2008 Articles about Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

40 Playful Logos, Kreative Garden (December 2008)

Creative Advent 2008: Jeff Fisher, Positive Space, by Anthony Zinni (December 2008)

20 amazing or original Logotypes & Logos!, by Mickaël Bertrand Alexandre (December 2008)

Open Thread: What's Your Email Signature?, FreelanceFolder, by Jacob Cass (December 2008)

100 Brands of Interest, by David Pache (December 2008)

The Ultimate List of The Best Logo Design Resources, Just Creative, by Jacob Cass (December 2008)

Jeff Fisher Interview Transcript, CreativePublic.com, by Doug Farrick (November 2008)

What makes a logo designer a professional logo designer?, I'm Just Creative, by Graham Smith (November 2008)

How designers charge their clients, by David Airey (November 2008)

42 Information Packed Twitter Backgrounds, by Mike Smith (November 2008)

40+ Creative Logos Submitted By The Designers Themselves, The Design Cubicle, by Brian Hoff (November 2008)

10 Principles of the Logo Design Masters, VECTORTUTS, by Chris Spooner (October 2008)

My Freelance Life: Why I Started On The Road To Self- Employment, CMD+Shift Design Blog, Liz Andrade (October 2008)

Making Time to Market, ADBASE Insight, by Linda Whitehead (October 2008)

25 Must Read Interviews From 2008, You The Designer (October 2008)

Designer's Favorite Fonts In Use, Design O'Blog, by Niki Brown (October 2008)

Graphic Design 101, Nails Magazine, by Ami Neiberger-Miller (October 2008)

Designer Spotlight: Jeff Fisher LogoMotives, DesignHide, by Dustin Turin (July 2008)

Ingredients of a Successful Capabilities Presentation, Dynamic Graphics, by Daniel Schutzsmith (June/July 2008)

Here's my card: The networking aid gets a makeover, Associated Press, by Jackie Farwell (June 2008)

Logo design guidelines abet a strong brand, Buzzworthy Branding, by Martin Jelsema (May 2008)

Logo Design Tips & A Not-So-Ordinary Interview with Logo Designer Jeff Fisher, Just Creative, by Jacob Cass (May 2008)

Home Business by Design, Savvy Marketing Secrets, by Marcia Ming (January 2008)

What Can Celebrated Graphic Designer Jeff Fisher Teach Us About Small Business Marketing?, Ezine Articles, by Marcia Ming (January 2008)

Art School vs. The Real World, Create Magazine, by Dave Willmer, The Creative Group (January/February 2008)

A New Brand for the New Year, TCG eZine, by The Creative Group (January 2008)

The design firm name conundrum

What's in a name? A great deal when you are a graphic designer attempting to brand yourself for business purposes. Designers are often commenting to me about the difficulty in determining how to label themselves for business purposes. Others in the profession regularly post questions about the issue on online design forums.

Although I've been very happy to use the business name Jeff Fisher LogoMotives for the past ten years, I had the same struggle when first starting out in the design profession - and the challenges continued for a number of years.

When first moving to Portland in 1980, I created a simple red "jf" icon, making use of the font Tiffany, to be used on my resume and stationery items as I searched for my first design job. In the poor economy of the time there were no jobs to be had and I soon found myself taking on independent design projects from a variety of clients.

That's when I started playing with the possibility of creating a name for my design and art efforts. I came up with the term "art-werks, ink." as an umbrella name for what included my graphic design efforts, and the ink line drawings and silkscreen prints I was selling at galleries throughout the state of Oregon. The graphic was a simple image of a bottle of India ink with the top portion of the symbol creating the "A" letterform. The ink bottle seemed especially appropriate as I was often spilling bottles of the black substance all over the furnishings and carpet of my home. I had a rubber stamp made of the ink bottle icon in a circle and would often use the stamped identity imagery on business correspondence. The type was a somewhat phonetic treatment of the business name in Avant Garde.

Following the career interuption of my first "real" job as art director of a group of medical publications, I again needed to establish an image for myself for the contract work I was then doing above and beyond a then current ad agency art director position. I revisited the image I used on my resume about four years earlier. "Jeff Fisher Graphic Design" was the name being used at the time.

A move to Seattle in 1985 resulted in a lot of changes. My partner, at the time, was selling menu design and production services. As restaurant identity and menu design work began coming my way I toyed with the idea of marketing myself as "MenuGraphix." It seemed to be a little too limiting as far as attracting new clientele outside of the restaurant industry. I then introduced myself as "Ad Ventures, Ink."

Once again a pesky traditional employment situation, this time as creative director of a clothing company, got in the way of seriously making use of the new business moniker.

It was about this time that I first tossed out the name "Logo Motive" as a possible business identification. It was met with nothing but negative feedback from family, friends and clients. The name, and the created logo image, was used in one print ad and shelved. I was nearly a decade into my career as a professional designer and all felt I should be using my own name to capitalize on my design reputation.

In the late 80's I moved back to Portland and, while maintaining my Seattle clientele, I needed to reintroduce myself to the Portland market. Initially I used the previous identity with the red "jf." However, it felt dated and I soon was using a very simple treatment of "Jeff Fisher" in Kabel. About four years later I resurrected the idea of using "Logo Motive" again. In Portland the concept was met with the same enthusiasm I experienced in Seattle - and I filed the revised images away.

A couple years later I hit a design career "speed bump." I was feeling bored with my profession and probably experiencing a bit of "burnout" after working in design for nearly 20 years. In re-evaluating my professional options I determined I really wanted to focus on identity design.

The old "Logo Motive" concept came out for another look. By fine-tuning the locomotive image, maintaining the use of the font Kabel, adding "Jeff Fisher" to the graphic, and putting an "s" to what was now the single word "LogoMotive," the business identity for "Jeff Fisher LogoMotives" was born. The best thing about the business name and logo is that my target client audience is told who I am and what I do.

Had I listened to my "gut instincts" about a possible business name - instead of the feedback from others around me - I might have established a stronger, and more permanent, business image much earlier. Instead, I was my own worst, wishy-washy client. Still, the end result was worth the effort and is still chugging along the tracks after a decade of use. I don't think I'll be changing it any time soon.

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

Jeff Fisher LogoMotives identity included
in "100 Brands of Interest" collection

In his recent dacheboard blog post, David Pache - a respected identity designer in his own right - showcases "100 Brands of Interest." The logo for Jeff Fisher LogoMotives is included in the impressive collection of 100 identifying marks for logo designers, brand identity consultants and graphic studios from around the world.

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

Toot! Toot!*:
StartupNation names Jeff Fisher LogoMotives
one of nation's top 100 home-based businesses

Jeff Fisher LogoMotives, has been recognized by StartupNation as one of the nation's top businesses in its annual Home-Based 100 competition in the category of Most Slacker-Friendly. Jeff Fisher, the Engineer of Creative Identity for the Portland-based firm, is known for operating his company from wherever he and his PowerBook may be - foreign countries, tropical beaches, hotels in various cities, airports, coffee shops, his garden and other locales. The design business, specializing in identity design and branding, is currently celebrating 30 years in operation.

Many of the StartupNation Home-Based 100 submissions revealed that business owners are bucking the current economic downturn and finding business success in these tight times. Historically, Fisher's business has been at its best when the economy is at its worst, as new businesses are launched, existing companies jumpstart marketing efforts, and individuals concerned about possible job losses initiate future plans.

