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The story behind our crowd-sourced RAAK logo

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30 July 2009

So. That RAAK ‘logo’. Or all 12,288 of them.


We had a challenge, you see.
We needed to get RAAK up and running as soon as possible. After we finished our inaugural CanEUhearme project, we had new jobs coming in. And jobs require setting up a proper company. And proper companies require a proper logo.
But we couldn’t wait a few weeks/months on developing a full brand identity and spend lots of time (and money) on a full website design. We needed to get going now. So we decided to get a little creative.
Rather than tap into our network of designers or crowd-source amongst the design community (like BBH Labs did when they started up), we decided to go one step further. We would plug into the crowds big-time.

How did we do it?
Inspired by Aaron Koblin’s Sheep Market project, we got interested in experimenting with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk in some shape or form. For those who don’t know Mechanical Turk: it’s a website where ‘Requesters’ post little tasks that are more suitable to be done by humans rather than by a computer. ‘Workers’ from all over the world then choose and execute these jobs at the fee the Requester is prepared to pay. Typical tasks range from doing online surveys to transcribing a little audio excerpt. Generally quite mundane stuff.

For this logo experiment we posted a task on MT, asking ‘Workers’ to design one letter: an R, an A or a K. Just one. We’d pay 1 dollar. Which, we found out, is not a bad amount of money on Mechanical Turk. And we didn’t tell the Workers what this was for.

The first letter, a cute little ‘A’, came in a mere 15 minutes after we published the task. We were shocked and exhilarated. 4 hours later, we had our 40 letters. Not one of the ‘designers’ asked us what this was about.
The designs ranged from the ridiculous to the cute. From the blatantly opportunistic to the not-that-bad. 10 were not usable for copyright, technical,… reasons.

More questions
Is this a diss at designers? That they’re all useless? Not at all.
Is it meant to start a discussion about the relevance of brand identity? And the validity of an all-encompassing, everlasting logo? Sure, go ahead.
Is it ugly? From a design point of view, quite possibly. But that’s not really the point. Put these designs next to each other, add the element of randomness and you have a crowd-sourced, ever-changing mash-up of a logo, designed by 30 non-designers. How beautiful is that?

But above all, it’s our little ode to creative problem solving.
As everybody is talking about new ways of collaborative thinking, social media and crowd-sourcing, this was a good moment to experiment with the concept.
Also, as a new company, we’d like to be known for turning theory into practice in a creative way. And this was the most practical creative solution to get a relevant logo.

Anyway, we have another 10 dollars left on our Mechanical Turk account, so if you’re a ‘designer’ and would like to take part in this experiment, email us your R, A or K. Once we have 10 designs we like (we’re gonna be more strict now), we’ll set up a new Mechanical Turk task and tell you how to claim your dollar.

After that we’ll try and make a Mechanical Turk version of our ‘mechanical musical logo’, which you can admire in our little video. If you feel inspired, let us know.

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  • August 5, 2009 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    Since we did this eConsultancy did a great job of summarising other crowd-sourcing tools. Including -

    Logo design = 99designs

    Brand names = namethis

    Business innovation = Chaordix

    Brainstorming / feedback = kluster

    Advertising (video) = Poptent

    And one thats not for business, but a good cause. HelpmeInvestigate

  • December 11, 2009 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Wessel, the Raak brandname is wonderful and meets all the criteria that makes for the ideal brandname: short, speakable, a proper noun, no more than four unique characters and memorable. But your so called logo (logotype to be more correct) is really kak pal! Although the idea is very original and novel, brandmarks are not commercials but symbols. Apple, Nike and Shell recalls symbols in your mind not words. So what symbol will I associate Raak with in a couple of months down the line?

    I may have forgotten your name but I could have remembered the symbol associated with your name. So what symbol would Raak stand for? Maybe that’s your next one dollar question to Mechanical Turk. Sadly, your brandmark has only one element out of seven needed for a successful brand – the name.

    It still needs a brand symbol (logo), slogan and descriptor (“Matching the medium + the message” is too obscure, uninspiring and not in tune with your enterprise), brand typeface and colour (CoCa-Cola does not change their logotype or colour every second. In fact it has been like that for more than a century). And the last element missing? All the six elements arranged in a visually pleasing shape, that some call God’s signature, the Golden Ratio.

    This all said and done I still like wewillraakyou, your portrait, thinking and approach. Not bad but you need a little more knowledge on brandmarks and then you can create the killer brandmark. And who knows one day you maybe have a superbrand and you could drop everything and only use the symbol (like the fruit I mentioned earlier).

