Why a public contest isn’t the best way to build a brand

A couple of times lately I’ve been asked why public sector clients in need of a new logo should pay our fees when they could just have a community competition – submit your concept, we’ll pick a winner, she’ll win a new iPad and everyone goes home happy. Right?

Maybe not so much.

Brands should be created based on strategic insights gathered through fulsome research, engagement and analysis. This is an important stage to define the brand’s core values, principles, personality and distinctions. Once a clear brand strategy is defined, designers are best equipped to do their work, but only after a comprehensive briefing – this can be difficult in a widespread competition.

Submissions tend to be from amateur designers because professionals consider design competitions disrespectful. The Graphics Designers of Canada held an online petition to challenge the Government of Canada’s current competition for a sesquicentennial logo. A graphic artist should be hired on the merit of a portfolio, and paid for original creative work.

Submitted designs via a contest are often not reflective of some of the core tenets of design. Aspects such as balance, kerning, colour compatibility and practicality are missed. The submitted concepts seem, well, amateurish as a result. Never mind originality: it can be very difficult to determine that a submission is artistic plagiarism until it is too late.

In one example, a school board held a contest and they were so underwhelmed with the submissions, they shortlisted five finalists and we were hired to build a logo, drawing on the best aspects of all five to create one brand. It was difficult and time-consuming, and it’s certainly tough for a professional designer to get behind cleaning up someone else’s group effort.

Of course, as a branding agency we’ll always advocate for professional work and we understand that budgets can be prohibitive. I’ve seen many charities draw on the expertise of generous volunteers to help offset costs without compromising the process. The key is to ensure that the end result fits with your brand story and strategy.

Contact M
Contact M