Why online logo contests are wrong on so many levels

If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to make my blood temperature soar it’s an online logo competition. For the uninitiated, I’m talking about a website where business owners can post a brief and invite graphic designers to submit as many designs as they wish in return for the remote promise of a cash prize. These are so, so wrong on so many levels. And they make me very, very cross.

Can you imagine asking a number of solicitors to write you some terms and conditions and running a “competition” to pay just one of them for the time they’ve put in once you’ve decided whose work is the best? Or inviting a range of accountants to do your tax return and giving a “cash prize” to the one that saves you the most tax? Of course not! It would be laughable. These people are providing a service and the time they’re spending on that piece of work needs paying for.

Creating a decent logo is a professional skill, just like any other profession. But what makes a great logo designer different is that they’re able to read your mind, get a thorough understanding of the message you’re looking to communicate, grasp what makes you different and what will attract and engage your clients. And if they’re really good, through the use of appropriate colours, fonts and a spark of creativity they’ll be able to capture all of that and more. And if they’re exceptionally good, they’ll create something that’s beyond your own imagination. They’ll create something that truly inspires you, your team and your customers.

A great logo design isn’t about churning out as many “options” as possible. It’s not about throwing enough mud until it sticks. It’s not about “having a go” in the hope that you might hit the mark. We pour our hearts and souls into creating each and every logo concept. We work incredibly hard at delighting each and every client. Do you honestly think that the people that enter these competitions put the same level of effort in? Knowing that they have maybe a 1 in 10 chance of earning any money?

Oh, and by the way, even in the remotest chance that you do manage to “read the clients mind” (and that’s what it seems to boil down to: I’m yet to see the product of one of these competitions that I’ve been genuinely impressed with) do you think you win decent amounts of money? Do you think it pays these people enough to live on? Does it heck! Designers are lucky if they pick up $200 – what’s that? Around £100?

These logo contests totally devalue the concept of design. They reduce it to a mere commodity: something that’s got to be done to stick in that gap on the website. And they can’t be profitable for the designer.

As for the client: great, you’re picking up a “bespoke” logo that’s dirt cheap. That doesn’t mean you’re getting value for money. It doesn’t mean that you have a logo that reflects you, your business or your ambitions. It can’t do, because you haven’t built a relationship with your designer. The whole “relationship” is so fragile that they’re desperate to please you.

Why would pleasing you be a bad thing? Because sometimes when you have a great relationship with your designer (and they know that you respect their opinion and you won’t withhold your payment just because they proffer an opinion) they need to tell you that combining that font with that concept and that other concept is going to look like a dogs dinner. And you sometimes need to listen ;-)

I get that if you’re a startup business then you need a logo and you don’t have a big budget. I get that not everyone can afford the big agency. What I would urge you to do is consider just how serious you are about making this business of yours a success. Because if you’re serious then you need to invest in your image.

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