“The 2008 ranking shows that the home-based business is more relevant than ever. The current recession has spurred a new wave of home based businesses as a response to loss of jobs, the need for supplemental income and the sheer passion for blazing your own trail and running your own show,” said Rich Sloan, co-founder of StartupNation.com, one of the leading small business networking and advice websites. “Home based businesses are the biggest block of all businesses in existence and we expect numbers to grow ever greater as extra bedrooms, kitchen tables, basements and garages become host to the innovative thinking and pursuit of success by millions of Americans.”

The StartupNation Home-Based 100 highlights 10 top-ten lists making it not just your ordinary business ranking. From the wackiest, to the most innovative, to the best financial performers – this unique and diverse list highlights the home-based businesses that usually go unrecognized, but still play a vital role in the economy today.

In addition to StartupNation staff, judges for this year’s Home Based 100 ranking included Adam Lowry, co-founder of Method Products, Howard Behar, former President of Starbucks North America, John Jantsch, founder of Duct Tape Marketing, Mel Robbins, host of Make It Happen radio show. The competition was sponsored by Microsoft Office Live Small Business and FedEx Office.

Designer Jeff Fisher is the author of Identity Crisis: 50 Redesigns That Transformed Stale Identities into Successful Brands (HOW Books, 2007). He has received nearly 600 regional, national and international graphic design awards for his logo and corporate identity efforts and his work is featured in over 100 books on the design of logos, the business of graphic design, and small business marketing. Fisher is a member of the HOW Design Conference Advisory Council and the UCDA Designer Magazine Editorial Advisory Board, and served on the HOW Magazine Editorial Advisory Board. His first HOW Books offering, The Savvy Designer’s Guide to Success, appeared on bookstore shelves in late 2004. Fisher is currently writing a book about typography in identity design.

(* If I don’t "toot!" my own horn, no one else will.)

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

Toot! Toot!*: Jeff Fisher LogoMotives designs featured in "100's Visual Logos and Letterheads"

More than two dozen logo designs by Jeff Fisher, the Engineer of Creative Identity for the Portland- based firm Jeff Fisher LogoMotives, are showcased in the newly released book 100's Visual Logos & Letterheads. The volume, written by Matthew Woolman, is published by Angela Patchell Books. The book features hundreds of the most creative and inspiring logos and letterheads from well-known international designers, design agencies and graphic artists.

The business, organization and event identities featured in the book - from Jeff Fisher LogoMotives - are (shown above):

Good Pig, Bad Pig - Portland, OR (illustration by client Brett Bigham) • Just Out Newsmagazine - Portland, OR • Black Dog Furniture Design - Portland, OR (illustration by Brett Bigham) * Thomas Fallon Architect - Portland, OR • Our House of Portland - Portland, OR • Balaboosta - Portland, OR • North Bank Cafe - Portland, OR • Native Youth Internship Program - Holland + Knight Charitable Foundation, Inc. - Portland, OR/Tampa, FL • TraveLady Media - Wilsonville, OR • Emerge Medical Spa at Bridgeport - Tigard, OR • AFriend - Portland, OR • VanderVeer Center - Portland, OR • Chameleon - Portland, OR • Neighborhood Service Center - City of Portland/Office of Neighborhood Involvement - Portland, OR • North Portland Pride BBQ and Festival - University Park United Methodist Church - Portland, OR • Young Native Writers Essay Contest - Holland + Knight Charitable Foundation, Inc. - Tampa, FL • St. Johns Window Project - Portland, OR • triangle productions! 14th Anniversary - Portland, OR • The Dream State - triangle productions! - Portland, OR • Seacoast AIDS Walk - AIDS Response Seacoast - Portsmouth, NH • Shopping and F***ing - triangle productions! - Portland, OR • Holocaust Remembrance Project - Holland + Knight Charitable Foundation, Inc. - Tampa, FL • Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns - Benicia, CA • Tilikum Center for Retreats & Outdoor Ministries - George Fox University - Newberg, OR • Valles Caldera National Preserve • USDA Forest Service - Jemez Springs, NM • Vista House - Friends of Vista House/Oregon State Parks Trust - Columbia Gorge, OR

Author Matthew Woolman is associate professor and chair of the Graphic Design Program at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he teaches typography and design theory. He has produced eight books, including the best-selling Type in Motion: Innovations in Digital Graphics. His other writings and art/design projects have been published internationally in design journals and books; exhibited internationally; and included in private collections.

Jeff Fisher is the author of Identity Crisis: 50 Redesigns That Transformed Stale Identities into Successful Brands (HOW Books, 2007). He has received nearly 600 regional, national and international graphic design awards for his logo and corporate identity efforts and his work is featured in over 100 books on the design of logos, the business of graphic design, and small business marketing. Fisher is a member of the HOW Design Conference Advisory Council and the UCDA Designer Magazine Editorial Advisory Board, and served on the HOW Magazine Editorial Advisory Board. His first HOW Books offering, The Savvy Designer’s Guide to Success, appeared on bookstore shelves in late 2004. Fisher is currently writing a book about typography in identity design.

(* If I don’t "toot!" my own horn, no one else will.)

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

The logo’s the thing: Identity design takes the stage

In “Hamlet” William Shakespeare made the comment “the play’s the thing.” Unfortunately he did not expand on that thought as far as suggesting how theatre companies draw audiences to their venues to see the plays presented.

As a graphic designer I have had many opportunities over the past 30 years to assist performing arts organizations in the marketing and promotion of their efforts by creating logos for companies and theater spaces, identities for shows, posters, season ticket brochures, T-shirts and other marketing pieces. I remember creating a rough, stencil like image for a high school production of Thorton Wilder’s “Our Town” back in the mid-70’s, but I certainly had no premonitions that I would be doing a great deal of such work in the future. In college I designed posters, ads, T-shirts and other graphics for plays, concerts and other art-related associations and events. Later, while living in Seattle, I designed logos, programs, ads and promotion items for the performing arts groups Alice B. Theatre, the Seattle Men’s Chorus, the Evergreen Theater Conservatory and similar companies.

It was also in Seattle that I first became aware of the logo design work being done for local theater by Art Chantry (above). I’d met Chantry, the subject of the book Some People Can’t Surf: The Graphic Design of Art Chantry by Julie Lasky, while he was working at the alternative publication “The Rocket.” His logo creations for local theater companies and plays are what caught my attention the most. The work was stark - almost always just black and white – and had a simplicity that conveyed a great deal about the theatre production company or play being represented. The designs really inspired me to seek out opportunities doing logo design work for similar clients.

In early 1990 I attended the first play of a new Portland theatre company. I’ve got to admit, while looking over the program for the play, my first thought was “these guys could use some help.” Little did I know that I would meet the playwright/director/producer/ticker seller at a party a few weeks later. In that first conversation, Don Horn asked if I’d be interested in meeting with him to discuss some design projects for the theatre. For 16 years I worked with the theatre company, triangle productions!, located in Portland, Oregon. I designed over 100 logos for the company, its venues, shows that have been presented and special promotions. My work for the company has received nearly that number of design awards and many of the logos have been featured in numerous international design books. We have created programs, posters, signage, T-shirts, magnets, beverage cups, a paper doll book and many other unique (and fun) items in an effort to draw audiences to shows over the past decade and a half.

For myself, designing logos for live theatre companies offers me a chance to be at my most creative. With design projects for such a creative clientele there is often a great deal of room to stretch one’s creative muscles. This is not standard or conservative graphic design faire. In designing logos for theatrical productions a designer can often go over the top in the creation of attention-getting images. There is an incredible opportunity to play with type and color in unrestricted ways. I enjoy working with somewhat unusual color combinations and incorporating type from font houses such as P22, Fonthead Design, House Industries or Veer – type you many not normally see in more corporate or commercial designs. It’s not a question of “pushing the envelope” or working “out of the box” – there is no ‘envelope” or “box.” Within the theatrical graphic imagery a designer has the chance to convey the essence of a play, monologue or musical in a unique and stylized manner.

