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Gap Proved Crowdsourcing Works… In Reverse

When Gap recently announced their new logo on Facebook, they were caught off-guard by the strong public backlash. The logo was really bad and bowing to the criticism, Gap quickly abandoned the idea.

The company then proceeded to make an even bigger mistake, smugly announcing a contest to design a replacement logo that anyone could enter. This is called crowdsourcing, and when a company does it, it demonstrates a total lack of understanding and callous disregard for what design brings to business. When a major corporation does it, it’s beyond comprehension.

Presumably attempting to garner goodwill by “listening” to its customers, this raised the ire of the professional design community and even angrier mobs rose up and chanted things like “Shameful!,” “Abuse of power!,” and “Idiots!”

Through crowdsourcing, design is reduced to an amateur beauty competition, where thousands of designs are submitted and a committee votes on which one will be designated the winner. There is no reasoned process of analysis, research, and design development, let alone a holistic branding strategy. There is also little, if any, compensation for the designer.

The crowds spoke

The overwhelming negative consensus (not to mention, a $247 million dollar stock loss the day after the original announcement) shamed the company into dropping its amateurish approach to logo design. It was also a manipulative attempt at making its audience think a feel-good logo contest was their original intent. But ultimately, the crowd spoke and got what it wanted from the company, not the other way around.

During this debacle, the company received thousands of free opinions on their logo, their brand, their process, and what they should do about it. So in a way, crowdsourcing worked, just not in the way Gap intended.

The AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) played a critical role by engaging in constructive dialogue and “educating the client.” To their credit, Gap admitted their missteps and issued a mea culpa, promising to do a better job if and when they ever decide to redesign their logo again (don’t hold your breath!).

I’m sure the company was embarrassed by all this, as it became clear in a very public way that they really did not have a handle on how to execute an important branding initiative. Even worse, they seemingly had no clue about who they are and what their brand has meant to consumers over the years.

With friends like this…

Some say that any PR is good PR, but when thousands flock to “Like” your Facebook page only to tell you how much they don’t like you. I beg to differ.

When you are mocked on Twitter by design and branding professionals, when accounts are set up for the sole purpose to ridicule, when apps are developed so you can create your own “Gapified” logo and negative articles flood the blogosphere, I really don’t think the company is benefiting from all the publicity.

Yes, Gap is being talked about — but the brand that once stood for hip, simple design has shown they are anything but.

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