Crowdsourcing Your Logo? Buyer Beware.

21, Feb. 2019

Trademark violations, legal battles, and thousands of dollars out of pocket. These are just a few of the prospective costs of crowdsourcing your logo. Think we’re being overly dramatic? Think again.

Cat plays whack-a-mole with logos

So, You’ve Decided to Crowdsource Your Logo

Acme Widgets needed a logo refresh. Their existing mark, created by owner/entrepreneur Chris P. Bacon on the back of a napkin, had served the company well for the first 5 years they were in business, but Chris wanted something more professional to help the company as they looked to expand. Chris knew he needed help, but with all the costs associated with growth, didn’t love the idea of hiring an agency to develop his new brand. A quick internet search and a few days later, Chris was rolling in design concepts. “This is awesome”, he thought. Until it wasn’t.

The Devil is in the Details

Fast forward several months, and Chris had just wrapped up the rebranding exercise. With new signage on his three buildings, business cards and a revamped website, employee uniforms, vehicle wraps, some billboard space in his new markets, and several online ads later, Chris had spent upwards of $100,000 on launching his new brand. He’d saved a bundle on his logo development, and, savvy marketing guy that he is, poured that money into the brand launch. And then he got the Cease and Desist letter.

Winner, Winner

Turns out there was a reason why Chris was instantly comfortable with the logo design he’d selected. He’d seen it before…more than once. His crowdsourced logo was a hit with friends, family, and his employees, but it used a font and icon that had been used literally dozens of times, both inside and outside Chris’s industry. His crowdsourced designers had created “nice” logos, but their motivation was out of alignment with Chris’s most basic business needs. They were designing to “win” a contest rather than designing to help Acme Widgets to win in their industry.

Recycling Is Great…For The Environment

The fundamental flaw in crowdsourcing design is that it is a race to the bottom – designers are rewarded only when they win, not for their creativity. The flaw in this rewards-based system is that in order for those designers to make a living, some reuse and recycle past submissions, because they know what works and has a higher probability of getting them paid. In the end, the buyer (you), without the strategic oversight that your agency will provide, is too often unable to push past what’s comfortable to what’s right for your brand.

“Strategic Oversight”…Smells Like an Expensive Buzzword

It can be, but hopefully we’ve demonstrated why it can actually save you money. Copycat logos are only one of the many ways you can get burned with crowdsourced logos. Because crowdsourced designers only get paid when they win, they often target projects that they already have ideas for, and they may even submit the same icon for multiple bids. They may not be concerned with licensing fonts, which means that your logo may use a font that you can be court-ordered to stop using (some fonts are not commercial use – you don’t even have the option to buy them). Stock illustration websites often do not allow for their illustrations to be used in commercial logos, but crowdsourced designs may contain these icons in whole or in part. Imagine being contacted by an illustrator after having invested thousands in your new mark and having to buy out the illustration in order to trademark your logo. We’ll leave you to imagine how that cost might go up when the illustrator – who you’ve (unknowingly) avoided paying – realizes how much you’ve got invested in their illustration.

Own Your Brand

The goal of any branding exercise should be to create a defensible brand that you can own. If you can’t protect your new logo, why bother? As we’ve already stated, the crowdsourcing designers’ goal is significantly different. Crowdsourced platforms and their designers are not invested in the relationship with you, or in your business.

Your agency, on the other hand, works for you. They should be far more interested in what happens to your logo beyond initial approval than with driving you towards a quick win. Good logo outcomes are a product of a good relationship, the process, and the work that goes into it. A proper discovery phase helps identify key stakeholders, target markets, demographics, industry insights, and the potential applications and requirements of your mark. All of these insights help drive the strategic process that filters out logos that don’t make sense.

It Starts With A Conversation

Crowds are great…for sporting events, political rallies, and for bad guy getaways in action movies. But your logo? Best to stick to the professionals. We love it when clients come to us with a clean slate, or even with creative ideas scrawled on a napkin. We’ll start that process with a friendly conversation where we listen to your story, then create a customized approach to help you meet the demands of your brand. That part won’t cost you a nickel, but we’re pretty sure that after our chat you’ll understand why we’re so passionate about keeping the crowds at bay.


This episode is brought to you by:

Jason Hemsworth

Jason Hemsworth


Jason has spent the last 30 years working with clients to create defensible brands. He’d love to get your brand off to the right start.

Contact Jason

Kevin Hemsworth



Kaitlin Thatcher



Sierra Katrian




The Proof

We’ve done this before. And chances are, you’ve seen our work in action. Yogen Fruz, Ddrops, and Beaver Valley Ski Club are all examples of how we’ve developed new identities for our clients.

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