The Easter weekend, spec work, April Fool’s review, new freelance site & Pink Ponies round-up edition..

Sparkles & Pink Ponies: Despite being a snippy old crank, didn’t really intend for our blog to become ground zero for design bitterness and negativity. It just kinda happens from time-to-time. Last week, and with that in mind, twitter-message-hatchthought we’d lighten things up with a Sparkles and Pink Ponies Snippets edition. You know, rather than ranking on design contests, spec work and general internet asshattery, toss around a few well-deserved pint tips to design related websites, sans the snark and sarcasm that we’ve become known for. That post wasn’t live ten minutes before we received several e-mails and pink-pony-pinataTwitter messages from people that, while appreciating our positive and uplifting attempt, requested that we get back to the sarcasm and the snark. El pronto. Yay! Seems there’s a place for bitterness in the design business after all. Which is good. Cause we’re currently working on a new blog post entitled “The Dirty Little Secret that most Design Contest Sites Don’t Want You to Know.” Sparkles and Pink Ponies it ain’t. And Easter weekend notwithstanding, neither is most of the following…

April fools logo variationThe Logo Factory April Fools Gag. Huge thanks to everyone for playing along with our April Fools gag from a couple of days ago. Special kudos to David Airey who jump-started a lot of the frivolities, twattering to his 7,000+ followers that “Former No-Spec proponent Steve Douglas back-tracks and launches The Contest Factory“. Heh. I’m sure that got the attention of a few folks. Overall, I had a lot of fun putting the irony laden piece together (though it wasn’t that far removed from the realities of most actual design contest sites) and seems like everyone that read it, got the gag, lulzing it around various social media platforms. Everyone, that is, except the couple of designers who contacted the studio, wanting to sign up for our new ‘contest thingy. And the cat david-airey-twitter-announcementwho e-mailed me, suggesting I acquaint myself with the anti design contest initiative No-Spec!. And that I acquaint our new spec work venture with my derrière. Which apparently is both fat, and a sellout. The risks of using irony on a blog, I suppose.

Design Contest & Crowdsourcing Reviews: For a myriad of reasons, I generally don’t put much credence into any type of logo design reviews or the sites that host them. The main one is that they’re often owned by the very same folks that are being reviewed, kinda defeating the purpose of “unbiased” reviews in the first place. Some though, are kinda interesting, just not for the reasons admaven-blogoriginally intended. Take this one, from advertising blog, AdMaven, that claims to be reviewing design contest and crowdsourcing sites. No sign of an axe to grind, but I did find their first review, a look at Australian site 99designs to be remarkably ironic, at least when it comes to the raison d’être of these sites in the first place. Seems the review points out, pretty well verbatim, what many of us Negative Nellies have been saying about design contests and crowdsourcing for a while now. How so? Let’s take a dander at the review itself. crowdsourcing-crowdOverall, AdMaven is generally cool with 99designs, giving them 4/5 from a designer’s point-of-view, and a so-so 3/5 from the contest holder’s side of things.

What didn’t they like?

“We didn’t like being charged extra for listing your project privately (intellectual property is a huge obstacle for many buyers – why ding us for wanting to protect our ideas?)”

Whose ideas? May be nitpicking here, but Sonny Jim, if you haven’t selected an idea, then I’d argue that the ideas still belong to the people who’ve uploaded them into your contest. You know, until you actually buy them (but now that you mention it, there’s a pretty cynical reason for the additional charges. We’ll talk about that mid-week). Any other issues?

“We didn’t like the hordes of amateur designers cluttering projects with concepts. We liked having a low barrier to entry, but this also means setting a low bar for design quality in many cases. Working for free is hard enough as it is – does every 15 year old with a pirated copy of Adobe Creative Suite have to be included too?”

face-palm-BWGee, doesn’t that sound just a tad elitist and snooty? Just a couple of things too. 15-year-olds with a pirated couple of Illustrator? You should be so lucky. Not paying people for design work attracts folks who might present ‘low quality’ work? Who da thunk it? And at the risk of sounding like a wag, how can you complain about amateur designers tossing their designs into the ring, when nobody’s getting paid for the tossing? Besides, lowering the bar for amateur designers is one of the central themes that all so-called crowdsourcing sites give as a reason for their services, not as a weakness of such services (guessing AdMaven didn’t get the ‘democratization of design‘ memo). Bottom line; the guy doing the reviewing wants professional designers, with licensed software, who just happen to be of legal contract-signing age. Wonder where they’d find such a thing?

Oh, oh, I know… Google?

New Freelance Site: Wednesday marked the launch date of Andrew Hyde‘s new freelance design site Brutally simple concept too. Freelance designers can register and upload their portfolios. Design buyers can search for a service provider with criteria including budget, designer experience and skill set and the localization filters will cough up a list of qualified graphic designers in your area. How much of a market is there for such a service? Quite a bit, if’s first day of operation stats are any indication. If you’re a freelance designer, it’s probably worth a looksee. []

devil-head-looking-leftmonoploy-money-500The Devil’s in the Details. Or at Least in the Fine Print: Supposed to encourage citizens of St Albert (and the region) to “discover, experience and celebrate the creative endeavours of local artists and performers” the St Alberts’ Cultivates The Arts festival is scheduled for September. The ‘steering committee’ want a logo for it. So they’re having a logo contest (isn’t everyone?). As is typical, they’re offering a prize of $2,000 for the winner. What’s not so typical is one of the contest disclaimers which goes something like this:

“The St. Albert Cultivates the Arts Committee reserves the right to select no winning entry if it deems that the submissions do not meet the needs of the organization”

See, I think these cats are well within their rights to not use any of the designs entered. Ain’t so sure about not picking a winner, or not doling out the prize, especially if you’re advertising the gig as a competition, or contest, and using a two grand ‘prize’ to entice participation. Like, aren’t there rules about such things? [St. Albert Cultivates the Arts]

Cadbury creme egg logoAs this is the Easter weekend, probably won’t be any more posts till Monday. Maybe even Tuesday. Busy hanging out with the family, and digging into our fave Easter treat, those ever-so-yummy Cadbury Creme Eggs. You know the ones. Little tinfoil-wrapped chocolate eggs with gooey insides that look just like egg yolk, are about 120% sugar and who knows how many calories. In the meantime, and in keeping with an Easter theme, you should hop over to the Christian Science Monitor, where they’ll tell you how some online companies, including Google, have set up egg hunts, themed gags and other goodies.

Happy Easter.