Is Squarespace's New Logo Generator A Design Crime?

Critics are angry about Squarespace's new logo-making tool. But does it really devalue designers?

Yesterday, Squarespace released a new tool called Squarespace Logo that brought the company's dead easy, drag-and-drop approach to making a logo. We wrote it up, and while we didn't think it was revolutionary, we did think it was a nice tool for small businesses and freelancers who wanted to put a dab more polish on their branding.

To hear many of the Internet's designers tell the tale, though, Squarespace just upended a dysenteric bowel all over the community. Just hours after launching, Squarespace Logo had become such a joke that there's even a parody Tumblr account that mocks the new tool.

Just look at these reactions from people on Twitter (in the slideshow above, too)!

In short, the consensus seems to be that not only are the logos designed by Squarespace's tool amateurish, but also that by releasing it, Squarespace has signified a casual contempt for the hard work that designers actually do. To critics, Squarespace Logo devalues design and aims to put designers out of work.

But is this vitriol really justified? Squarespace's self-described mission is "to provide creative tools that help anyone give a voice to their ideas." Squarespace's identity, in fact, is all about the democratization of design in web publishing: this idea that the key to improving the standard of design on the web is to give people tools that make it easy to express themselves with a modicum of polish.

Responding to the controversy, Squarespace explains on its official blog:

We've seen a number of comments online about Squarespace Logo being positioned as a replacement for professional designers. Squarespace Logo is a basic tool for individuals and small businesses with limited resources to create a simple identity for themselves. It is not a replacement for the brand identity a professional designer can craft and deserves to be compensated for. We expect Logo, much like Squarespace itself, to drive more people to appreciate the importance of design, leading to increased demand for professional creative services. Similarly, the fees generated by Squarespace Logo are used in part to compensate the graphic designers who contribute their work to The Noun Project.

Exactly right. Since 2004, Squarespace has specialized in creating simple tools for people without a lot of resources or technical expertise, and saying, "Hey, here's an easy way for everyone to make something that looks nice." Squarespace Logo is no different, yet only now are people's heads exploding about it.

Is Squarespace Logo sophisticated? No, but it does make it easy for someone getting started in web publishing for the first time to make a simple, distinctive header composed of an icon, a name, and a tagline that is distinctly theirs. It might not be much, but to people who weren't going to hire a designer anyway, these are the stumbling baby steps that, as their business grows, may eventually bring them down a more sophisticated path in branding and design.

Image: Maciej Zadykowicz via Yay Squarespace Logo

You can't know to care about something if you've never thought about it before. Squarespace Logo is a gentle prod that gets people who otherwise wouldn't to start thinking about their brand while their businesses are still young. That's hardly a design apocalypse. It's a good thing. The fact that it happens to make for a pretty good tool for making funny parody logos is just icing on the cake.

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  • Veronica Newman

    I don't think anyone feels threatened by the Squarespace logo maker. It is funny because it still lowers Squarespace's brand. If the clients had the ability to take the icons and customize them more instead of accepting the artwork as is, then I could see the possibilities. But they decided to throw in some Noun Project icons, add some display typefaces and ariel (lol), a color picker and the same branding template and call it a logo making tool. Give me a break. I think after playing around with it, clients will decide that maybe hiring a professional designer is worth the investment for their business, or at the very least find a more reputable source for an icon. They are better off making a logo in Microsoft Paint than using this so called logo maker.

  • As a designer I'm not threatened, if I was producing logos that looked like SquareSpaces I probably would have switched jobs a long time ago, and I really don't want clients that only see value in a $25 logo, im really happy to forward them onto SquareSpae, 99designs, or stock logo site. some of the designer mockups are pretty funny on twitter! I can believe Squarespace has an underpants logo - hilarious!!!!

  • Professional Designers - you need not be afraid of Squarespace .

    These guys should be afraid with their £25 logo and their misspelling of the word stationAry on the homepage. Yes they are under more threat, if they cant even spell a service how can they provide it?

    I agree the word brand should not appear in this article or comments this is a basic typestyle logo with a catalogue of icons, a badge even not a serious attempt at creating or developing a brand.

  • It's shockingly naive of Fast Co to assume graphic designers are of no use to small businesses and start ups.

    Many graphic designers jump start their portfolios by doing 'love' jobs for friends and relatives. These initial relationships can often build and evolve in mutually beneficial ways beyond mere cash values.

