Logo Design Love

For graphic designers and all who love logos.

The problem with online design contests

SpecWatch

The same freely available vector icon is entered into logo design contests on Crowdspring and 99designs.

The icon in question is available from Vecteezy and has been downloaded 45,149 times.

The usual “ripoff” accusations ensue amongst contest entrants.

The icon was the winning entry on Crowdspring, and upon submission, the designer had affirmed in their ‘disclosure’ that they had “created everything in [their] entry and [they] didn’t copy anyone else’s concept.”

And who entered the icon? Only the second most active “creative” on Crowdspring, having entered a total of 636 contests, winning 33 times.

Full info and links here on SpecWatch.

Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities, second edition

29 appreciated comments

  1. How strange. I entered that contest and had designed the EXACT same thing too! What are the chances? :)

    Just kidding. I’m not sure what anyone – “designer” or the logo contest site – thinks they are getting out of all this. If you want to win a fake award, why not just make one up and assign it to yourself? If you are a contest site – what value are you getting? Eyeballs for your Adsense ads in the right column? I wish I could even grasp the motivation for these “designers” and site owners. Any clues?

  2. Crowdsourcing rarely ends well, for all parties.

  3. [shaking head] Totally bizarre.

  4. Joon

    @Douglas Bonneville

    Their clients are either looking for cheap alternative solution or for not knowing where to look for what they want.

    Site owners are doing it because it’s profitable for them, it boils down to taking advantage of desperate designers and “designers” in their need of income.

    As for designers for themselves, like I said they are either desperate or being delusional.

    It’s absolutely disgusting.

  5. While I appreciate your comments and thoughts on the subject of design contests I have to say that they do have their place in the graphic design world. Many aspiring designers and designers between projects are giving good (and occasionally great) designs on 99designs and similar sites.

    Yes, there are plenty of problems and rip offs but.. it is a good way to get your feet wet in the graphic design pool and you can make some side cash as well.

  6. Alphonse

    These type of sites have potential, especially for younger designers. I know Ben Barry made some extra money in school on one of these sites.

    Shit like this makes them the Mos Eisley of the design world though. Hacks, thieves, pirates. They’re all there.

  7. While I can see the validity of young designers sharpening their skills by using these contests, I think the bigger problem lies in the fact that these clients view design as having such little value that:

    1. They are unwilling to pay skilled designers to get a superior solution

    2. They don’t even wish to be a part of the creative process

    3. Though not entirely their fault, these clients usually aren’t even aware that a better solution or process exists

    Designers and sites that use and promote spec work are actively working to devalue their own skills rather than actively working to promote design and the value of the creative process, and creativity in general. We need to place more value on the unique skill of creativity, not less. This is why art classes are the first curriculum removed from schools with budget issues.

  8. So this bloke/blokess submitted a logo he’d already designed to two different competitions? And wins one of them?

    Hilariously cheeky/lazy, but hardly worth condemning them for it. If it is their work then they’ve done nothing wrong.

    But now that they’ve successfully sold this logo to someone they really shouldn’t use it again, in fact would they be breaching their own copyright? Argh, possible legal and moral mess on the horizon!

  9. jt

    What else would you expect for a $250 design?
    I dont think plagiarism is OK. A contest should have a real prize, not a low almost free reward. A good prize allways push the real designers (not cad skilled people) to participate and give real design.

  10. Jan

    Spec work won’t do novice designers any good either, a large portion of designing a great logo is communication between you and the client. Seeing there is hardly any communication before and during these “contests” i would hardly call this a good excercise.

    They are being exploited and people that steal icons and submit them to several contests will always have better odds at gaining money. (the more contests you enter the higher the odds of winning one of them) While the designers that take their time and put hard work into designing a logo will hardly ever gain any profit.

    On top of that there is no binding contract so if the contest starter decides not to pay he won’t but nobody can assure he won’t just steal one of the designs presented.

    Spec work is evil.

  11. “Designers and sites that use and promote spec work are actively working to devalue their own skills…”

    Well said, Jason. Thanks a lot to you, and to everyone else who joined in the chat.

