An Olympic Mistake: Tokyo Crowdsources Logo for 2020 Games

30 Nov


If you follow this blog, you know my opinions on crowdsourcing and speculative work, which I share with AIGA and the Graphic Artists Guild. Candid Thoughts on the 2020 Olympic Logo is a critique by Ian Lynam, Art Director of Neojaponisme, of a version of the 2020 Olympic Logo. In one part, he lays out a strong case against contests and spec work.

The post is worth reading in its entirety, but here’s the takeaway:

Why can’t the Tokyo Olympic committee afford to pay someone for something that is going to make them a lot of money whether Tokyo wins the bid or not?

Mr. Lynam also shares his thoughts on competitions:

I hate design competitions, and moreover, I hate student design competitions. Sure, it may help that student get a job after school, but design competitions are a form of speculative labor. We don’t participate in design competitions with my design studio, and I actively encourage my students to not participate in design competitions, as well. School should be a time for exploration and experimenting in the laboratory, not aping market rules, visual trends, and reductive thinking.

Mr. Lynam’s criticism of the logo, which was done by a college student, lays out strong arguments for why a professional designer’s expertise is worth the investment, and his comments on the competition provide a good explanation of why designers—and clients—should avoid crowdsourced spec work.


Black Friday/Cyber Monday Deal: Learn with Me for $9! 

25 Nov


Here’s a bountiful feast of knowledge: My Udemy courses are just $9 until midnight December 1!* Whether you’re traveling to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with loved ones, or staying home to enjoy a few days off, you can save big on these courses, stuff your brain and build your skills. Click the course titles, or use the coupon code BLKFRI159 to get the discounts.

Follow @josephcaserto on Twitter, too, and look for hashtag #JCBLKFRI to get unannounced specials throughout the weekend.

Adobe Digital Publishing Suite (DPS) for Beginners: reg $69

Adobe InDesign Turbochargers: reg $39

Color Basics for Print Designers: reg $19

Converting Type to Outlines in Adobe InDesign: reg $19

Create Your Own iPad & Android Publications: reg $99

Easy Snowflakes and More with Adobe CS/CC: reg $99

How to Become a Successful Freelancer: reg $24

Interactive PDFs with Adobe InDesign: No Code Digital: reg $29

Intro to Adobe InDesign: reg $99

Intro to Adobe Illustrator: reg $99

*Design for Coders not included. Offer expires at 11:59 pm PST 11/30/15. Limited number of coupons available.

Feel free to share this offer with colleagues, family, and friends. Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!


Tell Pratt To Ban Crowdsourcing and Spec Work

6 Nov
New branding for Pratt Institute Cannoneers, by alumnus Wayland Chew (B.F.A. Graphic Design ’06).

New branding for Pratt Institute Cannoneers, by alumnus Wayland Chew (B.F.A. Graphic Design ’06).

This spring, I wrote to Pratt Institute, my alma mater, to express my disappointment that they engaged in crowdsourcing to get a new mascot design for their athletic department identity. Although I received a response to my first letter, my follow up went unanswered. This week, the winning design was announced on the Pratt website. The artist, alumnus Wayland Chew (BFA Graphic Design, ’06), was compensated in the form of $1500 and two gala tickets. The other entrants submitted their work, which became the property of Pratt, for no compensation. I maintain my original position: This is a poor lesson for Pratt to be teaching students, contributes to a practice that is damaging to the industry in which they are expected to compete, and to the livelihoods of Pratt alumni.

I want Pratt to join me and other industry professionals in sending a clear message that this practice, which is denounced by AIGA and The Graphic Artists Guild, is unacceptable. Please sign my petition challenging Pratt Institute to formally adopt an official policy prohibiting any art and design work from being crowdsourced and banning spec work, and pledge not to donate to any fundraising campaigns until that happens.

2015 American Graphic Design Award

13 Sep


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I’m proud to announce that I have won a 2015 American Graphic Design Award From GDUSA Magazine, making this the eighth consecutive year that my work has received this honor. The award is for a handmade book that I created at the ADIM Conference—my projects from past ADIMs also won in 2013 and 2014—which took place in April in Pacific Grove, CA. Just under 10,000 entries were submitted, and only 15% were recognized with Certificates of Excellence. The piece will be published in the printed American Graphic Design Awards Annual, in the Online Winners Gallery, and in the Digital Annual.

Thank you to the Editors and Judges from GDUSA, as well as to Russell BrownAdobeThe Van Heyst Group, EpsonUniversal Laser SystemsRoland, and all my fellow attendees for the amazing experience that was ADIM15.