The subject matter lends itself to blatant graphic interpretations. My own experience has included being able to produce images for productions from Shakespeare to spoofs on the Bard. Topic matter has included AIDS, cannibalism, strippers, sex, country-western music, vaginas, religion, Internet dating, death, unique personal relationships, murder, concentration camps, drag queens, drug use and everything in between. Titles have included “Girls’ Night Out,” “2 Boys in a Bed on an Cold Winter’s Night,” “Dishin’ With Divine,” “The Food Chain,” “Naked Boys Singing” and so many more. (The play “Party!” is a personal favorite. Not only did I design the logo, T-shirts and a program – I actually got to spend the summer of my first mid-life crisis directing the show with seven naked men on stage – including Peter Paige who went on to “Queer as Folk” fame) How could a designer not be inspired to come up with some great logo designs to represent such topics and shows?

Don Horn, of triangle productions!, was an incredible client. Each of the past seasons he has provided me with the scripts of all the plays to be produced that year. After reading the plays, I had a meeting with Don to discuss a possible theme for the year as far as design style or colors to be used in printing the season ticket brochure, posters and programs. He then set me loose to be creative – and left me alone! The “leaving me alone” part was initially a foreign concept to me. Never before had I worked with a client who gave me free reign of the process. I never had Horn reject a logo I created for one of his shows. It was a very strange and wonderful client relationship over the years – and I truly value this particular client as a friend.

Judith Mayer, of Keyword Design, also appreciates the opportunity to collaborate with other creatives in a design relationship much different than most corporate clients.

“(Theatre clients) are sometimes more willing to go for a daring or whimsical design solution,” according to Mayer. “The fact that a show is a short term event gives them a little more freedom than if it were a logo that a business wants to last 20 years.”

Mayer enjoys the challenge of telling a story, or conveying a mood, through simple striking graphics. She designs for the Towle Community Theater, in Hammond, Indiana, which presents several shows each season that are not considered standards or classics. Mayer’s challenge is to make the public understand what kind of a show it is – even if they have never before heard the title. The examples below were all designed by Mayer for the Towle Community Theater:

“To create a logo that sums up the story means a lot of image editing - getting down to the strongest symbols or characters,” says Mayer. “In using only the key things that define the story, I try to say a lot using very little.”

As in many of my own theater design experiences, Mayer finds that when a season is promoted all at once the logos for four or five shows need to complement each other and at the same time show a range. She feels the logos must share similar characteristics in order to look like a complete set and must have differences to show whether it is a comedy, drama, classic or cutting edge theatre.

Mayer sits down with the director and has him tell her the story and asks him to list the important characters, props, locations, costume elements, scenery and songs if any.

“I may also ask him to define the look and feel of the production so that I have a pool of potential graphics to choose from,” Mayer adds. “Having him tell me the story takes into account the differences this production may have from another theater’s production of the same play.”

“Total creative freedom.”

That is what designer Jim Charlier, of JCharlier Communication Design, gets out working with those in the theatre arts. He created the series of logos below for the Niagara University Department of Theatre and Fine Arts’ current season of plays. The initial project was to create a 16-page season program booklet.

Charlier is fortunate to enough to have access to a wealth of imagery from The Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University for use in the season program. The permanent collection consists of contemporary prints, photographs, paintings, drawings and sculpture by artists such as Picasso, Basquiat, Modigliani, Dali, Motherwell, DeKooning, Nevelson, Rothenberg, Haring, Rauschenberg and many more.

“Because rights and permissions to use the artworks are either costly (for advertising purposes), or take time to acquire, I am the one that suggested creating a logo for each play, not only to individualize the play, but to also be practical for other advertising needs such as black and white print ads.” says Charlier.

“I created the series using one typeface (P22 Garamouche) to give them consistency for the season. Many of these logos were my first and only attempts. Nary a change was made by the client — they are smart, have good taste and are appreciative of professional-quality work,” Charlier remarks.

Charlier comments that such projects offer him the only total creative freedom he gets in designing logos - unless designing for himself which he finds can be much “tougher.” He finds that most clients add complexity to either the process or the final design in the creation of logos.

“Designers always want to simplify,” Charlier adds. “Working on the theatre projects is a breath of fresh air and I get to make them as simple as I want them to be.”

In Charlier’s situation many productions are already known commodities, such as Chicago and Gypsy. He doesn’t find there is much “heavy lifting” to get the gist of the play across to the potential audience. His logos take graphic cues directly from the storyline or theme of the play - whether comedy, drama or musical.

The One Act Plays image (above) represents a series of plays written by different students presented in one production. Charlier felt that since the productions are not well known a type treatment seemed logically generic as a graphic solution. Often such treatments project a striking image for a play with simplicity and elegance.

“I added self-imposed constraints - to use one typeface, few or one color (because of the B&W print ads) and simple,” says the designer. “The logos couldn't compete with the Picasso or Miro used on the same page in this particular season program.”

“A synopsis of the play works best for me (in getting inspiration) – it’s like speed reading to get the gist of the production,” Charlier concludes. “That's what the logo has to do - be read quickly to convey the strong graphic “gist” of the show.”

Note: This article appeared in its original format in the Logo Notions section at CreativeLatitude.com.

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

Toot! Toot!: Designer/author Jeff Fisher interviewed for Inside Digital Design radio program

Jeff Fisher, the Engineer of Creative Identity for the Portland- based firm Jeff Fisher LogoMotives was recently interviewed for the design industry radio program Inside Digital Design. The primary focus of the broadcast and podcast, conducted by hosts hosts Scott Sheppard and Gene Gable, was Fisher's latest book Identity Crisis: 50 Redesigns That Transformed Stale Identities into Successful Brands. - which was released one year ago.

The Inside Digital Design show airs weekly in key U.S. national markets and is then made available to a global audience, on the program's website and as a podcast via Apple’s iTunes.

Inside Digital Design Radio & TV is a weekly broadcast program providing news, information, product reviews, and in-depth interviews for today’s creative professional. Covering the latest digital design tools, tips and techniques, insights from industry icons and designers, anecdotes from the history of design, and a good dose of creative inspiration, the original content is distributed and produced by Inside Media Networks.

Jeff Fisher has received nearly 600 regional, national and international graphic design awards for his logo and corporate identity efforts. His work is featured in over 100 books on the design of logos, the business of graphic design, and small business marketing. He is a member of the HOW Design Conference Advisory Council and the UCDA Designer Magazine Editorial Advisory Board, and served on the HOW Magazine Editorial Advisory Board. His first HOW Books offering, The Savvy Designer’s Guide to Success, appeared on bookstore shelves in late 2004. Fisher is currently writing a book about typography in identity design.

(* If I don’t "toot!" my own horn, no one else will.)

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

Identity Re-Design: Peggy Sundays

It's not often that I do an identity redesign before a new business even opens. However, that was the case with the retail operation originally named Peggy Sunday's. Peggy Seaman, owner of the store that Portland Picks has referred to as "an ultra-girly housewares haven filled to the brim with fabulous finds," found me just over a decade ago by way of an article about my business that appeared in The Oregonian.

For the purpose of getting the store together, dealing with possible vendors and coordinating work with contractors, a temporary business card had been created (below left). The name Peggy Sunday's had evolved from a childhood nickname of the owner.

A more sophisticated and customer-friendly identity was desired for business cards, stickers, hang-tags, rubber stamp imagery, signage, ads and more. When Seaman herself mentioned the rubber-stamp need, the concept that would become the final logo started percolating in my brain. I immediately thought of a hand-cut circle with a sun element.

