2016 elections provide a great marketing opportunity for all kinds of ventures. One marketing effort that was quick to take advantage of the run, is Tailor Brands’s PR post . The post is quite creative: as a show of force, they attempted to create logos for campaigns of several leading candidates from both big parties. The results are somewhat less than successful: Hilary Clinton’s logo looks like it belongs to a new social network named Hillary. Jeb Bush’s logo looks like an English language after-school program for struggling kids and Rand Paul’s logo looks like an actual brand design, for cows, that is.

This startup, Tailor Brands, is all about helping small businesses brand themselves. As opposed to its name, Tailor Brands is all but tailoring the brands. It is an automated logo design tool, which basically cuts the middle man. The problem is that the middle man here is the designer.

When discussing automated tools which threaten to replace professional human designers, one major rant I hear from designers, is that this type of design is doomed to be of poor quality. The problem, designers argue, is that people who need design services, do not necessarily know what’s good for them, so they settle for cheap design which may harm them in the long run.  Another argument is that businesses, small or big, do not necessarily know how to translate their core values and identity attributes, to a graphic language in a way which will truly represent them. The Tailor Brand experiment is a proof to this claim, no?

Well not so much. Looking at the way this automated logo wizard works, it does follow the same procedure as most, or many, logo designers. The problem with the 2016 election campaign logos is that the process was not done by any of the campaign managers. It was done by Tailor Brands themselves and that’s where the problem lies: what do they know about the core values of the candidates? As the candidates themselves are human beings, what do the people who ran the algorithm know about their likes or dislikes, about their typography preferences and about their core values? I think it is safe to say that if the campaign managers were the ones to run the algorithm, the results were quite different.

For me, this tool is yet another toy to play with, so I went ahead and played with it, using Roooster as a test case for what happens when the actual stakeholder is the one using the tool. The results are here. I don’t know how I feel about them or if I would ever use any of them, but they are not half as bad as the ones produced in the PR experiment.

Is there a conclusion to draw here, or a bigger picture? Of course there is, but it is not as simple as good or bad. Cheap crowd based design hubs and automated logo machines are here and they will take over the trade. Is it a defeatist assertion? Most probably, but we cannot assume that the wisdom will forever remain at the hands of experts. Is design, as a whole, going to be extinct by the rise of the machines? This is a topic for my next post.

Posted by Samuel Miller

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