I recently reviewed the NEA’s (National Endowment for the Arts) RFP that they issued this month for a logo design for a new ‘Art Works’ initiative.

It was the usual pages of boilerplate, and statement of budget ($25k – nice!), but then I got to the submission guidelines. I was amazed and horrified to find that they ask for logo design submissions, which makes it a design contest, in which designers are asked to deliver their work on spec. The NEA will choose one logo/firm, and only the “winner” receives compensation.

I am totally against this, and think you should be, too. Asking designers to work on spec trivializes and de-values the work we do, and I believe is unethical. I could write a lengthy treatise about ALL of the reasons a design contest is a bad idea, but it has all been presented before me, and done very well, at the site http://www.no-spec.com, which I urge you to visit.

When I come across these design contests, they are usually issued by small organizations that don’t know any better. I always take the time to do a little education by contacting them and explaining my objections. But the National Endowment for the Arts? THEY should know better.

Do you think I am being unreasonable? That $25k they are offering IS compelling, isn’t it? As a designer, is there a line you would cross if asked to work on spec?