During the design process it was decided to drop the apostrophe in the name - to eliminate any confusion about the proprietor's last name possibly being "Sunday." I chose the font Caslon Antique for the name to tie-in with the rough-hewn appearance of the other design elements. The sun element was adapted from an old dingbat I had come across - with a bit of a facelift suggested by the store owner's sister.

With the simplicity and strength of the final logo design (above right) it was determined that the logo would remain in one color. In most applications it is black on sage paper stock. In some cases it has been produced in metallic gold. A decade after being created the identity still represents the store very well.

The logo for the high-end gift and home furnishings store is featured in the books The Big Book of Logos 3, New Logo & Trademark Design 2 (Japan), Letterhead and Logo Design 7 and The Big Book of Design for Letterheads and Websites.

(Note: My book, Identity Crisis!: 50 Redesigns That Transformed Stale Identities Into Successful Brands, contains case studies from 35 designers and firms located around the world. Learn more about the book on the Identity Crisis! blog.)

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives.

Jeff Fisher LogoMotives is "on fire" in 2008
StartupNation Home-Based 100 Competition

Jeff Fisher LogoMotives has attained "on fire" status on the Popularity Meter in the second annual StartupNation Home-Based 100, which celebrates America’s most outstanding home-based businesses and the people behind them. The competition ranks the best businesses operated from home in ten distinct categories. The Portland-based identity design firm is a candidate in the “Most Slacker Friendly” category and may be voted for daily on the Jeff Fisher LogoMotives competition page.

Votes for Jeff Fisher LogoMotives have come from many sources in cyberspace. Cat Morley, of Bangkok, Thailand threw her support behind the design firm through an entry on Designers Who Blog, and posts on the HOW Design Forum and About.com Graphic Design Forum. Calvin Lee of Mayhem Studios and Danita Reynolds of Creative Expertise have been leading the charge through design forum posts, micro-blogging on Twitter and mentions on Facebook. Jason Holland has been hard at work assisting my "campaign" as well. Many design peers, clients, vendors, friends and family members are also casting votes on a daily basis.

Fisher himself has made use of his Twitter and Facebook profiles in promoting the competition effort. Signature files on StartupNation, biznik, the HOW Design Forum, and elsewhere online direct potential voters to the Jeff Fisher LogoMotives competition page. Home-Based 100 related entries were also posted on bLog-oMotives, the Jeff Fisher LogoMotives blogfolio, dezumo, AdGabber, Adholes, Pink Banana Media, Cross Media Experts, Sta.rtUp.biz, Squidoo and other Internet social networking sites

With his competition effort Fisher hopes to demonstrate how social media and social networking can be used as effective marketing tools.

StartupNation is a free online business resource founded by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. On the site, you’ll find all the easy-to-follow, practical information you could ever need to start and grow your own successful business.

Vote early. Vote often. Thank you for your support!

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

Identity Re-Design:
Childpeace Montessori Community

In 1999 I was contracted to create a new identity for the Childpeace Montessori Community. The existing geometric logo seemed somewhat cold and impersonal in representing the education facility. I was asked to design an image that was softer, more inviting and played upon the school location on Portland's North Park Blocks.

With the school and its playground equipment so connected to the treed city park location, I chose to make leaves the primary graphic element in the design. A trio of elm leaves was positioned over the word "Childpeace," creating a situation where the descender of the "p" letterform hinted at being part of a tree branch. By extending that descender a bit, space was made available for the words "Montessori" and "Community" to fit in easily, forming a tight identity for the facility.

Making use of a gradation in the leaf elements gave the image a sense of warmth and energy. However, for ease of reproduction in some applications the logo was also produced in a version with solid leaves.

The Childpeace Montessori Community identity received a 2000 American Graphic Design Award.

With a move to a new location in the summer of 2003, and adoption of the name Childpeace Montessori School, the short-lived logo was retired.

(Note: My book, Identity Crisis!: 50 Redesigns That Transformed Stale Identities Into Successful Brands, contains case studies from 35 designers and firms located around the world. Learn more about the book on the Identity Crisis! blog.)

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives.

Excavated Design Artifact #21

I don't think I'm ever going to get through the boxes and files of past projects that have piled up around my home-based studio over the past 30 years. At least I have no shortage of excavated artifacts to share with others. Here's another example of what a client thought they wanted - and the end result.

I recently came across another yellowing thermal fax page, this one from March 1996. A client of my sister's ad agency and PR firm sent the office a rough layout of a logo and flier they wanted the design department to create.

The client, Advocates for Home Buyers, wanted to promote guidebook the firm had produced for individuals considering purchasing a home. The concept for the flier included multiple fonts for the text and a rough drawing of illustrative element creating a house from the A, H and B letterforms (above left). The colors of red, blue and green were specified for the logo to be produced.

Luckily, my sister and her staff were able to convince the client to have cleaner logo created and the one-sheet flier became a two-color tri-fold, self-mailing brochure. The client also agreed that "Home Buyers" should really be one word as a business name element - even though the emphasis on the H and B were still requested to maintain some consistency with existing marketing and promotion materials.

I designed a tighter house image making use of the letters requested and set it within a circular shape containing the business name (above right). A new color palette was accepted by the client for the printing of the two-color direct mail piece.

Looking back on the approved image 12 years later, I would have refined it even more. However, the logo solution met the time and budget constraints of the job - and greatly exceeded the expectations of the client.

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

Toot! Toot!*: NAILS Magazine features Jeff Fisher LogoMotives in "Graphic Design 101" article

The design efforts of Jeff Fisher, the Engineer of Creative Identity for the Portland-based firm Jeff Fisher LogoMotives, are featured in the October 2008 issue of NAILS Magazine. In the article Graphic Design 101, Fisher is interviewed by Ami Neiberger-Miller about his identity design work for Diva Salon, and the creative process in meeting the needs and desires of a small business client.

Owner Lisa Fritsch also provides the perspective of a small business owner working with a graphic design professional. In the piece, Fritsch sums up her experience in working with Jeff Fisher LogoMotives saying, "I've been fortunate. I got lucky when I had a meeting of the minds with Jeff Fisher."

In the introduction to her article, Neiberger-Miller writes: "Graphic design can make or break the image of a nail salon. Whether or not you have a consciously crafted image, your nail salon's brand is expressed through the look of your salon's materials."

Written for professionals in the salon industry, NAILS Magazine covers all aspects of the business, including how to open and run a successful salon or spa, career advice, safe and effective manicure/pedicure techniques, healthy and safety matters, trend forecasts, advertising, branding and more. Published since 1983, the magazine has provided advanced education for nail professionals to a subscription base of 60,000.

Fisher's branding efforts for the Diva Salon have experienced previous international exposure. The Diva logo appears in the The New Big Book of Logos, Logo World (Japan), Logo Design for Small Business 2 and Logos from North to South America (Spain). The business card for Diva is featured in the book New Business Card Graphics 2 (Japan).

Jeff Fisher has received nearly 600 regional, national and international graphic design awards for his logo and corporate identity efforts. His work is featured in over 100 books on the design of logos, the business of graphic design, and small business marketing. He is a member of the HOW Design Conference Advisory Council and the UCDA Designer Magazine Editorial Advisory Board, and served on the HOW Magazine Editorial Advisory Board. His latest book, Identity Crisis!: 50 Redesigns That Transformed Stale Identities into Successful Brands, was released in 2007 by HOW Books. His first volume, The Savvy Designer’s Guide to Success, appeared on bookstore shelves in late 2004.

(* If I don’t "toot!" my own horn, no one else will.)

