What’s really wrong with Squarespace Logo

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January 27, 2014
What’s really wrong with Squarespace Logo.

thumbnailLast week Squarespace launched Squarespace Logo, a new addition to their service designed to provide individuals and small businesses with the means to create a professional logo.

Within hours of the service launching, social media was aflame with designers decrying the slow erosion of design standards and accusing Squarespace of deliberately undermining their industry. After a day, the initial reaction had been tempored by yet more designers pointing out that anyone who'd use Squarespace Logo would be unlikely to hire a professional anyway.

This is what it's like to be a developer

It seems that having convinced designers that developers are unnecessary, Squarespace is now seeking to do away with designers too. Except of course they're not. Literally nothing is less productive for Squarespace than designers going out of business. Designers are Squarespace's primary revenue stream.

All Squarespace have really done is try to expand their services. What design business doesn't expand into development if it's profitable to do so?

Hand-coding is a by-word for quality, despite this, WYSIWYGs continue to be constructed and are relied upon by numerous designers. For anyone who understands the Web, it's difficult to rationalize the choice to use a WYSIWYG other than to say that it's a) cheap and b) easy.

Turning a blind-eye to surplus code and one-solution-fits-all templates allows designers to undercut competitors and, in many cases, is the only way to make their business viable. Meanwhile, developers are either pushed out of the industry, or focus on more complex projects.

Does Squarespace Logo damage the design industry?

A Squarespace logo (should you choose to download it) will cost you $10. I'm not sure how any designer could deliver a logo for $10: let's assume you're prepared to work for minimum wage (which in the U.S. is $7.25 per hour) that gives you a total of 1 hour and 22 minutes in which to win the job, consult with the client, produce the logo and deliver any revisions. And of course, that assumes you win every job you bid for and have zero overheads.

If you're designing logos for $10 you need to find yourself a new career.

There are, of course, students and the recently graduated who may take on $10 logo work to fill their portfolios, or in the hope of winning further, more lucrative work — personally I believe that students who wish to pursue a career in design would be better served by practicing the complex art of correctly pricing their services.

The truth is that clients already have access to a gamut of tools and are perfectly capable of removing designers from the equation if they wish to. 30-day trials of Adobe CC are available to everyone and there are more than enough tutorials online for anyone to knock out something passable.

Businesses who value design, value design solutions; solutions that can only be provided by a designer.

The bottom line is that Squarespace Logo isn't attempting to compete with designers at all. They're competing with the likes of fiverr.com and crowdspring.com. They're making life more difficult for sites that rake in profits by exploiting designers desperate for work. For that, I'm more than happy to applaud them.

Is Squarespace Logo any good?

The only real criticism I have of Squarespace Logo is that it's a poorly realized product. So poor in fact, that my initial assumption was that Squarespace threw it together as a publicity stunt.

The icons used by Squarespace Logo are supplied by the NounProject — a collection of variable-quality icons. Clearly someone central to Squarespace Logo's development thinks that a logo mark is synonymous with an icon. The interface won't allow you to add more than one icon, and you certainly can't draw in it.

My biggest objection to Squarespace Logo is the typography (or rather, the lack of it). If you are going to remove all typographic control like this, then the default options have to be bang on, which they are not.

The typefaces are supplied by Google Fonts, which is an excellent collection, but almost entirely suited to body text. Browsing through the limited palette it's hard to understand the design decisions that lead to the team at Squarespace settling on these typefaces.

Just as the typefaces on offer are more suited to body text, so too is the typography. You can choose your color, your weight, style and your size. The letterspacing can't be controlled and in the case of most of the faces, is set far too wide for use in logos.

What's really wrong with Squarespace Logo?

The problem with Squarespace Logo is not that it will take business away from designers — it won't, it's simply a tool like any other, and not one aimed at businesses that are likely to hire a professional designer for their branding. The problem is that it could have been so much more.

Five or six years ago, during the course of a long weekend, I built my own vector design tool in Flash. It had a range of typographic controls, bitmap uploads, drawing tools, a rotation option. The following weekend I built version 2.0 that included a layers palette and a history function. If I can build that, for fun, over a period of a few days, what could Squarespace have built if they'd devoted real resources to the project?

We are moving towards a Web filled with in-browser tools, but if we want them to supplant desktop applications then we have to have higher standards than this. We must be ambitious for projects, and we must applaud companies that strive to produce good tools. Web-based design tools can be both simple and amazing; just check out the awesome Typecast.

Of course, it's important to be fair to Squarespace and acknowledge that this probably isn't the final version of Squarespace Logo; it's almost certainly what they judged to be their minimum viable product. Version 1.1, is probably just around the corner and will hopefully resolve some of the basic issues with the tool.

Squarespace Logo clearly doesn't devalue design, or damage the design industry. The question that needs to be asked is: does Squarespace Logo devalue Squarespace? And consequently, how happy will designers be to depend on Squarespace's core WYSIWYG in future?

Do you use Squarespace for your design work? Have you tried out Squarespace Logo? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

WDD Staff

WDD staff are proud to be able to bring you this daily blog about web design and development. If there's something you think we should be talking about let us know @DesignerDepot.

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