For a look at some of my past winning work, please click the following links:

2014 Award

2013 Award

2012 Award 1

2012 Award 2

SPD-U: Five Questions for Ronnie Weil, Photo Editor

9 Jul

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Ronnie Weil, Photo Editor

The latest post in my Five Questions for… blog series for SPD-U, profiles Photo Editor, Ronnie Weil. Ronnie has some advice for aspiring photo editors.

“Our visual world is constantly moving forward: Keep pace with it.”—Ronnie Weil

An Independence Day Story

4 Jul


My father worked for IBM from the late 1960’s through the early 1990’s, when he retired, with a hard-earned pension, and requisite engraved gold clock. The corporation had an in-house publication, Think, a glossy bound magazine that would sometimes make it home with him. The July 1976 edition was tabloid sized and commemorated America’s Bicentennial by celebrating 200 years of work in America. It graced our living room for many years, sitting at the bottom of a stack of Sears catalogs and my mother’s nursing magazines. The others would eventually get tossed, but this issue of Think would always stay at the bottom of the pile because of its large size, serving as a foundation for the smaller, more frequent ones. A factor in its longevity was probably that I usually did the tossing as part of the chores that earned me an allowance of a whopping dollar or so a week, and even as a kid, I knew this cover was too good to part with. My Mom herself would say, “Don’t throw that one out, it’s special”

United States Mint image

United States Mint image

She was probably thinking that if we saved it with our Bicentennial quarters, it would earn us a big return on our investment. It turned out, like it usually does, that Mom was right, but the payoff wasn’t monetary.

As an adult, I remembered the cover well, but the magazine had long ago made its way out of the living room of my childhood home, and my guess was that it was gone for good. So, you can imagine my excitement when I found it in the attic a few years ago. The cover showed some signs of wear, but it was still as beautiful as I remembered. I paged through the issue, imagining how every page was produced by a pasteup artist, and that all the type had to be specced and sent to a type house to be set for reproduction. At some point, I noticed a credit: Art Director: Will Hopkins.

Will Hopkins, who I knew from the ADIM Conference?! Yes, it was indeed the same Will Hopkins, who with wife Mary K. Baumann, form Hopkins/Baumann. Seeing them both is always a high point of the event, and when I saw them at ADIM ’13, I told Will about finding this treasure. Will told me some of the back-story of the cover: How they produced it, and how the hands are those of a tailor, from Cuba if I’m not mistaken.

Following my passion has allowed me to work in America, and collaborate with so many talented people who do the same, here and worldwide. Without hesitation, I can say that speaking with Will about this piece that had such a big impact on me was one of the high points of my design life: I now realize that this one magazine played an important part in my career path to becoming a publication designer. It was just a few minutes of great conversation between a seasoned colleague and an admirer interested in learning more, but the payoff was priceless. Always keep learning, no matter how old you get, and, of course, always listen to your mother.

Milwaukee’s Flag Is a Lesson in the Dangers of Crowdsourcing

8 Jun

My friend, Tom Shamy, turned me on to an excellent TED Talk by Roman Mars, on the dearth of well-designed city flags.


The Beer City Flag is a Show of Bad Banners.

Mars does an excellent job in his presentation on explaining the foundations of flag design, and critiquing some examples. However, in what I assume is an unintended bonus, one of the points he makes is a perfect lesson in the dangers of crowdsourcing.

He describes the city flag of Milwaukee, Wisconsin as, “one of the biggest train wrecks in vexillological history.” The flag is the result of a 1955 contest, which no one actually won, including, it would seem, the good people of Milwaukee. A politician (yes, you read that right) used parts of several submissions to create the final version, which tries really hard to symbolize everything significant to Milwaukee, and in doing so even includes a second flag! Not having learned their lesson the first time, Milwaukee ran a contest in 1975, and again in 2001. (Remember, folks, three strikes and you’re out.) The latter contest received 105 entries, but the Milwaukee Arts Board couldn’t agree on a winner. Mars’s response to this bureaucratic gridlock, although I doubt he intended it as a warning against crowdsourcing, actually nails it:

“Good design and democracy just simply do not go together.”

Exactly. Good government may come from getting input from constituents, assembling it into a bill, arguing its merits in both houses of the legislative branch, and passing it into law. But, good design comes from hiring professional designers, and paying them fairly for their expertise, instead of soliciting a slew of free ideas, to be reviewed and picked over by committee, and reassembled as its members see fit.

Gap learned this lesson the hard way back in 2010, when they pulled the plug on their much-loathed new logo. The update received a huge outcry on social media, not to mention a reaction from AIGA denouncing the use of crowdsourcing in the project.

The Milwaukee flag is a perfect example of a state government exploiting the citizens who it is supposedly there to represent. Maybe members of the Milwaukee design community should fly the flag upside down in protest? If they did, it certainly would make it look any worse, and it would be a fitting distress signal as crowdsourcing eats away at their livelihoods.

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