Note: The NAILS Magazine article came about as a result of the writer's resource request through Help A Reporter Out (HARO).

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

Tweet! Tweet!: LogoMotives is all a-Twitter

Until now I've avoided joining the Twitter bandwagon - primarily due to to my addictive personality. Besides, between design and business forums, online portfolios and social networking/media I'm online way too much already. Well, those days are over.

Thankfully, I do get to blame someone else for my fall into the abyss that is Twitter-mania. My buddy Christian Messer, of Whiplash Design, wrote the recently posted article article Online Marketing: Everyone's all a Twitter… for the site biznik (business networking that doesn't suck) and I was sold.

I've been "tweeting" for almost two days and having a lot of fun in the process. I do already see the value in Twitter as a networking tool and community builder. It will be interesting to see how my participation evolves as yet another marketing and promotion tool for Jeff Fisher LogoMotives.

The url of my Twitter profile is twitter.com/LogoMotives. See you there...

By the way, Twitter has become another method for me to campaign for your vote in the StartupNation Home-Based 100 Competition. (With some help from Cal the "retweeter!") Vote early. Vote often.

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

Excavated Design Artifact #20

The design studio housecleaning continues...and I have another excavated artifact to share.

Early in the summer of 1989 I was contacted by Cascade AIDS Project (CAP) to create a logo for "From All Walks of Life," the third annual AIDS pledge walk to benefit AIDS care and education in Portland, OR. In my first doodle (below left), done in red ink pen for some unknown reason, I envisioned a variety of oversized shoes containing some of the recognizable buildings in downtown Portland.

That original concept then evolved into an illustration executed with a rapidiograph pen, making use of some polka dot Zipatone film pattern and Liquid Paper for a little cleanup (above middle). A cowboy boot - with a stitched rose, a ruby red high heel, a oxford brogue, a hiking boot, a high top tennis shoe and a ballet slipper were represented in the artwork. Within some of the shoes rested the now iconic Portland Building, the KOIN Center, what was then the First Interstate Building, and the US Bancorp Tower (also known a "Big Pink").

The rough logo design concept presented to CAP as a color copy (above right) showed the artwork, with a possible treatment indicated in color pencil, surrounded by the proposed placement of the needed text. The type seems somewhat poorly laid out, and difficult to read, in the pre-computer transfer lettering font Latino.

The final design (above) made use of another font in an arch-like treatment, with the tagline beneath the illustration. Reviewing the design now, the type treatment of the event name looks kind of clunky and awkward. It appears to be a bit 1980's-ish - which it is...

Note: The Cascade AIDS Project is still an active organization today. In fact, the 22nd annual AIDS Walk Portland will be held Sunday, October 12, 2008.

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

Education Logos

(Clockwise from upper left)

James John School
Client: James John Elementary School
Location: Portland, OR USA

The logo for a public elementary school near the historic St. Johns Bridge. The identity was honored with an American Graphic Design Award and a Silver in the Summit Creative Awards. It appears in the books The New Big Book of Logos (HBI, USA, 2000), The New Big Book of Logos (Paper, Harper Design, USA, 2003), Logos from North to South America (Index Book, Spain, 2005), Logo Cafe (Page One, Singapore 2005) and Logos from North to South America (Paper-mini, Index Book, Spain, 2007).

Four Rivers Community School
Client: Four Rivers Community School
Location: Ontario, OR USA

This logo needed to appeal to children and adults associated with the bilingual charter school. A graphic representation of the "four rivers" was requested - along with the text in Spanish and English. The logo appears in The Big Book of Logos 5 (Harper Design, USA, 2007) and The Big Book of Logos 5 (Paperback, Harper Design, USA, 2012).

Fall Thesis 1999
Client: Reed College
Location: Portland, OR USA

This image was created to celebrate the 1999 Fall Thesis students at Reed College. The logo was honored with an American Graphic Design Award. It also appears in the books The New Big Book of Logos (HBI, USA, 2000), Logo World (P.I.E. Books, Japan, 2001) and The New Big Book of Logos (Paper, Harper Design, USA, 2003), Logos from North to South America (Index Book, Spain, 2005), Logo Cafe (Page One, Singapore 2005) and Logos from North to South America (Paper-mini, Index Book, Spain, 2007).

Childpeace Montessori Community
Client: Childpeace Montessori Community
Location: Portland, OR USA

This logo was also produced with solid leaves for various applications. It received an American Graphic Design Award.

All logo designs © 2015 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives. All rights reserved.

StartupNation recognizes Jeff Fisher LogoMotives
"Home-Based 100" one-hour marketing effort

Yesterday I received the StartupNation Community Bulletin in my email box - and there I was as the lead story. The mention was in regards to the Jeff Fisher LogoMotives entry in the StartupNation Home-Based 100 Competition. Under the heading "1 Hour Grassroots Marketing Victories" the text read:

Home-Based 100 contestant Jeff Fisher sees everything as a marketing opportunity and with about 1 hour of effort has made a significant impact on his business. "My little "Home-Based 100" marketing campaign has a resulted in a little side effect - traffic to my blogs and website is up about 30% in the past week." ...

A link in the email then invited readers to "Learn the 1 hour marketing plan ." The Community Bulletin newsletter is also posted online. In my original StartupNation forum post I explained how, in just about an hour, I had made a significant marketing effort in my quest to be one of the businesses featured on the annual Home-Based 100 list.

Here I am today using my marketing efforts as a self-promotion example - and promoting my business, and the competition, even more.

Please remember to vote daily for Jeff Fisher LogoMotives throughout the competition. Vote early. Vote often.

Thank you for your support.

(See what other sites have been "tooting my horn" in regards to the Home-Based 100 competition.)

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

Toot! Toot!*: Jeff Fisher LogoMotives honored
with 2008 American Graphic Design Award

Jeff Fisher, the Engineer of Creative Identity for the Portland firm Jeff Fisher LogoMotives, has received a 2008 American Graphic Design Award for his identity design efforts. Over the past decade Fisher has been honored with 19 of the awards in the annual national competition coordinated by the trade publication Graphic Design USA and sponsored by NewPage.

Fisher was honored for the identity created to represent the Holocaust Remembrance Project, a program of the Holland+Knight Charitable Foundation, Inc - the charitable giving organization of the Holland+Knight law firmwith headquarters in Tampa, FL. In the identity redesign effort, the designer made use of the negative imagery of triangle-shaped concentration camp uniform badges to form the colorful rays of a strong, positive sun graphic in projecting an image of honor and respect in regards to the issues of the Holocaust.

The Holocaust Remembrance Project is a national essay contest for high school students that is designed to encourage and promote the study of the Holocaust. Participation in the activity encourages students to think responsibly, be aware of world conditions that undermine human dignity, and make decisions that promote the respect and value inherent in every person. The project serves as a living memorial to the millions of innocent victims of the Holocaust.

Jeff Fisher has received nearly 600 regional, national and international graphic design awards for his logo and corporate identity efforts. His work is featured in over 100 books on the design of logos, the business of graphic design, and small business marketing. He is a member of the HOW Design Conference Advisory Council and the UCDA Designer Magazine Editorial Advisory Board, and served on the HOW Magazine Editorial Advisory Board. His latest book, Identity Crisis!: 50 Redesigns That Transformed Stale Identities into Successful Brands, was released in 2007 by HOW Books. His first volume, The Savvy Designer’s Guide to Success, appeared on bookstore shelves in late 2004.

(* If I don’t "toot!" my own horn, no one else will.)

