You probably saw that Moleskinerie is running a logo design contest with a prize of 5000 Euros for the winning design. This wasn’t something I was going to dedicate a post to, so I didn’t really pay that much attention to it, but thanks to an email from a regular reader, I discovered that the contest has created a huge backlash against Moleskine from the exact people the brand considers its base.
Design contests have long been a touchy subject. Designers hate “spec work”: it’s a way for clients to get a lot of work done for free, while bypassing any sort of direct interaction between the client and designer. One winner may get a decent amount of prize money, but thousands of other entrants get no pay for hours of work. From the website at AntiSpec.com:
What is spec work?
Spec work – crowdsourcing – spec competitions
Working on spec is when a single designer or agency design for free in the hope of winning a project.
Here’s an example 99designs logo crowdsourcing
New logo for $700. Entries so far totals 1,133 with 5 days still to run. Potentially thousands of free design hours for the client, nice profit for 99designs and hundreds of disappointed designers. Who is winning here?!
Client asks 3 design agencies to show what they can do for them if they want to win the £60,000 / $100,000 project. The agencies will spend a solid week, or longer, with many staff involved to prepare the perfect pitch. The pitch has cost the agency £6,000 / $10,000 and there is a 66% chance of losing. Client is 100% winning.
Some people may view a contest as a valid way for an up-and-coming designer to try to get some attention, and it’s true that working for free is sometimes necessary to promote oneself and build a portfolio, but the AntiSpec campaign recommends alternatives like contacting a local charity and offering to work with them to design a logo for free. With contests, there’s a “Goliath asking David to work for free” aspect to it that is seen as sleazy– why shouldn’t a big company have the budget to pay an freelance designer to create a logo? If they don’t like the work the designer comes up with, they can pay a kill fee and start over with someone else– this may be more expensive for the client, but it’s arguably faster than reviewing thousands of entries, and more importantly, it respects the relationship between the two parties.
Anyway, this issue is a big deal in the design community, so I’m surprised Moleskine thought this contest would be a good idea. As it turns out, it’s blown up in their face, with hundreds of designers complaining on the Moleskine Facebook page and threatening to boycott the brand forever unless the contest is canceled. Some even came up with images designed to express their displeasure, such as this one by Michael Macher:
Other clever folks requested that Moleskine send them free notebooks so they can compare them to other brands to decide what they’ll buy.
Moleskine’s response on Facebook didn’t help matters– it came off as dismissive and rather rude. For a brand that claims to be very much about its user community, they can be rather stand-offish. We’ll see how things develop over the next few days, but I’d love to by a fly on the wall in Moleskine’s offices right now!