7 Deadly Sins of an Online Design Contest

Thursday 8 July 2010 | Keith J. Hamilton

Comments 7 Comments

contests banner v1 7 Deadly Sins of an Online Design Contest

Online logo design contests are all the rage these days, both among participants who live to prove their talents and among businesses who strive to seek a much needed identity. A lot has been said about these contests as of late. While businesses around the world have showed their support and have graciously rallied behind the concept, some individual critics remain who question its very integrity and purpose and have started an all out war against this “vice” as they have termed it.

Here we will try to put ourselves in these critic’s shoes and analyze their reasons or “deadly sins” if you would, for being so against the online design contests.

1. Low Prize Amount for a Good Design

This is a fair complaint voiced equally by the participants as well as critics. The prize money allocated by some contest holders is often times not congruent with the amount of work they demand from the designers. This trend however, is now changing. Companies are realizing the potential of online logo design contests and are now coming forth with more competitive prize amounts in order to attract more talented designers.

2. Poor Quality of Design

Critics have been beating this drum since the very inception of online design contests arguing that the quality of work will not be up to standard. I’d urge them to take another look at the winning logo designs. There is a reason why online design contests are so popular and the quality of work makes this quite apparent.

3. Lack of Qualified Participants

People participating in logo design contests haven’t been spared either, as skeptics have directly attacked their abilities, citing lack of skill and knowledge about the subject at hand. This argument carries no weight whatsoever. The pool of participants today comprises of experts from around the world who come forth with their knowledge and experience to participate.

4. Undermining the ‘Real Designers’

This is a painful pill to swallow for the critics who are mostly designers by profession themselves. Online design contests have opened doors for numerous designers willing to work for cheaper pay. This does not bode well for the ‘real designers’ who have made careers out of designing logos. What they need to realize is that these contests are not here to complete with them per say. They exist solely as a means to provide businesses with better alternative to seek a company identity on a modest budget.

5. End Up Costing More to Companies

Again a shot at participants by making the businesses doubt design contests. Sometimes companies are simply not satisfied with the final draft which leads to time wasted and money lost.  However, this usually happens when contest holders are not very forth coming about the details of the assignment. Clients now have started providing in depth briefs with all the dos and don’ts and that has essentially rectified this issue.

6. You Get What You Paid For

When nothing else works, you will see this tag line being thrown around a lot. Since the prize money is so low, there is always a concern that the end result may not meet expectations. Again, this has been proved wrong by the hard work and dedication of the participants.

7. There are Better Options for Getting a Design

There are other options. Sure. Better ones? Not really. With the enormous amount of talent now available combined with a fast and efficient platform like the internet, online design contests are simply the best option for companies to getting good results fast and at an affordable price.

Honestly, this attitude of critics is more of an exercise of their right to disagree rather than anything else. These are hardly any reasons to start an all out war of words (as they put it), against this supposed vice. I guess sometimes a soldier just doesn’t know when to quit, even though he knows he has lost the war.


    as a print designer, i find these contests only cheapen our industry. as a matter of principle, i do my best to dissuade from participating… just my two cents!


    Way to go Chris!
    Backwards is the way forward?

    I find this refreshing.

    Also believe that the more cooperate companies goes with a more “professional” designer.

    While this is a perfect service for small and midsize companies
    that anyway wouldn’t have the money to spend on a “professional” service.

    Think they compliment eachother perfect.

    Go mycroburst!

    Keith J. Hamilton

    Thank you for your feedback guys.

    @Chris: Providing more options ‘cheapens’ the industry? That IS news! FYI, what online design contests offer is more choice to small business owners on a modest budget and provide designers worldwide a platform to display their talents. How that is bad for the industry, i fail to understand :)


    It is very interesting to see this develop.

    While I appreciate some of the critique that has been offered by those in the profession, it is the free market choice of those who engage in contests.

    Those who exchange voluntarily are better off or they wouldn’t do it.


    As a “real truly educated designer”, I am insulted by reading your blog post. It’s the people like you who ARE undermining the intelligent, professional community of hard working designers. Designers with “real jobs” at “real agencies”. Not some wanna-be 16 year old punk hacking away at his mom’s keyboard. You have to admit, 98 percent of the logos that come from these “logo sites” could have been found in the toy isle of a Chinese Wal-Mart.

    My advice is to do your research, pay a little extra money and you’ll see what goes into a true identity or a powerful long lasting brand (i.e. Nike, IBM, FedEx).

    In the end, if you don’t have the smarts to do that or the money to pay for it, then you probably don’t have what it takes to make your business survive.

    Just saying.

    Adina Berzofsky

    Gee Matt, I have to wonder, were you born an “educated” graphic designer? Or did you slowly learn, practice, and gain experience over a span of many years? Were you hired by a “real agency” and paid the big bucks the day you graduated from college?

    Please allow others the same opportunities as you. Not everyone can afford to go to college. Real life experience comes from trying and trying again and eventually succeeding. Design contest websites offer opportunities to design, earn money, build a portfolio, deal with clients and gain real life experience.

    At the same time, as mentioned before, not every company has thousands of dollars to spend on a logo! Some startups might only be able to spend $300, and design contest websites provide a way for those companies to get a logo they can afford. I promise you, Nike and IBM didn’t have the big bucks when they started either. And plenty of businesses, (like Gap) spend the big bucks, and end up making huge embarrassing branding mistakes.

    Saying, “In the end, if you don’t have …the money to pay for it, then you probably don’t have what it takes to make your business survive.” – that is just small minded. Most businesses start in someone’s livingroom or garage. Most don’t bring in venture capital. A landscaper or a real estate agent or a consignment shop doesn’t have thousands to invest in “corporate branding”. They may never become fortune 500 companies. Does that mean they won’t survive? Does that mean they shouldn’t bother trying for success?

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