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

Resources from "Reaping the Rewards" at the
Creative Freelancer Conference in Chicago

As a speaker, I had a great time at the Creative Freelancer Conference. It was incredible sitting in on the presentations of the other presenters, meeting so many of the participants in person, having the opportunity to answer so many of your questions on a one-to-one basis, and getting to review some great design and photography work.

In the course of my presentation "Reaping the Rewards of Creative Independence," and my "Marketing Through Social Networking" roundtable, many Creative Freelancer Conference attendees requested additional information. I mentioned I would make links to those resources available.

Many people requested the handout I created for the social networking roundtable. That information is available in my blogfolio post "Marketing through social networks & social media."

I was also asked about the online portfolios I use to market my identity design work. That information may be found in the article "Marketing logo design efforts with online resources." The marketing packet I send out to potential clients is described in the entry "Prepare for any marketing or promotion opportunity with a customizable "media kit."

A few of you requested a copy of my project agreement - which includes the wording of the rights clause I include to ensure I can use all work for self-promotion purposes. The text of my contract is detailed in the piece "Signing on the dotted line…"

StartupNation and biznik were the two general business networking sites I discussed in my presentation. "Real world" networking events are a possibility in your local area as a result of biznik, if there are enough nearby members. The organization for creatives working for, or with, colleges is the University and College Designers Association.

About every 30-45 days I post an updated list of design industry competitions and book submission calls-for-entries on bLog-oMotives.

I did have questions about my personal Facebook presence and my Jeff Fisher LogoMotives Facebook Page. These are two different entities - and any Facebook member may have a personal profile and a business Page.

A review of previous blogfolio entries about the Creative Freelancer Conference will also provide information covered in my presentation.

Several people asked about any upcoming speaking engagements I may have on my schedule. On Monday, October 13, 2008, I will be making a presentation on self-promotion at the Create Chaos 2008 event in Orlando, FL. I will be conducting a day-long workshop on identity design on Thursday, October 16, 2008, at the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle, WA.

I hope that all attendees got a great deal of value out of the Creative Freelance Conference. I really appreciate all the feedback I have received in the form of emails, posts on forums and other sites, and in person from those participating in my roundtable and attending my session. Thanks also for the many positive comments about my books, blogs and forum postings.

I would like to thank my friends Ilise Benun and Peleg Top of Marketing Mentor, the entire staff of HOW Magazine, my new unimaginary friend Colleen Wainwright (aka "the communicatrix"), all the other speakers and the conference sponsors, for putting on a really great creative industry event.

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

Creative, battery-recharging, vacations
are a necessity - not a luxury

A large part of "Reaping the Rewards of Creative Independence" involves creating a well-defined balance in one's life. There does seem to be a tendency for independent creative professionals to work around the clock - especially when lots of work is coming in the door. As self-employed individuals, designers, writers, photographers and illustrators are not, for the most part, getting paid when not working. How does that situation allow for much needed vacations?

Vacations are not a luxury reserved for corporate cubicle inhibitors with great benefit packages. Annual holidays are a necessity for all workers. They are a time to share with loved ones and friends, reflect on past ups and downs in business, plan for the future of one's career, read a few good books, visit exotic locales and recharge one's "batteries."

Such escapes from the world of business do require advance planning - and occasional client hand-holding prior to the actual trip.

Nearly a decade ago, my partner, eight friends and I rented a 300-year-old villa in Italy for a month. The trip itself took a great deal of tactical scheduling. From a business perspective some financial planning was necessary to make everything happen without breaking the bank. A great deal of client "baby sitting" was required to prepare them for the fact I was going to be gone for just over 30 days. Project, marketing and advertising schedules needed to be coordinated around the dates of my adventure. For several months in advance it was necessary to remind my clients, on a weekly basis, of my impending departure. All of the early planning, and very agreeable clients, made the situation work out well. There were no major client emergencies or disasters. The world, and my design business, did not come to an end.

While abroad, I did make use of Internet cafes to check on emails that may not have been addressed by my simple automatic "out of office" reply. Very few required my immediate attention throughout the month-long vacation. Traveling with a gaggle of friends who owned businesses created a unique "business incubator" aspect to the trip. Being surrounded by the artistic, cultural and scenic beauty of Italy was the electric charge my creative juices needed to have a "jump start." My accountant even felt that a portion of my travel expenses qualified for consideration as legitimate "research and development" tax deductions. I returned to my design business refreshed and with a redirected sense of purpose.

With proof that being away from my home-studio for a month was possible, shorter trips (usually about two weeks) have become a regular occurrence at least twice a year over the past 10 years. There are most often opportunities each year to run away from home to a tropical locale, an overseas destination and several domestic getaway sites. Clients have learned I am not abandoning them. Projects are dealt with prior to my trips or scheduled around the dates. I do often inform clients that I will not be working on their projects a couple days prior to my leaving. With worldwide Internet access, crashing emergencies may be dealt with if necessary.

Of course, running my own business does also allow me to adjust the meeting of any business needs while on the road (or beach, or hammock, or pool lounge…). While residing in a Tuscan farmhouse last fall, I did allow myself daily early morning time to work cyberly on the promotion of my then soon-to-be released book, Identity Crisis! Each morning I would arise one to two hours earlier than my traveling partners and do the work I felt was required. I'd then prepare coffee as my partner and friends began to stumble downstairs. Our vacation time for the day would begin - without me being stressed about upcoming book promotion issues.

Just prior to leaving for the island of St. Croix this spring, I received a request for what appeared to be a fun identity project - with a fairly tight deadline. I explained to the potential client that I was leaving for two weeks. The organization representative responded that they really felt I was the designer to take on their project. I proposed accepting the contract to design the logo by putting in one or two hours of time each morning, prior to heading out to the pool with my pleasure reading book 'o the day. The client agreed, the effort worked out very well for all concerned, and I completely paid for my vacation by working while on vacation. This particular situation was another example of it being my business and I get to set the rules.

Most "independent creative professionals" take on that self-definition to embrace "creative independence." Still, some restrict themselves by using their business as an excuse for not enjoying their personal lives to the fullest by eliminating vacation travel as an option. Vacations are a must for any creative professional - and such trips can often be much less expensive than years of therapy!

This piece was originally posted on the Creative Freelancer Conference blog. Jeff Fisher, the Engineer of Creative Identity for Jeff Fisher LogoMotives, will make his presentation "Reaping the Rewards of Creative Independence" at the Creative Freelancer Conference, to be held August 27-29, 2008 in Chicago.

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

Become a Jeff Fisher LogoMotives fan on Facebook

Not long ago I wrote blog entries on marketing one's design (or writing) efforts by way of social media/networking sites and online portfolios. Since then I've expanded my Facebook presence with a Page devoted to Jeff Fisher LogoMotives. Now my "peeps," friends, peers, clients and stalkers ("Jeff Fisher! Jeff Fisher!") can become official fans by way of the Jeff Fisher LogoMotives Page.

The page features photo galleries of my work, notifications of upcoming speaking engagements, a feed of posts from the Jeff Fisher LogoMotives blogfolio and more. I hope you'll stop by and take a look at yet another marketing and promotion vehicle.

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

It's your business and you get set the rules

I'm amazed when I hear designers, and independent creatives, constantly complaining about the client who calls at all hours or sends emergency emails in the middle of the night. My immediate thought is: Why are you answering the business phone call, or responding to the midnight email missive, during personal time?

While there may no longer be real geographic boundaries to working independently, establishing a successful client relationship, and maintaining some degree of sanity, does require setting up parameters in regards to communications and time. Doing so may initially require some patience during the process of training your client.

Establish "office hours" for your business. The vast majority of businesses have set hours of operation. Why should yours be any different?

