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Judging Design Contests


Judging Design Contests

This article discusses how designers could be harmed by badly organized design contests, lists suggestions for organizers to run better competitions and provides insights to participants for checking if a design contest is good or not.

Contests for innovation and design have been analyzed in-depth by especially management oriented scholars demonstrating the merits and benefits. However, as it has already been noted, there are many controversial points in such design contests, and the papers discussed them. First of all, almost all the papers that discuss the design-contests phenomenon is written from a business or managerial perspective; which consider the gains and losses of the companies organizing them rather than the effects on designers or any other issues and externalities for society. Second of all, there had been several severely important issues that had not been addressed, but causes the most damage to designers.
Designers are not harmed directly because of the contests; i.e. the design contest phenomenon is indeed a good model to come up with designs, and the contest model have a potential to benefit designers if organized correctly (such as contributing to portfolio development, feedbacks to designers for talent augmentation, or through direct means of money and prestige). However, most of the design contests organized do more harm than good to designers as such contests were designed for revenue maximization rather than social utility maximization. This section is rather written in negative tone, to especially highlight the most controversial issues and designers face today.
How to harm designers? (I.e. what should be avoided when organizing a design contest) Simple; To do the most harm once could organize a design contest the following way (i.e. one should not organize a contest in the following way):
1. Entries to the competition is made visible to other participants while the competition is still open for entries. (This is suggested a positive way to increase competitiveness from a managerial perspective, however what it actually does is to make people get heavily influenced from each-other if not copy shamelessly, it also decreases the amount of creativity and variation of submitted designs and ideas by creating anchor points in mind)
2. Provide public feedback or score to participants while the competition is still on and make these feedbacks visible to all participants. (The only reason this type of action exists is because the design contests that implement them are not real design contests at all; in a design contest, the organizer should naturally seeks innovation and creativity, however by providing feedbacks visible to all, while the competition is on, the organizer archives to control the flow of creative skill; the aim is to make the participants design projects that are similar to those which have been given high scores. The amount of creativity is limited highly by this action, and the contest becomes that of skill, i.e. the skill to implement the ideas of the organizer).
3. Extent contest deadlines, especially when the entries are not blind. r).
3. Contest deadlines should never be expended especially when the entries are not made blind. (Many highly creative designers in open or non-blind contests would naturally wait the last minutes to submit their creations especially if they have a very extraordinary design, this way, other designers would not have time to get influenced or execute variations of this extraordinarily creative idea on a timely manner. However, managers have a great solution to this issue, for them the question is – How can I make this extraordinary idea varied and executed better? The answer is simple: extend the deadline, provide very constructive feedbacks to this entry, and have other better technically skilled, experienced but non-creative designers to come up with designs that are executed or presented better.)
4. Abandon the competition. (Abandoning a design contest means disappearing totally and not letting participants know the results and not declaring a winner. As good as it gets, and in reality, in many conditions the best managerial strategy is indeed to harm the designers by abandoning the competition because sunk costs do not matter. This, of course only happens in the small design contests where the organizer is already shady; therefore this unknown non-brand no-name entity has nothing to lose by abandoning a design contest. It is not expected to happen in brand-sponsored contests, or contests where the organizer is well known as this kind of actions would declare brand value)
5. Steal all the designs, legally. (Legal design theft is a common problem in design contests, a great portion of designers, especially young and innocent ones do not read the full competition terms and conditions which were crafted for the sake of organizers; in some extreme conditions, the organizer keeps the rights to all submitted designs, and better contests would steal the rights of only the winners).
6. Let designers massacre each other. (Some contest platforms, allow designers to see and comment on each other’s works without any moderation, while one would expect that the fellow designers would contribute by constructive comments, as seen and demonstrated by past competitions, a group of highly competitive designers could indeed leave hate messages to each other, this phenomenon when not controlled decreases both the prestige and fun of the event.)
7. Let designers steal from competitor brands. (This happens by mentioning brand Z’s products in the brief as a best practice; i.e. organizers would often say and indicate the style they are searching for, their competitors, or products they like. Designers are asked to come up with products that are inspired by the designs made by Brand Z. This case, the illegality is shifted to the contest participant designers who would violate copyrights of Brand Z. The organizer is already protected by the initial competition agreement through indemnity clauses.)
8. Steal from designers. (It is really difficult for contest participating designers to control the production or to have know-how on the current process of organizers, especially those little companies who organize the so called contests for design. Therefore, these shady contest organizers could sometimes feel comfortable to collect ideas and cancel the contest, and afterwards realize the designs themselves. Since it is not possible to control it, at least detailed contact information and details must be provided.)
9. Cheat the designers. (In some cases, a design company or a designer could act like a legitimate organizer to run a design contest. What they usually do is to get the design project from a client for a large sum, and organize a design contest for the one tenth of the cost using existing platforms. This is a big possibility and common examples could be observed especially when the contest has a non-disclosure agreement)