  12. UDT

    Another aspect to consider is this:

    Company A runs a design contest for its logo. Many logos are submitted, but all are turned down. Meanwhile, company B, who does not also have a logo, trolls the contest site, finds one it likes, tweaks it a bit, and lo and behold – company B now has a free logo!

    Logo design is not supposed to be cheap…just good.

  13. chris

    Morality aside. This is not crowdsourcing. The logos are designed in a silo, by the designer, and then chosen from a mass, by the client. It’s exploitation. Or a mass design contests. Whatever.

    But game shows are required to take taxes out of your winnings, aren’t they? So since this is a design contest…you should have to pay taxes on your winnings right? at American tax rates. But in Crowdspring’s user agreement, it states that it will not issue a 1099. And it’s the end user’s responsibility to report their winnings.
    Does anyone think a strapped college student. Or up-and-comer from the third world would do this???

    One other thought…It’s no secret that these spec sites are fueled by designers working on pirated software. Adobe should lean hard on Crowdspring, logo factory, etc. To have their “technicians” (Because that’s what they are, let’s not call them designers, we’ve all seen the work) supply valid adobe IDs before they can submit.

    And if they’re a “poor student” looking to build their book, they’ll likely have a student copy, not one from bittorrent.

    Thanks.

  14. If someone just starting out wants to get some experience, they can go to a local business that needs a logo (I know there are plenty of businesses where I am from) and explain to them that they are just starting out and they would like to create a logo for them for experience.

    Or better yet why not go to a established design firm and ask to be an intern?

    There are plenty of alternatives rather than putting work on a website where you learn nothing about why your logo works and why it doesn’t.

  15. BJinnett

    Hi,

    I read your comments about design contests with interest because I recently considered using one. I am opening a new business (fitness studio) and am trying to figure out how to find a designer to help with all of our branding items (name, logo, website, collateral, etc.). It seems there is a group of very low-tier designers who advertise very low-cost logos and then large agencies, whose price points I can only imagine and where I fear our work would be farmed out to a junior designer. Any suggestions on where to find design talent? Are there websites to look at portfolios or post ads? Thanks in advance!

  16. el dorado

    Actually. You mention the low-tier, and the high tier. There’s a middle as well. There are many fantastic design firms, and professional designers. Which city do you live in?

  17. BJinnett

    I am in New York City. Any ideas would be great!

  18. wendy

    I just had my first experience on a competition site as the middleman to a client. It was a GREAT experience and next time I am willing to pay more (now I know the ropes). My clients and I have had a number of BAD experiences finding local talent who seem captivated with our wallets and not the quality of the deliverables. And some felt very inclined to try running off with my clients. Many lacked the energy of a collaborative approach and simply don’t get or hear what the client is asking for.
    The value I got out of the competition was:
    – It worked – the results were great and matched the brief
    – I knew what was required of me before and during the competition to achieve a good result so I engaged fully.
    – Those entering had the benefit of collaboration through seeing what was hitting the mark and what wasn’t
    – The winner will definitely get more work and I will pay a fair market price for it willingly eg. the stationery set
    – The second place winner is a designer whose attitude so impressed me that I will refer other graphic work to him

    It isn’t all bad. Deinitely a big thank you to those of you who have outlined the risks – I will take care in that regard.
    Everywhere we go people behave badly. But amongst that – many will behave well if we just tell them what the rules are and show them how.
    My experiences – and I am in the online industry – is that many of my industry colleagues aren’t off the top shelf like some of you guys are either.
    There are pros and cons to both approaches.

  19. Certainly, Wendy, there are pros and cons to everything. The trick is to choose a direction with more pros. All the best.

  20. The crux of Wendy’s argument in favor of competition sites is that she received good service from two designers and has now appeared to build a relationship with them. It seems that they built rapport and trust and that in the future she would work with those two designers again.

    And relationships are critical in design just as they are in most other industries.

    There is no denying the crowdsourcing/competition sites offer some real value to clients, primarily they remove the risk of working with new firms and freelancers and potentially not liking the work and having to pay for it.

    On the other hand, it sounds as though Wendy would prefer to work with people she trusts and will do so in the future. So crowdsourcing sites may actually be–from a business standpoint–”loss leaders” for designers in that they can actually gain regular customers if they win a few contests.

