It still amazes me that – even with the abundance of new ways to find and hire talent, with the seemingly endless pool of graphic designers, copywriters and other creatives spanning the globe, and with so many ways to work together even when the members of a project team are separated by thousands of miles – boring logos and uninspired marketing still happen.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why or how this can be.

Is it that the client doesn’t care about the logo? Is it because the client can’t tell a good logo from a lousy one? Is it that the folks designing the logo didn’t give the client any decent concepts to work with? If so, is the client simply afraid to hurt the designers’ feelings by telling them their designs are boring?

Who knows.

What I do know is this: If you design a logo – any logo, for absolutely anything in any industry – it had better be interesting enough for people to want to wear it on a T-shirt.

That’s one of the unspoken laws of logo design. It’s the ultimate litmus test: If people want to wear it on their clothes and accessories, if they want to buy the decals and the baseball hats, great. If not, maybe you need to go back to the drawing board.

Think of logos like Nike, Adidas, Starbucks, Apple, BMW, Harley Davidson, Oakley, K2, or even Superman’s “S”. These are all simple but exciting and effective marks. People want to wear them. In a very real way, a brand can be made cool or uncool by virtue of having a great or… not so great logo.

Certain events, like the Olympics Games, the World Cup (soccer), the Tour De France, the Superbowl (American football), the World Series (baseball), the US Open (tennis), the Kentucky Derby (horse racing), the Hawaii Ironman (triathlon) and the Masters (golf) generate a whole lot of excitement whenever they come around. In merchandising alone, some of these events can generate tens, even hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, IF the merchandise (and the graphics printed on it) looks good enough to inspire a purchase.

Likewise, an exciting logo can attract more spectators and seriously impact the success of an event.

On the flip side, boring logos, boring marketing and uninspired promotional campaigns can stunt the growth and subsequent success of an event.

Case in point: The USA Cycling Pro Championships. This 2-day event is USA Cycling’s premier annual race. This is where each year, the US national professional cycling champion is crowned. This is a BIG deal in the world of American road cycling.

Sadly, when it comes to a logo for 2007, this hallowed event couldn’t come up with anything better than this:

Don’t get me wrong: It isn’t horrible. Part of the design is based on USA Cycling’s own logo, which is a nice by-the book effort to link the event to its governing body. Kudos on that. And the sponsor’s logo is there too, which is good. But man, is it generic, boring and stale. At least throw some stars and stripes in there or something. Make me look. Make me care. Make me want to buy the T-shirt, for crying outloud!

A handful of renegade cycling afficionados in Greenville decided to come up with their own designs this year – because they wanted a T-shirt to commemorate the event, but couldn’t stomach the thought of wearing the official logo. (I certainly don’t blame them, and look forward to wearing one of their unofficial designs.) By simply clicking and pasting a few images together, they came up with these two designs in about 45 minutes. (Note that in order to avoid copyright issues the name of the race in either design is not the same as the official race name. If this had been the real “official” design, the sponsor’s logo could have replaced the upper “2007” design element, and the accurate name of the race could have been used.)

They may not be your cup of tea, but even as mere concept drafts, (or retro T-shirt designs) you can’t argue with the fact that they’re a whole lot more exciting and fun to look at:

My question is this: Why is it that the official logo – which probably took weeks to arrive at and cost thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars for an established marketing/advertising firm to create – doesn’t hold a candle to the stuff that a handful of guys with absolutely no formal graphic design training put together for free and in mere minutes?

What’s going on here?

How can this be?

So… in closing, here is a quick message I want to send to all creative agencies who haven’t figured this out yet:

1) If you can’t come up with great work, someone else will.

2) Now that anyone with $500 can buy a laptop already loaded with image editing software and a browser that will provide unlimited access to Google images, it is only a matter of time before your clients and competitors realize that talent and inspired work is at least 3 billion times less likely to come from your organization than it is from anywhere else in the world.

3) Old school agencies’ fifty-year-old value proposition is dying before our very eyes, and thank goodness for that.

In the end, it takes passion to create great work, and it’s pretty obvious that whomever was ultimately responsible for the official race logo didn’t really care as much for the sport of cycling or the importance of the event as perhaps they should have.

Have a great weekend, everyone. F360 goes gaga for cycling this weekend, so stay tuned for updates, photo galleries, etc. Also be sure to check out Greenville’s very own Bicycle Design blog for further coverage of the event.