Stock image giant iStockphoto has divided opinion in the design community with its plan to offer readymade logos submitted by members of its community.

The announcement has provoked fierce debate on both iStock's forums and elsewhere.

Some designers have hailed it as a new business opportunity -- and have suggested that they will be dusting off past projects that for whatever reason never saw the light of day to submit to the site. However, others have suggested that it will harm their business and devalue graphic design as a whole.

Designer Jessi Miller argues that iStock's proposed model is inappropriate for logos: "I think it will be damaging for the design industry overall," she told Digital Arts. "A logo is not like a photograph or illustration, which can both be repurposed and resold, interpreted by a designer in many different ways. A logo should encapsulate everything that a company is – it should be a different and deeper process than creating generic stock art."

Miller also suggested that the bounty of off-the-peg logos available through the site could tempt designers into resorting to dirty tricks. "The strangest thing about this is that iStockphoto's main clientele are designers themselves. It's different from a 'cheap logos dot com' type of thing in that a designer will likely purchase another designer's work, put their own name on it and then resell it. So not only does it devalue good design and process, but it insidiously thins out the market for designers, BY designers."

An excuse for a rip-off

Logo expert – and author of blog Logo Design Love – David Airey said that the quality of the offerings would inevitably be poor. "Essentially, this is spec work, where people are asked to create designs with no guarantee of payment," he told Digital Arts. "Inevitably, designs are rushed through, with no thought given to the quality or originality of the idea. So what we'll see are rip-offs from established portfolios, and a rise in the number of copyright infringement cases."

He also said that to describe the offering as 'logo design' was potentially misleading. "iStockphoto are attempting to commoditize a customized design service. But the company isn't actually selling what it says it is. Logos, by definition, cannot be created before a design brief has been written. But then, selling "vector clip art" just doesn't have the same ring to it."

Designers on iStock's blog also complained about the proposed pricing – logos will typically cost around 750 credits, or $750 (about £470). Some designers on the forum argued that this fiercely undercuts the market, as at present they charge multiples of this amount.