Steve Douglas on December 12th, 2014

While we’re happy that you thought enough of us to “invite” us to your logo design contest, we’re going to have to pass on this wonderful opportunity. We thought you might be interested in why.

Can I call you Contest Holder? I realize that not very personal, but that’s what participating designers will call you during your contest. At some point it’ll get abbreviated to CH because they’ll get tired of writing Contest Holder in full. We probably will too I guess, so while I know it’s not your name, can we call you CH as well? Awesome. Here’s the thing CH – while we certainly appreciate the invitation to your exciting logo design contest, and thrilled that you saw enough merit in our portfolio to find us ‘worthy’ of the invite, we must respectfully decline. There’s more than a few reasons, but here are the most salient:

Your design contest isn’t actually a contest at all.

See, contests usually involve random selection to get a prize. Or maybe we’d have to perform some feat. Guess the number of jellybeans in a jar or something. This contest was to win a fridge:
jellybean contest
If your contest was a typical design contest, we’d come up with one really good design, as would everybody else participating, and then the best one would win. Maybe they’d get judged by some people who really know a lot about design. But that’s not what your design contest is about. First of all, it features a ‘Qualifying Round.’ That’s when designers submit logos based on your brief, to see if they’re good enough to enter your contest. Kinda like submitting a portfolio for a real job, except the portfolio consists of designs done for the job, and if we get the job we have to do it again and maybe get paid. Strange notion indeed. If we do qualify, you’ll want us to submit even more designs to your contest and ask us to revise them by moving this and that, and then submit those new versions. This will go on for how ever long you decide your contest will last which means it’s not really a contest at all. What you’re asking us to do is a full blown logo design project, which is actually what we do for a living, except you want us to do it, while not making a living at it. You’re also expecting a whole bunch of other people to do this too which isn’t like any contest I’ve ever heard of.

Your contest may not even end in a winner

I realize that (hopefully) you’ll pick a winning design, maybe even one by us, and (hopefully) pay the prize you’re offering. I say hopefully, because your contest can also be canceled at your whim, regardless of how much work we, or other people put in, how hard we try or how faithfully we follow your sometimes questionable instructions.
refunded locked contests
See, when you’re not paying for the time, you’ll probably take advantage the designers in your contest, asking them to do stuff that you know is stupid, just “to see” if it isn’t. Sure, you can guarantee your contest (that’s were you promise to follow through with paying the prize, whether you pick a winner or not) but in many cases guaranteed contests don’t get paid out either, they’re in limbo for many months (sometimes over a year) and if they do eventually get paid out, they’re distributed to a lot of people who get a couple of dollars each. I realize this is great and all, but like you I have bills, a few dollars won’t pay them, and the people I have to pay aren’t fond of waiting around.

The best design may not necessarily win

I’m not saying you don’t know about design. Maybe you’re an expert. But see, with most other types of contests, they’re judged by arbitrary measures – faster, higher, longer. Design contests that I’m familiar with are usually judged by a panel of people who are from the design industry and know (hopefully) what’s good design and what’s not. They call them Art Directors for a reason. In your contest, the design you “like” will (hopefully) win, not necessarily the “best” design. Take a look around you and see how many bad logos you can find. At some point somebody chose those – probably thinking to themselves “hey, I really like that” – when they didn’t know much about design and thought designers were a snobby bunch who didn’t either. Also, turning this kind of instruction (common on logo design sites:)
99designs slider
into a logo you “like” isn’t terribly easy, not much of a formula and eventually won’t mean anything at all. The winning logo may end up reminding you of your pet dog, an old house or your favorite movie on the TV. The term “like” is so subjective that it doesn’t really mean anything. I can’t make you “like” any design even if I follow your instructions and feedback – if you give any, which most contest holders don’t and even when they do, only on entries they “like” – to a T. That’s not your fault, you’re expected to play Art Director without actually being one. Accordingly, we could spend hours and hours, revision after revision, trying to come up with something you “like” – not something that “works” for your company – but we wouldn’t get paid to do it unless you actually “liked” it more than you “liked” the other entries. Which defeats the “professional” part of professional graphic design. It also negates the point of a logo in the first place because one person “liking” it is actually a very small part of a successful one.

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Steve Douglas on December 10th, 2014

torches pitchforks crowd

In what is becoming an almost annual ritual, there’s another designer uprising against the design of Canada’s 150th logo. In this episode, the government has launched a $5,000 design contest, with the utterly predictable backlash.