10. Steal designers soul and time. (From a poetic sense, we could all argue and agree that each creation made by the designer, is a part of the designers soul, some design contests feature unethical terms and conditions that would not permit designers to use the ideas they submitted to their contests in the future, regardless of the award status. Organizers do not permit designers to use the ideas they submitted to their contests in future for two reasons; first so that designers would not move their unique ideas to other competitor companies, second because in some cases they do indeed steal and use these ideas without providing the designers any prizes or awards.)
11. Offer little knowhow, trivial prizes and no-credits. (Many design contests invite hundreds of contestants, but do offer only trivial award prizes resulting in the exploitation of designers from the monetary sense, but still many designers keep joining these contests. The real reason that designers take part in such contests is therefore explained by not the offered award but with the expected prestige of winning the such design contests or with the expectation of building real life experience. However, It is common that many low-quality submissions in such contests would indeed not receive a feedback from the organizers at all, destroying the experience expectation. Furthermore, almost none of the winner designers are credited for their work by the organizer. In most cases, the designers name will be omitted, not-mentioned or replaced by their non-existent in-house design team, which destroys the expectation and dreams of earning prestige. Of course the organizers who had paid so little to run a design contest on a cheap contest platform would never do press releases or publicity for winners.)
12. Let your kids to score the designs. (It is really sad for designers to see comments such as my kid did not like your works, or my wife thinks it is too blue. Design contests should not be judged by single individuals and their families. A jury panel is not a simple suggestion but a real requirement for a design contest to be called a real design contest.)
13. Make designers to beg for votes. (Expect if it is a urban design project or a social design that really needs to take the public’s opinion into accounts, public voted design contests serve one purpose; the viral spread and advertising of the event organizer. When contests winners are solely determined by public, the designers with the most influence or friends win; which is against the whole idea of organizing a contest for coming up with ideas and projects. If public must vote, in this case at least a peoples’ choice award should be offered with distinct award prize for that.)
14. Request some little extra tasks to be done. (Some design contests requires designers to take some very strange actions that are not related to the contest at all; these missions range from filling questioners to submitting forms, providing reviews, comments or any other non-design related actions. Designers are not mouse-rats to experiment on, neither they are monkeys to do tasks for organizers. If such activities are to be required, they must make logical sense and should serve the designers taking part in them, not benefit the organizer. The most common form is the requirement of suggesting friends, doing advertisement or referrals in form of social network likes etc.)
Given all the points above, a good innovation contest shall be the opposite; the following are each important scoring and evaluation points for design contests. 1. The contest should be blind: Contestants should not be able to see each other’s works. 2. The brief must be ethical: The organizer should not pinpoint design examples, but rather indicate what is expected to be achieved. Furthermore, the contest terms and conditions should be made balanced and should protect the interests of both parties not just the organizers. 3. The contest should offer significant rewards: The organizer should do one or more of the following: A)Provide a reasonable award prize sum. B) Provide feedbacks to all participants and works regardless of the quality of submissions. C) Promise legally to Credit and Advertise the designer for the award winning works. 4. There should be a respected jury panel to vote the entries: Even if it is a small contest, at least the owner or a very key person in the company should take part in evaluating the entries. It is of course preferable to have an independent observer with design backgrounds. It is suggested that the jury panel exists and is composed of at least five persons. 5. Designers should be respected.
One free way for organizers to avoid running low-quality design competitions is by using the competition scoring algorithm that was developed and made available to public at DesignCompetition.com . Organizers who wish to organize a quality design competition or contest (so that their brand identity would not be damaged by the negative word of mouth caused by the disastrous contest organization), could and should compete their design contest profile and obtain their competition score by filling the form at DesignCompetition.com This way, organizers could not only maximize both visibility, but also could see which sections of their contest requires more efforts or should be worked upon. Furthermore, organizers could consult to specialized services such as those by DesignMediators, or use existing and well developed competition organization engines such as the DesignLeague.
Likewise, thanks to the design contest scoring algorithm, along with the ranking and rating mechanism available at competitionratings.com, designers could check details on active competitions and choose which competitions are best to participate in. This way designers could save their time and efforts by choosing the right events to join. Furthermore, the designcompetition.com interface providers a standardized interface for viewing competition details. Designers should also have a clear understanding of difference between juried international design awards (i.e. highly prestigious events which provide designers with fame and publicity), design competitions (professionally organized events where designers are highly rewarded and respected), and design contests (low paid, free to enter events that is best suited for young, inexperienced designers) and the fake design contests (so called contests which are merely a tools of crowdsourcing cheap designs in an effective manner for the organizers).

This article was added on Monday, 27th of January, 2014 at 08.26 am by author Onur Cobanli Tags: judging design contests, design contest problems, design contests. Read our copyright policy here.
 

VIA:

www.competitionratings.com

 

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