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So What Kind of Logo Can You Get for $5?

Posted by Rebecca Blake on November 11, 2014

Fiverr advertisementSacha Greif wondered just that when he heard about the bargain basement job site Fiverr, which connects buyers with sellers willing to provide their services – from business plans to programming to creative services – for only $5. Fiverr has been aggressively promoting their design services, exhorting businesses to “put an end to being ripped off” by paying $100 for a logo. In contrast, the website promises “unique design, fast and affordable.”

Grief had reason be intrigued. In  2011, he started an online service, Folyo, which connects businesses to vetted freelance designers. However, unlike Fiverr, Folyo places the budgets for the services provided by their designers at between $1,000 and $10,000, depending on the project.  Fiverr’s promise of “a custom design project” for only $5 seemed impossible. To investigate the quality of work he would receive, Greif created a fictitious company, SkyStats, and went to Fiverr to find a designer to create a logo.

As described in his article on Medium and on his blog, Grief noticed that the quality of the designers’ work quickly dropped off as he browsed through their portfolios: “…the quality would suddenly drop after a few pages, quickly going from sleek, glossy renders to amateurish, clumsy clip-art…these designers were appropriating other designers’ work, and passing it off as their own.” A Google reverse image search confirmed his suspicions. (Fiverr designers have a reputation for stealing work; Jeff Fisher of Logomotives has long been documenting Fiverr designer ripoffs on Twitter.) Greif also discovered that the claim of a $5 logo was a bit misleading; requesting “add-ons” such as source files or copyrights to the work added a whopping $20-40 to the fee.

Greif finally settled on three designers who portfolios appeared to carry only original work. The designers reassured him that they would only deliver original concepts. The initial logo designs ranged, in Greif’s opinion, from “bad to surprisingly good”, and he posted the results on his blog. That’s the point at which the story became complicated. Commentators on the blog soon reported that the work of two of the designers – the best work – was ripped off, and posted links to stock agencies carrying the graphics. In fact, the origin of one of the designs, a dimensional cloud graphic, is still up in the air – no pun intended. The work appears both in the Dribbble and Behance portfolios of a Russian designer, and on the stock image site, Dreamstime.

Greif contacted Fiverr to complain that their designers are selling infringed work, and not surprisingly, never heard back. (Fiverr’s terms state that services which engage in copyright or trademark infringement may be removed from the site, and the sellers of such services may be banned.) Greif is remarkably sanguine about cut-rate logos, comparing them to fast-food burgers. But his experience with Fiverr has soured him: “…people trying to deceive you by passing other people’s work as their own, and stock art as original work is another matter altogether. Sadly, this is the kind of incentives you create when you drive price down to such an extent.

Fiverr supplied logo 1 and original source

Fiverr supplied logo #2 and original source

Fiverr supplied logo #3 with original stock image

Art Against Ebola: Illustrator Otto Steininger and Friends Respond to the Crisis

Posted by Rebecca Blake on October 21, 2014

Art Against Ebola print © Otto SteiningerAward winning illustrator Otto Steininger has rallied the talents of his colleagues in creating a means to generate funds supporting Ebola relief efforts. Art Against Ebola sells artwork created by a number of prominent artists, including Steven Guarnaccia, Melinda Beck, Edel Rodriguez, and Aya Kakeda. Twenty-one artists contributed illustrations of snake heads, which were combined onto a body spelling out “Ebola.” Proceeds from the sale of the artwork benefit Last Mile Health, an organization which provides training to health workers servicing remote villages in Liberia, one of the nations hardest hit by the Ebola crisis.

Artists Against Ebola is commendable, in that fees generated by sales of the artwork go directly to Last Mile Health. Interested buyers purchase the artwork by making a direct donation in the appropriate amount to the organization with Artists Against Ebola and the participating artist credited in the dedication. Individual prints of each head can be purchased for $75, and prints of the entire piece are available for either $350 (17”x17”) or $500 (24”x24”). The original artworkfor each head can also be purchased for $250.

While progress has been made in stemming the rate of infection, Ebola continues to take lives and destroy families. Organizations such as Last Mile Health provide crucial services in fighting the epidemic, and in rebuilding the fragile health care system in Liberia, already ravaged by years of civil strife. Steininger’s hope is that Art Against Ebola will raise much needed funds. With that in mind, a lovely piece of artwork seems to be the perfect Hannukah or Christmas gift this year.

Top right: Otto Steininger's print for Art Against Ebola; below: the 21-header serpent print.
© Otto Steininger. Used with permission

 

Art Against Ebola © Otto Steininger

This Is the Story about “These Are the Things”

Posted by Rebecca Blake on August 14, 2014

Jen Adrion and Omar Noory of the design and illustration studio, These are the Things, are the paradigm of successful creative entrepreneurs. Young and attractive, their resumes are the stuff of designer envy: creators of cool maps featured on the tony shopping site Fab, illustrators with a steady gig with Afar magazine, purveyors of beautiful cards and posters, and subjects of a case study in a best selling book on successful start-ups. Yet at last autumn’s Weapons of Mass Creation Fest, Adrion and Noory dispelled any myth of an easy ride. In a talk memorable for its honesty, they described the daunting setbacks they’ve faced.

