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Controversies about Design Contests

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This articles discusses some of the most controversial issues regarding to design contests (but not competitions) as contests are categorized differently.

Design Contests are a popular procurement way for design, however several controversies arise. This article discusses the controversies about design contests.

This article is about design contests and their controversies, it is not about design competitions which I categorize differently. Design contests, are organized by design contests organization companies on behalf of micro to small medium enterprises. Participants are offered money, only if, they win the competition.

Design contests are not design competitions, they do not offer fame, publicity, prestige, a published yearbook, a certificate, an exhibition, a fair judging, a trophy or any other non-monetary benefits provided by the design competitions. They simply offer money to participants. Usually, there is no jury but a single judge who comments on the designs.

Good news first: Design contests are often and frequently organized with the goal of procuring designs, the winners designs are usually realized, and good contests organizers provide encouraging feedbacks to participants in order to arrive at a more industrial or commercial design project, these all provide aspiring designers an opportunity to develop their skills.

Design Contests are always indicated as "free to join", but sincerely, I cannot say they are free to join, as I know "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch" i.e. the participants pay by their time. However, as I said earlier, this is an opportunity for young designers to test their skills, as in the end their submissions are checked for commercial viability.

Meanwhile, the monetary benefits are also not as they are advertised, for as small as 100 euros of rewards, you can run a design competition, collecting more than 100 entries, which makes the cost of a design submission, less ten several cents, so there is not a fortune to be made for designers either. Since, the competitions are frequent, and you could perhaps win 1 in 50 competitions if you join frequently (imagine there are 50 other designers submitting also as good as you), I can say the designers are clearly underpaid and not respected at all for their creative contributions. But this is not the most striking issue.

The most striking controversy is the ability to see other participants' design submissions while the submissions are still open. This unfortunately, leads designers to steal or heavily get inspired from each other. The contest organization platforms are designed in a way to allow and push designers to do so.

Given that, designers usually tend to join such competitions last minute to protect their designs from being stolen, but I'll come to that later. Going back to the issue of heavily inspiration (i.e. to be sincere, designers stealing from each-other, or to be more correct, some platform designers stealing from new comers), this creates value for the organizer.

From an organizers' point of view, designers stealing from others can be good as if a designer has a good idea but could not execute it well, another designer will be executing it better. In return, making the competition unfair and decreasing the ethical content. A respectful contest would not show entries of other designers.

The second controversy is the comments by the organizer regarding the design submissions, while the submissions are still open. This has catastrophic results; the organizer usually likes a particular design submission and asks other designers to "get inspired" from that particular design submission, which leads other designers to get extensive inspiration from the particular design, effectively resulting in an idea theft.

From an organizers point of view, this is great as the organizer can effectively manipulate the designers in creating a design that best fits the aims of the organizer. In return, killing creativity and converting the designers into mere creativity workers and decreasing the ethics. A respectful contest would not let you see the comments on other designs, and also would not let you see the comments on your designs either, until the results announced.

Extension of the deadline, basically allows other designers who did not join the competition before to join and submit more designs, however because there are already a number of submissions which had been identified as "good" by the organizer, the new submissions are usually "heavily inspired" designs; i.e. they are better or worse executions of the "good" ideas that have been submitted before.

This creates further idea theft, and decreases the value of the competition for the designers. But from an organizers point of view this is great as more designs are in which fit the aims. The way to have a respectful deadline extension should also accompany an added value such as prize increase for the winning entry.

Furthermore, consecutive deadline extensions create shock to new comers, who realized the potential issues of idea-theft and therefore decided to submit last-minute, but of course she also looses her creative ideas in to the depths of design hell, and a more experienced designer, lacking creativity yet with better presentation skills immediately turns her design into a good product. The newcomer losts her idea, forever.

Inability to take action; idea theft is common in design contests, but the problem is the inability to report this, and also the non-existent anti-theft policies, whoever copy in a design contest has the upper hand; it is logically a good idea to copy best designs to increase your chances of winning due to the nature of the organization of such design contests.

This is of course so wrong in many dimensions and creates disrespect and distrust for fellow participants. Given all these elements, one should be very careful for joining these so called design competitions (which I classify as design contests). To understand if you are participating a contest or a real competition you must look for several checkpoints.

1. Design contests usually offer a prize money (Which is indeed small). 2. Design contests do not offer a certificate, a trophy, a yearbook publication, an exhibition possibility, a press release, and any others positive non-monetary prizes that are usually provided by good design competitions. 3. Design contests do not have jury, they have a judge. 4. Design contests do not have a special website, they are run and hosted by the contest organization platforms which publish many other contests at the same place.

I am not just talking about design contests superficially, to understand design contests, I have personally joined a few, and I was shocked to see the deadline extension which leaded my great design concept to be copied by another designer, and many others after the "constructive" comments of the organizer.

The full list of design contests organizer platforms are available at designcompetition.com as of writing this article there are almost 50+ contest organizers, "praying" on the young and upcoming designers. They can and should do much better to provide better terms for the participating designers.

Young designers should not join any design contests, but rather join the design competitions organized locally or nation-wise by the governments and trade associations, these contests are usually free to join, and they provide substantial amount of externalities and usually offer a generous award prize sum, prestige and publicity. They are organized usually to subsidize design, not to get benefits from designers desire for fame.

Professional designers on the other hand should seek fame and prestige in premium international annual design awards which offer publicity, exhibition, mediation and other benefits, to gain fame and prestige. Design contests are total loss of time and money for the professionals and must be avoided at all times.

Article with images: http://www.designamid.com/magazine.php?pageno=92
 

 

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