    Everyone deserves good design and designers need to start somewhere too. Fast Co is usually smart enough to know this.

    This and the previous article smacks of sponsorship deals with the increasingly nebulous Squarespace.

  • In 2003 I attended an AIGA design conference where a presentation was made about Indian 'designers' advertising logo design starting at a low price of $25. The entire room was in disbelief and I couldn't help but think about the fate of architects and the architecture profession: Spend 6 years of your life breaking your back only to come out to be a CAD draftsman because clients were not willing to spend the time and money for good architecture, all they wanted was quick computer blueprints so the builder could actually do the work.

    It devalued the profession to the point where architecture is really non existent anymore except for the fortunate few who can actually work as such because very few are willing to pay for it.

    I'm afraid companies like Squarespace are contributing to the rampant mediocrity of design that exists today; unfortunately, most people, like most clients, can't discern between the bad, the good and the excellent thus everything is just mediocre.

  • Jim Gerace

    I have to agree. CAD drafting home builders have taken jobs away from architects. HGTV has taken jobs away from Landscape Architects (as has government deregulating licensure & certification to allow gardeners and nurserymen in). Now this. It's really nothing new.

    It's the old story of the buggy whip maker. Times change. If we (and our professions) don't change with it by adjusting or reinventing ourselves, we get left behind.

    Many people (even small businesses) can't afford professional design services. The ones who find a cheap alternative end up with some home design enthusiast creating amateurish product. The client may as well do it themselves. People--not technology--are already devaluing design.

  • In the mean time, all these designers use website templates on squarespace for their own websites. And they are not writing any HTML, CSS or JavaScript to get their website up and running, nor are they paying any professionals to do so.

    Should all web developers be insulted that you are not using their services?

  • I don't get how people get upset with this tool. Yeah, it detracts from the quality of logos out there, but these people would be using clipart or dingbat fonts for logos if they didn't have this tool. You still need a professional designer to create something unique and aligned with your business. You get what you pay for is what I am saying. A multinational company would not be looking to this to develop their logo. And the detractors are really just giving the tool free advertising on their own twitter accounts. Honestly, if I hadn't read this article I would not have even known about the tool. It will shine for a little bit and then fade when people recognise if they want something special, they will need a designer to develop it.

  • Wendy Merron

    Why the big stink? VistaPrint and other logo sites have offered the same for years and they haven't put designers out of business.

  • Todd K Christensen

    BBullshit. Small businesses have been the source of income for most designers since the beginning. It's usually where small design shops derive their business and where junior designers get their start.

    There is clear attempt on all fronts at devaluing creative work, and this is the latest example. So what Fast Company is advocating here is that creative work be concentrated into large design shops that can only appeal to large corporate enterprises. The same corporations that are universally driving down wages for the last thirty years. Great.

  • Digital is turning industries on their heads... it seems to be our turn! This has been coming for a while and is just the beginning. Many traditional design disciplines will soon be widely 'templated' in some form or other. This does devalue what more 'traditional' designers do.

    The Squarespace logo generator is poor and no replacement for a 'proper job' by a professional... but it will take work away from freelancers and smaller design businesses... as an industry we must all embrace technological change no matter how challenging... otherwise those that rely too heavily on 'threatened' services will find themselves without the skills that clients wish to pay for.

    Squarespaces tool is brave... it puts them firmly in the firing line for disgruntled design professionals who don't like the suggestion by SS that 'what they do can be replicated at the touch of a button'... but the concept of the online service itself was totally inevitable. Sad but true.

  • Are toy cameras a crime? -no

    Is Etch-a-Sketch a crime? -meh, don't think so either...

    I think i wouldn't consider a good potential client someone who actually thinks a logo generator can solve all their "design". I actually can see a client like this on a meeting: "hey why don't you use that really fun font... comic sans isn't it?"

    This logo generator is a good filter for us! And I think they mistyped their mission, i guess it should be: "to provide little crativy fancy toolies..."

  • Raymond Duke

    The customer doesn't care about the designer. The customer cares about the final result. If this logo designer gives them a final result they are happy with, the logo designer did its job.

    If you are a designer that is upset by this simple tool, you should

    1. Position yourself better to not be replaced by a $10 tool.
    2. Realize that there will always be things that disrupt your business.
    3. Use the logo designer to make designs and charge your clients $3,500