Those in favour of such contests claim that it’s a great way to receive hundred of ideas for a fraction of the price you’d pay a professional designer.
Those who oppose it (often the professional designers!) say it’s the equivalent of blindly throwing darts at a dartboard and the results don’t match the theory.
So, who is right?
In my experience, logo design competitions are a complete waste of time — if you are serious about your business and it’s brand.
If all you’re looking for is a quick logo to mark the header of your personal blog, then a £100 logo contest makes sense.
However, don’t expect professional results.
The theory of crowdsourcing design sounds great, and appealing — if you can get hundreds of hungry young designers to create logo designs for you, surely the odds are that there’s something you’ll like at the end?
The problem is… things don’t always work out like that. Below are a few key reasons as to why you should NOT consider running a logo design competition.
Many people have the opinion that crowdsourcing design is simply a way to get cheap labour since no one gets paid except the ‘winner’.
99% of the entrants get no pay whatsoever for their time — in any other business surely that would be regarded as exploitation?
Therefore if you run a design competition, your business will become associated with taking advantage of desperate designers — is this the image you want your brand to be perceived with?
From a customer’s point of view, if you are unwilling to pay an honest price to a designer, then it’s fair to say you are likely to cut corners elsewhere in your products and services.
In other words, if you don’t take your own brand seriously, how do you expect potential customers to respond?
Cheap labour, in general, has hugely negative connotations for a business, especially when words like ‘sweat-shop’, ‘child-labour’ and ‘exploitation’ are connected so closely. These can be disastrous to any business of any scale.
Project Management issues
Another problem you can come across in a logo design competition is that you’ll be expected to manage a huge team of designers.
Depending on the popularity of the project (a larger prize will obviously attract more entrants) you could end up in discussion with hundreds of people from all over the world, many of whom may not speak your language.
Whilst it may seem you’re saving money by not hiring a professional designer, you’ll be wasting a massive amount of time and resources on the process itself. This will undoubtedly have a negative effect on your business.
Finally, add in the fact that there is basically zero collaboration between you and the individual designer, progress from an initial concept into something you really like will be both tedious and frustrating.
When companies launch logo design competitions, they all have grand plans and imagine they’ll receive dozens of great logos to choose from. Surely this is the best springboard to their brands’ success from the get-go?
The reality is very different.
For a start, not every entrant is actually going to be a designer — some will be kids looking for a bit of extra pocket money, others will be self-proclaimed ‘amateur designers’ (which is perfectly fine — you have to start somewhere!) and some will be simply chancing their arm and hoping to get lucky.
Amongst poor quality work will be the certainty of rip-off designs. It’s a sad fact that plagiarism is rampant in such competitions.
The most common method is to find a suitable logo on Google images, remove the real company name, trace it, squish, bend and recolour it in the hope that you never find out.
Some of these frauds are pretty good at it; if you aren’t vigilant you could have a real headache with copyright laws.
Don’t forget, the entrants into the competition have a certain anonymity behind the username and with no contracts in place, you have to be very careful.
Imagine finally receiving what you think is a great logo design concept, only to discover that it’s a complete rip-off.
Obviously, you can’t use the logo in question or else you’ll be risking a lawsuit, now the contest will feel like a complete waste of time altogether.
Most of these competitions will take weeks or months to populate and develop — would that time not be better spent working one-to-one with a professional?
I’ve seen so many design contests over the years (I started practising logo design in them years ago so am by no means against the idea) and have noticed plagiarism in every single one of them — it’s not a possibility, it’s an inevitability!
“Successful design work results from a collaborative process between a client and the designer, developing a clear sense of the client’s objectives, competitive situation, and needs. Speculative design competitions result in a superficial assessment of the problem and can only result in a design that is judged on a superficial basis. Design creates value for clients as a result of the approach designers take in addressing the problems or needs of the client and only at the end of that process is a “design” created. Speculative competitions for work based on a perfunctory problem statement, will not result in the kind of work a client deserves.”
Hire a professional logo designer if you want to be a serious brand
All of the above is in stark contrast to dealing with a professional graphic designer that has a tried and trusted process to get the best results.
A professional logo designer will perform research into your brand, industry and target audience to come up with the best possible concept to create a logo for your business — will logo design entrants do the same?
Certainly not in the 15 minutes they’ve spent on your project!
A reputable designer or Branding company will come up with several designs and test their prototypes — can you say the same for a designer in a competition?
Of course not, because they don’t have the time to do all of the above when they are not getting paid and the chances of them winning are slim. No one wants to work for free.
The reality of business logo design competitions and crowdsourcing design contests is that they aren’t worth the time and effort if you are serious about your business.
While entrants work without being paid in the hope that their logo is picked, businesses are taking the risk that entrants are skilled designers producing original work.
Any money that you save will be lost in the time spent on the competition, which reduces your company’s productivity. Add in the additional stress and potential for lawsuits and you have a headache you simply don’t need.
If all you’re looking is a basic logo design for your blog header then, by all means, explore the option of a logo design competition if all you’ll be spending is £100 or so… but if you don’t want to gamble on branding your company — be sure to work with a professional Branding agency.
Originally published at inkbotdesign.com on November 23, 2016.