WHEN A LOGO ISN’T JUST A LOGO.
Of all the tweets I received on Friday (one of 27 million per day around the world BTW) this little ditty really got my attention.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a logo: http://tinyurl.com/ylqcygv
You might be thinking, so what? There must be hundreds of logos, thousands even, unleashed on an unsuspecting, unimpressed populace. Why is this so special? Well this logo is the first piece of work from the ‘worlds first’ ad agency built on crowdsourcing principles. Victors And Spoils. And boy is causing a stir. Barely a month ago, three ex CPB staffers broke away and announced the arrival of their eponymous agency. Carefully worded as not to say a crowdsourced agency, but one built on it’s principles this launch caused a great stir in the ad agency/design community, for the unititiated; an intense debate exists between those who believe crowdsourcing to be the future for agencies and commercial creativity, while others see it as nothing more than an exploitation of the creative process, a negative democratisation of craft and skill to that of spec work.
Certainly John Wisnor and Evan Fry have previous with rabble rousing, as the Brammo logo comptetition developed at their old employers was one example, as well as the book Mr Wisnor wrote with CPB chairman Alex Bogusky. However, Mr Wisnor is a hugely respected advocate of the power of crowdsourcing, so I guess there is a certain inevitability to the creation of Victor And Spoils. When their first actual crowdsourced project was announced, on their awesomely stripped back website (reminds me of something I did last year…) the reaction was one of interest, sneering and downright anger. Now, we have the result.
I think this logo shows off some of the best practices that could come out of crowdsourcing, but also highlights some of it’s current failures. First off this was designed by an Italian, Andrea Bigiarini, who has worked in the design industry since 1978 and was part of Leonardo Baglioni’s studio, which in turn was part of the ‘new wave’ of Italian Graphic Design. Why mention this? Well I thought this was one of the great successes of the whole process, here is someone who has worked in an industry that has fundamentally changed by the advent of computers and the internet, and you could easily assume would be one of the last people to embrace this approach. It also humanises the work, this isn’t coming from the agency top down, suddenly for me the dynamic is others adding to the whole, Victor and Spoils are facilitators of other creativity, not the hoarders. I love the fact that this came from Italy as well, it shows that crowdsourced creativity can be border neutral, I think this can create interesting mash ups of culture and creativity, the opportunity to be surprised by the unexpected (could) become greater.
Which leads me neatly onto where the failure of this (particular) process. As a logo, it’s just not that good. I can see where the inspiration has come from but as a logo, it is a missed opportunity. It’s is trying to say too much, with it’s multiple straplines coupled with a rather hokey ‘power to the people’ tone of voice. The overbearing decoration and heraldry create confusion, and really doesn’t fix your eye on anything. However, I really like the typography at the heart of the logo, it reminds me of something from the 40’s or 50’s but doesn’t veer into pastiche. Strip out the superfluous stuff and you’ve got yourself the beginnings of a great logo. This makes the approach BBH Labs took in April more appropriate and dare I say it, the start of a so-called ‘principle’. The response to their decision to crowdsource a logo was equally vociferous, but the outcome, or at least that process, seems much more useful and beneficial, an idea was selected, and the agency and the designer collaborated to find the ideal conclusion. This process, a variant on the ‘principles’ avoids the accusation of spec work, and places the idea at the heart of the process.
In typically bullish fashion, the Victor And Spoils team are encouraging this debate (with some stunningly arrogant claims that don’t help themselves – see this, and @bradybone’s response for more on that). I’m happy to add my voice (for what it’s worth), as this is for the creative community, one of the most important developments in our world. I believe that there are advantages in it, but it is up to all of us to find the value in it, to understand how crowdsourcing principles can become an addition to our armory, without damaging the quality of our results. The reality is sticking your head in the sand just isn’t really an option. Maybe this logo might just hold more meaning than many want to accept, but lets just hope that we can all do better. We will watch (and hopefully collaborate) with interest.