Brammo and CP+B Logo Contest Kerfuffle

Logo Contest? Say what?

Oh, you haven’t heard about the Brammo logo contest that ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky (CP+B) announced and facilitated on crowdsourcing site for a shot at $1,000.00?  The winning “designer” (I’ll explain why it’s in quotes, later) will be chosen by Alex Bogusky with input from Craig Bramscher, CEO of Brammo.  Or maybe it’s the other way around.  Basically, if you’re not familiar with the names, the companies or “crowdsourcing,” then you’ve probably found my site by searching for pictures of Debbie Harry (the best one is here) and should just download it and keep moving.

I’m hip to the contest. What’s a “kerfuffle”?

Do I have to do everything? Look it up. Or, if you’re wondering how it’s supposed to sound, you can click here, repeatedly, and the nice lady will say it over and over again.  If you want, you can imagine that it’s being enunciated by Ms. Harry.

In relation to the Brammo logo, the kerfuffle is about the issue of “crowdsourcing” and how the design community is up in arms about CP+B using a cheap trick like this contest to destroy the integrity of creative people all over the world.  You see, many of these people have jobs with agencies whose bottom line depends on having clients come to them to design their logos.  These people equate crowdsourcing, especially when it is underwritten by a competing advertising agency, to the type of despicable behavior one might expect from a traitorous person of questionable parentage.  They claim that an ethical lapse has occurred which cheapens their professional standing, minimizes the effort involved with proper logo creation (a term they actually call “branding,” not to be confused with the act of a red hot iron with a design on it being applied to the hind end of a bovine . . . actually, it bears a striking resemblance to that), and threatens the very foundation of their industry (which they prefer to be called a “profession,” kind of like “sex workers” prefer to be called members of the “world’s oldest profession.”)

Just in case you think I have a prejudice against “creatives” or “designers,” I want to clarify that I do not.  Some readers of this blog are aware of my close and dare I say it, loving (in a platonic way, of course) relationship with the CP+B interns whose services were won by Brammo in an Ebay auction last Spring.  They were a hard-working group and their talent was easy to see while working on the Enertia campaign.  They, however, would be the first to tell you that Brammofan can be one critical person of questionable parentage. The take-away is that I call them as I see them.  Which brings me to the issue of designers vs. “designers.”

The difference between designers and “designers” is that the first one works with an agency and the second one doesn’t.  The first one doesn’t enter crowdsourcing logo contests and the second one does.  The first one researches branding issues and the second one has a PC and a copy of PhotoShop (probably pirated).  The first one attends client consultations and will tweak the minute details of their design over the course of weeks, and the second one slaps something together in a couple hours.

Okay, so the designers think that “designers” should stop contributing to the downfall of the industry.
Here’s the original article.  (See also, FastCompany‘s take on this and BNet’s.) They even went so far as to design a logo memorializing this event:

brammo_logo_02-555x118(It’s small because I’m trying to be G-rated)

But here’s the deal: you get what you pay for.  Someone who’s going to pay a couple hundred bucks for a logo on is not going to shell out the thousands or millions to CP+B for a new logo for their product.

There are a couple reasons why Brammo and CP+B are in the midst of this kerfuffle.  One is that the designers feel betrayed by Bogusky encouraging “spec” work, which is another term for uncompensated work performed by “designers” for the admittedly slim chance of being chosen as the winner.  Sounds a bit like gambling, right?

The other big reason for this conflict is that the designers have tunnel vision.

The designers see the Brammo CP+B logo contest as being only about design and crowdsourcing and the cheapening of their profession.  What so many of them fail to see, even as they contribute to it by the gnashing of their own teeth, is the public relations value of the contest.  And what created even more PR value than the contest?  The kerfuffle.  This.  Right now.  Even as I type these very words and you read them and immediately forget them and feel compelled to comment, or tweet, or email your friends to come and read the ravings of this Brammofan idiot, the folks at CP+B, and Brammo, and probably Weber-Shandwick and Best Buy (to the extent they bother reading my rants), are counting the number of times I’ve mentioned the words Brammo, Enertia, CP+B, Best Buy, and wondering what the next outrageous idea from Bogusky might be. (May I suggest, on spec of course, a Subservient Brammo – Geek Squad site, complete with a guy in a Geek Squad uniform, wearing a Bull head, in a messy garage, with a Brammo Enertia, responding to typed-in requests?)

With that, I sign off this post with the news that, according to the site, the logo contest winner should be announced any moment now.  And, for what it’s worth, this is my favorite logo submission of the more than 700 submitted:




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  1. #1 by fetherston on September 2, 2009 - 2:45 pm

    As a designer and avid motorcyclist that has been following the Brammo project from the beginning, I am deeply saddened by this. Seeing a company that presents itself as a strong champion of design, it is awful to see such disregard for designers.

