Over the past 7 days, I’ve been called a few less-than-friendly names in a series of blog posts and forum discussions. According to the post comments, I am a:
Racist. Liar (in a backhanded way). Drone.
I have character flaws. But I am not a racist. I do not lie. And I’m not a corporate drone.
I work for a company called Logoworks. We specialize in the creation of high-quality logos, websites, brochures, and other design. Our business model uses a combination of in-house designers and a dispersed workforce to create the art we provide for our customers. Our clients receive a wide variety of art and a very competitive price. It’s a disruptive business model that has affected pricing and expectations in the marketplace.
And we had a hiccup along the way. Without going into too much detail (details here), we inadvertently placed 3 logos in our gallery that were not original. When this was brought to our attention, we admitted our mistake and immediately removed the artwork from our website. More importantly, we terminated our relationship with the designers who provided the artwork. None of the artwork was sold to a client. We also strengthened our oversight policies to help ensure it wouldn’t happen again. And so far, it hasn’t.
At the time we also engaged in the “conversation” on the forum where our mistake was first reported to try to explain what happened. But rather than an open discussion about how we were addressing the issue, we found that most of the participants were only interested in affirming their previously held, negative opinions about us. We even invited a couple of critics to visit Logoworks’ headquarters, at our expense, to meet our design team, but were rebuffed, then mocked.
More recently, we created a corporate blog to share the truth about some of these issues, which still come up from time to time. This has apparently stirred up the hornet’s nest again. As a company, we welcome honest feedback, debate, even criticism of our business model. But rather than engaging in a conversation, the critics accuse us of being racist and lying about our intentions. And now I’ve been called a corporate drone for trying to share the other side of the story.
I don’t intend to discuss the good/bad of Logoworks’ business model or design practices here. That debate is raging elsewhere. Instead, this is a comment on the state of the blogosphere. We live in an age of rage. But it strikes me that criticism and feedback is more acceptable when it’s not laced with name-calling, vitriol, or worse.
For the record:
#1: Logoworks does not pursue racist outsourcing policies as we have been accused of doing. Yes we have a dispersed work force. But we pay our designers in Sweden, New Zealand, Canada, and elsewhere exactly the same amount we pay our designers in the United States. We are one of the few companies in the world with a dispersed work force that does this. Most people would call this egalitarian, not racist.
#2: I did not lie or dissemble when I wrote in a blog comment that our inspiration for the myths came from various sources. They did. I was involved in the process.
#3: I believe deeply in Logoworks’ mission to help small businesses look great. We’ve created a company that is unique in its ability to help small businesses that couldn’t afford design services in the past. It’s a model that has worked for hundreds of talented designers and thousands of happy customers. I also believe that no one in the design industry has addressed the issues of plagiarism as well as we have. Are we perfect? No. Will we make mistakes in the future? Possibly. Will we address any problems in the future and make it right for our customers? Absolutely.
Trying to defend a company against disinformation and other inaccuracies does not make one a drone. Repeating the same tired criticisms in forums and blogs without regard for the truth or open discussion, well, THAT might.
Ironically, in one of the forums, a designer wrote about finding a Logoworks ad link on a website. She wrote the webmaster to share the above story (although I assume from a less than neutral angle) and the website took our link down. Fair enough. Another designer wrote in response to that post: “Wow, I'm impressed. I really respect people who listen to the advice/complaints of others...and really consider whether it might be valid.” Apparently that only applies to those who listen to and believe our detractors. Others, who listen, then agree with us, are denigrated and harassed.
So why are people so upset? As I said above, Logoworks is a disruptive company. Because we can create a high-quality product that customers appreciate at a lower price, we are helping to change an industry. Some designers (not all) who can’t offer a better value to their customers are threatened by this. So, they lash out, rather than adapt to the new reality. As a highly visible, well-funded company, we take the brunt of the criticism.
Last thing: I understand that not all designers feel this way about Logoworks. Some have been fair in their assessments and criticism. Some have even approached us, after reading the criticism, and asked to work for us. These few generally seem interested in a real discussion. Unfortunately, their voices are often drowned out by the shrill criticisms of the mob.
We listened to criticisms and made improvements to our system. Will our detractors notice? Only if they’re interested in a real discussion, rather than a flame war. In the mean time, let’s keep the debate rational, the volume low, and the personal attacks to a minimum.