The story so far. Last summer – no the one in 2013 – the Canadian government had some staffers design some logos for Canada’s 150th anniversary/birthday coming up in 2017. The proposals were whittled down to fiver utterly mediocre designs, which were then humped through $40,000 worth of focus groups, where they all received a collective “meh.” The media caught wind, there were howls of protest over the remarkably uninspiring choices. As they are wont to do, Australian contest site 99designs launched another of their risable pretend “community contests” – a whole bunch of Indonesian designers working for free, for an Oz based outfit, to create a logo for Canada was kinda ironic (though a Canadian guy did “win” against all odds and a voting system that said he didn’t.) Designers lost their minds about that. Then, a group of Canadian designers started their own website, The 150 Logo, that showcased some options and graphic design organizations flipped about that too.
Canada 150 logo
There were petitions, newspaper articles and a bunch of Twitter carping. We used the word “fiasco” as part of the title when detailing the wretched tale here. Early 2014, the story simply vanished from everybody’s radar and other than a gripe here and there, everyone seemed to forget about the entire thing. Until now. Last week, the feds announced they were launching a $5,000 contest for the logo, open to Canadian citizens currently enrolled in post-secondary programs. Cue the scalded cats once more.

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Steve Douglas on November 24th, 2014

the logo factory on fiverr lead

Disruption, the “Shared Economy,” the “Collaborative Economy,” the “Gig Economy,” Crowdsourcing, all refer to the same thing. Lots of people doing something at a price much less than previously, often at the expense of previously established safeguards and standards. Case in point – the time we bought our own logo, for $5 (plus .50 processing fee) from Fiverr. And when we say our own logo, we literally mean our own damn logo.

It’s no secret that designers, myself included, aren’t huge fans of so-called “gig” platforms like Fiverr. Not going to rehash all the reasons why (you can check out our Fiverr is awful post if you’re so inclined) but one of the main beefs is that these services are rife with knocked-off logos and plagiarized artwork. Here’s a recent case from end of October:
logo design on fiverr
Claims of being “Exclusive on Fiverr” notwithstanding, that particular image is a copied version of an old factory logo that I worked up – about 5 years ago – for our technical manuals and how-to’s. You can see it here. Problem is, and despite this happening frequently, Fiverr are generally pretty unresponsive about copyright issues. They require you to open up an account in order to report infringements, a general pain in the ass when you have no interest in a Fiverr account and simply want to report something that’s slam-dunk obvious. Fiverr also requires any new sign-ups to accept their relentless email notices, and will spam your addy without mercy until you unsubscribe from their list, something I had to do several times before my deluge ceased. This wasn’t my first rodeo with Fiverr either, so rather than mess around with their support department yet again, I contacted this ‘Design Hut‘ fellah, the seller who was using our art, and told him to knock it off. To his credit, he did PDQ.

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Steve Douglas on October 9th, 2014

theft vs copyright infringement

Sure, copyright infringement sucks, but it isn’t theft. Fair use isn’t really a thing, and the government won’t help you enforce your copyrights. We tackle the sometimes confusing area of design ownership and property rights and debunk the top 13 misconceptions about copyright.

Before we begin, let’s get this out of the way: I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on the Tee Vee. Any legal stuff you’re about to read is worth pretty much what you paid for it, and for serious legal advice on copyright, trademark and related matters, you should always, always, consult a live attorney. With that out of the way, we can begin..

Ah yes, copyright. It’s either the magic bullet to protect your intellectual property rights, or not worth a thin red dime, depending on who you talk you. Truth is, both are sorta true. Copyright will protect your artwork to a great degree, but there’s no copyright enforcement agency just waiting for your call when that great design of yours shows up somewhere it shouldn’t. So, what exactly is copyright? Let’s quote some legal guys:

“A copyright, by definition, is a set of exclusive rights granted by a state to the creator of an original work or their assignee for a limited period of time upon disclosure of the work. This includes the right to copy, distribute and adapt the work.”

Basically, copyright is the right to copy something. Print it. Put it on T-shirts. Throw it on a website. The idea behind copyright protection is quite simple – it was originally intended for books because as a society we realized that they were integral to our well-being, and people had to be encouraged to write. If they spent half their lives writing this tome or that, only to have it knocked-off by some other unscrupulous author, there wouldn’t be much incentive and nobody would bother writing anything. By allowing an author to copyright his work, he could monetize it, and thus would continue to write great stuff that would enlighten society as a whole. Nowadays it applies to art, music, drawings, photographs and just about anything that can be created (except for ideas and words – patents and trademarks would protect those.) In the context of this blog, we’re going to talk about design in general, logos in specific, and because there’s a lot of nonsense floating around about copyright, we’re going to have a go at the top thirteen common misconceptions and debunk them, one at a time.

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