Your-name-here publication design is fill-in-the-blank.

You know how there are companies that  match up a business that needs a logo with a logo designer — actually, with hundreds of designers: companies like HP’s Logo Works. And you know how you can find thousands of free-lance designers on sites like eLance. And you know how there is an entire marketplace (and swap-meet) for open-source Word Press blog themes.

Well, let’s say you shrunk those gigantic marketplaces of free-lancers (and, in some cases, free design) down to a cabal (their word, not mine) of five print and web designers who create a dozen or so templates for magazines, broadsheet newspapers, tabloids and websites — what would you have?

Something called Ready-media, a start-up idea that must have sounded great over drinks because, well, I can’t think of any other place the idea would have sounded great.

I’m sorry. This is not just a bad idea, it’s sad. It’s especially sad because on the front of the website is the photo of a print designer who once was a go-to guy when big magazines needed a new look.

Unfortunately, Jeremy Leslie’s description of Ready-media on his blog, MagCulture, is spot-on:

“It’s a shocking piece of opportunism. Good editorial design is not tailored solely by genre, it’s tailored to the job in hand. Good magazines are all about identity and that identity is bound up in the content and design and how they interact. How can you make a decent magazine using a pre-designed template with no relationship to your audience / experience / opinion? Whether or not the idea costs jobs, it will cost quality.”

I’ll go back to where I started this post: the way the internet works best. It works best when you have marketplaces of hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands. Not five.

If a “client” (in this case, a publisher) views print design as a place they can save money by going with a standardized template, they won’t stop at “ready-media” just because it has a half-dozen templates from designers who are well-known for font design or magazines they re-designed back in the day. Such “clients” will follow the pricing down stream to a marketplace  offering endless variety. Such “buyers” will not give a rip about the credentials of the designer. It just needs to “look okay.”

The Ready-media designers may think they are competing with traditional design firms, but they’re actually competing with LogoWorks and the folks who create WordPress themes or who offer their services in marketplaces like eLance and others.

And that’s a competition they are not likely to win.

[Thanks, Eric Spooner]