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Open up, this is the fun police!

Glenn Given

Re: design contests.

Recently, we've taken a vocal stance against design contests. Our gripe, specifically, is that businesses or organizations that crowd source design work in the form of cattle call contests should not do so, due to the harmful and unfair environment they create.

1. It devalues the work and professionalism of freelance and other career designers.

2. It creates an environment where the expectation is "work for free" and that those who wish to enter the field should not expect to have their time valued.

3. It distributes the costs of design away from the profiteer and to the audience.

When I need a meal made, even if I'm sharing it with the soup kitchen, I don't ask everybody to cook a dish, then pay for the ingredients of the one I enjoyed. But, what about a potluck dinner, where everybody brings and everybody shares each dish? Yes, that is not the case here. Is every submitter being given a share of the product? Are we each getting a shirt for being a participant? No, we are spending time and effort to create something and have it judged by the community, then a tiny fraction of the creators will receive a minimum compensation. The organizers are eating all the dishes and pseudo-paying for one, then they take the winning dish and sell it for their own gain. That's not kosher.

So, bitching about isn't very productive, how about we discuss some alternatives?

1. Solicit portfolios or samples of previously created work. From there, select a few artists and pay them a nominal fee to create a thumbnail work or sketch. This costs a submitter next to nothing in sweat and, for those creators who potentially make something interesting, it adequately rewards them for their additional effort. From these thumbnails, have the community choose one to become the final product. 

2. Pick designers you have worked with before and pay them to submit a number of designs. Have the community choose from among those. 

3. Find members of your community who are designers or artistically inclined and approach them with a paid solicitation.

At the bare minimum, don't create a crowd-sourced project from the top down. If your community is going to create something of their own accord, independent of your solicitation, and then you want to leverage that for your brand; great, do so, but reward the creators accordingly.

When you solicit free work, then turn that work into a product you profit from, that is extra dodgy. Even if you are making shirts and firing them from a t-shirt cannon for charity. Pay the person who made the design. A flat rate or an hourly rate for their work is fine, but a percentage of the sales is truly fair. You will continually profit (both literally and through the compounded value of brand marketing) off of their work, why shouldn't they share in that?

We admire and respect the work of communities and organizations such as Gen Can't and Shut Up & Sit Down (they are truly among the brightest lights in the gaming world), but it is our hope that they understand the impact they have as leaders of a community. We wish that they would lead with best practices and take the extra step to treat all creators fairly. It is a small consideration and the results are better all around.

And we put our money where our mouth is. All of our solicited work is paid for; regardless if it ever sees the light of day. It is our belief that your time, regardless of your professional credentials, are worth something more than a high five.