    This strategy might work though if you are young, living at home and can afford to work for free as you build a solid client base. It might also work if you live in Rumania or India. But it doesn’t work if you live in the industrialized world and have a mortgage to pay.

    These sites are economically unproductive for the participants and I think most active members will either lose interest and drop (if they are from the US or Western Europe).

    Unfortunately, my guess is that the rest of us who cannot work for free will have to compete with those in India and Rumania who can afford to because even by winning fewer contests they can still pay their far lower monthly expenses.

  21. Very interesting discussion.
    I just found my own CC attribution licensed vector in an online design contest (without attribution, of course) where one of my logos was linked as an inspiration. Same old story everywhere… Isn’t it ironic…?

  22. Alain

    Why all this attention to a pointless site? Most online design contests are futile, we all know this. If the goal is to find talent, then http://www.behance.net is the most amazing source. All else pales in comparison and weakens my sensitive heart.

  23. Ramona Brown

    I submitted my first design on crowdspring and it won. I was told I was awarded a $500 prize all I had to do was send them my proofs which I did. Weeks roll by with me asking “do you need anything else?” over and over with no response. Finally right before the 30 days are up the buyer says “We are not happy with your proofs we changed our mind.” So this is after crowdspring had announced I was a winner and the buyer had already posted my design all over their website. (Of course they took it down and are trying to act like they never had it posted) When I brought this to their attention My profile was deleted from crowdspring, no money, zilch. So not only did I lose the $500 I lost all the work I had put into about 50 designs that were still in contests.

  24. happens all the time. there are too many people copying stuff and not nearly enough (if any at all) people as moderators. there are way too many loopholes and ways not only for other “designers” to copy work, but also for clients to get a design, and run away with a design for free.

    as a guy who has won over 90 contests on 99designs, i would know…

  25. Irina Gingu

    I don’t advise designers to waste time on these websites, no matter the country they live in.
    Miguel I live in Romania and trust me, same principles apply here and the cost of living are pretty high for an Easter European country. Just enter on a tourism website and see how much is a night in a 4* hotel in Bucharest, same price as in Budapest, Prague or Madrid. I can not say about the situation in India but here things are not like some people say, Romania is in the European Union and they really try to bring us to the same level. Of course they started with the prices :)))

    Any work you do should be paid. Most clients that use those websites are not to be trusted, some are agency and are only interested in stealing concepts.

    Others are clients like the one I had a couple of weeks. I had to stop the project because the client didn’t knew what he wanted and the only feedback he was sending was “I don’t like it”. I just found out that he opened a contest for his logo and the project description is something like” I don’t know what I want but I’ll know when I see it”

  26. If more companies were educated on the pitfalls of contest sites, then maybe they wouldn’t continue to use these sites. Working with a designer directly helps him./her understand your company, your clients and your brand. Establishing the relationship helps both parties when supplemental material needs to be produced. Ads, banners, promotional material, etc.

  27. First of all, you should not join these sites. Because, if you want to work as a real designer in real life you must ignore these quick money making schemes. Reason, think about a client hiring only one designer and a client making a contest and getting lots of entries to choose from. 200$ on 3-5 choices or 200$ on 70-100 different choices/designs. Obviously he /she will opt for option no.2 . And after 2or3 years all the clients will choose these sites for their projects where they can get 50 designers to work on the same thing for only 200-500$. And you being a designer wont get any clients and will have to compete with hundreads of others or sit at home. And chances of winning 30 out of 100. Think about that. And PLEASE DONT JOIN SUCH CONTESTS. ACT NOW AND THERE WILL BE NO PROBLEM IN THE FUTURE.

  28. guest

    some bad sides for online contests.

    1-some of the contests are not real, they were just CREATED BY THE SITE ADMINS to keep the designers coming in.

    2-some admins are also joining if the prize money is higher than $500, come to think of it, how much does their salary range compare to the winnings, they can earn more than $2000/each month if they want to cheat, they do have extra time when they get home, since, they are judging the designs it means they have some basic knowledge regarding design, and MONEY is the thing we are talking about, everyone needs money.

    3-some project holders are designers, mostly in the projects that are not guaranteed, they pretend to a project holder and they get the designs, trace them and sell to their own customers.


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