Spec work Hall of Shame: Egency’s Design Challenge

Every so often, an “opportunity” comes crawling into my inbox. Sometimes it’s an offer to collect UK lottery winnings, or facilitate money transfers to Nigeria. And sometimes, it’s an offer for me to do design or illustration work and not get paid for it.

Egency, a new arm of Agfa Graphics, will offer stock marketing collateral directly to small businesspeople like event planners, dentists, accountants, etc. I received an email advertising Egency’s Design Challenge under the aegis of HOW + Print Partners. I have the “opportunity” to submit up to 10 designs for flyers, posters, or appointment and rack cards. The top three designs will win $1,000 each or a selection of prizes; the next seven will receive a laptop bag. The bait-and-switch here is simple: pay or gift ten people for the work of possibly dozens.

The contest FAQ, in answer to the question “What happens to my designs after I enter the Challenge?”:

Egency is building a community of designers. This community will allow designers to promote and sell their designs to Egency customers. Select designers who enter the Challenge will be invited by email to join the Egency designer community…. All submitted designs are property of the designer, although entering the Challenge allows Egency to display submitted designs on design-egency.com and our social networks for promotion of the Challenge.

This seems to provide reassurance that designs that don’t win won’t be sold. But the fine print reads:

By entering this Contest, and to the extent allowed by law, you acknowledge and agree that you are assigning to the Sponsor a non-exclusive, royalty free, perpetual, irrevocable, right to use Designs and that Sponsor shall be free to display the Designs on various Sponsor operated and third party websites, and social media websites, including, but not limited to Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, in an effort to promote the Contest. You hereby assign to the Sponsor non-exclusive rights, including without limitation copyright, trade marks, design rights and any other rights (whether registered or unregistered) in your Design for these purposes. [emphasis added]

The specifics are difficult to parse, and that’s where brushing up can help. It looks like Licensing Art and Design: A Professional’s Guide to Licensing and Royalty Agreements (though not recent) and Licensing Art 101: Publishing and Licensing Your Artwork for Profit are the best resources to start with.

While researching this post, I came across the NO!SPEC site. NO!SPEC’s FAQ sums up the problems of spec work perfectly. Even if I won the $1,000 dollar prize, that would only pay for 20 hours of work at $50 an hour. In all likelihood, I would spend more time than that. Even 40 hours at $25 an hour would not be enough time to create ten good concepts. Meanwhile, I lose that time to seek and complete paid work.

Would the accountants shopping at Egency enter contests to do their clients’ taxes for free, with the three who find the biggest deductions getting paid, the next seven receiving a laptop bag, and the rest nothing? Of course not—it just doesn’t add up.

28 talking points on The logo! factor

3 Responses to “Spec work Hall of Shame: Egency’s Design Challenge”
  1. lp says:

    You need to re-read the rules. It’s not spec work. The contest is for anyone to enter something they already created, in just about any format. The contest just states that images that are enter may be promoted!! What designer doesn’t want their work promoted? This is very standard for a contest… why would you think it’s spec?? I’m sure designers would like to be invited to join the community later to sell and receive commissions on each design sold. If they fit in with the community standards, it’s a nice way to make additional income.

    • beckhen says:

      Okay, I would like to understand the rules better. I’m sorry if I didn’t. As for being work already created, there seem to be specific templates you are supposed to use; that’s why I thought the contest was for new work. I guess I think that, in general, contests offer very uncertain rewards—in that sense it’s like spec. Designers may or may not be invited to join the community, they may or may not have their work promoted, they may or may not ever sell designs and receive commissions. IMO their time is better spent elsewhere since there are more efficient ways to promote yourself. I’d like to see the details of how much the commissions are and how they work. Without more information on the website, it just seems like the contest is a fishing expedition. The reason I visited the site in the first place was that I did consider entering. But the benefit is not clear enough to me.

  2. lp says:

    It looks like wording is changing on the site to clarify, such as: The Challenge is for entertainment only. Submitted designs remain property of the designer.
    Maybe other people had concerns, too. I think designers can spend their time any way they want, but it’s nice to have options. The actual community isn’t built yet, apparently. Will be good to check it out.

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