Don't Let Cost Undercut Quality

I was reading on the HOW design forum today and noticed a post by Jeff Fisher about Forbes magazine. Forbes had described the graphic design business field "snooty" and two men having made a company where hundreds of designers submit for undervalued "prize" money. Ironically the owners of this new company have backgrounds in design it seems so I suppose that would make them "snooty".

One of the owners had this to say:

"The beauty of our site is that it doesn't matter if you have a degree from the Rhode Island School of Design or if you're a grandma in Tennessee with a bunch of free time and Adobe Illustrator"

If you wanted a lawyer and they hadn't gone to school or passed the BAR, would YOU hire them? If you wanted a meal at a nice restaurant but the cook hadn't been trained in food prep and sanitation would you eat there? Now of course there are some times when a designer doesn't need training, they are an absolute natural. You as a client SHOULD be able to research the designer and find out what their background is and their projects and their clients.

The issue with sites like this (contests) is that a designer can't have a real relationship with the client. They are so concerned about how their design is going to fare against other designs that they probably spent way to time on the design and even if they didn't completely miss the mark, they "might" win money but they should have made more given the time spent over the concept and the infinitesimal amount of revisions required before the client makes any actual decision. To top that off, if the client receives less than 25 concepts he can bail and get his deposit back.

Problems with contests for clients
  • If you are a client here are some other issues with this kind of method - you pay a company to find you artwork...isn't that essentially the same as hiring a firm with designers as employees?
  • You may have no idea who is submitting artwork.
  • You also may or may not have the luxury of knowing who designed your art so if there is a need for edits later you will have to hire someone to edit is since these sites don't cover edit contests later.
  • You don't have any kind of assurance that these designers aren't ripping the art from someone else.
  • You can't follow up for additional design work later that uses the same branding
  • They devalue the industry (how would you like your company selling stuff for really cheap just to get some kind of money...not even necessarily a profit?)
  • Amateur individuals (typically the people who accept contests are in need of money and are desperate and willing to steal other people's work for it. Also, you may find yourself with a bunch of designs that you don't like but you have to pick and pay for one).
  • Devalues you (you might have to pay to post your project but any Joe can submit a design).
  • Even if you get the file in the right format, the designer might have not formatted the actual artwork correctly (fonts that aren't converted to outlines, shapes that aren't merged, strokes not converted, etc).
  • If you are able to contact the designer later, you might have issues dealing with them. They may take forever to get in touch with you.
  • Your needs may not be 100% met.
Problems with contests for designers
  • You can't get all the detailed information you may need to be able to properly design for the client and typically contact is restrained so if you need to ask a question you can't.
  • The client can withdraw their contest and then if you've worked on it there was 0% chance of winning. You will never have a guarantee of payment.
  • You are devaluing yourself. You are willing to work for less and people will take advantage of that. Then you will have to cut brainstorming and quality design time to make up for it.
  • You might have to transfer copyright (sure it's all good and all if the company pays well but for $100? it's not worth it!). Some sites have copyrights transferred even if you DON'T win!
  • You have no way of knowing how your artwork will end up and whether or not those who get the artwork know how to use it and so you could be represented poorly.
  • Typically you won't have a contract so there is no way to protect yourself and your work.


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