Early in my career, my office hours were 8:00 to 5:00; Monday through Friday. I certainly worked additional hours, but that didn't mean I had client contact before or after those times. In the summer I had "summer office hours" of Monday through Thursday; 8:00 to 5:00. I had no client contact on Fridays. It drove a few people crazy, but it's my business and I get to set the rules. Following Labor Day weekend I would revert back to the normal "office hours" and change my voice mail message to reflect that fact.

One year, after Labor Day, I went to change the message and suddenly realized that I didn't want to work (or at least have client contact on Fridays). My "summer office hours" have been my regular "office hours" for over a decade now. Again, it's my business and I get to set the rules.

A ringing phone doesn't require that you must answer it. That's why some brilliant person invented voice mail. My office hours determine when I will be answering my dedicated business line. If I'm busy with a project I may not answer the phone when it rings, but I will check my voice mail messages several times during the day and get back to the caller later. Caller ID, and dedicated rings for clients calling in, can also help keep business calls from infringing upon your personal life.

I don't have a cell phone. I had one for three months about 12 years ago and it drove me crazy. I hated being that connected. At that time, I'd run my business for about 18 years without a mobile phone and my business did just fine. Besides, I do love the look on a client's face when they ask for my cell number and I tell them I don't have one.

It's much the same with email. A client's perception that a 3:00 AM email is addressing an emergency situation doesn’t necessarily mean that it's a real emergency demanding immediate attention (as if you are actually sitting at your computer at such a time waiting for their email). I respond to client emails during my established office hours - and as timely as my schedule for that day allows.

Admittedly, there are exceptions to the "rules." An occasional true emergency may require an immediate response. I simply don't often find myself needing to respond to situations outside of my established hours of operation.

Being an independent creative does allow you to determine how you choose to establish the communication boundaries between clients and yourself. The limitations put in place may be very helpful in maintaining successful client relationships - and keeping any possible resentment of clients to a minimum. Remember; it's your business and you get set the rules.

This piece was originally posted on the Creative Freelancer Conference blog. Jeff Fisher, the Engineer of Creative Identity for Jeff Fisher LogoMotives, will make his presentation "Reaping the Rewards of Creative Independence" at the Creative Freelancer Conference, to be held August 27-29, 2008 in Chicago.

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

Anniversary Logos

(Clockwise from upper left)

Just Out 25th Anniversary
Client: Just Out Newsmagazine
Location: Portland, OR USA

In celebrating a quarter of a century, editor and publisher Marty Davis requested an adaptation of the Just Out logo to represent this newsmagazine for Oregon's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered communities.

Read more about the Jeff Fisher LogoMotives redesign of the Just Out logo.

W.C. Winks Hardware 100th Anniversary
Client: W.C. Winks Hardware
Location: Portland, OR USA

The earlier Jeff Fisher LogoMotives design of an identity for W.C. Winks became the centerpiece of the design that will represent the retail hardware store's first 100 years.

Moore Street Temple Corps 75th Anniversary
Client: The Salvation Army/Moore Street Corps Community Center
Location: Portland, OR USA

A recognizable musical instrument, with diamond adornments, represents the 75th anniversary of a Portland, OR Salvation Army Center.

triangle productions! 14 Years of Tears and Cheers
Client: triangle productions!
Location: Portland, OR USA

Stylized images of the traditional drama and comedy masks make an appearance in this anniversary logo for a theatre company The logois featured in the book 100's Visual Logos and Letterheads.

All logo designs © 2015 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives. All rights reserved.

The practice: What’s wrong with spec work?

by Julia Ptasznik

Note: This article was written for and originally published in the Fall 2000 edition of Exchange, the semi-annual journal of the Toronto, Canada-based Design Exchange.

Something magical happens when a designer and client begin to work together. It’s like the bond that develops between director and actor, composer and lyricist or psychoanalyst and patient. In the design business, this creative chemistry should lead to breakthrough thinking around the design opportunity and ultimately to the design solution. But this relationship cannot begin to gel until there is commitment on both sides. It certainly cannot take hold in the speculative pitch situation in which the designer feels insecure and on show. And yet, in Canada and other countries, both public and private sector organizations persist in asking designers to develop creative concepts in competition with their peers for a set fee or on spec. What’s more, they often impose a totally unrealistic timeframe for spec work, and the set fee, if offered, bears no relation to the work involved because at this stage client and designer have not agreed on a scope of work for the project. …This article discusses the issue in the context of international practice.

Test-driving potential suppliers:
If you are a design professional, you are probably intimately familiar with requests for proposals (RFPs) which require not only schedule and financial estimates, but often full-blown creative presentations as part of a pitch for the job. If you are on the client side, you have probably heard of test-driving potential suppliers, or may even have done so yourself. This article should help both sides, as it provides a global perspective on the issue and suggests how to negotiate a mutually-beneficial working arrangement.

First, let’s briefly outline the main problems involved.

Spec work is a problem because:
1. It’s exploitative. It requires the designer to perform services free of charge, without any guarantee of compensation. Further, it is inappropriate for small-scale design projects, because the work performed often constitutes the entire project.

2. It’s unethical. It essentially amounts to buying new business and doesn’t fall far from bribery. It also fosters an unhealthy competition environment among designers and firms bidding on the same project.

3. It offers no future potential. Many designers hope this is going to lead to future ongoing business, whereas the reality is that clients who adopt this vendor selection method tend to apply it to every project.

4. It can lead to copyright infringement. There are numerous cases where a design house, initially told that they have not been awarded the project, has found its work used either in its entirety, or as the basis for creating the actual project, without the original designer’s knowledge, consent, and without appropriate compensation.

5. It negatively impacts the entire design industry. As long as there are designers providing services free of charge, the practice is going to continue to flourish and to erode the professional status of designers in all disciplines.

Speculating on design futures:
The increased demand for design services in the last decade of the 20th Century has brought about an increase in legal and ethical disputes. Apart from the issues of rights, liabilities, and ownership (which Eric Swetsky discusses in this issue [of Exchange]), the good old test drive, or speculative creative pitch, is making a comeback.

The practice of clients requesting creative work to be done before the project is awarded has its origins in advertising, where speculative creative, commonly referred to as a "pitch," is the mode in which agencies compete for multimillion dollar accounts. In these cases, the practice is considered appropriate, as the winning agency stands to earn millions of dollars, making the initial investment of time and effort well worth it.

However, when the project is a one-time, smaller scale, graphic design assignment, a free pitch essentially amounts to performing the majority of the required work up-front, without any guarantee of compensation. Consider the design of a logo. In addition to scheduling and budgeting the job, designers submitting comps for consideration have to go through the entire research process, evaluating the company and its competition, and determining and executing several appropriate solutions — which amounts to 90, if not 100, percent of the assignment. This type of arrangement, while extraordinarily unfair to the designer, is on the rise.

Global perspective:
In the United States, the practice has almost become the norm, especially for large conglomerates and governmental organizations. Just within the past six months, my own marketing communications consultancy has received three speculative creative requests. The most interesting example is that of a prominent international children’s advocacy fund. Here is an excerpt from the first two paragraphs of its RFP: "Bids are invited for the design, layout, typesetting, and print production of the [organization’s] 2000 Annual Report ... The designer [is] expected to present a design concept for the publication, showing the overall design and the treatment for each of the elements; when awarding the contract, both the concept and the price [are going to] be taken into consideration."

This amounts to at least 60 hours of work, above and beyond preparing the actual proposal and estimating the costs of the project. It is interesting that of all types of organizations, an advocacy group would make such a request.

