SitePoint builds a crowdsourcing community

NO!SPECI’ve just come across SitePoint’s design contests site. It is presumably intended to be a way for smaller businesses to be able to choose from a variety of creative solutions for a fixed “prize” amount. Sorry, but I’m just not a fan of this concept at all.

This is not just another in a recent trend toward “design contests” but a whole community site purpose-built around them. The otherwise respectable web development authority, SitePoint has become the posterchild for speculative work. I find this quite disappointing form for SitePoint.

In case none of this makes sense, here’s some background:

What is spec work:

…any requested work for which a fair and reasonable fee has not been agreed upon, preferably in writing

Basically, you do creative work in exchange for the possible opportunity to get paid, without any guarantees. This idea has become quite popular in recent times in the advertising and creative spaces. Large full-service creative agencies are often in the position to pitch on spec work, but young individuals trying to get their break are less able to afford to spend hours on designs with no guarantee of remuneration. This idea devalues the graphic/web design industry and seems to be fairly unique to the creative space. I can’t think of any other professional service that would be expected to complete the service first when providing a price, and only then given the chance to be selected from a host of others.

An analogy, quoted from David Airey:

I went for a dental check-up yesterday. After the dentist inspected my teeth, she suggested some work to prevent further tooth decay. I told her to go ahead, and if the dental work was satisfactory, I’d be more than happy to pay. She responded that she wouldn’t be able to do that, because she normally provides a service when a fee is agreed upon up-front. I said I’d let her know after I checked in with other local dentists.

Design contests

In this case, many of the posted “contests” are not really contests, merely freelance labour auctions with creative work thrown in up-front. Many “prizes” offered are $150 – $200. A prize that is less than the market rate for what was produced. I find that somewhat exploitative…

This concept attracts clients who think design is a commodity rather than a service, and have a very low regard for this profession. I really do wonder about the businesses that are submitting these contests. Putting being a designer aside, I would have a fairly low trust level for a company that held a competition to have its logo or website designed and awarded a prize of $200 for it. I also wouldn’t have high hopes for the design they ended up with either. As always, you get what you pay for.

One thing I will say for SitePoint, they at the very least safeguard the copyright of all entrants’ work. According to the contest rules, copyright ownership is only transferred upon the winner accepting the prize. This is unlike many other contests, where the contest organiser retains ownership of all submitted entries. I find that idea unfathomable.

I realise that not everyone will agree with me on this one, and yes, designers aren’t forced to participate in these contests, obviously. But I would encourage young designers (any designers and agencies, really) to avoid engaging in these design contests and any other forms of speculative work as they only serve to harm our industry in the long run.

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  1. Oh yeah, both spec work and contests are a pet hate of mine.

    I think the only people who should enter such events should be hobbyists. Then the winner would be stoked to receive anything, and the company would receive the type of artwork that the low fee deserves.

    Maybe we need a worldwide union to protect the industry?

  2. Most of the logos people submit are pretty crap – just seems like some kids playing with photoshop.

    I reckon we should write a script to grab the RSS feed, and then just dump out a bunch of templates using photoshop scripting – like the “create your own web2.0 logo” style.

    Just have it run on it’s own, output files, and automatically submit them to the contest site. We can just sit back and wait for the cash to start rolling in!