Launched in 2004, Squarespace has become one of the world's favourite website builders. But despite providing an automated alternative to employing a professional web designer, the company's keen attention to design principles and responsible attitude to web standards mean it's still managed to maintain a good reputation among the design industry.
But that may have begun to change with the launch of a controversial new drag-and-drop tool, Squarespace Logo. Aimed at small businesses who can't afford the services of a professional designer, the tool is said to "help anyone design a simple logo themselves". This video shows how it works:
Squarespace Logo is fantastically easy to use. Type in the name of your company, your tagline, choose colours and fonts then search a library of icons to pull in. The slick interface makes it easy to position and resize them, and lets you see what your finished logo will look like on a website, business card or T-shirt.
As well as being smooth in operation, the app provides some excellent resources. Typography-wise, it's integrated with Google Fonts, while the icons come from The Noun Project, a Kickstarter-funded project to create a massive database of 'icons for everything'.
And most significantly, for a cash-strapped individual or business, Squarespace Logo offers a fantastically cheap alternative to even a cut-price site like 99 Designs. Low-resolution, watermarked logos are free, while a finished high-res logo will cost just $10. As so perhaps inevitably, the tool's introduction has caused a storm of complaints from designers:
So why has there been such a strong reaction from the community, when DIY tools (including Squarespace's own web builder), have been around for years?
For many, the app's launch seems to have tapped into years of frustration at clients who think designing a logo is a quick, simple job that can be dashed off in five minutes. It seems to ignore, even wilfully obscure, the fact that creating a professional logo is a thoughtful, detailed process that begins with fully investigating a business's ethos and goals, and ends with the careful construction of an identity that can work at different sizes, in different environments and across different technological platforms (for a full discussion of these considerations, see our Ultimate Guide to Logo Design).
Seemingly surprised by this strong reaction, Squarespace has since updated its blog announcement introducing the tool. "We've seen a number of comments online about Squarespace Logo being positioned as a replacement for professional designers," it reads, but clarifies that: "Squarespace Logo is a basic tool for individuals and small businesses with limited resources [...] It is not a replacement for the brand identity a professional designer can craft and deserves to be compensated for.
"We expect Logo, much like Squarespace itself, to drive more people to appreciate the importance of design, leading to increased demand for professional creative services." It adds that the fees generated by Squarespace Logo are used in part to compensate the graphic designers who contribute their work to The Noun Project.
Indeed many designers have backed Squaresquare's stance, arguing that it's little different from using other tools like Illustrator, and that users discovering that logo design isn't as easy as they think will quickly turn to professionals:
So is this another nail in the coffin for professional design, or just a handy tool for those who would never be able to afford it anyway? As you might imagine, we'd love to hear what you think in the comments below. Don't hold back!