Why crowd design contests aren’t all bad

Two design contest Web sites have recently set up a local shop in Canada. Both DesignCrowd and 99designs have registered a dot-ca address to cater to the Canadian market within the past year. Freelancer also just registered a Canadian domain this month, and that site also offers crowd contests for graphic design.

The idea behind these crowd contest sites is simple. A business that needs anything from a logo to a Web site creates a contest with a prize attached. Graphic designers who are members of that site may enter by completing a design and submitting it. The business chooses the winner and gets to use that design, and hands over the prize. The winner gets paid, those who don’t get nothing, and the contest site also takes a cut. 

I’ve spoken with many graphic artists who aren’t thrilled with that model. The argument goes that it devalues the work of graphic artists and is exploitive of those who enter the contests, yet don’t get paid because they don’t win. Recently, I’ve been pointed to this ezine article by Claudia Winifried . It lays out several perceived problems with these contests for business uers. While I don’t think that crowd contests are right for everyone, I disagree that they all-around bad. Here, I’m going to rebut some of the main points Winifred lays out:

Most logo designers are from South Asia, China, Africa and Eastern Europe, so they don’t understand western business design needs. Aside from being just xenophobic, I don’t agree with the overall premise. These crowd design sites have many Canadian artists registered, and are planning to add more with their recent localization efforts. Plus, a business never has to choose a design it doesn’t like.

The work is low quality.  Again, a business doesn’t have to accept the work submitted to it. These sites have the option to not award any prize if you’re not happy with the work. 

There’s a legal risk that a designer could steal another logo and you end up getting sued. This is a good point, since often the design contest sits between the designer and the business and there’s no direct contact. But you have to think that these sites can’t tolerate this sort of thing happening too often and would take action against any designers that are plagiarising. Still, a business should always perform due diligence on anything it plans to use publicly.

Established graphic artists won’t use these sites because they’re at a point where they can be guaranteed payment for the work they’re doing. But sites like 99designs do offer students and other amateurs an opportunity to build a portfolio while earning some money. There’s many artists on these sites that earn a decent amount by winning contests. 

Most businesses that hold these contests do walk away happy. They get to choose from a variety of designs and not blow their budget on a design project. There’s many scenarios where this might be an appealing option.

Brian JacksonBrian Jackson is the Editor at ITBusiness.ca. E-mail him at bjackson@itbusiness.ca, follow him on Twitter, connect on , read his blog, and check out the IT Business Facebook Page.
Share on LinkedIn Share with Google+
More Articles