    The crowd sourcing argument has been beaten to death by the design community, I have nothing more to contribute.

  2. #2 by James NomadRip on September 2, 2009 - 7:54 pm

    I like that logo too.

  3. #3 by Steve Douglas on September 3, 2009 - 7:04 am

    Interesting that you talk about ‘tunnel vision’. Isn’t it ‘tunnel vision’ to risk alienating a portion of the BRAMMO market? Not sure on the demographics (how many designers buying/going to buy one of these motorcycles?) but is it wise to tell ANY market segment “up yours” as part of some publicity gimmick that you, at the moment anyway, seem so proud of? Odd marketing approach if you ask me.

    But then you didn’t, so carry on…

    • #4 by brammofan on September 3, 2009 - 8:45 am

      I don’t know about the demographics either, but aside from that, I don’t think Brammo or CP+B are telling the design segment “up yours.” CP+B’s always been on the edge, anyway, and don’t shy away from controversy, whether it comes from outside the designer community or from within. Is it an “up yours” action or a “hey, watch this” action with an accompanying wink? But maybe you are missing the wink part of it. Frankly, I think all of us could benefit from holding off of taking everything so seriously.
      In that vein, I, personally, am not so much “proud of” the whole logo deal as I am amused by it. And I have no idea what Brammo is thinking of it, as I am not Brammo. I’m just a fan.

  4. #5 by fetherston on September 3, 2009 - 9:20 am

    Brammo is a company that punctuates design as a key element of its success. So to prop up one side of the design industry, and bankrupt another demonstrates a lack of understanding of the design process.

    Crowd sourcing works great for certain things, like data collection and even software development. However for logo design it results in an army of poorly thought out, poorly researched, poorly executed interpretations that do a disservice to the client, and are crippling to the design industry.

  5. #6 by brammofan on September 3, 2009 - 9:29 am

    You make a good point about Brammo and design as an element of its success (although I wish I had a nickel for every time some biker called the Enertia “butt-ugly” or its equivalent). With regard to the crowdsourcing/logo issue, don’t you think that Brammo, at least in this case, does not bear such a risk, because the contest is technically being facilitated by Bogusky? And as for crippling the design industry, it seems to me like you’re exaggerating a bit. If you have some facts, references, etc. to back that up, I’d definitely take a look. Anecdotal evidence is all I’ve seen so far, so I’d welcome some hard evidence.

  6. #7 by fetherston on September 3, 2009 - 10:32 am

    It is the hypocrisy of it all that gets me. I’m a designer and a motorcyclist and I don’t find the Inertia ugly, it’s unique, well designed, has great components on it and I’m glad it doesn’t look like a transformer. That green would look great next to my also green Triumph, but if they keep up this kind of philosophy, I’ll never own one. I do feel slighted by this decision.

    Brammo is at risk, they will not get the service they deserve. Logo design takes research and time. It also takes finding a designer who is the right “fit” for the project. In my experience, a big hulking agency is rarely the right “fit” these days (see Pepsi, Tropicana and other memorable recent rebranding projects). Bogusky might be more at fault than Brammo, but someone at Brammo is signing the contracts.

    Putting up a carrot for 754 rabbits and then filtering through it all isn’t design service. The process is much more intimate than that. It’s lazy to not seek out the person/agency to hook them up right and deliver what they need timely and within their budget.

    Is crowd sourcing crippling to design? Tough to prove, yes. Crippling to the visual landscape? Well, just take a look at some of those contest entries. Will it be a long term detriment? I’m not sure, I think it will rise and fall with the tide of the internet.

  7. #8 by brammofan on September 3, 2009 - 10:40 am

    Thanks for this… I appreciate the well thought out expression of your position, and I see your point. As it appears that the logo contest winner will be announced pretty soon, we’ll have to see what comes out of it – crap, a gem, or something in between. Or, perhaps, nothing – do they even have to pick a winner? Even then, I wonder if any of the 700+ will ever appear on a Brammo product.

  8. #9 by James NomadRip on September 3, 2009 - 11:02 am

    The designer’s arguments are sounding a lot like newsmen of the last decade or so. “Those bloggers are just a bunch of ya-hoos on those internets. WE are a NEWS organization. WE went to school for this and are the PROS.”

    That philosophy going well for them so far.

    Photographers are upset at stock photography and Time magazine too. There are plenty of other examples.

    Times are changing in a lot of areas of the world. If your work is solid and a value, you wouldn’t be worrying about what one company out of millions is doing. Of all the designers in the world, only 1 is going to get the job.

    There is no way for Brammo or anyone else to please everyone. No matter what decision is ever made (about any subject), there will be dissent, and there will be a following. Everyone has to find their balance.

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