[thelist] Logo Contest Question

Brent Eades beades at almonte.com
Sat Feb 4 06:24:37 CST 2006

Antigone Zero wrote:

> Have I legally obligated us to use this logo? What
> do we do then, put it up to meet our obligations? For how long? A day? A
> week? And how do I tactfully tell the designer that he won because he had
> the only entry, and we don't actually like his work (at least this specimen
> of it, for $100 he probably didn't spend a lot of time on it)?
> And, for future reference, other than specifying that the logo 'might' be
> used, what should I have done here? What would have been a reasonable prize?
> Do you think we didn't get any entries because our Institute's mission isn't
> 'sexy' (we're engineers) or was to hard to design for, or because AIGA
> disapproves of works on spec, or was it just that we didn't put up enough
> money?

Interesting dilemma. I had a somewhat similar situation a couple of 
years back when a firm we hired through a rigorous competition process 
simply did not come up with a design we liked. We were obliged to be 
honest in explaining why none of their designs ever appeared online: 
"You just didn't seem able to capture the vision we had in mind for our 

Your situation is a little different, however.

I doubt you have any legal obligation to use the logo in production, 
although I would check that with your university's legal counsel. If you 
were run such a contest again someday, you might include some fine print 
to the effect of "the winning logo will be considered for use on the Foo 
Institute's publications; however [insert appropriate legal weasel words 

As for your other questions: first, $100 doesn't buy a lot of good 
graphic design, not even from students. The amount also suggests that 
your expectations were, well, not very high. So I suspect that even 
students would have felt a little 'professionally affronted' at the 
small prize amount, and said to heck with it.

I don't think your being engineers would have been a major deterrent, if 
the prize amount had been high enough -- say, $1,000. While it's harder 
to design a meaningful logo for an engineering institute, than, oh, a 
boat manufacturer, the challenge should definitely appeal to an 
imaginative, professional designer.

As for what to tell the 'winner' -- I don't think you're obliged to be 
too brutally honest. Just tell him you liked his design, but in the end 
decided to use one that a staff member had previously created. Tell him 
there were no other entries only if the question is explicitly asked. 
There's no need to burn bridges with this student and all his classmates.

Brent Eades	
Almonte, Ontario

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