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How not to run a "design contest"

10 Jul 2006

James Mathias has a post about some questionable tactics being employed by Unmatched Style — which frankly doesn't deserve a link due to these shady methods.

As the story goes, Unmatched Style held a design contest with a cash prize of $1,500. The requirements were very minimal and not very complicated.

To keep the story short, when the winner was announced no prize money was given “because each was missing a critical piece of the requirements.” Unfortunately for everyone, there were no specifics given. Also, conveniently enough, comments are closed on both entries regarding the contest on Unmatched Style.

Solving the problem

So far, everything that Shane — the author and seemingly the architect behind the “contest” — has done up to this point has been very shady. In order to clean up this mess and regain at least a small portion of his reputation back this issue needs some very clear and decisive action.

Obviously the first step is to enlighten the audience, or at least the winning designer, on the “missing” requirement(s). When information is held and both parties are vague it shows a huge breakdown in communication. That's where rumors are started, opinions are formed and respect is lost.

By opening up the lines of communication the rumors can be dealt with and a dialog on how to remedy the situation can be started. Whether the designer did miss a requirement or not, if they know what they're missing, most, if not all, designers will do whatever they can to fix it.

Far reaching affects

There are a lot of people keeping an eye on what's happening at Unmatched Style. Mark Boulton had some great thoughts on design contests in general and a lot of what he has to say ring very true in my opinion.

Whatever the outcome of this latest debacle regarding so-called “design contests” there are a couple results that we can definitely expect. The first being that Unmatched Style will lose the faith, respect and loyalty of a large portion of it's readers.

Hopefully more importantly, this will shed a brighter light on these types of “contests”. I think companies or individuals holding design contests need to be much more transparent and as specific as possible. There also needs to be a very open line of communication between the contest runners and any of the contestants. Keeping these things in mind will avoid any undue bad press and confusion for all parties involved.

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