Companies all over the world hold design contests and they serve their purpose. But when companies hold contests in the design community that are more self serving and could be called 'crowd-sourcing' it edges ever closer to what is known as crowd sourcing. Crowd sourcing, in the design community, is when a company holds a 'design contest' to design a logo, poster, or some other design related piece, calls on thousands of designers to spend valuable time and energy on the project and then only chooses one design, claims intellectual rights to the piece and maybe pays the designer for the design they chose. This is not only unethical and wasteful, but violates global principles and standards for professional design practice.
Recently, there have been two high profile violations of these principles and standards:
One is Moleskin, which asked design professionals to submit speculative work (check out the enraged comments) from which they will pick ONE and pay that graphic designer. Speculative work, or spec work, is known by another name: Free Design. This is disrespectful to the designers whose hard work and creativity goes into everything they touch.
The other is our own Government: the Obama administration. They've done much the same as Moleskin by asking the design community to design a poster (more spec work) under the guise of 'creating jobs'. How does spec work create jobs? The AIGA has stepped in and asked the Obama administration to remove the contest from their website and pay a designer for the work. For a campaign that stands to raise over $1B in campaign fundraising, the community isn't going to give them anything for free.
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