Steve Douglas on April 15th, 2009

99designs seems like an awfully good idea at first blush. I mean, cough-up a few hundred bucks and dozens upon dozens of designers will perform a dog-and-pony show, trying to please you with their creative brilliance. Hundreds of logo goodness to choose from. What could go wrong with that?

99designs artwork

Other than the issue of, ahm, “heavily influenced” artwork that looks like it might have been lifted from our portfolio being entered into their contests – apparently for some Television show that wanted a buck as part of their design – not too much.

99designs contest gallery

But that should be okay, because if any ahm, “heavily influenced” artwork is submitted, it will be noticed. Design contest sites refer to this as self-policing. Some even say that because more scopes are on the design concepts, it’s more likely that any copyright infractions will be noticed. And hey, whaddaya know – someone did catch this one.
99Designs comment thread

So what happens now? Well, if this case is any indication, once the design has been noticed, the comment will be ignored by management, and even more variations of the same design will be entered. Seems “99designs can’t make decisions about what constitutes a derivative work” because it’s “not their bag“. The designs will remain in the contest, will receive three out of five stars, but luckily won’t win.

This time.

At sometime during the festivities, 99designs site owners will ignore an e-mail, sent through their IP violation thingy, informing them that this particular ‘creative’ isn’t being too cool about respecting IP property rights (probably cause that’s not their bag either). Then, once the contest is completed, site site owners will leave a really, really big version of the logo on their server, so that others can find it, copy it, and enter it into other contests that require an deer icon.

Yep. That all sounds fair enough. And it probably goes a long way towards explaining this entry (below), from yet another contest, that looks remarkably like the logo we created for the Watts Performing Arts Center years ago. Luckily enough, someone noticed that one too. And just like the TV logo above, a really, really big version will be left kicking around the 99designs server for others to copy, then enter into a contest for a theater company logo.

Watt's Community Performance Center




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13 Comments to “More logo design contest nonsense…”

  1. Ryan James says:

    I followed the TV logo link above to the 99Designs site and was reading some of the comments. They’re worth a read if you are interested in this issue. I found it really interesting to read the contest holder’s opinion of his experience, especially regarding the number of copied submissions that THEY managed to find:

    After a couple of weeks of dealing with the US Patent and Trademark office we’d really like to thank the handful of designers who submitted legally. We were initially appalled with the spiteful comments directed between designers. Now, after going through thousands and thousands of designs with the US Patent and Trademark office, we understand your frustrations and encourage more of you report designers not submitting by the site rules and the law. We had several designs we were considering that we did not choose that we later saw through the patent office. They weren’t the mainstream ripoffs like John Deere or Browning. They were from smaller companies and designers. I would say that less than 10% of our designs were legally able to be trademarked. Dealing with design firms we would have had their insurance policies as collateral if a designer intentionally or accidentally infringed on another person’s design. It wasn’t until we had already launched the contest that we realized we had opened ourselves up to a potential lawsuit. We are sorry if we offended any you who came up with all original (or inspired legally) designs. We can understand your frustrations now as legitimate designers being watered down in contests by lazy and illegal activity potentially costing you money. It’s really unfortunate and we hope you all stay on top of the issue, even if it means us as a contest holder get accused of foul play. Thanks again to you all.

    Quite the testimonial for logo design contests, eh?

  2. @Ryan – Certainly an interesting read. Worthwhile pointing out that this particular contest offered $1000 in prize money, so the issue of copied designs doesn’t seem to be related to the prize amount offered. If anything, and looking at the comments for this example, higher prize money may attract more unusable submissions. Due to the volume of entries, the likelihood of getting selected as the ‘winner’ is lower and motivation to create original work may be even less than usual.

    Got me thinking though. As several designs that are extremely, ahm, similar, to our work were entered into this particular project, wonder if our client gets a cut of the fee that 99designs charges to ‘host’ the contest?

  3. [...] a strange assumption for George to make, don’t you think? Steve, on many occasions, has seen his logo designs entered unlawfully as contest submissions. George says: “If you [...]

  4. [...] > Store « More logo design contest nonsense… [...]

  5. [...] time I write about our work getting jacked and entered into a 99designs logo contest, I usually receive some e-mails advising me that I shouldn’t make such a fuss. Just an [...]

  6. rinaldistudio says:

    sppt..not all 99 designers ‘follow’ our above example of creating…….I am one of many who are trying to ‘weed’ out he ‘weeds’…and 99 strictly forbids THIS!….so it is an outrage……designers need to watch, as many, many just don’t ‘get’ stealing, clipart, stock….is NOT ok.

  7. rinaldistudio says:

    contest sites are on the ‘platter’ meaning, the copying in amongst us, and NEeDS TO STOP!!!!

  8. [...] know the drill – discussion of industry issues like the spec work debate and carping about logo design contests. And let’s be honest – most clients couldn’t give a rat’s ass about design [...]

  9. [...] More logo design contest nonsense, on The Logo Factor [...]

  10. [...] Is Evil / Why I Hate CrowdSpring, by Andrew Hyde Spec Watch on design contests, on Logo Design Love More logo design contest nonsense, on The Logo Factor An interview with SpecWatch, on Web Designer Depot Pay the Designer, on 8164 [...]

  11. ron davis says:

    i actually participated in this particular contest (and tons of other ones on 99designs) and the entire affair is definitely disheartening to the designers honing their own unique styles. Originality is typically asked for but ‘the familiar’ is what often wins the most. being that my initial graphic design education was disrupted years ago, i now use that site to practice and create samples with for my own freelancing agency that i attempt to turn over for the actual clients who come thru my door. (i think most of the designers on 99d are still taking courses themselves and are using the site for their own experience more than actually trying to win) … i’m not in favor of or against spec work and have no issue to honest designers trying to make a few bucks (usually no more than $150) but i am weening away from the site as i concentrate on my own agency.

  12. Mark Spencer says:

    Logo contest is good opportunity to all the logo designer to show their creativity and earn money by winning the contest.

  13. Logo contest is a good opportunity to all the logo designer’s to show their creativity and earn money by winning the contest.thanks for sharing the post.