    Alexander Greyling

    Author of
    Face your brand!
    The language of visual branding explained

  • December 11, 2009 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Alex, here at RAAK we always like a good challenging comment and yours in one of the best. Now I and Gerrie broadly agree on branding and how important or not it is. (He will probably post here later to say where he differs from me.)

    I am of the school of though that ‘branding only works on cattle’. Not my slogan mind you, but that of Jonathan Salem Baskin.

    I don’t agree with everything Jonathan says, but I do agree with this. Your product is your advertising, and clients your advertisers.

    Which is probably why Google does not mind changing their logo all the time.

    Digital consumers are brand promiscuous. They want the best, not the best brand. A recent study showed that young people trust that the top 3 links in Google will be the best on any given subject. They don’t care for the brand. I think this emphasis on good product over brand will extend from digital into real world products.

    Branding is still relevant in some cases – If you have a product which is unremarkable. Lets say a fast moving consumer good like Shampoo – yes in that case branding is very important.

    I do however agree with you on the “medium and the message” slogan. It’s a reference to media guru Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message”, but too obscure to convey what it is we do for people.

    Gerrie and I discussed this a while ago, that we want to change it to “We put you in touch with your crowds” be it your suppliers, your customers, your audience, your readers, your like-minded individuals, and because of your comment today we changed it. So many thanks!

  • Posted by Gerrie Smits
    December 11, 2009 at 5:25 pm | Permalink


    Thanks a lot for the comments. As Wessel says, we love it.

    A few thoughts from me…

    I would argue that an identity, amongst other things, should do this:
    1. make you stand out
    2. make people remember you
    3. communicate the core values of the business.

    I think the RAAK logo experiment has done all 3. The proof is in the pudding, so here are some examples of reactions we’ve been getting.

    1. When we met ‘brand sceptic’ Jonathan Salem Baskin at one of his London lectures, we exchanged business cards.
    Now, for our cards we used 10 of the 12,288 logo versions. The least ugly ones. ;-) And if we hand them out, we let people choose, which allows us to tell the story of how the logo came about.
    Jonathan was immediately drawn to it, we got his attention and he even mentioned us on his blog. Not bad.

    2. A few months ago, we gave a lecture about Social Media to a think tank that includes academics, business men, heads of charities… All pretty serious people.
    Apart from a good insight in the potential of Social Media for their organisation, we also told them the story of our logo.
    At a purely social follow-up meeting a couple of weeks later, everyone remembered us. We were “the guys who did that logo”. Not bad.

    3. The logo totally defines who we are and how we think. The way we are positioning RAAK in this ever-changing media landscape is not always easy to explain. And the logo is a way to sum that up.
    One client actually went as far as saying that “your logo really communicates what you are about”. Job done, no? Isn’t that what branding is about?

    And we’ve also had quite a few brand designers calling it “brilliant”. Not brilliant looking, but because it’s ‘us’. It’s the ‘right’ logo for RAAK.

    So we see it as a very successful exercise. And no branding agency could have come up with this solution. No one knows our ‘brand’ better than us.

    Now, do note that I use the words ‘experiment’ and ‘exercise’. I agree with you that this won’t give us longevity. In that sense, it has been more of a marketing exercise.

    I don’t necessarily believe that évery brand needs a set typeface and a colour. And definitely not a symbol.
    In the world of consumer goods or corporate branding, possibly. Although even Kelloggs doesn’t have a brand symbol (admittedly a very recognizable typeface).
    But in our business, an identity doesn’t get you work. Previous projects, skills and ideas do. Those are our ‘products’, as Wessel calls it.
    Actually, I can’t think of one logo of our competitors. I can think of their blogposts or their campaigns, but not their identity.

    One more thing, I most definitely agree with you that it could be seen as ugly. It’s certainly not visually pleasing. Even though there are a few combinations that are surprisingly cute. ;-)
    But we do have plans to develop a new RAAK identity in early 2010, so let’s see what we come up with.

    And thanks very much for the nudge about the tagline. You’re right, it was ‘kak’.

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  • By New company, new blog on August 4, 2009 at 11:52 am

    [...] first post so far has been on how we crowd-sourced our logo and ended up with an ever-changing mash-up of a logo. No Comments, Comment or [...]

  • [...] to draw him sheep at 2p a shot for an on and offline installation (as an aside check out what our friends at RAAK did with their logo and mechanical turk) 4 - Digital agency Nonsence creates a web based business in 24 [...]

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