USA-based design firms are not alone. According to Jack Yan, one of the most prominent contemporary type designers, founder of Australia’s leading type house, JY&A Fonts, and publisher of several magazines: "A lot of this ‘pitching’ happens [in Australia and New Zealand] as well. We frequently are involved in free pitches. I consider them a necessary evil to doing business and cannot see alternatives, given that our client market likes to play things that way."

Keith Williams of the UK-based design consultancy sprout.uk.com suggests that the local situation also mirrors that of the United States: "In the late 80s and early 90s, this was just the way it worked. You did the unpaid pitch, or the work never seemed to come your way." Today, government departments still entertain this practice, simply because they have the muscle to do so. Overall, he suggests that although the practice of UK companies requesting speculative creative has eased a little with smaller and medium-sized firms, some of the larger clients still encourage or even expect it. The irony, of course, is that the larger companies are the ones who can afford to pay.

While the practice is on the rise among the design profession, the advertising industries in some countries are beginning to recognize just how exploitative free pitches are. According to Ranajit Tendolkar, a veteran of the Indian ad industry and currently one of the principals of the Bombay-based Web design shop Pigtail Pundits, the free pitch practice is dying out: "These days, when asked to make a speculative presentation, many [local] agencies tell the prospective client that the presentation is not going to be free, and many clients accept that. These clients are professional enough to realize that the agency is spending valuable time, money, and effort, so they [agree] to pay a ‘rejection fee’—an amount mutually agreed-upon beforehand."

Designers’ position:
American advocacy groups have made their position on this issue clear long ago. For instance, the Graphic Artists Guild has a chapter devoted to speculative creative in its Handbook: Pricing and Ethical Guidelines. The beginning of this chapter reads: "The Graphic Artists Guild is unalterably opposed to any artist being asked to work on speculation because of the inherent risks to the artist in such circumstances. Art buyers should not ask artists to work on a project unless a fee has been agreed upon in advance. Artists must be adequately compensated at any time they are requested to create artwork. Working on speculation places all the risks on the artist without a commitment on the buyer's part."

This position is in line with the Model Code of Professional Conduct created jointly by the International Council of Graphic Design Associations (ICOGRADA), International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID), and International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers (IFI), headquartered in Belgium, Finland, and South Africa, respectively. The Code’s objective is to state the principles for an international basis of ethical standards related to the practice of design, be it graphic/visual communications, product and capital goods design, or interior design and architecture.

The remuneration close of The Code states: "A designer shall not undertake any work at the invitation of a client without payment of an appropriate fee."

Asking designers to submit creative before the project is awarded is just like asking a construction company to build a house before one decides to actually buy it.

The client perspective:
Perhaps Claire Burke, vice president of the New York, USA-based public relations firm Hunter & Associates, puts it best when she says that asking designers to submit creative before the project is awarded is "just like asking a construction company to build a house before [one decides] to actually buy it." According to Burke, free pitches may have their place in the advertising and public relations industries, but the practice is really not relevant to the design field. She points out: "There are other, more appropriate methods of selecting a designer."

Another interesting point of view is offered by Meagan Crosby Hayes, director of marketing communications of one of the States’ leading mergers and acquisitions firms, The Geneva Companies, headquartered in Irvine, California. Hayes notes that: "The process [of selecting a designer] is largely trial-and-error, and there are those who try to avoid the possibility of error by employing competition-like methods of designer selection. It is not something I do. Leaving the obvious ethical argument alone, it just doesn’t make sense from a business perspective. Having three different people or firms work on the same project at the same time is taxing on our own internal resources. First, we’d have to educate them as to the nature of the business. Second, we’d have to give direction on the project itself and monitor its progress. I’d much rather interview people, see their work, and make an educated guess as to who is better suited to a particular project. While I may ask them to pitch a concept, I wouldn’t expect them to execute it prior to formally engaging their services."

A disturbing case:
It seems that there isn’t a global consensus on the issue of spec work, among industry organizations or creative professionals. For example, Jeff Fisher of the Portland (Oregon), USA-based Jeff Fisher LogoMotives, an accomplished identity designer who has won over 130 industry awards since 1995, unequivocally states: "I do not do work on a speculative basis. If someone wants to ‘test drive’ me as a designer for future projects, they pay for my time at my usual rates."

What led to this non-negotiable position was a disturbing case of blatant theft — or copyright infringement — on behalf of one of Fisher’s clients. After the client commissioned and paid Fisher for a logo design, he requested that a few layouts of stationery be prepared on speculation, as he wasn’t sure he was going to produce them immediately. After submitting the work, Fisher was told that the client would contact him once he was ready to proceed. A month later, Fisher received a letter from the client company’s accounting department, written on stationery and accompanied by a business card Fisher had designed. The bookkeeper, having no idea the client had effectively stolen the work, was asking for some tax information. Fisher immediately took legal action, and was compensated for the work via an out-of-court settlement.

Fear of the unknown
Clients who understand what is involved in coming up with an effective design solution tend to operate along the same lines as Burke and Hayes. However, there are many clients who lack awareness of the design process. Some believe that new technology has made the process of developing creative concepts both faster and easier, whereas in reality it is only the tools that have changed.

It is also easy to see how clients could be uncomfortable awarding a project to a firm with whom they have not had previous experience, and how requesting a free pitch may seem like the easy way out. But consider this: Could you ask an accountant to do your taxes under the assumption that you will only pay for this service if you like the amount of money you get to keep as a result?

Selection criteria
There are other effective ways for a client to ensure that the selected designer is the best person for the job. If you are in the market for design, the best place to start is referrals from colleagues. If that is not an option, national or local industry organizations, such as the Design Exchange in Canada, can put you in touch with designers who specialize in the type of service you seek. In an ideal world, a portfolio review, client reference checks, an acceptable cost estimate, and last but not least, the chemistry generated between client and designer at a face-to-face meeting should be enough to make the choice.

If some clients still feel uneasy, Robbie Vorhaus of New York-based Vorhaus Public Relations, suggests that a paid pitch may be mutually beneficial: "Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that we have a budget of $100,000. We may take $5,000 and divide it between three people or firms, thereby covering their initial expenses. The firm that does the best work wins the project."

If a client company has budgetary restrictions, it may choose to run a public competition, although that is another practice that is heavily frowned upon in the design industry. In this case, there are two suggestions to be made. First, it is a good idea to consult the local industry organizations and review their fair practices recommendations with regard to competitions. Second, it is important to make sure that the grand prize is commensurate with the market rate for the project at hand.

Taking action:
If you are a designer presented with an RFP requiring work on speculation, take the time to ask yourself these questions:

1. Am I willing to work for free? (Of course, there may be exceptions to the rule, such as bidding on projects that are enormous in scope or involve potential retainer-based arrangements.)

2. Do I want to secure new business by buying it, or on the merits of previous experience and accomplishments?

3. Do I empathize with designers who participate in speculative creative presentations, and do I care about how my participation in such schemes affects my colleagues?

4. Am I comfortable with the fact that doing a speculative presentation does not guarantee any future relationship with a client?

5. Am I vulnerable to the possibility of someone taking my work and using it without my knowledge, consent, or payment?

And here is one final suggestion. Most designers faced with a request for spec work think that they only have two choices — to do the requested work or to gracefully bow out. But, even if you are not willing to work for free, you should still submit a proposal and cost estimate, accompanied by a letter explaining your position on free pitches. Once alerted to how unethical this practice is, the client company may change its position. My firm consistently takes this route, most recently in response to the aforementioned RFP from the children’s advocacy fund. We have been awarded that job, despite the fact that other firms competing for it had chosen to submit the requested speculative creative.

In conclusion, to borrow from a well-known adage:
Designers and clients alike don’t get what they deserve — they get what they negotiate.

©2000 Julia Ptasznik