Inspiration Galleries: They’re Fake

I used to have a whole chain of inspiration galleries on my RSS feed.  I’m sure they exist for other hobbies, but in graphic design they are normally just logos that get posted to tumbler-like sites and those sites moderate (often not enough) and post in a quick stream.  There can be hundreds of logos a day or just a few a week.  I’m about to argue that they are mostly useless, but here’s two if you’re interested: Logomoose, Logo Gala.

As you’re zipping down your tumbler feeds, presumably looking for inspiration, you can’t help but notice some clever, racy logos that come by.  The one on the left, for instance, isn’t expertly designed but it does grab your attention.  But then you’ve got to wonder.  The client doesn’t mind having a big ‘ol middle finger for a logo?  Mightn’t that start things off on the wrong foot with their clients?  Was that on the cover letter to the bank when they applied for a business loan?  Having had clients before, logos like this make me skeptical.  How could you and why would you convince a client to go with such a jarring mark?

My theory is that there are no clients.  I look a 3 month group of postings from more than a year ago from LogoMoose and started looking into them on a case-by-case basis.  A year should be enough time (and I’m totally guessing here) to dodge the designers who posted the work to galleries before the brand launch in the interest of self-interest.  I also checked a few comparison galleries to see if there were some that had radically different statistics.  I didn’t find any, but honestly I couldn’t get a handle on why one gallery or another would be different and there must be a hundred of them.  None that I could find were bragging that they only show real logos.  Too much moderation overhead, I guess.  Below were my findings.

Clarification. “Fake client” means that I couldn’t find any project associated with the logo in places where I should have been able to.  Logos with web domains that there was no trace of online.  Really specific names that don’t show up in any web search or if they do are clearly unrelated to the logo at hand.  “Fake project” means that I found a probable client but they were not using the logo.  In many cases it was obvious from their website that they wouldn’t have commissioned one either.  “That’s you” because the project was self-referential.  This was often easy to spot because the listed designer matches the mark, but sometimes I had to dig a little deeper to find out that the client and the designer were both managed by the same person.  Our silver lining category, “real” are entries that were all actual logos used by actual clients.  Finally, “?” means that there is just no way for me to be certain.  You’ve entered a logo for Reliable Construction and I find about a million companies out there, but none of them are using that logo, at some point I get tired of going through pages of google hits with no way to narrow down the search, so I put a little ? next to it in the spreadsheet.

Why is it important that you be inspired by real work instead of fake work?  Because if there’s no client, it’s not work that falls into any useful category.  If the logo is the tip of the branding iceburg, surely the logo without any client feedback or satisfaction to worry about doesn’t even constitute real work.  It’s like writing haikus without worrying about the syllables.   Graphic design without clients is really just straight art.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but that means that your made-up logo needs to compete in a whole new arena… like against Shepard Fairey or at least the designers of the Idiocracy logos.  Designing fake logos teaches us almost nothing about designing real ones.

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  1. Adam’s avatar

    This conversation continued on twitter.

    @logomoose: That’s why it is called an inspiration gallery… to get inspired. Who cares if the logos are real?

    @logogala: I fail to see how a logo being “fake” makes it unusable for inspiration on a “real” logo?

    The argument I didn’t think needed to be explained in the post: Almost all of the “art” of logo design comes from the restrictions placed on the form by the practical world. If you are inspired by logos that most clients would find offensive, you’re likely to push that envelope too far yourself. Logos that never need to be produced don’t need to consider cost impacts of creative decisions. Solutions to production problems can also be inspired. These crucial aspects of collaboration aren’t reflected in these strictly-resume pieces.

    I also noticed that LogoGala has a “seen on” field. This is awesome. I built a (primitive) Yahoopipe to create a new RSS feed for only real logos out of Gala. I have aspirations to build a pipe that includes all the inspiration galleries that have similar features and also knock-out duplicate posts. We’ll see.