Why crowdsourcing design projects isn’t a great idea

crowd sourcing photoHere we go again…

The Toronto Raptors of the National Basketball Association recently unveiled initial sketches of its new logo. Unlike many brand rollouts, which are often overblown affairs involving lots of smoke machines and music by the Alan Parsons Project, the Raptors decided to share its identity by releasing some initial images online.

[New Raptors logo gets a mixed verdict from fans link]

The results were predictable: within a few days of the announcement, Internet message boards were filled with thousands of comments from people who didn’t really like the design, and the hometown Toronto Star ran an online poll showing that nearly 2/3 of survey respondents didn’t like the logo. Many detractors opined that the black and white circle was too similar to the logo used by the New Jersey Nets, another professional basketball team.

But that wasn’t the real reason why the initial reaction was so unfavorable. The real reason is that people generally have unfavorable impressions of new corporate identity regardless of industry or design elements. Just about every new brand identity is met with a wave of initial resistance, followed by acceptance, and gradual acceptance as people get used to them. When The Gap rolled out its new logo several years ago, the company quickly backpedaled and reverted to its old brand after only a few days of negative comments. If the top brass had just been able to hold on for another week, they would’ve seen a major drop-off in negative comments, and within a couple of months no one would have even remembered the old logo – which is still in use more than a decade after the company decided they needed to change it to modernize its brand.

Why do people not like new designs? Many of the negative comments about the Raptors logo are from graphic designers, who are notoriously critical of each other’s work. That’s because they often look at things from a perspective of, “I would’ve done it a different way” rather than, “it’s not my cup of tea, but it will definitely convey the brand identity effectively.” Among non-designers, the general reason for negative reaction seems to be a resistance to change. People don’t like the brands and companies that they trust to change, because part of trust is wrapped up in the “look and feel” of any brand.

So why is this important? The answer is that it matters a lot because the negative reaction to the new Toronto Raptors logo tells us a lot about how people identify so strongly with corporate images that they have overwhelmingly negative reactions to change. No matter what kind of business you are in, it’s worth considering this before deciding to make a change. But if you do decide to go in a new direction, you need to be prepared for initial negative feedback before the dust settles.

Photo by The Library of Congress

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