Watching how a company, industry, or individual responds to a threat tells you a lot about how much they understand the needs of their customers.
Recently, Squarespace announced a new feature that allows users to self-create their own logo, online, with simple tools.
The announcement generated criticism from professional designers:
"Hey Squarespace: Impressive how eager you are to destroy your standing with graphic designers. I have to ask how this is a good idea."
"This really bothers me. These guys should know better than to devalue what others in the same industry do for a living."
"At first I kind of thought everyone was overreacting about #squarespacelogo until I saw how much of a mockery it makes of my profession."
It's natural to feel defensive when something threatens your livelihood. I understand that; it's scary to think about.
But we really need to look at things from the customer's perspective: the customer doesn't really care about the design industry, it's ideology, or it's problems. They only care about their own problems.
Ultimately, if the customer finds a different approach to solve a problem (like Squarespace Logo), and it gives them the outcome they want, it doesn’t matter how we feel.
Really, the key to being successful is to eschew your own self-focus in order to stay hyper-focused on what the customer needs. If you're good at finding (and solving) pain you'll always be in business.
Squarespace originally built their brand by disrupting two industries: web development and web hosting. Instead of spending thousands of dollars hiring a web developer, a customer can create (and host) their website using self-serve tools, starting at $8/month.
Now they're doing it again with logo design. Maybe the people who use these cheap, self-serve logos will experience adverse effects: maybe they'll lose business, or lose the respect of their customers.
Or maybe... they won't. Maybe these new Squarespace logos will fit their needs perfectly. Ultimately, that's up to the customer to decide. If they like the results they're getting from cheap self-made logos, they'll keep using them.
If you're going to rally paying customers around your cause, you have to show them what's in it for them. You're going to need to show them data: "a professionally designed logo will improve your brand's perception by 150%", "according to this study, a well designed logo increases the pride felt by employees", or "a designer can save you money, by providing an identity that can live for decades."
But instead of focusing on the customer, and where you might be able to offer more value, I hear rallying cries that come off as defensive and self-focused:
"Don't outsource programming work overseas."
"Hire a real designer to create your logo."
Meanwhile, the customer is staring back at you and asking: "Why? What's in it for me?"
I think we, as designers, developers, and business people, can ward off most threats by getting to know our customers intimately - and finding places where we can offer legitimate value. No self-defence necessary.