Art Javid is one of the co-founders of the American
Design Awards, an international design awards organization
with over 20,000 active members and participants based
in San Diego, California.
Art is also the co-owner of Graphicwise, Inc. (with
his twin brother Kevin) an Orange County, California-based
creative design firm specializing in attractive and
effective web design, corporate identity and packaging
art since 1997.
Besides graphic design, Art has been responsible for
co-illustrating 5 published children’s books
for a Los Angeles area television personality, and
enjoys playing basketball whenever time permits.
The United Way of Greater Toronto recently posted a “Call for Submissions” on their web site, basically inviting thousands of design professionals worldwide to compete for the honor of redesigning the organization’s “50th Anniversary” logo (without any compensation for their time and creativity) - clearly a speculative work type of a scenario.
In other words, the folks at The United Way of Greater Toronto (UWGT) apparently had a meeting one day and decided to get a designer to create their 50th Anniversay logo - the only problem was that they didn’t see the need to actually pay for the services of a graphic designer (or design firm) to legitimately and ethically go through the design process and create the logo.
So UWGT decided to put on a “contest” in hopes of receiving thousands of logo ideas from graphic designers around the world for free. “Contestants” are to send in their finalized, scalable EPS logos, with the predetermined PMS colors and Fonts on a CD to UWGT. Should their logo be selected from among thousands of submissions, the “winner” will be rewarded by having his or her name printed on the company’s web site and marketing collateral. Thousands of others will have wasted their time, and disappointed for not having “won” the contest.
Now I know that almost all non-profit organizations out there are benefiting the less fortunate in one way or the other, and need a price break on almost all their bills to minimize their bottom-line. But putting on a “contest” to exploit young designer’ time, efforts, and creativity without fair compensation to all involved, is not only unethical but ridiculous. Could they get away with putting on a “contest” for lawyers to fight over who can better straighten up their legal affairs, and promise the “winning” law firm a mention on a web site that gets no more than 1,000 hits a month? What about accountants? Janitors? Hosting providers? Realtors? Television advertisement? It seems like everyone else is treated fairly, but graphic designers are thought of as being needy, desperate, and willing to work for nothing.
I remember a few years ago when my firm Graphicwise, Inc. was approached by the Los Angeles Mission to create a complete new corporate identity. They too are a non profit organization, but unlike the UWGT they explained their limited budget upfront, and we willingly agreed and engaged in a working relationship with them. Not only were we compensated for our time and efforts according to our terms, but they went ahead and made mention of our names, company name and contact information on their newsletters, web site, and marketing collateral for a few months to come.
Outraged that even larger organizations like UWGT think that speculative work is ethical and something that they can get away with, I followed Catherine Morley’s lead and wrote the following letter to them:
February 27, 2006
We recently came across the news regarding your Logo Contest, and wanted to condemn, and express our deepest disappointment with this type of unethical practice.
"Speculative work" is the practice of having designers put in countless hours of work and creativity designing collateral for a company or organization, without knowing if they will ever be compensated fairly for their time and efforts; 99% of these contestants never will.
This practice not only exploits younger designers, but at the same time devalues the graphic design industry as a whole. Graphic design professionals worldwide have worked too hard to maintain fair pricing and ethical standards, and speculative work undermines everything we stand for.
One couldn't get doctors, lawyers, accountants, or other service providers to work for free, and promise them a meager payoff, if AND ONLY IF they do the best job from among dozens of other service providers; you either hire someone, or you don't.
Today, I received this response:
February 28, 2006
Dear Mr. Javid,
Thank you for writing to United Way about your concerns with our logo contest.
We appreciate you taking the time to share this information with us as it certainly was never our intention to demean the graphic design profession in any way.
We will be meeting with your colleagues from RGD in the near future to better understand the position and to determine steps moving forward.
Their response wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, but at least a seed of doubt has been implanted for any future “contests” they may consider holding.
Designers who do not think there is anything wrong with what the likes of UWGT are doing, consider this; nothing good will ever come out of winning these types of “contests”. Not only will you waste your time competing with hundreds of other designers around the world for a remote chance to have your logo used by a company (which doesn’t even want to acknowledge your value), but you will lose all rights to the artwork even if they decide to use it partially or branch off your creativity to “design” something “unique” for themselves.
By devaluing your skills and creativity, your “client” (and any future referrals you get from them) will request artwork under similar terms, or at a huge discount - after all if you agreed to do it for free the first time, why bother paying you for your skills down the line? Can you afford to live with that? Do you really want those types of clients in your portfolio? Will undermining the design industry’s ethical and business guidelines, or working for free under the “contest” concept put food on your table, or a roof over your head? Not only will participating in these “contests” bring an untimely end to your design career, but it will shine a light of despair on the rest of us.
Going back to the Los Angeles Mission project, we did not get a single viable referral from having our name printed on a charitable organization’s newsletter or web site, because that is the last place a legitimate company will look to find a graphic design firm. Thankfully we didn’t put all our eggs in that basket, and were paid fairly for our time and efforts. We hope you will help us maintain what the graphic design industry has worked so hard to achieve, and turn down any speculative work or contest-type work from hereon - you will benefit from it in the long run.
Creative Director & Partner
Graphicwise, Inc. www.graphicwise.com P O Box 53801
Irvine, CA 92619