elogo design contest bulldog

Yet another logo design contest. Yet another knocked-off logo. Isolated incidents or more evidence that logo contests are perilously bad for trying to develop a brand for your company, product or service?

Despite being exploitative, unfair, bad for business, downright unethical and even potentially illegal, is there still a place for logo contests in the design world? Can an prudent contest business owner still get a decent logo for pennies on the dollar through a design contest site or forum?

Outside chance – maybe.

More likely – no.

If you took the time to read our lengthy contest manifesto from yesterday, you’ll remember we introduced you to a new site – E Logo Contest – upstarts who boast offering hosted contests for less than the going rate for such things (they make it up by clawing back 10% off designer ‘winnings’). Took a peek through a few of the contests currently running and waddya know – some of our work has been entered as potential logos for unsuspecting ‘clients’. The first, for some outfit called Big Dog BBQ features a nifty little bulldog logo, pinched right from our logo design examples. Dude didn’t even try to change it – same color and everything. Contest holder didn’t like our green (the cheek) and requested that it be converted to a rustic brown.

elogo boat logo design

Then there’s this other one, obviously, ahm, ‘influenced’ by our boat logo for Euro Yacht, a design that was featured in a recent edition of the Logo Lounge book series. At least this guy tried a little, elongating the waves, twisting the hull, moving the portholes and cloning the windshield, although they were changes I was able to duplicate in Adobe Illustrator in about 30 seconds flat. But still – he did sort of try to make a variation of the original. Which would be kinda okay if this wasn’t a trademark, which unfortunately, it is. Alas, the contest holder on this one felt the boat wasn’t ‘professional’ enough (more cheek) and supplied a link were a new one could be found. Hey, the original client thought the boat was just dandy.

But here’s the scary part – I was able to find two examples of skullduggery within a few minutes. By different entrants – not some ‘lone rogue’ designer. Like I always said – some folks entering design contests aren’t above submitting ripped-off designs because they aren’t getting paid for the work they do. If their purloined logos win – they get a prize. If they don’t win, no big deal – they haven’t spent any time coming up with the entries in the first place. Not saying that everyone who enters work into logo design contests are ripping off other designers, but if my experience counts for anything, it is quite a few. And if you’re new to business, is branding yourself with a hot logo any way to start off? Didn’t think so.

And it’s not like these dudes aren’t aware that this is a problem with using logo design contests as a business model – they very much are. Let’s take a look at their somewhat logic-mangled and strangely worded TOS;

“eLogoContest processes lots of different graphics for lots of different contests, and although we have many very, very ethical designers, there is sometimes (as in any walk of life) the individual without any scruples that has no problem attempting rip off other peoples artwork..”

Without any scruples you say? Tell us more.

“One of the great things about eLogoContest is that unlike a conventional design firm, where design theft can go completely undetected, eLogoContest is an open community and where better to spot design plagarism than in a large community of experienced designers?”

So a community that features designers without any scruples is better for detecting knock-offs than an agency where one knock-off gets you fired, a black mark on your CV and a reference that’s toxic to your career? Righto.

“If you feel that a design of yours (yours – not someone elses) has been used without permission by one of our registered designers we would like to make you aware of the following: eLogoContest is a independent ‘middle-man’ and makes no claims whatsoever as to the originality of any user-submitted content.”

Read it again. No claims whatsoever about originality of content. From contests that they’re charging a fee for. And 10% off the top from designer winnings. Yep – I’m just full of confidence now. They go on to ask that if a design has been bootlegged, to contact them and advise us to “be polite. It is not the fault of eLogoContest staff that your design has been copied.”

Well, it kinda is. It’s a problem with the business model itself. And something that can’t ever be overcome when people aren’t getting paid for their design work. Though, we should be flattered I guess – we’re also featured on the other design options that suck page. Nice touch fellas.

Logo Contest Survival Guide.

In the interest of fair play, I’m going to give people who still insist on holding a logo contest a few tips on how to avoid getting stuck with someone else’s logo (which I think we can all admit, is never a good idea). Here’s how it works. Whenever less than ethical (bunny quotes on) ‘designers’ (bunny quotes off) enter these things, they immediately use Google and Google Image Search (Yahoo & MSN have them too) to search for designs that suit your project using keyword combinations that would describe it (the examples above, for example, scored extremely well – number one actually – for searches including bulldog, boat and logo.) They look for an image they like and it you’re lucky, they’ll change it a little so that it won’t be recognized by anyone but the owner and/or the original designer. And there’s about a 50/50 chance one of them will find out. If they do, whether these design changes will be enough to pass a legal challenge is anyone’s guess. If you’re not so lucky, they’ll pass someone else’s logo, unchanged very little (or not at all) as their own. Then, a lot of people will notice, raising the threat level of getting into hot water to almost 100%. Accordingly, you should perform the same searches using the resources I just mentioned. When you’re appraising logos, search through Google Images using the various keyword combinations and descriptions that describe the logo your contest is supposed to be about. If you’re lucky, you’ll find any potentially infringing designs before things get too out of hand. Before you’re stuck with thousands of business cards and letterheads that you can’t use, because you’ve plastered them with a design that belongs to someone else. And before the nasty e-mails start arriving. Or, you could avoid logo design contests altogether.

Probably a much better idea.