Saturday, March 30, 2013

crowdsourcing alien bill, and the ethical murk of "spec work"

On a microbrewery tour I saw the very clever logo for Idle Hands Craft Ales. The owner mentioned they got it by running a contest at On a lark, I decided to sponsor a logo competition for my own "Alien Bill Productions". (My Atari 2600 game JoustPong was an "Alien Bill Production"... its been my goto fakey company for a long while.)
When I mentioned the competition on Facebook, a friend pointed out some folk think of this kind of 'spec work' as unethical. I can see some of their points, but I think their biggest (legitimate) concern is that it's a "race to the bottom", and that it might become tougher to make a good living as a designer. They also point out the problems of rip-off, generic logos and not having a holistic, market-savvy cooperative/iterative approach... neither of those final two points really applied to me, because I was able to clearly specify and give examples for the central design motif. As for the first point... this was kind of a lark, if I didn't have a site like this to turn to, I probably would have just scraped something together myself. Possibly I might have turned to one of my designer friends, but frankly I was interested in having more variety to choose form. 

My main discomfort with spec-work then, at least for small scale personal stuff like this, is that the people who do the non-winning designs see no money for their labors. I tried to rectify this somewhat by tipping the non-winners whose work I still liked generously. 

So, without further moral rambling, here isaudentia's winning design:
I liked the different perspective, and the use of huma-ish (or perhaps froggish?) forms for the eye and limb, while still keeping an iconic feel. In some ways what really sold me on it was the black-on-gray presentation on the lower left.

Some of the runner-ups were great as well, which is why I'm glad crowdSpring offers an easy "tip" option. sinss'  was pretty keen:
I loved the use of the character in the word Alien Bill itself. Having the Alien holding an eyeball was an intriguing choice-- kind of an "Alas, Poor Yorick" thing. 

sinapseuk did a 3D render of Alien Bill in a kind of robotic or spacesuit form:
I think that might have lost because I didn't want the logo to outshine any game I paired it with!

SalehaG had good use of cel-shading. Also a good use of a grey background... the entry came late without much time for revisions, but I would have been interested in seeing if the rear leg could be made to look less like a stump...

I likescriptink's choice of font, though the pose of the alien didn't really do it for me.
Finally,dynezt had an entry that was appealing retro:

The artwork reminded me a bit of Steve Jackson's The Awful Green Things from Outer Space which, if I'm 100% honest, might have been a subconscious influence on the early designs of Alien Bill.

So, in the end I'm happy to have done this, despite the ethical issues with "spec work" in general. I spent about the same as I did on James Harvey's commission that I use as the backdrop to the as well as this one  (as well as the sticker on my iPhone and on my business cards) and while the results aren't as innovative (actually it may well have been an influence on some of the designs above) it's some nice results.

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