I recently received an e-mail with no title, but with this content:
“Calling All Graphic Designers!!! The City of New Braunfels Downtown Office has Launched a Branding Contest”
The email contained two attachments. The first was a page of basic instructions, and contest rules:
• The contest is open to professional graphic designers in Comal County
• The challenge is to develop a logo and positioning line with brand implementation that is representative of downtown New Braunfels, TX
• Each person may submit a maximum of two designs and positioning lines: first submission must be traditionally iconic of Downtown New Braunfels; second submission is open to creative discretion
• All submissions must be Vector format in a TIF file
• If a contest winner is selected, he/she will receive $500 and media coverage
The second attachment was the submission form.
I was quite surprised that such an important task would be left to a contest. Not only does this belittle the profession I work so hard to lift up to a higher standard, but makes branding sound like a “design” project.
So let me share my thoughts about this email and submission form.
Calling All Graphic Designers!!!
A logo is not a brand, and branding is not for graphic designers. Branding is done by marketing teams. A logo is created as a visual representation of the brand, and building a brand involves stuff like strategizing, researching, determining image and tone. It involves stuff like thoughts, feelings, perceptions, images, experiences, beliefs, and attitudes – even color. One just doesn’t just magically pump out a “cool” design – the design has to work, and work hard, and sometimes work for decades. (Note the snafu this week surrounding GAP trying to change their logo. Consumers revolted and the new logo was gone before it even had a chance to be implemented.)
Here at 50 Foot, we research our clients, their place in the marketplace, their objectives, their target audiences, and we work to capture the essence of what makes them unique. We rely on experience, time, and numerous resources to create logos and taglines (positioning lines). As a marketing and design team, we brainstorm until we get it right. It can take days or weeks or months. Ultimately, the copywriter finalizes or approves the tagline, and the designer puts the finishing touches on the logo. In the end, our client gets a stronger brand, one that is well thought out and hits their target audiences.
“Open to professional graphic designers”
What constitutes professional designer? There is no licensing body for “professional graphic designer.” I have seen high school student call themselves “professional.” I have had clients come in with things like 72 dpi Photoshop files, or unusable drawings that they had paid a “professional” designer to create.
“With brand implementation that is representative of Downtown New Braunfels, Texas”
The Contest clearly states “with brand implementation.” Will the winning designer get to implement the plan? Will that implementation include payment? Or will the logo, tagline and implementation recommendations get handed off to someone else? Will that someone else understand how to use the design and implement the plan?
“If a contest winner is selected he/she will receive $500 and media coverage.”
Contests are not bad. I have won several, and in fact, won the Oyster Bake poster design contest two years in a row. The submission guidelines were very specific, it was open only to a select few, and the prize was $1,000. (Just for reference, did you know that the Fiesta poster contest prize is $5,000?) It was strictly a design contest, and the winning design was used for t-shirts, hats and promotional items, in addition to the poster. My winning design was worn by thousands; posters signed by me were coveted. It was great.
But before I entered the Oyster Bake contest – and before I think about entering any contest – I have to decide whether it’s worth spending otherwise billable time to take a chance on winning. If the prize money is decent and can help offset the billable hours I’ve lost, and if I get the kind of media coverage that will raise awareness of my business and/or generate some new clients, I’ll likely participate.
But I know that my talent and services are just as important as any other contractor in any other profession. Think about this… what if I have a $10,000 contest to build a house on my land that I want to live in. Say five houses get built, but in the end, I don’t like any of them, so no one wins the cash. But I get to keep all of the houses. Do you know of any contractor who would take that on?
I’m not expecting a prize package of $10,000 (and there are companies that pay that and more for a logo). But $500? Really? To create the visual signature and “brand” for the future of New Braunfels? A city that is close to reaching the magical population of 50,000 residents, at which time our classification changes from a rural community to a small urban city?
So if you were a designer, where would you put your efforts? Would you risk 40 billable hours for $500 or $5,000? And think about this – if talented designers aren’t going to risk it, what will the talent level be of those who do?