Online Logo Contests have been popping up all over the internet for quite some time now. They allow businesses and individuals to offer a set fee, or prize, for what they consider to be the best logo design. Hundreds of amazing designs supposedly flood in, delivered by an online community of graphic designers sitting poised for a brief to respond to.
All sounds straightforward and effective, no? But all that glistens is not gold..
Pros for Online Logo Contests
The people who are going to benefit from this way of working are the businesses who hold the contests and the websites who host the contests, not necessarily the designers.
Instead of paying a graphic design company thousands of pounds and waiting weeks and weeks for a final result, Logo Contests mean that you can view hundreds of logo possibilities for your business from hundreds of separate entities and minds. You can pay your designer as little as £100 and have your logo, and all the rights attached to it, within a week of posting the brief. Then it's all go for all your marketing material.
On most contest sites, you can view the previous contests and see which logo won and what the designer got paid.
From the designer's point of view, you might make some quick cash; you might also gain a bit of real world experience to put your name to if you are just starting out. Sadly this is where the advantages end.
Cons for Online Logo Contests
Scratch the surface of the contest world and you will start to notice a lot of chatter from more established designers advising their peers to stay away from these contests.
The main issue seems to be that they totally devalue the time and effort a designer puts into a brief. Normally, a rate for a designers time will be decided long before pen is put to paper, but with a contest hours can be wasted designing which could be put to better use elsewhere and the chance of actually getting paid for a brief is more like entering a lottery. The more the prize money is, the more designers will enter, diminishing the chances of getting paid even more.
The other problem is that the contest holder might end up choosing a rubbish logo, a representative from The Logo Factor states:
"In terms of the best design winning one of these contests, and judging by the winning designs themselves, the client is often unversed in what makes a good logo, how that logo will reproduce over a wide range of media, and even the difference between vector art and bitmap generated designs. Without any one-on-one interaction, they remain unversed throughout the design process, unaware of the technical and visual issues with the designs they're viewing. Bottom line, they pick crap logos."
For every business owner who picks a bad logo, there is another one who is not sufficiently impressed with what he got for his £100 and abandons the project entirely, wasting everyone's effort and time.
Another huge problem is people ripping other people off. Often designers steal logos from elsewhere and re-vamp them. If caught out they get banned from the online community but many of them go undetected.
Businesses themselves are ripping people off as well, once, on a design-related Yahoo Group, a business posted a contest for designing a letterhead. The company sold document templates and offered small cash prizes for the top three designs. In the fine print of the competition, it stated that all submissions were to become the property of the company and would be used as they saw fit, meaning that the non-winners designs could be sold on by the company. A few days later the website of the contest and the company no longer existed.
The Graphic Artists Guild (GAG) has taken steps to avoid these kinds of things happening by suggesting that the conductors of contests review the existing work of the designers, rather than immediately requiring newly created work. They then eliminate designers and ask finalists to make rough sketches of final ideas before a small pool of people are selected as finalists for the project contract. There are then guidelines to help the conductor select a winner, the prize awarded should be of fair market value of the work being done. GAG also recommends that the individual keep the rights for the work they have done.
Although GAG might have the right idea about guiding such contests, there is little regulation on this strain of cowboy graphic design. It is important that design rookies are warned of the perils of spending hours entering design contests, and that companies are aware that £100 might not buy them the logo of their dreams.
Have you had any experience of such contests? We would like to hear about your experiences!