19 February 2009

Logo Design Contests Are Bad Design, Bad Service, Bad Business Model

Forbes calls graphic designers "snooty" and lowballs a graphic design for their website as a ploy to tick off designers so they would blog, post, and comment (read: promote for free) this marketing ploy for crowdSpring: http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2009/0216/062.html.

Link to the Forbes design contest on crowdSpring

I rather like the winning design, but many of the other designs don't follow good design principles or use stock imagery. Stock photo sites such as istockphoto.com state clearly in their usage licenses that their photos and images cannot be used in logos. Therefore, even if Forbes loved a logo including stock imagery, they couldn't legally use it.

As manipulative as this campaign is, it started an interesting discussion within the design community about how good branding design is done and how companies do themselves a disservice by going for the LCD when choosing a logo that will represent their company and products.

Link to discussion I participated in on Graphic-Design Forum

Link to snarky, but accurate blog post about "crowdsourcing" logo design

Although some will claim any artist or designer upset about logo design contests are "elitist" or, dare I say, "snooty," I disagree. It is about some level of standards and service to our clients. Not every young company or entrepeneur can afford a full company branding program, but you get what you pay for.

Link to The 50 Dollar Logo Experiment

Link to Comparison of Cheap Online Logo Companies

As you can see in the above case studies, purchasing a "cheap" online logo cost the client time, customer service, and getting a design that actually represents his company. Having looked at the negative impact on the client, let's take a look at the negative impact logo design contests have on the designer.

Participating in an open, public design contest (crowdSpring, 99designs, etc.) is a bad business model for the graphic designer.

1. The "prizes" offered are less than what one could earn with a regular client.

2. Designs are often stolen by other participants and reworked/reused to submit in other contests (or the same contest!).

3. Professional designers are competing against people with no design education and possibly stolen software.

4. Design skills become commoditized.

5. Participants are paid only if they "win."

It's this last item that is the nail in the logo contest coffin for me.

In a Feb. 19, 2009 survey of the top five "creatives" on crowdSpring (based upon number of submitted logos), the following statistics show how logo design contests don't pay:

Shannonjyl participated in 480 projects, submitting a total of 1873 entries. She won seven times (1.5% of projects, .03% of entries).

PANTERA (a designer claiming 15 yrs experience) participated in 291 projects, submitting a total of 1569 entries. He won thirteen times (4.5% of projects, .08% of entries).

participated in 304 projects, submitting 1467 entries. He won twelve times (3.9% of projects, .08% of entries)

participated in 322 projects, submitting 1377 entries. He won twenty-nine times (9% of projects, 2.1% of entries)

participated in 311 projects, submitting 1301 entries. He won thirty-eight times (12.2% of projects, 2.9% of entries)

If you are paying a mortgage/rent, feeding yourself, and keeping the lights on with your creative skills, you should get paid for more than 3% of your time.