99 problems but amends ain’t one…

August 14th, 2013 by Mat Dolphin

We have opinions on budget logo design which we’ve aired in the past. We’ve questioned the ‘pound shop’ mentality of flogging logo designs for as cheaply as possible and whilst we feel that there may be a place for such services, we’re yet to be convinced about the quality they’re able to offer. After plenty of thought and discussion the summary is basically; you get what you pay for. If you’re not bothered about the quality of your logo (which is a pretty subjective thing at the best of times) or the service you receive from the designer, you might as well try and pay as little as possible.

Then along comes Swiftly. The basic premise of which is slightly different from that of 99designs, the company that recently launched Swiftly to the world. Both companies are competing purely on price point and using their low costs as a selling point. But instead of knocking out logos for next to nothing, Swiftly is essentially an amends factory. Need to simply change the name on a business card? Or switch the colour of the font on your website? Change some copy in Powerpoint? Swiftly claim to be able to take care of these small tweaks and changes for as little as $15.

We’ve been fairly vocal about the potential pitfalls of services such as 99designs in the past, so were naturally interested to find out about their latest venture. And, we have to say that, from an initial look, it seems like a really good idea. The service Swiftly offers is essentially “artworking”: Making simple changes with little or no creative input. It’s early days yet and there are a number of practical implications they’ll have to tackle (file formats, fonts, the state of the supplied artwork etc.) but presuming they have these potential issues covered, the idea certainly has potential.

The issue we had originally with companies offering logos for-as-little-fee-as-possible was the way their approach de-valued a bespoke, considered and in-depth service. We feel that the creation of an identity takes a degree of research, deliberation and exploration that simply can’t be achieved for a cost as low as £25. Applying the same thinking to amends however, does seem to make a bit more sense. A company strictly geared towards churning out what they term ‘small design fixes’ sounds like it could fill a potential gap in the market. Whilst there are plenty of ways to cut corners in logo design, the same can’t necessarily be said for changing a word on a poster or simply cropping an image in Photoshop. Plenty of people without the skills, time or access to the necessary technology could definitely benefit from a pair of hands with the necessary know-how and kit, making small tweaks to existing designs at an affordable rate.

Being the type of designers who ponder the workings and ethics of our industry, there are still plenty of question marks: Does Swiftly’s proposal undercut the decent, honest design agencies out there? Will this be yet another case of ‘cheapest wins’? Does Swiftly de-value what designers do in the same way that 99designs arguably does? Is the idea even a viable business model? Time will tell.

In the mean time, we’ll be interested to see how swiftly Swiftly grows.

Thanks for reading and do let us know your thoughts, we’re always interested to hear what you’ve got to say.

Phil and Tom

6 Responses to “99 problems but amends ain’t one…”

  1. A lot of these are the kind of ‘can you just’ amends clients have been asking for for nothing in the past and have been done gratis to maintain healthy working relationships. Will be interesting to see if clients think it worthwhile tracking down and getting hold of original artwork files and then paying a nominal fee or whether they’ll stick to the ‘can you just’ approach of yore. I’m guessing the latter.

    Comment by @spudlington — August 14th, 2013 @ 11:41 am |
  2. Interesting, from my experience these ‘simple’ amends can have a significant impact on the overall quality of a piece. These can also be perceived as straightforward by a client when there is frequently a domino effect, one design change impacting another, and another and another until you’ve devalued the piece in its entirety. Even a longer name on a business card takes a bit of consideration and experience. When it’s about low cost services you’re asking people to be quick or inexperienced.

    Artworking is a skill as much as designing is, so I suggest it will depend on the talent of the 99community and how much they’ve invested in their font library. From what I’ve seen of the logos on 99Designs I suggest there’s plenty of opportunity for this service to ruin solid work.

    Like your previous articles however I’d agree there’s certainly a place for such a service, I will however continue to offer amends to clients, that’s my obligation as a service provider.

    Comment by Rich Baird — August 14th, 2013 @ 12:30 pm |
  3. I agree with both Spudlington and Rich. Swiftly is simply monetizing on a mass scale a service that has been integrated into our dealings with clients from the very beginning. They are indeed now offering a paid service to the ‘can you just’ people and the ‘I just need a few minor changes’ people. It would be very interesting to see how well they do, as these people usually are expecting this service to be provided for free. However, one can always take into account the clients who’s relationships with their designers ended bitterly and artworking isn’t available to them even if they paid for it. Those clients have no choice but to hire another designer or use a service such as Switfly.

    But again, I think this all goes back to a point I made in a previous article. There are clients who do realize the skill and effort required to do what we do, and because they care so deeply about their brands, they are willing to pay what it’s worth. As for the rest, let them go and use these as-cheap-as-possible-practically-even-free services. They will either see how crappy they are and come crawling back to you humbled and appreciative, or they will be lost to ‘the dark side’ for good. In which case of the latter, I say, “Good riddance!”

    Comment by Trevia — August 14th, 2013 @ 1:49 pm |
  4. I’m with Rich on this. Outsourcing artworking is precarious to begin with, since the production is an integral part in – and of – the creative process. In most cases you’ll find that in small(er) agencies the designers will artwork, and in large companies (and publishing houses for example), both design and artworking departments will work closely together. Good artworkers are very hard to come by. From the top of my head I’m thinking of photo retouching as an area that can, in wrong or inexperienced hands, have disastrous results. Same with typography, font usage, layout etc. The services Swiftly is offering are as important and time consuming as the creative process can be. Is it devaluating to the craft of artworkers in the same way 99Designs is to designers? Yes, because “small design fixes” are never really that small — and I think you completely missed that in your blog post.

    Comment by Tom Muller — August 14th, 2013 @ 9:36 pm |
  5. It’s probably like going to the Dollar Store. I went there recently because I wanted to get a bunch of frames cheap. Hobby Lobby’s cheap frames weren’t cheap enough and I cared even less about what I was framing. If measured by quality, what I bought really wasn’t a frame at all, but it worked.

    Same here. It’s not design is graphic production. But few other than designers know the difference. With design you are paying for thought and execution. For graphic production done well you are just paying for execution. For graphic production done poorly you are just moving stuff around.

    But that meets a market demand just like the frames at Dollar Store did for me. There are a ton of corporates, real estate agents, car salesmen et al. that need something cropped, moved, scaled and either don’t care or don’t know enough to care. Why would I pay a designer hundreds or thousands to do it right when I don’t even know what right looks like? And don’t care.

    I say go for it. Give me a place to send my clients that don’t know the difference.

    Comment by Clint Baker — August 21st, 2013 @ 5:37 am |
  6. Taking away the small alterations for the original designer can almost certainly be a bad thing. In most cases anyway, I’m sure there will be larger corporations whose brand guidelines are that stringent that a trained monkey could change their business cards.

    The heartache that some young post-college designer will have with missing fonts / missing plugins / wrong file types / proof quality artwork / etc is just sad.

    I have 2 issues:
    1. As the designer I have vision of the project I am yet to even share with the client, these will come out naturally as elements grow / change.

    2. Yes they are annoying, so charge for them, it only has to be minimal, but it stops clients from taking the piss. We tend to just add the little bits up & charge clients every few weeks for the little stuff.

    More interaction and conversations with clients will lead onto more work, if they move over Swiftly, they are only one step away from moving on to 99 Designs.

    Comment by Side by Side — August 21st, 2013 @ 2:15 pm |