Last week we talked about the dangers of design contests for designers, which are usually pretty obvious. But for the clients that actually get work done from them, the dangers can be a little more elusive.
If you are the owner of a start-up, or simply don’t know where to turn to find a decent design, I’m sure the allure of design contests sound pretty sweet.
Heck, they sure market them enough to push anyone’s buttons. But even for you, they are not the way to go. Here’s why.
1. No proper brand/design brief is given
Some design contests are worse than others in this regard.
The ones I’ve seen though, are pretty pathetic when it comes to ferreting out what your needs are. Usually they ask a few questions, like:
“What colors do you want?” “What does your company do?” and “What did you have in mind for this design?”
While certainly not a bad start, I cannot stress how important it is for a design to be based on a solid design brief.
Especially when it comes to things like logos and websites.
In case you’re wondering, my design briefs are 4-6 pages long and consist of between 35 and 57 questions.
That may seem like a lot to you, but it’s important to figure out exactly what your company is all about, who your audience is, who your competitors are, how you’re different, and what message you’re trying to send.
That simply can’t be accomplished by asking 3 or 4 basic questions.
I cannot stress how important it is for a design to be based on a solid design brief. Click To Tweet
2. More designs=bad for you
Let’s say you start a logo design contest, with a reward of $400.
Over 200 people enter in their designs.
Pretty sweet, right? Think again!
Put yourself in the designers’ shoes.
If you’re a designer, and you have a very small chance of winning (1/200 in this contest), which makes more sense? To focus on this one contest, and spend hours and hours perfecting this design, or churning out logos as fast as you can and entering as many other contests as you possibly can?
I think we all know the answer.
So if practically every designer is doing this, then that means that none of them were spending any time whatsoever on the logos you see.
They were all thrown together in a matter of minutes, with hardly any thought put into them.
See what goes into designing a good logo and tell me if you think this is possible with the numbers game I just described.
3. The designers are desperate to win
Again, on the surface this might look like a good deal. The designers are desperate, so they’re working super hard to please you….Well, yes and no.
Desperate people do desperate things.
Things like being a doormat. Things that might not be in the client’s best interest.
If you have feedback for a designer in one of your contests, they’ll likely just do it without a second thought, because all they care about is winning.
It’s no longer about designing the best possible solution for your business—it’s about making a few bucks by whatever means possible.
Instead of being the expert and guiding the client through a myriad of design options, the designers in these contests have been demoted to a doormat, a yes man.
You don’t want that. Not really.
4. Quality of work is severely lacking
Remember how we just talked about design contests essentially being a numbers game?
Well, I don’t know what universe you live in, but in mine it’s generally accepted as fact that good things take time to make.
The converse is also true. Crappy things are made very quickly.
So if these designers are churning out logos (or whatever) super fast, in order to up their chance of winning, that means that they spent very little time on said designs, so they probably aren’t the best.
If you ever do take a look at some of these contest winners, they are often pretty bad. Again, part of it’s also because the client is calling all the shots (no offense), the designer can’t steer them in a better direction.
Bad design decisions ultimately get made and encouraged. A lot.
5. Your design is probably not original
I hate to break it to you, but one of the ways that designers cut corners (i.e., time) is to do one of the following (or all three):
• steal someone else’s design,
• recycle something of their own, or
• use stock art.
None of these are ethical, and what happens is that you may be stuck with something that’s already been trademarked, or not original.
6. You don’t know who the designer is
The designer on your contest might be a child.
Legally they probably shouldn’t be, but that’s a whole other can of worms (there’s even the question of whether or not these online contests are legal, period).
The designers are also most likely working from third world countries, which, is fine, but it also means that you’re not supporting your local economy.
It also could have ramifications for the design you end up with; even as our world is getting smaller, there still is such a thing as cultural differences.
I’m not going to get too much into it, you should have paid attention in high school ☺ But basically, certain shapes and symbols mean different things in different places, and if your design comes from another country, it just may go over peoples’ heads here.
What might be a witty, clever design in India may fall flat in the States.
Another thing to watch out for; I actually know a company that outsourced their website, and it came back coded in Chinese.
Just something to think about.
7. The end design might not even be built right
This might be filed under poor quality, but it’s not uncommon for design files to not even be built correctly in these contests.
For example, a whole slew of problems can crop up if the designer is inexperienced, untrained, or in a hurry, such as:
• not outlining fonts for logos,
• not giving you crop marks or bleed in PDF files,
• not using CMYK for print,
• not using high enough resolution…
it goes on and on, but hopefully you get the idea.
If you want something designed correctly, hire a professional who will be able to devote the amount of time to your project that you deserve.
8. You end up wasting more time and money by using design contests
I’ve had this happen to me on more than one occasion: a client comes to me, needing help redesigning their logo because it was designed in a contest and it sucks.
So they just wasted the $300 or $400 dollars on the contest, plus all that time going back and forth, and now must spend even more money and time with me to fix it.
Save yourself the time and money and hire a designer the proper way, the first time.
I can’t really think of any reason why anyone would choose to either design for, or use design from, a contest site. While I know there are more and more cropping up each day, hopefully the savvy business owners—along with designers—will know to ignore them.
But the fact remains; designers certainly don’t benefit much from design contests, and even the client ultimately loses by participating.
In design contests, the only real winners are the contest websites, not you.