Emotional investment is part of the design experience, a lesson from Leeds.
If you're reading this whilst sitting in the beautiful county of Yorkshire, then you may already know about the fans reactions to the proposed crest for Leeds United football club.
The logo, since it was revealed to fans last week, has been compared to the Gaviscon man whilst others flocked onto Shutterstock to find the source (the news story about this was quickly discredited but it does bear a remarkable similarity to the blocky templates which can be sourced on this stock image site). It was a major offside by the creative team.
Square The Ball, the Leeds United fanzine were quick to dismiss the creative process. 'Success at the top level isn’t only measured on the pitch anymore. Meme vs meme it’s what it’s all about these days, one social media account manager mugging off another in the guises of football clubs, with ever more elaborate and intertextually related new signing, reveal videos and goal celebration gifs.' Author, Daniel Chapman wonders, 'How long...before the first big-name big-money transfer between Premier League Twitter accounts? “We’ve signed a precocious talent,” their new club will announce, “Who can do incredible things in Hootsuite.'
He makes a good point.
Emotion and engagement are a huge part of our life experience. Recently I went to a party, and when enjoying a drink, I was suddenly irritated by my phone buzzing in my bag. When I went to switch it off, I realised that most of the guests were tweeting each other and sharing food photos on Twitter and Instagram. I was included and I have to say, as I watched them standing next to each other, heads buried in their phones, I wondered when we started tagging and not talking (and lost our manners).
This reminded me of the Leeds crest and numerous posts in PR and media groups where new business owners post up logos for comments. Whilst half might use the feedback, many are merely using the voting process to gain notice and traction for their business. I'd much rather know which they are aiming for so I can comment accordingly. To give feedback, I need to understand the client, their market, the brief and perhaps carry out or read the research. In short, more talking, less (hash) tagging!
Lack of engagement is the fundamental failing of sites like 99 design, Fiverr and People Per Hour. Of the three, the latter does at least allow budgets but all start with demanding a brief and art direction by the client, not the designer. This means that there is an instant bias and unless the client can disassociate from what they think they know and become objective about their aims and clients, the logo will be doomed to endless revision or an unhappily short lifespan.
If the business owner hasn't spoken to the designer directly but rather communicated by a moderated messaging system, they can be forgiven for feeling a bit nervous. Is the image really bespoke? Is it really right for my clients? Can I be confident that it's good design? What's the font and why was it used? Are the colours appropriate for my market? Often these business owners appear on Facebook or Linked In forums asking for feedback as they lack the contextual story behind their logo. The 'designer' simply wants their Fiverr and to move onto the next job.
I feel I'm not alone in expressing some caution when it comes to feedback on a logo where the designer is a known collaborator with experience and has approached the logo in a professional manner. By this, I mean, met the client, created a brief and examined the responses and invested themselves in the job as befits the price charged which can be several hundreds of pounds.
I'd be concerned if a client approached a bunch of strangers at the other end of their phone... maybe they were at the same party I went to, who knows? I know I'm good at design and good at research but showing the best of four visuals to random strangers asking for feedback without supplying any context is devaluing the design experience and the emotional investment. It's better to ask those who understand your business. This may be regular networkers, existing clients, groups in your field (though beware competitor envy) and focus groups. As a designer, I'm very happy to work with my clients to facilitate this feedback and work on the questions that generate constructive feedback. In fact, I think designers should always be part of the process when it comes to collecting feedback so they can evaluate as a team and talk, learning from those on the pitch perhaps.
A stock or cheap effort can lack emotional appeal. That Leeds United crest might say something about the history in the pose but does it represent the average fan? You only have to read feedback on Twitter to know that it doesn't. Tom Dougherty, user experience director at Leeds-based Delete, raised questions about United’s approach to the redesign process in the Yorkshire Evening Post, saying, “It appears the club underestimated the level of emotional attachment to the current crest."
The agency may have had some research model but it clearly wasn't a good model and needs revising. Instead, Leeds have asked fans to submit their designs. This is a worrying development technically but at least it'll be from the right source - the client. I am curious about how they'll referee this match and decide who wins though.