to the fact that most inspiration sites put the best (most liked) work on the front pages, which is then seen as the ultimate goal to achieve.

So how do you get more people to like your work to help push your current standing up towards the plastic design gods? You may think that the obvious answer would be to produce the highest standard of work. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The simple answer is to become popular using the tactic, which is the main focal point of this article.

The main thing I’ve noticed is that if a designer likes another’s work, that ‘like’ is then reciprocated in return. I guess you could call this a connection. Like for like. An unwritten agreement between two designers to like each others works in the future, regardless of the context or the quality. You will also notice that the feedback or critique given to work has changed. In the main it’s overly positive comments such as ‘great work!’ and rarely includes any insightful input on how to improve the logo. It’s also very common for poor souls who dare to question design decisions or even have the audacity to offer their own suggestions for improvements to be shot down in flames. As long as the collective crowd like the work, then that means it’s definitely great right?

As the majority of work racks up tons of likes through ‘pat on the back’ style appreciations and is pushed to the front of galleries, in essence it becomes difficult for people, especially those looking in from outside the industry, to truly distinguish the really great work from even the mediocre. Not even to mention the bad. I think it was Stefan Sagmeister who once said that ‘99% of ideas are crap’, and I can really see what he means by that, any designer who goes through a labourious creative process will also.

The counter argument is that ‘you have got to be seen to be heard’ which is perfectly understandable. It’s common sense that for your work to be appreciated then you have to publicise it as much as possible. However, logo design is often at times frustrating, and I feel that without being perfectionists we can never really strive to get even close to logo design nirvana. The funny thing is, some of the best designers I’ve seen out there don’t even care about what peers think about their work, as at the end of the day, if it creatively answers the brief and the client likes it that’s all that matters.

Before I get accused of slating off the majority of work and sounding negative towards the logo design industry or even logo designers, I just want to explain the reasons for this article. It’s not intended to boss people around and tell them to stop liking things and I really don’t want it to be taken in a negative way. In fact, there aren’t any underlying instructions or pieces of advice at all. It’s merely just another observation of logo design trends, and I hope you can like, love and appreciate it.

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