The lecture, titled ”How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Enjoy The Ride,” is illustrated with a graph showing Adrion and Noory’s meteoric rise, a suitable device for two infographic designers. Rather than showing a steady, straight angle towards success, the upward trend is punctuated with deep dips representing financial loss, anxiety, and thwarted plans. The two provide a frank recounting of their setbacks, from unmet expectations, to naïve mistakes and oversights in financial planning, to circumstances beyond their control.

Despite the grim topic of lessons learned, the lecture is hardly a downer. Both Adrion and Noory are brimming with energy and self deprecating humor, and many of their setbacks were the result of inexperience, hardly unsurprising for two 20-somethings starting their first company. What stands out is their ability to assess a bad situation, and do whatever is necessary to continue in the business they love. The lecture is a gift to the creative community, made all the more generous by Adrion and Noory’s openness.

A full transcript of their talk is provided on their website.

Portrait of Adrion and Noory, used with permission.

Jen Aldrion and Omar Noory

Dorm Room Tycoon: Information & Inspiration

Posted by Rebecca Blake on August 07, 2014

Dorm Room Tycoon sounds like a startup founded by a 20-something cobbling together the next big Internet sensation. In fact, it’s a collection of podcasts with innovators in design, technology, and business. A wide range of design disciplines is covered, featuring the likes of Jeffrey Zeldman (webdesign and coding), Erik Spiekermann (typography), Swiss Miss (communication design), and Jason Saint Maria (interactive design). The interviews are a relaxed exchange, as DRT founder William Channer and the interviewee seem to wander from topic to topic. Listening to the podcasts is rather like overhearing two very bright people having a comfortable conversation.

Channer started DRT in 2011. As a creative and mobile product designer based in London, he was frustrated by the dearth of solid advice on building a startup business. Reading profiles of entrepreneurs in technology publications exacerbated his frustration, since most articles focused on irrelevant life stories, or perpetuated origin myths. Channer decided to conduct his own interviews that would focus on questions about process, drawing out practical advice and life experience. He chose the name, “Dorm Room Tycoon,” to reflect the idea of starting small and doing something big.  

Channer has applied what he’s learned from the DRT interviewees. Just this year, he launched Panda, a web app and Chrome extension, which provides a steady stream of news and inspiration. The web app provides a split screen with news feed of article links on technology, design, and job listings on the left, and thumbnails streamed from portfolio sites Behance, Dribbble, and Awwwards on the right. The news feed streams from technology and design aggregators, such as Hacker News, sidebar.io, and Layervault Designer News. Users can add the Chrome extension to their browser window, book mark the web app,  and subscribe to Panda’s  weekly newsletter.

Below: The speakers featured in Dorm Room Tycoon are tagged by color codes: red for business, green for technology, and gold for design.
Image © Doorm Room Tycoon. Used with permission.

Bonsai Slice: The Twists and Turns in Game Development

Posted by Rebecca Blake on May 27, 2014

Bonsai Slice logo © Playground TheoryIllustrator Joey Ellis has published an eye-opening account of his travails in developing the iOS game, Bonsai Slice (by Playground Theory). The game is fairly simple: players attempt to slice through a variety of objects, assisted by a tree-stump dwelling robot residing in a Japanese garden. Users play the game by making slicing motions with their device, and rack up points, giving them access to a variety of swords. As simple as the game’s premise sounds, the development of the story, characters, and visuals was a labor-intensive, two-year journey. And as Ellis writes, “where you think you'll end up is never ever where you actually end up.”

Initially, the developers explored a number of game ideas. It wasn’t until the mechanics which permitted gamers to “chop wood” by making motions with their iPads were developed that the idea of a chopping game was settled upon. To test the concept, Ellis created crude GIF animations, eventually developing a quick workflow that took ideas from sketch to playable content within a couple days. While Ellis thought Abraham Lincoln might be a suitable character on whom to hang the game’s backstory, the team decided on a quirky robot, Multus, as the main character. The full backstory, game mechanics, rules, and scoring were worked out as Ellis – the art director and sole illustrator – developed the interface graphics. The team soon realized that simplicity was key, rejecting ideas such as a second robot antagonist and streamlining the game’s action.

Ellis’ recounting is a fascinating read that reveals the detail and behind-the-scenes development necessary to game development. His sketches show the thought process that went into minute details, such as the app icon, the weapons, and the library of “fun things to chop.” His development of Multus’ appearance and behavior was meticulous; he even created a “launch screen” – never intended to go into the game – to provide the developers with insight into the robot’s character.

Anyone interested in working in game development, or interested in developing their own app, should read Ellis’ post. It’s a thorough description of an arduous and lengthy, but from all appearances, very fun project. (The project did take a toll; Ellis reports that he’ll “never ever want to do wood texture illustrations ever again.”)

Below: User interface screens from various points in the game, under development. © Playground Theory, used with permission.

Bonsai Slice interface screens, © Playground Theory

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