Let me just get this out in the open, I am adamantly opposed to any kind of “design contest.” This will not be a rant, but examples of what I’ve seen and experienced and a warning to both buyers and designers.

Here are some of my reasons for my animosity toward them:

The biggest, they cheapen the graphic design industry.

It is well known that design contest industry runs amuck with plagiarism and theft of intellectual property. For the buyer it’s a gamble on whether or not what they receive is truly the designers own artwork.

Many of the contest are bogus.

Some think design competitions are the best thing to ever happen to graphic design.

I have an acquaintance who thinks such contests are just great. One day with much enthusiasm, she said to me, “Doesn’t it sound fun? Doesn’t it sound great? Can’t you just imagine having anywhere from 30 to 60 logos to decide from? The best part is it only costs $299. Actually, I found a place where I can get a new logo starting at $49.00”

My less than enthusiastic response, “No! I can’t. And what do you really think you are going to get for $49.00?”

We battled back and forth on the pros and cons for a while, but in the end with her “fiddly dee” attitude she decided to go with the competition website. We ran into one another a couple of weeks later and she couldn’t wait to show me her new logo. “Well, what do you think? I think it looks very professional.”

Short and to the point, I said, “I’m sure Nike won’t appreciate the knock off.”

Her come back, “They never know, how are they ever going to find little old me.”

She could not have been more wrong with that statement. It’s been well known and for years’ major companies have employees who doing nothing more than look for copyright violations all day long. Her new logo design was outright plagiarism. Figuring I was never going to win this battle with her, I wish her good luck with her new venture.

What everyone needs to remember is, if you design, sell and or purchase something that is later to deemed to be plagiarized and or the theft of someone’s intellectual property you will be sued. The only outcome for both the designer and buyer will be how much the lawsuit is settled for. In other words, that $49.00 design could end up costing you both tens of thousands of dollars.

The idea you get 30 to 60 logos is ludicrous.

One of the most important things I learned in the art school was, never give a client more than three designs of any thing to choose from. The reason, our brains can’t process any more than that at one time.

In school, we had to purchase printed font catalogs to choose fonts from. Yes, this was before the web, and mine was about an inch and half thick.  In one of my typography classes, we were asked to pick three fonts we liked best from the entire catalog. We had 30 minutes to do it. No one finished. After awhile they all started looking the same. A lesson well learned and one I still practice today, never give more than three examples at one time. When a client likes a piece of this and a piece of that, I take those pieces and come up with three new designs. The originals are then put on the back burner.

Now for my own experience dealing with one of the contest websites.

When they first started up several years ago, I decided to check one of them out on a client’s recommendation. Times were lean.

One competition caught my eye for law firm in Los Angeles.

People where submitting new logo designs a great pace and “someone” from the law firm was posting this same message to all of the inquires they were receiving from the designers:

“The designs are great, all of the managing partners are in a meeting trying to pick one. Hang in there.”

When someone would post,

“Have they made a decision yet?”

The answer was always,

“Not yet, hang in there.”

No, there was no meeting with the partners “trying to pick one.” How do I know this? I had another career before I became a graphic designer. I was as a legal secretary and later a paralegal. Working in the Los Angeles area for several years I knew this law firm well. Also having knowledge on how law firms work, I knew the managing partners were not in meeting trying to pick one. At this point, my initial thoughts were confirmed, the contest was bogus.

Later, I decided to Google some of the “winning” logos to see if the companies were real. Over whelming, I either could not find the company or if I did find the company, never was the winning logo used. I ran this same test on five of the winning logos a few days ago and got the same results.

There’s that old saying, “Buyer be where,” but in this case it should be “Designer be where.” Ask yourself how much time are you willing to spend designing logos for a competition that is bogus?


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